Every spring, Holland’s fields turn into a technicolour carpet of tulips. The vividness of the flower, which comes in all shades of the rainbow, draws crowds from all over the world, and it is easy to see why. Besides, nothing makes your socials pop like a photo in front of fields of this popular flora.
Believe it or not, tulips are not native to western Europe. Originally found in the mountains of Central Asia, they were a symbol of the Ottoman Empire. The flower made its way west in 1550 and became a much-coveted item, particularly in Holland. It became the “it-bag” (or should that be it-bulb?) of the upper classes. During the time known as “Tulip Mania,” it wasn’t uncommon for people to sell their houses just to get their hands on a bulb or two. At one point, tulips were worth more than their weight in gold. Talk about tulip fever!
But with all booms, there must be a bust, and just like that, the craze ended. In 1637, demand dropped and prices plummeted. Sellers lost everything in a matter of days. And yet, the flower still maintained its popularity—it helps that Holland has the perfect conditions to grow tulips in abundance. To this day, every spring, the Netherlands celebrates the flower and its meaning to the country and people.
One of the biggest celebrations is the infamous Flower Parade—also known as Bloemencorso Bollenstreek—which takes place every year in late April (bar during the pandemic, but let’s not dwell on that) in the Lissa municipality. It started after WWII to imbue joy and celebration, and consisted of several floats adorned with flowers such as hyacinths, daffodils and tulips. The happiness it brought was incalculable.
This year, the 75th-anniversary parade occurs on April 23. The parade will boast around 20 floats, which will transport magnificent flower sculptures from Noordwijk to Haarlem, which is about thirty minutes from Amsterdam on public transport.
It’s said the best place to watch the Flower Parade is outside the infamous Keukenhof Tulip Gardens. On the parade’s route, there’s plenty of space to see the procession go by. Afterwards, pop into the park and experience flower beds like no other.
During the fall, Keukenhof gardeners plant roughly 7 million bulbs by hand and lovingly tender them until they bloom. Keukenhof is around 32 hectares so it’s easy to while away the hours admiring the vast sea of tulips in their many colors and variations. You can also see other spring flowers, too, such as irises and hyacinths—the scent in the air can only be described as heavenly.
Open when the tulips are in bloom (between March and May every year), Keukenhof garden is a delight for any flower lover. And for those who’d like to see the fields from above, you can organize a helicopter ride that takes you above the gardens and the parade. Talk about a bird’s-eye view!
If you’re on a budget, visit the myriad flower fields around Holland for free. The district of Flevoland, just northeast of Amsterdam is a winner. The area is Holland’s newest and was created out of repurposed land from the bottom of the Zuiderzee.
With around 5,000 hectares of tulips, it’s the perfect day trip from Amsterdam, especially by bike. Along the way, you’ll discover flower farms such as De Tulpen Pluktuin, where you’re allowed to pick your own bouquet to take home. If you visit the flower fields, view them from afar to save the flowers from damage.
For those who can’t make it to this part of the Netherlands during the festival season, fear not. Simply visit one of the country’s museums dedicated to tulips instead. In the country’s capital, you’ll find the Amsterdam Tulip Museum. This cosy gallery takes you through the flower’s history, as well as how they created so many variations. With plenty of video content, it’s an entertaining (as well as educational) way to learn more about the hallowed tulip. You can even buy bulbs at the gift shop, so you can start your own tulip craze at home.