By Scott Roane
The fact that the website of the Keukenhof, the Netherlands famous flower exhibition, is in 11 different languages tells you something about its popularity as a tourist destination. With over 800,000 Germans alone visiting each year, you get an idea of the scale. For 2011, Keukenhof has chosen ‘Germany: Land of Poets and Philosophers’ as its central theme. The millions of bulbs planted here do, without doubt make a breathtaking display of color, but you have to time your visit well. This year, the gates will officially open on March 24, but the peak of the display, weather dependent, will probably happen a couple of weeks later. The last chance to visit is May 20, but by this time the magic of the bulbs has passed and it once again returns to a pretty standard park.
For some peoples taste, it’s a little bit touristy, with its miniature windmills, bulbs planted to make pictures, and the low quality, overpriced typical Dutch treats available in the not particularly cozy cafe. The bulb fields around Keukenhof are where the real bulbs are grown for export, making a bike trip through the fields a rewarding alternative. Swathes of brilliant colors stretch as far as the eye can see. You can stop in small villages along the route and experience a real Dutch apple cake, made with love, rather than one that’s been defrosted from the freezer. And at the end of the day you can spend the entrance fee on a fantastic dinner in the 800 year old town of Lisse.
To take the do-it-yourself option, simple catch the train from Amsterdam (or wherever you are in the Netherlands) to Lisse station. Here you have a number of options for bike rental, normally with a free map or recommended routes for the area. Kids also love it, and there will be plenty of bike, child seat, trailer, tandem combinations for Kids of all ages to ride along with you.
Click here to visit the Keukenhof website