I don’t remember how long I have wanted to visit Keukenhof for. Several years, at least. So I was very excited to have the opportunity to visit the Netherlands in Spring in order to see the festival.
We pre-booked our tickets online a few weeks prior to arriving. We booked combo tickets which included transport between Amsterdam and the parklands where Keukenhof is held. I did the sums and the cost of making our own way there was no cheaper than the cost of the combo ticket.
We had breakfast in our hotel for simplicity’s sake (the cost was not worth what was on offer!) before catching a tram towards the town centre to connect with the airport bus. The airport is a major transport hub, so it is from here that the Keukenhof Express bus leaves (the combo ticket includes the bus from the city to the airport, then the Keukenhof Express onwards). The queue for the bus seemed quite long, (with nearby taxi drivers advising us it was an hour’s wait and that they could get us there faster!) but buses left regularly and the queue moved fast, and I’d say we queued no longer than 20 minutes or so. The last kilometre or so took just as long as the rest of the trip as traffic slowed to a crawl due to the poorly designed carpark entrance – shuttle buses should have a priority entry way!
In all honesty, I found Keukenhof a little bit disappointing. I was expecting pathways through large swathes of bright coloured tulips, but many of the beds were not in bloom yet. The fields where you expect to see huge strips of different coloured flowers were only partially in bloom, leaving them predominantly brown, and the bare trees also dampened the atmosphere a bit.
That said, there were still lots of flower beds which were in bloom. The variety was astounding and we did get some great photos.
The place was also poorly mapped. As far as we could tell, there was only one place to pick up paper maps, which was outside the park, so once you are inside there is nowhere to get a map. There is one large map on a board near the entrance, but no others around the park. When we decided we wanted to have lunch, we had no idea where to go – so had to head back to the entrance to check the map! Half way back we found the greenhouse which had a cafeteria in it, so assumed all the cafeterias would be the same and had lunch there. The food was overpriced and mediocre, and we were very disappointed when later in the afternoon we found another cafeteria with a better variety of much better-looking food in the same price range.
There were other attractions such as a traditional windmill, souvenir shops and a display of traditional wooden clogs (which Andre insisted could not possibly be worn by normal people, and must be a hoax on tourists!).
The weather was absolutely perfect and we’d actually dressed a bit too warm for it. There was also a greenhouse (mentioned earlier) where there was a patchwork of different coloured tulips, by far the biggest we’ve ever seen.
I think it’s difficult to know when is the best time to visit. It runs from late March to mid-May, and we were there in the middle. I’d say the flower beds are planted in a staggered manner so that some are in bloom at all times – at the beginning some will still be several weeks off blooming, while at the end some will have already bloomed and died.
The cost of entrance to the park itself isn’t too bad, although it does get a bit expensive once you buy the combo ticket (about 30 euros). If you love flowers I’d say it’s worth it, but otherwise might not be worth it unless you have a car to make access easier and cheaper. It’s certainly a cheaper alternative to the Chelsea Flower Show!