After seeing photos upon photos of beautiful fields of tulips here in the Netherlands, I knew I had to go for myself. I'm traveling a lot soon and honestly, I didn't have the money to pay for entrance into Keukenhof, so I did it my way: the cheapest way possible. I don't leave much up to chance in my life admittedly, so here's five steps to guaranteeing that you will see the flowers in the natural fields or free!
Note: Skip Keukenhof. It's 29 euros with transit from Amsterdam. If you're into sculpted gardens, it's great, however it's overpriced and crowded if you just want to see the tulips in the field. There's plenty of guides to Keukenhof, however this guide brings you to the fields.
1. Check the Weather & Flower Forecast
You can check the weather a million times, but the weather changes quickly here. So much so that my friends only check it ten minutes before leaving and I have made a habit of wearing a raincoat as my normal coat. Weatherproof yourself and plan to be rained on no matter how much sunshine Buienradar.nl promises you.
The tulips bloom typically within a set period: late March to early May. It depends on the year, but you're more likely to see tulips in bloom if it's in April. There's quite a few websites that will update in February/March on the season's prediction for blooms for those planning ahead of time.
There is a way to check the flower forecast to find out WHEN and WHERE to go. There's a website called BloemenRadar.com where you can check to see where flowers (not all are tulips) are in bloom within the past week. You can just enjoy the photos OR zoom into a location to find out where you need to go. There's not ONE single location and you can't walk onto ALL of the fields, but it should give an idea of where is a good area to visit.
2. Take the Train to Leiden
If the tulips are in bloom, it's a very pretty train ride between Haarlem and Leiden. It's possible to also bike from Haarlem (post about seeing the tulips from Haarlem here), however the fields I visited were physically closer to Leiden (10 km) and I found a cheaper bike rental in Leiden. Plus Leiden is a stunning, traditional Dutch city if you're looking for a place to experience some Dutch culture and food.
You can save money if you can buy a "Dagkaart" from a store, which means you get unlimited travel on a train for the day for a fixed price (usually 16 euros and under). People who don't live in the Netherlands will be unable to buy one online, but if they're being sold in Blokker, Hema, Albert Heijn, Etos, or Kruidvat, you can buy one in cash as long as they don't sell out (OP=OP!). Just be aware that there are typically conditions about traveling after rush hour or only on a weekend and the valid dates, but it's good to check with a clerk at the store about the specific conditions of your card before you buy it. The linked website shows day ticket deals on a monthly basis.
3. Rent a Bike
Do you live in the Netherlands? Use OVFiets, which is the public bike share program. It's 10 euros a year to pay about 3 euros per 24 hour bike rental, but you will need a personal OVcard or a week to wait for it. You can rent two bikes with one subscription. It's an amazing deal.
Just visiting? Sorry, OVFiets is NOT an option. I used EasyFiets for my rental. It was 7.50 euros for the day with a 50 euro deposit for all three bikes after the guy decided we weren't likely to steal the bikes. A pretty good deal for only a ten minute walk from the train station.
It depends on the field. The one I found was close to the one on the map, however it was about 25km round trip. This sounds really terrifying to non-bikers, but it was about 40 minutes each way. Prone to getting lost? Download maps.me beforehand, drop a pin down on your preferred field(s), and follow the signage until you get to the nearest city to your fields. From there, let the map bring you the rest of the way.
A lot of the roads with the tulips are country roads, so watch out for cars/scooters/pedestrians. Not all fields will be accessible as some will have a ditch protecting people from walking onto them, so pick a field close to other blooming ones, just in case your first one fails (like mine). You'll pass through some cute traditional Dutch towns worth enjoying with some traditional architecture.
When you find the field, you'll know it. Mine was down a dirt path and it was glorious to walk onto the field. It be all be worth it, no matter how damp you are.
Have you visited the tulip fields anywhere in the world? Any plans to come to the Netherlands?
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Karen and Jacob. American expats and cat lovers from New York City and Kentucky who lived in Amsterdam.... Now in Paris!
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