I'm obsessed with tulips and one of my favorite parts of living in the Netherlands is going to the tulip fields in Holland each year. Although most people visit Keukenhof, it's very easy to see the Dutch tulip fields without a tour or a bike. You can easily visit the fields on a budget, so read for tips on how to see the tulip fields in the Netherlands for free two different ways.
My advice on how to see the tulip fields in the fields: Skip Keukenhof. You can see the Dutch tulips for free TWO other ways. 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 for seeing the tulips in Holland brings you to the free Dutch tulip 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. (Click for my Dutch packing list.)
You have TWO options to see the tulip fields in the Netherlands without going to Keukenhof by public transit:
Option 1: Take the bus to Keukenhof and walk to the tulip fields in the Netherlands near Keukenhof for free!
This past year, I went again to the field with new friends from the Girls Love Travel group. This is the easiest option for those who are with a family and/or want to have a budget trip to the tulip fields.
Step 1: Go to Schiphol Airport by train and exit the airport
As you exit Schiphol airport, you'll see a sign for buses. The Keukenhof bus (858 bus) is a bit further to the right (a 10 minute walk) from the Schiphol exit. During tulip season, there's a friendly employee with a shirt that you can ask as well as signs showing tulips. Easy, I promise.
Step 2: Buy a one-way ticket to Keukenhof (the bus station)
A one-way ticket to Keukenhof by bus is 6 euros. There's a booth where you can pay for the Keukenhof express bus as well as a line that you'll need to wait in. Be warned that the Keukenhof bus is crowded and far from ideal for those with young children. It's best to leave first thing in the morning (think 8-9am). It will take some time to get there.
I recommend getting a one-way ticket on the Keukenhof bus as you'll have less walking if you take the train back rather than the bus back since my route leaves you off next to a train station that brings you right back to Amsterdam Centraal. It also means that you see a cute typically Dutch town surrounded by tulips.
Step 3: Get off at Keukenhof and walk until you see some beautiful Dutch fields
It's about 5km from Keukenhof to Hillegom. (You can download the map below showing the tulip walking route near Keukenhof where I took these photos). The road is a bit narrow, so watch for cars and bikes!
We found our first field only fifteen minutes from Keukenhof, but the best ones were about a thirty minute walk. We went very slow as we had a blast just enjoying the fields. Remember these are private commercial tulip fields and the farmers allow people in on the condition that they are respectful, so please don't pick the tulips.
Step 4: Walk towards Hillegom Station
We ended up stopping off for a coffee in Hillegom at the one of the many local cafes that we saw. It's a cute typically Dutch town.
Step 5: Take the NS train from Hillegom back to Amsterdam Centraal
You can buy your ticket at the train station in the machine! You just need a one-way ticket to Amsterdam, which should cost about 5 euros. You might need to transfer in Haarlem for a train in Amsterdam, so it's best to check google maps on how to get back.
Below, you'll find a downloadable map for a free Dutch tulips walking route from Amsterdam.
Option 2: Take the Train to Leiden and rent a bike to cycle to the fields
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.
Option 2 (Step 2): 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.
Option 2 (Step 3): Exercise
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.
Option 2 (Step 4): Frolic
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 & Jacob. American expats and cat lovers from New York City and Kentucky who lived in Amsterdam.... Then, Paris. (Confusing, we know!) Now, we're living in The Hague, the Netherlands.
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