How to see tulips in the Netherlands without going to Keukenhof

Tulip season in the Netherlands is beautiful… but can be a costly clusterfuck, too. Keukenhof is expensive, and far too full of people in season. Instead, here’s how to see tulips in the Netherlands on a budget, DIY-style.

Ah, tulip season in the Netherlands.

For a brief period of time, from the end of March to the beginning of May, the fields of the Dutch countryside undergo a transformation. The green (or gray, depending on the weather) fields give way to rainbow stripes of flowers, carpeting the landscape in hues of all sorts. It’s a magical sight to behold.

… which, of course, means that everybody and their momma (and their omaatjes) will be trying to get in on that flowery action, looking to snap their supersaturated superselfies.

Keukenhof, the premier destination for those looking to bask in the glories of tulips and other highly-contrived Dutchy flower creations, turns into a certifiable clusterfuck of people the second the sun shines during tulip season, as well as the days in between. Add to that the fact that it’s expensive for souls on a budget (€16 is a lot to pay for touristy misery) and you have a definitive Place To Be Avoided At All Costs.

So, how to see tulips in the Netherlands without suffering the crowds?

 

Seeing tulips in the Netherlands is a must, but the standard method of visiting Keukenhof can be expensive for backpackers or tourists on a budget! Click through to learn about the cheapest way to see tulips in the Netherlands, complete with instructions and map.

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How to see tulips in the Netherlands without going to Keukenhof

How to see tulips in the Netherlands on a budget - City skyline of Haarlem, The Netherlands - Lost With Purpose

Oh hey there Haarlem (with a double A), you lookin’ real nice.

Step 1: Head to Haarlem

Haarlem is a super picturesque city close to Amsterdam. It’s only 18 minutes away from Amsterdam by train, 21 if you take the Sprinter. Tickets are about €8 for a return trip from Amsterdam.

Trust me, I know–I lived and commuted from there for over 2 years. I can dream this train ride by now.

Haarlem is worth a day of wandering in itself, but let’s not get distracted–MISSION: TULIPS is at hand.

 

The cheapest way to see tulips in the Netherlands - Biker shadow in Haarlem, The Netherlands - Lost With Purpose

Step 2: Rent a bike

“But I can rent a bike in Amsterdam!” you may protest. Nah. This saves you the effort of getting a bike on the train, which A) costs more than a train ticket for your body itself and B) is a pain in the ass. Don’t bother. It’s better to rent in Haarlem.

Once you exit Haarlem train station on the city center side (there will be lots of buses), walk beyond where the buses are gathered until you hit another small street running parallel to the station. Rent a Bike Haarlem is on that street–look for the black and yellow logo. Renting a bike there is €10 for a full day, or €6 for a half day. Sometimes they’re nice and hand out maps.

Bike etiquette in the Netherlands is a whole separate story that I won’t delve into too much (MISSION: TULIPS), but here’s a quick list of commandments:

The 5 commandments of biking in the Netherlands

  1. Thou shalt only cycle on the right side of the road.
  2. Thou shalt not cycle on sidewalks–only bike paths.
  3. Thou shalt ALWAYS lock your bike when unattended. Preferably to something.
  4. Thou shalt ding your bell when passing people, and move to the side when bells ding for thee.
  5. Thou shalt ignore Dutch people shouting about how much you suck balls at cycling.

 

How to see tulips in the Netherlands - Biking through tulips in the Netherlands - Lost With Purpose

To the tulips!

Step 3: Bike south!

Basically, what you’ll be doing is following a canal called the Leidsevaart all the way down through tulip country, towards a town called Lisse. You’ll pass through towns called Heemstede and Hillegom along the way. The ride can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours, depending on how lazily you cycle. See map below for visual deetz.

Just cycle along the waterway/head straight as an arrow (as much as possible) until you hit… the tulips! You’ll know when you’re there, I promise.

The cheapest way to see tulips in the Netherlands - Tulips in the Netherlands - Lost With Purpose

Are we there yet?

 

How to see tulips in the Netherlands - Lost With Purpose

Still not there?

 

How to see tulips in the Netherlands on a budget - Frolicking in the tulips in the Netherlands - Lost With Purpose

How about now?

Once you’re deep in the strawberry fields forever tulip fields, feel free to deviate from your straightaway path and explore the region of Lisse.

On a nice day, it’s quite pleasant to picnic/post on the grass alongside the bike paths (Protip: bring wine… or a fat joint, if that’s how you roll). You can even swing past Keukenhof to laugh at all of the noobs that will be sitting in line waiting to enter in their cars/tour buses/bikes/velomobiles… heh.

Man in velomobile

“Not only do I have to wait in line, I also have to sit in this super whack vehicle for the entire wait.”

 

Appendix: Lazy mode

If you really detest cycling and are very flexible and lazy about seeing tulips, you can also just take the train from Haarlem to The Hague (Den Haag) and check the tulips from the window. The gods of flowers and physical activity will judge you, though.

 

There you have it–how to see tulips in the Netherlands without going to Keukenhof! Be safe biking, enjoy frolicking in the flowers, and veel plezier!

 

Seeing tulips in the Netherlands is a must, but the standard method of visiting Keukenhof can be expensive for backpackers or tourists on a budget! Click through to learn about the cheapest way to see tulips in the Netherlands, complete with instructions and map.

Useful? Pin this!

 

Going to the Netherlands? I know why you’re really going 😉 Don’t miss our guide to drugs and safety in the Netherlands.

Alex

American by birth, citizen of nowhere in particular by nature. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

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