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?

More interested in guides tours? Check out the best tours of Amsterdam and the Dutch countryside!

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.

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

 

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.

Looking for more family outings? Check out this guide to the Efteling theme park, one of the best family theme parks in the Netherlands!

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! And if you’re looking for more amazing day trips from Amsterdam, check out the fishing village of Waterland.

 

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!

 

Alex

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

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21 thoughts on “How to see tulips in the Netherlands without going to Keukenhof

    Loved this article. Sharing this on my Facebook page for my blog. 🙂

    Great post, and great idea. I’m the worst cycler ever (not sure why I thought it’d be a swell idea to move to the Netherlands?) but I love Haarlem, and this looks awesome. So…maybe. Maybe.

    Hi Alex! While reading your post my smile grew and grew. I love your view on tulips & on cycling in the Netherlands! I’m sharing this on twitter! By the way…I wrote a alternative day program from Amsterdam to Keukenhof. We also started cycling from Haarlem, it’s a really nice tip 🙂 http://veritasvisit.nl/amsterdam-keukenhof-alternative-day-program/

    Can we see these tulips all year round? Or only during spring season? I’m sorry I have no idea. 🙂
    I love that there’s not much tourists! It’s so beautiful!

    Hello! Alas, the tulips only bloom in springtime (usually April-May), so there’s only a short timespan in which you can see them. There are still flowers in this area after tulip season, though. Mostly wildflowers and some rogue leftover tulips.

    Hope you’ll make it there one day, it’s very beautiful 🙂

    Renee Hahnel says:

    I love this! It has been on my bucket list for years to visit the tulips in The Netherlands. My husband is Dutch so I would love to share that moment with him. Thanks for the tips!

    You’re welcome. It’s very beautiful, so we’re sure you’ll enjoy it. Have fun!

    Ali says:

    I’m so glad I found your article! I’m heading to Amsterdam this week and wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend €16 on a park crowded with tourists. A lot of other articles I read also suggests biking through route n208. Have you gone through that route before?

    Thanks!

    Hiya, thanks for reaching out. Glad you found the article useful. The N 208 will guide you past plenty of flower fields. The first part, from Haarlem towards Hillegom, is a bit dull, but it becomes nice later on. The best thing to do is to just cycle around and see what’s nice, though. Enjoy!

    Juds says:

    Wow, this is great! Thanks for the tip! 🙂 Can we go down to the tulip fields to take photos with us standing there (not stepping on the flowers, of course!)? If yes, how can we ask permission from the farmers? Thank you!

    Sebastiaan says:

    Absolutely! If you cycle along, there are plenty of fields you can just walk in to, and you’ll see plenty of people doing the same. As long as the area isn’t fenced off and you don’t destroy the flowers, it’s all good.

    geneva says:

    This is the best information I found about how to see the tulips! We took advantage of all of your tips and it was perfect. Thank you so much!

    Sebastiaan says:

    That’s great! Glad it all worked well.

    Maddy says:

    Hi Alex
    That was a beautiful article and I intend to follow it to the T. I need to know if we can cycle with a 5 yr child ? Do we have extra seat/carriage for the child ?

    Surrey says:

    Great info.

    I see that the next few days are going to be wet/cold in tulip heaven. We were planning to visit the fields this Wednesday.

    What are your recommendations for venturing out? Will it still be worthwhile to go?

    Much appreciated!

    Alex says:

    A bit of a delayed response… but wet and windy can be quite unpleasant! Nevertheless, the rain will let at some point, so if you’re crunched for time, you might as well give it a chance. If you get caught in the rain, hide out and have a warm cup of tea or a beer somewhere 🙂

    Harper says:

    This is so helpful! Everything else I have read seems complicated. THANK YOU!! Quick question – what is your recommendation for returning the bike? Hop on the train in Keukenhof (with bike ticket) and head back to Harleem? Any tips for traveling with a bike on the train?

    Thanks again!

    Scott Larson says:

    I visited Keukenhoff with a tour group in the spring of 2018. We arrived when the gardens opened, and we spent a two to three hours walking around taking photos. The “wait” to get in was only a few minutes, and since we arrived early there were no “crowds of newbs” to contend with.
    Really enjoyed the experience and if we’d been as close as we were and skipped Keukenhoff on purpose…I know we would have regretted it later.
    As we were leaving the parking lots were filling up, so I’m glad we arrived when we did. Two to three hours might not seem like enough time to see much, but it completely depends on how organized a person is.
    The price was reasonable, (considering what you’re seeing), and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

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