How to see tulips in the Netherlands without going to Keukenhof

Tulip season in the Netherlands is beautiful… but not everyone wants to fight the crowds at Keukenhof. Instead, here’s how to see tulips in the Netherlands without going to Keukenhof… the Dutch way!

Want to see tulips in the Netherlands independently or on a budget? This guide to tulip season in the Netherlands has all the information you need to visit tulip fields from Amsterdam without having to pay to go into busy Keukenhof. Click through to learn how you can avoid crowds and see tulips this spring! #Tulips #Amsterdam #Netherlands

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This post is all about seeing tulips independently and as cheaply as possible. Want to see the famous tulip fields as part of an Amsterdam day trip? Check out this tour!

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. Green (or gray, depending on the weather) fields give way to vivid stripes of flowers, carpeting the landscape in rainbows of color. A magical sight to behold, to say the least.

… 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 some supersaturated superselfies.

Keukenhof is the premier destination for those looking to bask in the glories of tulips and other highly-contrived Dutchy flower creations. As a result, the park turns into a certifiable madhouse of people the second the sun shines during tulip season. Add the fact that it’s expensive for travelers on a budget—Keukenhof tickets are €17,50 per person when purchased online—and you can understand Keukenhof isn’t for everyone.

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

How to see tulips in the Netherlands without going to Keukenhof

City skyline of Haarlem, The Netherlands

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

Step 1 to seeing tulips in the Netherlands: head to Haarlem

Haarlem is a picturesque city close to Amsterdam, only 18 minutes away from Amsterdam by train (21 if you take the Sprinter). Tickets are €9 for a return trip from Amsterdam. You can buy a train ticket at a kiosk on the train station, online via the NS website, or load money on your OV-chip card.

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

Heading to the Netherlands to see tulips? Check out these places to stay in the historic city of Haarlem!

Biker shadow in Haarlem, The Netherlands

Step 2 to seeing tulips in the Netherlands: 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 the 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.

You can also rent a bike online via Baja Bikes. Check out their website for bike rental in Haarlem.

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

Going to the Netherlands to see the tulips and don’t have a place to stay yet? Check out places to stay in Amsterdam before they fill up!

 

Two girld biking through tulips in the Netherlands

To the tulips!

Step 3 to seeing tulips in the Netherlands: Bike south!

You’re 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 the map below for more information.

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 town you’re aiming for is called Lisse.

Tulips in the Netherlands

Are we there yet?

 

A field of red tulips in the Netherlands

Still not there?

 

Two girls frolicking in the tulips in the Netherlands

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 sitting in line waiting to enter in their cars/tour buses/bikes/velomobiles… heh.

However, make sure to respect nature and don’t destroy the flowers. Locals are becoming increasingly annoyed with people destroying the flower fields in search of perfect selfies. Please act respectfully.

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, but I also have to sit in this super whack vehicle for the entire wait.”

Appendix: How to see tulips in the Netherlands if you don’t want to cycle

If you really detest cycling and are very flexible and lazy about seeing tulips, you can also  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.

It’s also possible to take a train or bus to towns near the tulips fields, then walk or get a taxi for the last stretch. You can use this handy public transport planner to find out the best way of getting to the tulips fields using public transport.

Appendix 2: But what if I do want to visit Keukenhof to see tulips?

Although my tone is somewhat mocking, Keukenhof is popular for a reason.

The flowers on display are gorgeous, and the curators of Keukenhof are true artists. If you want to visit Keukenhof, I recommend you visit early in the morning. Tour groups usually arrive around mid-day.

To get the best deal possible, check the Keukenhof website for combi-tickets. To get to Keukenhof, use the above mentioned public transport planner. Buses go from both Amsterdam and Haarlem, stopping near the entrance.

Whatever method you choose to see tulips in the Netherlands, be safe, enjoy frolicking in the flowers, and veel plezier!

Looking for more amazing day trips from Amsterdam? How about the fishing village of Waterland?

Want to see tulips in the Netherlands independently or on a budget? This guide to tulip season in the Netherlands has all the information you need to visit tulip fields from Amsterdam without having to pay to go into busy Keukenhof. Click through to learn how you can avoid crowds and see tulips this spring! #Tulips #Amsterdam #Netherlands

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Yay transparency! There are affiliate links in this post. If you book something using my links, I’ll make a bit of money at no extra cost to you. Think of it as a way of saying thanks for the free information 🙂

Alex Reynolds

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

    Karen Wanderlustingk says:

    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 ?

    I’m glad it was helpful! Yes, I’d rent a carriage to pull behind your bike for small children. They are also on offer at the bike rental shop.

    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!

    Tip 1: don’t travel during rush hours on weekdays! (Usually around 4-6:30 PM) The train will be packed and getting a bike on will be a nightmare. I recommend working out some kind of late delivery scheme with the bike shop in Haarlem.

    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.

    Thank you for sharing your experience! That’s very helpful both to me and other travelers 🙂

    Jarred says:

    Hi Alex,

    Thanks for the article, lots of useful information. I’m heading over in a few months and was wondering if the bike from Haarlem to Lisse take you past any windmills?

    Mahesh Mehta says:

    I want to visit to Amsterdam this April for tulips tour, but confused due to Corona. What is the situation of tourism in Amsterdam?

    Sarala Rao says:

    Request step by step infoto walk to the tulip fields near Keukenhof after visiting Kuekenhof. Can you give me detailed instructions. My husband & I are seniors & we wish to walk to the tulip fields & come back to Kuekenhof to catch our bus back to Amsterdam.
    Alternately, are there taxis in Lisse that one can get to do this ? What do they charge for an hour ?
    Thank you

    Sarala Rao says:

    Request step by step infoto walk to the tulip fields near Keukenhof after visiting Kuekenhof. Can you give me detailed instructions. My husband & I are seniors & we wish to walk to the tulip fields & come back to Kuekenhof to catch our bus back to Amsterdam.
    Alternately, are there taxis in Lisse that one can get to do this ? What do they charge for an hour ?
    Thank you

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