1. Flower Route
From the moment the first tulip was planted in Dutch soil, in 1593, the Netherlands has been in extravagant bloom and the Dutch have been in thrall to flowers, inventing a whole horticultural industry and turning their lowland fields into a blanket of blooms. The flowers reach their climax, of course, in April and May, when Holland offers Europe’s quintessential spring drive. For anyone who wants to see nature in all its glory and smell the roses—or in this case the tulips, hyacinths, narcissi, and daffodils—western Holland is the prime place to be.
Starting in Haarlem, the northernmost point of the Bollenstreek Route—also known as the Bloemen Route (Flower Route)—and running approximately 25 miles (40 kilometers) south to Leiden, this drive takes in the densest concentration of flower fields, with alternating strips of flowers shooting in thick ribbons of primary colors to the flat Dutch horizon. The show starts as early as late January, when the first crocuses come up. These are followed by daffodils, narcissi, and hyacinths. Irises and tulips emerge through early May, followed by gladioli, dahlias, and fragrant lilies. The queen of this nonstop flower extravaganza is the tulip, bursting out in every candy color. But it isn’t just the beds of blooms that make this drive eye-popping. What you’ll also pass along the route is the sturdy billion-dollar industry that those seemingly wispy flowers support: the auction houses that sell the flowers; the public gardens that showcase the flowers; the museums and private gardens that celebrate the horticultural tradition; a series of gabled, Vermeer-worthy villages that grew rich on the flower industry; and two elegant cities, Haarlem and Leiden, that offer as much history and canal-side beauty per square block as Amsterdam itself. All this makes for a short drive dense in attractions and rich enough to command three days of sightseeing.
Arrive at your starting point, Haarlem, a day early so you will have time in the city before striking out. Haarlem’s historic center is seamed with canals and punctuated by the landmarks that hometown artists painted. The best way to get in the mood for your blooming drive is to stop by the Frans Hals Museum (Groot Heiligland 62), one of Holland’s top small galleries. Check out Jan van Goyen’s fine landscapes. Tellingly, van Goyen himself became notorious in the 17th century for swapping two of his ultimately timeless, priceless paintings for a handful of short-lived tulip bulbs.
From Haarlem, head south on highway N208 to Lisse. Its claim to fame is the Bloemen Route’s showstopper: the Keukenhof Garden, which started as the small kitchen garden of a 15th-century countess and now bills itself as nothing less than the most beautiful spring garden in the world, designed to showcase the art of Dutch bulb growers. Spilling across 70 acres (28 hectares) of wooded parkland and attracting more than 700,000 visitors annually, the garden has 14 kilometers of walking paths that wind around ponds, a windmill, greenhouse pavilions holding indoor displays, and more than seven million bulbs planted three layers deep to ensure a blaze of color from the end of March to mid-May.
For a taste of Golden Age Dutch grandeur, stop by the tower-ringed Castle Keukenhof which sits directly across from the entrance to the garden. It was built by a former commander of the Dutch East India Company which helped make 17th-century Holland very rich.
Continue south, taking N208 to the larger highway A44, and you’ll come to the town of Leiden, a calmer, crucial Bloemen landmark. The small, historic town is home to Holland’s oldest university as well as the Botanical Garden, planted in 1594. Other attractions in Leiden include the De Valk Windmill Museum (Binnenvestgracht 1), where you can climb through an 18th-century windmill to gain a panoramic view of the city; and the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum (Beschuitsteeg 9), which offers an overview of the Pilgrims’ life in Holland.
Now it’s time to dive back into the fields. About 30 minutes south of Leiden (take A4 south and then turn west on N222) is Naaldwijk, where you can see what a muscular commercial force all those flowers have become, and how important they are to the Dutch economy. The biggest Dutch flower auctions generate an annual turnover of nearly $5 billion. The village of Naaldwijk sits in the middle of the Westland, the world’s largest greenhouse area, and the Naaldwijk flower auction house (Middel Broekweg 29) offers tours. It’s a reminder of the besotted 17th-century Dutch collectors who were willing to swap tracts of land, bags of gold, carriages, and canal houses for a the precious treat of a few rare tulip bulbs.
This drive should be done around mid-April for the best flower-viewing opportunities, and is calmest on weekdays, when there is less traffic; it is also a very popular bicycling route. For more information on Holland’s flower lands and traditions, visit us.holland.com/t/tulips.

About admin

I would like to think of myself as a full time traveler. I have been retired since 2006 and in that time have traveled every winter for four to seven months. The months that I am "home", are often also spent on the road, hiking or kayaking. I hope to present a website that describes my travel along with my hiking and sea kayaking experiences.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.