Tulips are deemed as Dutch as Gouda cheese and wooden shoes. The intricate flora proved a hit with the Netherlands’ upper crust, who’d shell out big sums of guilders (the currency at the time) to wear them as corsages during balls or to decorate their canal-side homes. At the height of their popularity in the 1630s, a bona fide tulip mania swept through the country and single bulbs of the most colorful species were worth more than their weight in gold.
Today, though, the tulip is the everyone’s flower, brightening public parks and backyards all around the country during spring. Amsterdam rings in the start of tulip season on National Tulip Day, an annual event on the third Saturday of January. The city’s Museum Square turns into a giant tulip garden where everybody—including tourists—is free to pick their own bunch.
To see the country in full bloom, time your visit between late March and early May, when its flower fields are carpeted in eye-popping streaks of pink, orange, and yellow, and tulip festivals in Amsterdam and the surrounding countryside put the beloved flowers in the spotlight.
Here’s where to find the Netherlands’ most awe-inspiring tulip displays in 2023.
Amsterdam Tulip Festival
- Where: Amsterdam
- When to visit: April 1 – April 30, 2023
Amsterdam’s annual Tulip Festival brings a kaleidoscope of colors to all corners of the city. From the Vondelpark and central Dam square to the swirling streets of the Museum Quarter, more than 880,000 tulips—one for every Amsterdammer—will bloom in 75 public locations around town. The 2023 edition will take place throughout April and include new locations such as the Plantage Middenlaan near the historic Artis zoo and NDSM Wharf, a former shipyard, across the IJ river. An online map (also available as a print booklet around the main festival locations) helps you outline your own tulip tour and gives more information about the varieties on display at each site.
Amsterdam Tulip Museum
- Where: Amsterdam
- When to visit: year-round, except on April 27 and December 25
- Plan your visit: amsterdamtulipmuseum.com/the-museum; €5 for adults, €3 for students
The Amsterdam Tulip Museum is another colorful corner to visit year-round. This small museum along the Prinsengracht canal delivers a deep dive into the Himalayan origins of the bulb and the fascinating tulip mania craze that swept through the country in the 17th century. Other exhibitions feature tulip-themed Ottoman ceramics and industry artifacts, and the gift shop sells certified bags of bulbs from a range of species.
- Where: Lisse
- When to visit: March 23 – May 14, 2023
- Buy a ticket: keukenhof.combi.ticket counter.eu; €19 (US$21) for adults, €9 (US$10 ) for children
The Keukenhof, a 40-minute drive from downtown Amsterdam, hosts some of the Netherlands’ most dazzling flower displays. With 79 acres bedecked in more than 7 million bulbs (including more than 800 different tulip species), it’s the largest flower garden in the world. No wonder it attracts well over a million visitors during the eight weeks it is open each year.
In 2023, the walkable gardens will open from March 23 to May 14. While this year’s edition will skip the annual themed exhibitions to focus on its 75th anniversary in 2024, its floral designs will be no less enticing. To increase your chances of seeing the most tulips in full bloom, plan your visit toward the end of the season.
Museum de Zwarte Tulp
- Where: Lisse
- When to visit: year-round; hours vary
- Plan your visit: museumdezwartetulp.nl; €10 (US$11) for adults, €15 (US$5) for students
Beyond the Keukenhof, the town of Lisse has plenty of other jumping-off points for explorations around this tulip-growing region (also known as the Bulb District, or Bollenstreek). For a lay of the land, stop by the nearby Museum de Zwarte Tulp in Lisse, where rotating exhibitions focus on everything from tulips in 20th-century art to the history of the Bollenstreek.
From here, embark on walking or cycling routes around the tulip fields (or €159-a-person helicopter tours, US$173, on select Saturdays and Sundays throughout April). And if you’re still not tulip-ed out, the family-run Tulip Experience Amsterdam, launched in 2019 just down the road from the Keukenhof Gardens, has tulips fields with more than a million blooms through which guests are allowed to walk for €9.50 (US$10).
- Where: Noordwijk, Lisse, and Haarlem
- When to visit: April 19 – April 23, 2023
The Bulb District’s floral frenzy is at its highest on April 22, when an annual flower parade known as the Bloemencorso Bollenstreek will travel the 26-mile stretch between Noordwijk to Haarlem in a procession of colorful floats tufted with tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, and other bulb flowers. The parade passes through villages and towns along the route and makes a short stop at the Keukenhof entrance around 3 p.m.
From April 19 to 21, guests can take a peek behind the scenes at the Klinkenberg tennis hall in Sassenheim, where dozens of volunteers will decorate the flower floats before they embark on an after-dark parade through Noordwijkerhout on the evening of April 21. If you miss the parade, the floats will be on display in Haarlem’s historic city center on April 23.
Tulip Festival Noordoostpolder
- Where: Emmeloord
- When to visit: April 21 – May 7, 2023
While the Bulb District around Amsterdam welcomes the lion’s share of tulip tourists every spring, most tulips are actually grown in the Noordoostpolder, a low-lying municipality of reclaimed land about an hour north of Amsterdam. During the blooming season from late April to early May, the area turns into a Technicolor patchwork of flower fields, which is celebrated from April 21 to May 7, 2023, during the region’s annual Tulip Festival Noordoostpolder.
During this time, a signposted car and cycling route guides visitors past the area’s most beautiful tulip fields (there’s a similar route in nearby Flevoland). Route maps are available for free at several festival locations, including Van der Valk Hotel Emmeloord.
Off-season tulip hot spots
While the Netherlands, and Amsterdam in particular, are at their most colorful in spring, you can still get your flower fix if you visit during summer, autumn, or winter. The floating flower market (or Bloemenmarkt in the local lingo) on Amsterdam’s Singel canal has been around since 1862 and is a great spot to pick up tulip bulbs to bring back home throughout the year. Be aware, though, that only certain varieties are approved by U.S. Customs and require a phytosanitary certificate attached to their packaging—most vendors will be able to advise.
This article originally appeared online in April 2016. It was updated on January 25, 2023, to include current information.