The tulip is one of the enduring symbols of the Netherlands and Amsterdam—but it wasn't always that way. The beautiful blooms are originally from the foothills of the Himalayas and were treasured by the Ottoman sultans in Turkey. In the early 17th century, they arrived in Holland where they were first cultivated for research at the University of Leiden. But Holland’s wealthy bourgeoisie adored them and the country’s farmers started cultivating them in great quantities. It turned out that Holland was the perfect environment for tulip cultivation with its low-lying sandy fields where there was plenty of water and a moderate climate.
Ironically, it can be difficult to see tulips in the city of Amsterdam itself. Here are some tips.
Amsterdam Tulip Festival
The Amsterdam Tulip Festival, which runs throughout the month of April, showcases more than 400,000 colorful and occasionally rare tulips throughout the city. Some of the key locations are Artis zoo, EYE Film Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam, Hortus Botanicus, Museum Van Loon, Rijksmuseum and many public squares throughout the city.
Floating Flower Market
The Floating Flower Market or Bloemenmarkt takes place rain or shine, summer and winter on stalls located on floating barges along the canal. In springtime, tulips of all colors reign.
Keukenhof is Holland’s most magnificent flower show brimming with tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, anemones, and other spring bulbs for just a few weeks each year (March 24-May 16, 2016). There are 15 kilometers of walking trails over 32 hectares.
Aalsmeer Flower Auction
Aalsmeer Flower Auction is where 19 million flowers and two million plants are sold each day via the Dutch auction system, where the price gets lower as the clock ticks down. Open to the public from Monday to Friday from 7am to 11am.
There are numerous parks within the city limits where you can wander amongst spring flowers. The best include the huge Vondelpark, the exquisite Hortus Botanicus, and the inspired Artis zoo.
Amsterdam Tulip Museum
The Amsterdam Tulip Museum details Holland’s fascination with the tulip, including a phenomenon called Tulipmania, where during the 17th century a tulip craze took hold of the country and people even sold their houses to invest in the bulbs.
And, while you won’t see tulips, there will be tons more floral delights if you happen to be in Amsterdam during the weekend of June 17th. During this time, you can visit 30 of Amsterdam’s secret gardens in canal houses and museums during Open Garden Days.