Bike riding through Holland to see the tulip fields was a wish Daria had had for a long time and that I also fulfilled for her last week. We flew with Swiss from Zurich to Amsterdam, and from there we took the train to Leiden, which was about 20 minutes away.
Leiden – Birthplace of Tulip Culture
The fact that we started our bicycle tour in Leiden had nothing to do with tulip culture, since it was only later that we learned this bit of information. For me, Leiden is a smaller and less hectic version of Amsterdam, and since we had already been there three years earlier and had a good experience, I decided to use it as a starting point. As we learned later on our boat tour in Keukenhof, the tulip originally came from Kazakhstan. It came by way of Turkey and Austria to the university garden of Leiden (now the Leiden Botanical Garden). Back then, you could afford a house for the price of a tulip. Today, people from all over the world enjoy 500 different varieties.
After renting our bikes from the train station, it took us about an hour to ride to Lisse via Voorhout. Holland is one of the best countries for bike riding, something you quickly notice. Google Maps immediately gave us five different touring options upon inputting our starting point and destination. Everywhere, there are extra bike paths on the main roads. On our route, we rode by several tulip fields, which were partly also publicly accessible. The magnificent tulip fields that you can admire along the way are used for tulip bulb cultivation. That’s why the flowers have to be “topped” shortly before wilting so that the strength goes into the bulb, which can then be used for another growth period.
Lisse – Mecca for Tulip Growers
When we arrived in Lisse, there was an awesome welcoming party waiting for us in the town square, which is also where our hotel was located. That’s because on Ascension Day in Holland, they have a band and beer to commemorate the soldiers who died in World War II. Right at 6 pm, the whole party ended and everyone went home. So once again we had peace and quiet in our room, which was right on the town square.
De Vier Seizoenen
When we arrived in Lisse, there was an awesome welcoming party waiting for us in the town square, which is also where our Bed & Breakfast was located. That’s because on Ascension Day in Holland, they have a band and beer to commemorate the soldiers who died in World War II. Right at 6 pm, the whole party ended and everyone went home. So once again we had peace and quiet in our room, which was right on the town square.
The big tulip highlight is definitely Keukenhof, or “kitchen garden” in English. There are about 14 million bulbs distributed among 800 different tulip types planted on 32 hectares of land. From our Bed & Brekfast, it took five minutes to get there by bike. We bought our tickets online through the website and presented them with our smartphones, which is definitely a timesaver with the large number of tourists. Keukenhof is a place where you can easily spend the whole day when the weather is nice. Aside from tulips, there’s also an orchid show on site, and the florists display their cut-flower creations. On our visit, we also did a boat tour that takes you around the tulip fields for about 45 minutes and where you can get an audio guide that gives you information on the tulip itself, its cultivation, and Keukenhof. A great experience.
Sadly, we moved on towards Haarlem way too soon.
Haarlem – An Idyllic Amsterdam
After a good 50 minutes with our bikes from Keukenhof, we arrived at our hotel in Haarlem. Following a short bath, we rode to the market square, unfortunately without our cameras, to have supper at the Urban French Bistro Toujours. I actually chose Haarlem because of its proximity to the North Sea, which we unfortunately postponed the next day so that we could spend even more time exploring Haarlem.
Towards the afternoon, it was back to Leiden for us so that we could return our bikes and then drive to the Amsterdam airport from there.
Amsterdam – A Walk Along the Canals
Since our flight was already leaving at 7 am, we decided to grab a hotel right by the airport. The Sheraton was a perfect choice for that. The rooms are big, and you can choose whether you want a view of the airport and the runways. Since I had personally never spent more than an hour in Amsterdam, we met a colleague who lives in Amsterdam and who took us along the canals.
In the most beautiful weather, we walked over bridges and through alleyways, and we regretted not booking a boat in time.
Amsterdam and the region around North Holland are always worth a visit. I was already familiar with Leiden from before in the fall, and the area around Amsterdam also proved to beautiful in the spring. The tour is perfect for both experienced and novice cyclists, and it can be adapted for any time of year.