Biking The Tulip Fields Outside Amsterdam
Amsterdam -- known for its legal weed and Red Light District -- is also the “Flower Shop” or “Tulip Capital” of the world. Making their way to Holland in the 16th century, tulips became so popular that they were even used as currency for a while. By the mid-17th century, these flowers actually caused the first economic bubble, known as “Tulip Mania.” Eventually, the bubble burst due to the over saturation of tulips.
Today, Holland supplies about 77% of the world’s flower bulbs, the majority of which are tulips. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Amsterdam in the spring, don’t miss the opportunity to get out to the countryside to see the tulips in bloom before they are cut and the bulbs shipped off.
Located about 30 kilometers south west of Amsterdam is the famous Keukenhof Garden. The Keukenhof is considered “one of the most beautiful gardens in the world,” but it’s also heavily manicured and jam packed with tourists. My advice is to skip it. While the property is beautiful, I can’t say that the time I spent there enriched my travel experience in any way. I found the crowds incredibly overwhelming, especially those made up of thoughtless tourists touching and leaning all over the flower beds taking pictures with their selfie sticks. I wish I’d saved the money and spent more time biking the fields.
Rent a Bike Van Dam is set up in the parking lot of the Keukenhof and rents bikes for 10 euros per day. You do not have to reserve your bike in advance, but I did because I didn’t want to have to worry about whether or not they’d run out.
When you pick up your bike, they’ll give you a map and suggest a route based on the amount of time you have. My friend and I only had an hour and a half because we were also trying to go see the gardens (did I mention what a mistake this was?), so they suggested we take route 2. This route was about 15 km (or 9 miles) and took us through small towns and villages as well as through open fields. Sometimes the trail had us biking on the side of the road and other times along a designated bike path (similar to a sidewalk). The route always had plenty of room, and I never felt unsafe.
Most of the fields were not yet blooming (thanks to the endless winter of 2018), but we did see some daffodils and even a few fields of tulips. Even if none of the fields had been blooming, this peaceful ride still would have been worth it for the authentic experience of exploring the small towns and villages.
Next time, I will take route 3, a 25 km ride along the tulip fields and villages but also past a lake, through dunes, and along the sea. If you get the chance, I suggest skipping the Keukenhof and taking advantage of route 3.
How To Get There
There are a few transportation options but the most direct is the Keukenhof Express which leaves from Schipol airport every 5-15 minutes (frequency depends on the time of day and year). This bus took about 25-35 minutes.
To get to Schiphol, you can take a train from Centraal Station (if you’re near there) or take the 397 bus. The 397 bus route ended right in front of where we were staying in Jordaan, so we took this straight to Schiphol airport. This bus route also runs past Vondelpark, Museumplein, and Olympiaplein, so it’s likely one of its stops won’t be far from wherever you are in Amsterdam.
We purchased a combination ticket that included admission to the gardens and round trip rides on both buses for 29.50 euros. The bus from Amsterdam to Schipol costs 6.50 euro one way or 10 for a round trip (or what Europeans call a “return”) ride and the Keukenhof Express is also the same price. That being said, I believe there may be a combo ticket you can ask your driver about for approximately 8 euro each way.
When you arrive at Schiphol, your bus driver will point out where to catch the Keukenhof Express. If you have any questions, just ask a transportation worker who will help guide you in the right direction.
Important Things To Know
You must pick up your rental bike by noon and return it by 7pm.
Bikers in the Netherlands are very serious; don’t let this intimidate you, but do pay attention and move to the side when they are trying to pass you.
The rental bikes come with locks. Be sure to use them when you’re not using your bike.
Food options are limited along the bike routes, so I recommend packing a picnic to ensure you have something to eat and to help save a little money.
Bring a water bottle along; this is exercise, after all.
Wear comfortable shoes and dress in layers. Sometimes I rode in my t-shirt, and at other times I wanted to put my sweatshirt back on.
Do not enter the fields. You could damage the flowers or transport diseases on your shoes from one field to another. Remember these are not wildflowers but the livelihood of many families.