One of my most frequently asked questions each spring is ‘when is the best time to visit the Keukenhof Gardens?’ My answer – that depends…
Each autumn, 7 million flower bulbs are planted at the Keukenhof Gardens, in the tiny town of Lisse, South Holland, in the Netherlands. The gardens are carefully planned so bulbs bloom early to late in the season. This means there is no time when all the flowers are in bloom at once. This means whenever you visit, throughout the season, there will be plenty of tulips to enjoy.
I have visited Keukenhof Gardens 11 times over the past dozen years and even though I target similar dates, in the middle of the season, some years I have seen more flowers in bloom than others.
The most important and unpredictable factor is Mother Nature herself. The timing of the tulips will vary depending on how cold or warm the winter has been. Keep an eye on the weather and use your best judgment. If it’s still cold in mid-March, delay your visit by a week or two. If it is unseasonably warm, visit the gardens earlier.
You can overcome the unpredictable climate in the huge greenhouse complexes at Keukenhof, where you can enjoy thousands of tulips throughout the season.
Another important factor to consider is what you hope to see at the Keukenhof.
- If you are hoping to photograph outdoor beds full of multi-coloured tulips, it is best to aim for the middle of the season in mid to late April.
- If you want to enjoy the best of the new tulip varieties inside the greenhouses, early to mid-April is better.
- If other varieties of flowers are your main concern, you can check the schedule of events to see what flowers are featured each week.
Whenever you visit during the season, it is best to avoid weekends and holidays if at all possible. 50 million people have visited Keukenhof Gardens over the past 65 years, and some days it can feel as if all of them are there at the same time!
If your aim is to photograph landscapes of Keukenhof that are devoid of people, you need to arrive as soon as the gates open and work quickly. (See my article on photo tips to avoid crowds) The area near the pond is one of the first parts of the park to get busy.
Later in the day, you can still escape the main crowds by heading to some of the more out of the way paths. The woodland gardens are a nice place to get some shade and escape the onslaught of tour-bus visitors.
The Greenhouses also get extremely crowded as the day goes on, particularly the orchid house, as it is narrow to begin with. If you hope to do some macro photography, it is best to target the greenhouses early.
Whenever you go, remember the Keukenhof is 32 hectares, so you probably won’t be able to see everything. Every year is different and there is always something new to see and photograph.
Pace yourself, take plenty of breaks, and do as I do, breathe deep, and carry a big tripod!
When is Keukenhof open in 2017?
In 2017, Keukenhof will be open from March 23rd until May 21st. To time your visit, keep an eye on the weather and how quickly it warms up this spring.
For more on Keukenhof, read our 25 Facts about Keukenhof Gardens and Tulips, in the Netherlands, 2014. Also, learn about the alternative to Keukenhof, in Belgium – The Floralia Flower and Garden show at Groot-Bijgaarden Castle, near Brussels.