Lisse was initially founded as a rural getaway for wealthy merchants from Haarlem or Amsterdam looking to escape the city. Their villas and manors surround this area and their private land gave birth to what South Holland is known for today: tulip cultivation.
Lisse is now the go-to destination in South Holland to admire fields upon fields of tulips in all varieties and colours. It is also home to the famous Keukenhof flower garden. The Keukenhof flower garden in Lisse draws 1 MILLION visitors a year to see the display of tulips during the short spring season. Essentially, it is the Disneyland of flowers.
We visited Lisse and the Keukenhof during the second week of May. I was excited to see the fields of tulips that stretched out as far as the eye can see – more so than the Keukenhof. I had heard of the Keukenhof but wasn’t sold. It sounded like it would be something over-touristed and it seemed like most travellers I was following on Instagram were completely skipping the Keukenhof. What can I say, Instagram has its ways. The photos of people frolicking through the tulip fields were beyond majestic.
Before we set off, our Airbnb hosts in the Dutch city of Alkmaar told us we would unfortunately be late for the fields of tulips and that the season had come to an end. I couldn’t believe it – it was only the second week of May – surely there would be a field or two?! They thought about it and agreed that maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll spot a field full of the “toilet brush” flowers.
“Toilet brush flowers?” I asked.
“Yes, they look exactly like a toilet brush. Just take a selfie with the field in the distance and no one will know the difference. They will think they are purple tulips.”
So we took off on our bikes from Alkmaar to Lisse – in search of fields of toilet brush flowers errr “purple tulips”.
Sure enough, along the way we spotted the fields of what could only be the toilet brush flowers. We hopped off our bikes and crossed the road to take a good look.
“They really do look like toilet brushes”. But we passed on the photo and kept going, sure that we would find tulips.
20 minutes later we found a tulip farm that had a Mother’s Day special to pick some tulips left in their fields.
Our first tulips and taste of flower mania! We walked around the fields, took some photos and continued on to our Airbnb host in Hillegom, but more about that later.
So point of the story is, if you’re going to Lisse or Hillegom to see the tulips fields then definitely go during late April. It’s a tricky time to predict but the last week of April is a pretty safe bet.
When we made it to our Airbnb in Hillegom, our super nice host told us that her previous guests loved the Keukenhof and truly that was the best way to enjoy the tulips. She said that the farmers don’t really like tourists running onto their land for the gram and she was right. The next day we found a field of tulips and hopped off our bike for a photo. We were quickly shooed away by a farmer and it was obvious this practice is unwelcome!
We decided we would go to the Keukenhof the next day and it was a great decision.
Fields of flowers in Lisse:
The Keukenhof is known as the world’s most beautiful spring flower garden with more than 7 million flower bulbs planted every year.
Often referred to as the Garden of Europe, a visit to the Keukenhof is the best way to see the many varieties of Dutch tulips, irises, lilies, hyacinths, orchids and more.
Like I said, I was initially hesitant about visiting the Keukenhof because it seemed that it would be just too touristy.
But we sucked up all our doubts and decided to spend a whole day in the Keukenhof. Great decision. While it was touristy and full of people, it was beautiful. Everyone had flower mania drawn all over their faces. There were tulips upon tulips of all colours and varieties. Beautiful fountains and walkways, mazes and grassy patches.
The Keukenhof regularly throws special events during their short spring season. We were there during the Keukenhof’s closing weekend when they had a special Mother’s Day Weekend called “Mozart in the Keukenhof”. Classical musicians from the Rotterdam orchestra were scattered throughout the park playing classical music.
We laid in the park for a few hours listening to the beautiful music. There were entertainers dressed in full 18th century attire serving champagne to compliment the show. It was spectacular.
Keukenhof Gardens Admission – Ticket Prices
Opening times 2020: 21 march – May 10.
- Adults – € 18
- Children (aged 4 to 11) – € 8
- Children (aged 0 to 3) – free
- Combi-ticket (entrance + travel from Amsterdam) – € 30
Practical information about The Keukenhof here: https://keukenhof.nl/en/practical-information/
An Easy Cycle from Haarlem
The Netherlands is completely flat, meaning that getting around by bike is a breeze! We cycled from Haarlem to Hillegom in under 2 hours with plenty of stops.
Where to Stay
The towns of Hillegom or Lisse are perfect gateways to the region. You can even stay in Haarlem and make a day trip by bus, train or bike. We stayed in an Airbnb in Hillegom and travelled around with our bikes from Amsterdam, however there are also bike rentals in the towns of Hillegom and Lisse!
Where to Eat
Vrouw Holle Pannenkoekenhuis (Dutch crêperie)
During our stay in Hillegom and Lisse, we ate at a few restaurants but Vrouw Holle in Lisse was our favourite! A very traditional Dutch pancake house serving sweet and savoury pancakes and other options from breakfast to dinner.
Although Lisse is a small town, there are many cuisines available including Italian, Japanese and Greek – something for everyone!
Traditional Dutch pancakes with cheese, caramelised onions and tomatoes.