location scouting guide: dutch tulip fields (part one: getting there)
You can take a bus from Amsterdam to Keukenhof in Lisse to see tulips, many other flowers (e.g. crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, etc.), windmills and animals. They offer a discounted combi ticket that includes the bus and entrance. You can even rent bikes from there to tour around the local flower and tulip fields. As a local I know put it, it’s like going to Disney - all the convenience and crowds included.
So. Alternatively, you can rent bikes in Amsterdam, take it and yourself/crew on the train (anytime during off-peak hours (between 9am and 4pm; 6:30pm to 6:30am bikes are allowed on the train. you do have to buy a separate ticket for your bike though.) to any number of towns close to Lisse and then bike your way along the fields of flowers that stretch out to Keukenhof.
I researched a number of routes and settled on one based on the itinerary of an Airbnb experience. It seemed the most doable in an afternoon allowing time to wander a bit aimlessly and spend some time at Keukenhof without rushing. An alternate option was to do all or part of this route I found on a Holland Cycling website. It includes some windmills and covers more ground. I just didn’t think I’d be able to get around and back on the train before rush hour started.
My bike was rented from Frederic Rent-A-Bike which was around the corner from my Airbnb. They open at 9am and close at 5:30pm on. the. dot. They are extremely friendly and had me on my way within 5 minutes of entering the shop. For 15 euros that Gazelle bike was all mine (for 24 hours). I nicknamed her zella. Tip: for a little less (11 euros) you can rent the bike just until 5:30pm. True to Dutch culture, they do not stay open a minute past 5:30pm so be prompt. That said they are flexible and if you don’t get there on time, they let you keep the bike and just charge to you the extra 4,00 euros (the 24 hour price). I highly recommend splurging for 24 hours any way so you can get around Amsterdam when you get back from the fields.
I took the 9:34 am train to Hillegom. Trains leave for this town every 30 minutes (on the :04 and :34 of every hour) from Amsterdam Centraal. For coming back - they leave Hillegom for Amsterdam Centraal every half hour as well (on the :23 and :53 of every hour). The round trip cost is 12,80 euros for you and then around 7 euros for your bike ticket (“fietskaart dal” card in dutch).
When I got to Hillegom, I put Keukenhof into Google to map out the bike directions. The challenge I had was Google not directing you by bike routes. It goes by street names instead. Not a big deal, but it would have been more convenient to have siri whisper the bike route numbers to me since the paths are well marked. Here is the Google route I took to Keukenhof. Once you get onto Veenenburgerlaan there are signs pointing you toward Keukenhof and Lisse.
As soon as you get off the train you are greeted by tulips and flower fields. You. Cannot. Miss. Them. Enjoy it before breaking out your camera. As quaint as the town of Hillegom may be, get yourself going first.
On the way to Keukenhof, I found this adorable roadside tulip stand that was selling bouquets and bulbs. There was an enormous yellow flower field behind it. This is perfect for a photo shoot and to pick up props on the way to another field. I was alone (Aside from one group of women, I pretty much had the road to myself which made for a relaxing ride.) and did my best by posing zella with it.
You can find this stand on the corner of Frederikslaan and Veenenburgerlaan in Hillegom on the route to Keukenhof.
Note: There were a few florists and a nursery on the left side of the road heading toward Keukenhof just before this little stand where you could also buy props for a shoot.
Eventually, I dragged myself from this little stand to continue the journey. You will find there are many fields to see and pose near (not in). I encourage you to get creative, find new perspectives, use the whole environment and respect the signs imploring tourists to not enter the fields. Remember, while very pretty and tempting, these flowers are planted to sell the bulbs and are the livelihood of the farmers. Trampling them will cause damage.
For example, you could put your subject around a field like this one which is on the corner of Zwartelaan and Loosterweg Noord. This is just beside the Keukenhof gardens.
If you are itching to enter a tulip field for that quintessential running-through-the-field-in-a-pretty-dress instagram shot, you must ask a farmer for permission or find a picking garden such as Annemieke’s Picking Garden that lets you pick flowers.
Next up, roaming around Keukenhof!
I am breaking this guide out into a few parts because i want to be detailed without losing you.
This guide just focuses on South Holland and a few towns near Keukenhof. There are many other places you can see tulips during the short April to early May season.
I like to be “extra”. Thus, my original plan for getting out to the tulip fields was to bike the whole way from Amsterdam. I was eventually talked out of this by my mother (hi mom!) and happy for her insistence. It’s a beast of a ride on those three-speed bikes and tired legs. I know this because on the way back I decided to get off the train a few stops early (Harleem) and bike back from Amsterdam from there (google said it’d be an hour). It’s long and while it was neat to see some parts outside of Amsterdam not really worth the views (think Ikea and commercial centers). Spend your time elsewhere. Like sampling gouda or eating pancakes. Take your bike on the train. I promise you won’t suffer from FOMO.