Why is Holland famous for tulips? Guide to Dutch Tulip sightseeing.
When you think of Holland, most people will think of windmills, wooden shoes and Tulips.
The Tulip is our national flower, we even have a National Tulip day celebrating the opening of the Tulip season. On that day Tulips are handed out for free in Amsterdam to everyone who wants to enjoy.
But why is Holland famous for tulips? Lets find out how this beautiful flower came to Holland and why the Dutch love it so much!
Table of Contents
History of the tulip in the Netherlands
Where does the Tulip flower come from?
The Tulip flower originates Central Asia and came to Europe from the Ottoman Empire.
How did the Tulip come to Holland?
The Tulip came to Europe during the 16th century via trade. Dutch Botanist Carolus Clusius (founder of the Hortus Academicus in Leiden, the oldest botanic garden of the Netherlands) planted the first collection of Tulips. Tulips could endure the Harsh Dutch environment very well!
Unlike other flowers the Tulip had very vivid colors and as such the Tulip very quickly became a popular luxury item by the Dutch. Especially for the wealthy upper class in the newly founded Dutch Republic.
The Dutch Tulip craze
At some point during the 17th century, the people started to speculate and invest in tulip bulbs. At the peak of the tulip Mania a single tulip bulb would be worth 10 times the annual salary of a middle class artisan.
People would invest in next years Bulb harvest, and the most beautiful Tulips would produce the most expensive bulbs. People seeing others become rich overnight as prices rose gradually and at some point people would sell their houses to invest in the Bulb market in order to earn a quick buck.
However while the people thought the increase of prices would continue forever. In the spring of 1637 buyers suddenly refused to show up at a bulb auction. Suddenly the bulb market prices crashed and as the market collapsed many traders left bankrupt.
This period in time is referred to as the Tulip mania and the first recorded market bubble in history.
Tulips and Holland
Nevertheless, even after the market crash, the Dutch people still loved and kept growing the flower.
400 years later the Dutch are experts in cultivating and exporting Tulips and other flowers. Every year over 1.5 Billion (!) Tulips are being traded.
Where to see tulips in the Netherlands?
There are 2 main areas in the Netherlands where flowers are grown: The first one is the most famous and is called the ‘Bollenstreek’ or in English ‘flowerbulb-area’, named after the flower which are grown there. This is the area between Leiden, Hoofddorp and Haarlem. This is traditionally also the place where tulips are grown but also flowers such as Hyacinths, daffodils and many more. The Famous Tulip park Keukenhof is also located inside the Bollenstreek, close to the village of Lisse.
Recent years farmers started to grow tulip also in the Province of Flevoland, especially around the cities of Dronten and Emmeloord. If you enjoy a bicycle ride this is the perfect place to go and enjoy the Tulip fields of Flevoland.
Click here for a scenic route along the Tulip fields of Flevoland.
Keukenhof is the world-famous tulip park which attracts millions of visitors every year to go and see the tulips, the most popular Dutch flower. The Tulip growers will try to display Tulips of every shape and color and every year more unique flowers are planted.
How to get to Keukenhof?
Best way is to buy ticket + busride to the keukenhof. At Leiden central station and Schiphol Railway Station you can hop on the bus to the park. If you want to go by car that is also possible
Once a year a flower parade is held in the Bollenstreek, decorated wagons will travel a 42 km route from Noordwijk to Haarlem, passing all the villages in between. The parade is a very popular event and over 1 million people each year come and watch.
This year the parade will be held on Saturday 23rd of April, the very next day April 24rd the flower trucks are displayed at the main square in the city of Haarlem.
The week before the parade many villages will have markets selling local goods and flowers.
How to get there?
It will be very busy along the road. I would recommend to go by public transport or rent a bike and go to have a look from the little villages along the route. You could also opt for booking a seat at one of several grandstands along the route. Especially for the persons who cannot stand long this would be a good option. Perfect view guaranteed!
Practical tips regarding tulips in the Netherlands
Some practical general tips for watching tulips in the Netherlands.
When is Tulip season?
Tulip season start around half of April and ends half of May. However it is very depended on the weather and also on the species of Tulip and the time you plant the bulb.
Keukenhof will open as early as March 15th. However in its first weeks besides some tulips other spring flower such as crocus, daffodils and blue Hyacinths are the main flowering species.
Do’s and Don’t
If you decide to go to see the tulip fields please do not walk into them, although it might give good pictures. Hundreds of tourist in their fields make the farmers unhappy as it affects their product. In before they close off everything, better not do it and ruin the pleasure for all of us!
Tip: most farms have a small section where they display all kinds of species of tulip, often you can visit this section for free!
Can you take Tulip bulbs back to your home country?
To prevent the travel of and invasive plants, plant diseases and soil contamination around the world plants, seeds need to be checked and soil need to be removed before you are allowed to take it with you. You can only take flower bulbs with valid-dated phytosanitary certificates The certificates show show its country of origin and Latin name, when a certificate is provided the plants often meet entry requirements.
so make sure you buy flower bulbs with certificate attached.
Where to buy tulip bulbs in Amsterdam?
If you want to buy Tulip bulbs in the Netherlands and take them with you to plant in your own garden I believe the best place to buy them or either at Schiphol airport or at the Amsterdam bulb market. They sell bulbs for the international market and so often the certificates are provided.
Especially the bulb Market in the city center of Amsterdam is a fun place to check out all the species of tulips there are and in addition the sales can help you out with any questions regarding to taking bulbs back to your home country.
Can you take Dutch tulip bulbs within Europe?
In general taking tulip bulbs with you within Europe causes no problems if you live outside the EU I would recommend to look your countries import rules to check if it is allowed
Can you take Dutch tulip bulbs into the United States?
If you take 12 or fewer flower bulbs with a valid-dated phytosanitary certificates then you don’t need a permit. However if you plan to take many more then I would investigate if you need a permit from the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
In any case, find out what the current rules and regulations are when you plan to take many bulbs with you.
Do Tulips grow in Taiwan?
Yes, Tulips can easily grow in Taiwan, They even have its own small spring park full of beautiful Tulips!
Retailers and farmers of both Netherlands and Japan together plant around 100,000 tulips each year in Taipei Shilin residence park.
In Taiwan the Tulip flowering season starts around early February however it depends on the weather in each season. You can read more about the Shilin residence tulip festival here.