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The Netherlands - Discovering the tulip fields near Amsterdam on a bike, and sightseeing in Amsterdam

The Netherlands, or officially the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is known as the land of tulips, windmills, cheese and wooden clogs. Or at least those are the four things that most people think of when they think of the Netherlands. 

When you think of Amsterdam itself, legalised marijuana consumption and the red-light district might come to your mind as well. 


But let's not be so prejudiced, put stereotypes aside, the Netherlands and Amsterdam have much more to offer to its visitors.


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The Netherlands, tulip field

It is well known that the Netherlands is unfortunately one of the countries which is affected the most by the effects of global warming, as almost 26% of the country is below sea level. These areas are preserved through elaborate drainage systems that include dikes, canals and pumping stations.


Thanks to its large arable land and abundant water, the Netherlands is at the top of the list of grain exporters.


The country's largest cities are Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague.

In this blog post I will guide you to Amsterdam and the tulip fields.


1. Discovering the tulip fields near Amsterdam on a bike: everything you need to know about the tulip season

Tulips are one of my favourite flowers, so I've always admired the beautiful photos of the colorful Dutch tulip fields. I wanted to experience it in person. So my friend and I decided to explore the tulip fields near Amsterdam by bike.

tulip field

The flower season starts in mid-March with the crocuses. Following the crocuses, daffodils and hyacinths start to bloom, and from mid-April to mid-May everything is covered with tulips. The largest tulip fields are east of Amsterdam in the Noordoostpolder, but there are also beautiful plantations to the north and west, around Leiden and Noordwijk.

daffodil and tulip field

In this area you will find the famous Keukenhof, the huge artificial flower garden. However, a visit to Keukenhof feels totally different compared to wandering through the great tulip fields. To experience the fields, I recommend exploring the area by bike.


2. Cycling along the tulip fields

Most bike rental shops only allow you to pick up and drop off your bike in the same place, but we wanted to see as much as possible and not the same thing twice, so I searched until I found a bike rental that allowed us to pick up the bikes in The Hague and drop them off in Amsterdam two days later. So after arriving at Rotterdam airport, we took public transport straight to The Hague, picked up the bikes there, and cycled comfortably to Amsterdam in 2 days, along the beautiful tulip fields and coastline. It was around 70 kms.

park with tulips

beach

The rental price for a bike was 31,5 Euros for two days at Black Bikes (today it is 17,99 Euro/day), in a way that we picked them up in The Hague and dropped them off in Amsterdam. Which was definitely worth it, because it was a great experience and we didn't have to spend anything on public transport or tours (except for the train ticket from Rotterdam to The Hague at the beginning).


We were completely free to explore the area, we didn't have to stick to timetables, we could stay in the tulip fields as long as we wanted. 

And besides, we cycled to places we wouldn't have seen from the car / public transport, like windmills, alpaca farms, ...


Our accommodation was on a farm...

container accommodation

sheep on the farm

For us, the main focus was on the huge tulip fields, which you can freely enter, but of course we also went to the famous Keukenhof in Lisse.


3. Keukenhof

The Keukenhof is a huge flower garden of about 32 hectares, which is open to visitors for only 8 weeks each year, from mid-March to mid-May. The Keukenhof is a beautifully maintained park where even the last blade of grass is in regular order. Every year, around 7 million bulbs are planted in beautiful and unusual arrangements.

Keukenhof

It's a very touristy place, with around 1,5 million people visiting every year, but in return it's really beautiful and first-class maintained park.


If you don't rent a bike, there is also a large tulip field within walking distance from Keukenhof, which is well worth a visit, and really only a few minutes' walk.

tulip field

If you're going tulip watching in the Netherlands, renting a bike and biking along the tulip fields while also visiting Keukenhof is the best combination in my opinion. Both are great and a completely different experience. 


4. Amsterdam

Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is also known as the Venice of the North, as the entire city is parcelled up by a network of canals. Plus, in addition to the canals, the Amstel River also runs through the city. Around ⅕ of the city's area is covered by canals and harbours. There are dozens of bridges between the parts of the city separated by canals, and water taxis can also be used to get from point A to point B.


Architecture, cityscape

The city center is very beautiful and authentic. The small cobbled streets are bordered by canals on one side and the iconic narrow Hanza houses on the other.


Amsterdam is built on a shingle soil. The unstable soil was not hard enough to build on it smoothly, so the old houses were built on densely spaced wooden piles (12 to 20 metres long) driven deep into the ground. This is the reason why many houses are skewed, and strange differences in their tilt angles can be spotted even in houses that are directly next to each other. 


These narrow Hansa-style houses, usually dark-toned with white outlines, have become a symbol of Amsterdam.


Amsterdam houses

The houses are usually 4-5 storeys high, and their main characteristic is that they are very narrow. The staircases are so narrow that not only carrying stuff and moving is a challenge, but sometimes even without any luggage you can barely fit in these tiny staircases. So, to solve the moving and furniture problem, most narrow houses have a pulley at the top of the gable wall, so that larger items can easily be carried up to the upper floors through the window.


amsterdami pulley on the house


Transport

Narrow roads and heavy traffic make it impractical to drive by car into the city center. It is no wonder that bicycles are the preferred means of transport for locals. It's also becoming increasingly popular for tourists to explore the city on two wheels, but the main attractions are concentrated, so it's great to get around on foot as well.


Amsterdam canal

Amsterdam canal

bike storage

The ferry linking Amsterdam and North Amsterdam is free for everyone. 


And there are discounted day ticket options for public transport. There's a one-hour ticket for 3,4 Euros (2023), but for days when you're traveling longer distances and want to visit museums further apart, you should buy a day ticket, which is valid for 24 hours and costs 9 euros.


Amsterdam's main attractions

Amsterdam can be easily discovered in two days as most attractions are located close to each other. If you want to add museums to your itinerary, then you need extra days for those (depending on the amount of time you want to spend in each).


The main sights and attractions in Amsterdam:

  • Royal Palace

  • Begijnhof, Houten Huis (Amsterdam's oldest house)

  • Amsterdam Central Station

  • Amsterdam's Red Light District, De Wallen

  • Flower Market (Bloemenmarkt)

  • Anne Frank House

  • Coffee shops

  • A'DAM Lookout

  • Vondelpark

  • Rijksmuseum

  • Van Gogh Museum

  • Rembrandt Museum

  • NEMO Interactive Science Museum


Royal Palace

I've had the pleasure of visiting Amsterdam on several occasions, and one of them was just as the Dutch and Belgian Kings were meeting in the Royal Palace, and after that they came out to greet the crowds.

Royal Palace Amsterdam

The Royal Palace, by the way, is right in the center, next to Dam Square and the National Monument.


Begijnhof, Houten Huis

Not far from the palace is the Begijnhof, which is a survivor of the medieval times. For a very long time it was the home of a community of nuns. There are still nuns living there today, and there is a church and museum in the inner courtyard.

Begijnhof

It is also the site of the wooden Houten Huis which stands under the number 34 Begijnhof, it is the oldest house in Amsterdam. This wooden house was built around 1425 and survived the great fire of 1452, which destroyed more than ¾ of the city.

the eldest house of Amsterdam

After the Great Fire, it was decreed that the facades of newly built houses had to be made of brick instead of wood.


Flower market (Bloemenmarkt)

Not far from Beginjhof is the flower market, where you can buy beautiful flowers and bulbs all year round. There are also many cheese shops and souvenir shops in the area.

flower market


Red Light District, De Wallen

If you turn back and head north again towards the Central Station, you will soon come to the Red Light District. 


The name comes from the red neon lights surrounding the shop windows. This is the place where prostitutes and silk boys sell their services legally, and the interested parties can stroll around the windows and make a choice based on what they see through the windows.

The area is also popular with tourists, as it is unique enough that there are few places where this "industry" can be seen in a safe environment. The area is also full of sex shops and the Erotica Museum is also found here.


Coffee shops

There are also many coffee shops in this area, where it is possible to legally consume and obtain light drugs, which are illegal in other countries. Magic mushrooms, space cakes and marijuana are also available.

Amsterdam coffee shop

So it shouldn't come as a big surprise to see people on the street, giggling, panicking, yelling, frightening, laughing out loud, because everyone has a different reaction to these drugs. The state of mind at the time the drug’s effect hits, has a big influence on the experience, the behavior and the feelings of the person.


Central Station

Passing the Red Light District you will reach the Central Station. 

From there, it's just a few minutes on the ferry to the A'DAM Lookout, which stands in the North Amsterdam district, offering panoramic views of the city.

The ferry service between Amsterdam and North Amsterdam is free of charge, you don't need to buy a ticket, just get in the queue for the next ferry and you're on your way.


Anne Frank House

Anne Frank was a Jewish girl who hid with her family and four other Jews in Amsterdam for two years during the occupation of the Netherlands from the Nazis. They were exposed and deported, and Anne died six months later in a concentration camp. However, her diary of her hiding days 'survived' and ended up in the hands of her father, who arranged for it to be published as a book. This is how Anne Frank's diary and the house she was forced to hide in, became world famous.


Vondelpark, museums

Vondelpark is a large park with an open-air theater. In good weather, many people come here to enjoy the fresh air, do some sports or have a picnic.

Vondelpark

It is right next to the museums. There are a lot of museums around in one place:

Rijksmuseum

  • Rijksmuseum (National Museum)

  • Van Gogh Museum (Museum of Fine Arts)

  • Diamond Museum

  • Moco Museum

  • ...

Amsterdam bench

The Rembrandt Museum and the NEMO Science Museum are exceptions, as they are a little further away. 

The Rembrandt Museum is located in the city center and the NEMO Science Museum is in the harbor area. 


I hope I've provided you with a lot of useful information and that after reading my blog, it will be a piece of cake to organize your trip to the Netherlands. 

If you love tulips, I would definitely recommend you to go to the Netherlands in mid-April or at least around it, so you can not only explore the beautiful city of Amsterdam in nice spring weather (hopefully... :) ), but also explore / cycle around the beautiful tulip fields.


tulips

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