Where is the best place to see tulips in Amsterdam? How can I find the most beautiful flower fields in The Netherlands? Where is Holland’s flower strip and what is the Bollenstreek?
Many of the millions (and I do mean millions) of tourists who plan a visit to the Netherlands during tulip season have probably Googled their way through these and a hundred other related questions. Ultimately, most visitors end up heading to The Keukenhof gardens. Open for just 8 weeks a year, its undoubtedly spectacular BUT it’s also heaving with coach-loads of tourists trying to grab exactly the same opportunity to commune with nature and grab the ultimate tulip selfie. Whilst its certainly a stunning place, I wouldn’t describe it as relaxing, peaceful or calm.
Those looking for fields rather than planted gardens usually hop on hired bikes and cycle the marked routes through the countryside around Lisse. At best they enjoy cycling the paths and taking in the spectacular views however increasingly more and more visitors are literally ‘overstepping the mark’ by wandering into fields desperate to secure the ultimate Instagram moment. The damage caused by running through fields, lying amongst the tulips (I’m not joking) and bringing viruses and diseases to the precious crops is indescribable. Even those who think they are stepping carefully can damage the bulbs which is what is actually being farmed here – most of the flowers are scythed down and it is the bulbs that are sold on commercially. The selfie generation is ruining the livelihood of local farmers
So with that in mind I want to share an alternative. And a truly spectacular one.
Amidst the numerous wonderful things in Amsterdam and surrounds that I recommend, a few stand head and shoulders above the others. Our visit to FAM Flower Farm is one of those. Magical, unique and breathtakingly beautiful – this is THE way to enjoy the splendour the Dutch countryside has to offer at this time of year.
Two wonderful ladies, Marlies and Linda, friends since school and both married to flower growers, decided to find a way to share their magnificent floral products with the world. A foray into social media proved a huge hit, they attracted tens of thousands of followers who now enjoy their bulbs, their fields and their story. They have an incredible eye and everything from their Instagram feed to their packaging is styled beautifully and done with exceptional taste.
But best of all, they now open up their fields for just a couple weeks each year giving groups of no more than 12 visitors at a time the chance of a lifetime – an opportunity to get up close to some of the most exceptional floral wonders The Netherlands has to offer.
We visited on what turned out to be a glorious day in late April. We received the address just a couple of days beforehand and the farm ask that it isn’t shared publicly.
As we approached we knew immediately we were in the right place. The field was MAGNIFICENT, planted in colour strips that literally took our breath away.
After saying hello to Linda and Marlies we headed straight into the field. It was absolutely mindblowing. Everything exceeded our wildest expectations – colours that were almost neon in their intensity, a delicate smell that defies description and a chance to immerse ourselves in their fields and enjoy the stunning blooms up close. The way everything was presented, the hospitality – it was way beyond some fleeting Instagram moment, this was a moment to take in and enjoy with all the senses, and one to remember always.
As well as the tulips, props are provided – little signs, a bike, watering cans and best of all bunches of cut flowers. We walked, we ran, we explored. We even discovered incredible rare varieties at the back of the field.
We just couldn’t get enough of the experience, and we never felt rushed. Able to enjoy and take it all in, never crowded with other people, our already high expectations were massively exceeded.
Over to the side, a table was laid, groaning with organic cordials, stroopwafels and of course vases of flowers. Linda and Marlies then quietly started explaining how they farm. Everything about it was laid back and relaxed. No formal talk, we just wandered over and loved hearing about their story, their crop and about the bulbs which they are so passionate about.
The guests came from across the world. A few bloggers and some flower fans. Marlies revealed that the next day the farm had been booked out for a proposal. I cannot think of anything more romantic.
After an hour or more we tore ourselves away. Marlies and Linda’s hospitality is pure class. They are so patient, so willing to share and chat and so (rightly) proud of the result of their labours. We were handed bunches of flowers to take home with us and an extra stroopwafel for the journey but rather than head straight back to Amsterdam we decided to extend the magical morning and go for a cycle.
We had brought our bikes with us although its possible to hire them outside the Keukenhof which is just a few meters away. The whole area is packed with farms. If you do decide to cycle, make a note of our top tips:
- Try to cycle off first thing. Most visitors will go to the Keukenhof first and then cycle so you’ll avoid the worst of the tourist rush
- Although the bike companies will give you some suggested routes, go “off-grid” using www.flowerradar.com – an invaluable site which is updated daily and shows the fields that are currently in bloom
- Don’t walk into the fields, stop at the edge and enjoy the magnificence
No amount of pictures do the experience justice. Taking in the display that nature provides really is a bucket-list experience. I thought I knew what to expect, I’d done the research, checked the ‘grams’, and thought I’d enjoyed Spring’s finest in the past. But nothing, and I mean nothing could have prepared me for each breathtaking turn, each streak of blue or pink. Rows as far as the eye could see, dense with extraordinary varieties and blinding flashes of colour.
And it wasn’t just me who was overwhelmed. Zacy is a boys’ boy but he adored the whole morning. He wanted to take some of the fallen flower heads home for his ‘nature table’ he loved the cycling, the discovery, and the flowers themselves.
Cycling will always be a wonderful option for us, but if its not for you or if you are looking for something more unusual or bespoke, here are some other off the beaten track ways to enjoy the fields:
- For those who don’t want to get in the saddle, why not rent a tiny electric Renault Twizy. These two-seaters (and that’s being generous) come with a pre-programmed sat nav and audio guide and will take you right to the field edge. Twizy Hire
- For those who do actually want to get in the saddle (or at least behind one) why not consider a horse and cart ride. This is so Dutch and traditional that they haven’t even created and English version of the web page, but Google Translate will be your friend. Horse and Carriage Ride
- For a picture-perfect experience (albeit not a cheap one) why not consider a trip from Amsterdam in a mint-green vintage VW van. Damlekker (ie: Dam Delicious!) Tours will not only take you to the tulip fields and back, they will also arrange for you to pick your own bouquet and taste some of their gourmet chocolates. DamLekker
- Finally, if your preferred mode of transport is human powered then a scramble through the Keukenhof forest (not the park) could be for you. Get your wellies on and clamber over styles and bridges whilst enjoying the wildlife, the castle and of course the bulbs. Forest Walk
But for me, FAM Flower Farm should always be your first-choice option. So, if you are in Amsterdam in April, please don’t hesitate, book far in advance for a uniquely wonderful experience. And if your travel dates don’t align, still be sure to check them out. They offer narcissus visits a few weeks earlier when the smell of the fields hangs heavy in the air or, for something even more special go in late August to visit the fields of dahlias. They are some of my very favourite flowers and if they aren’t your favourites yet, take a look at how the incredible @cakesatelieramsterdam used FAM Flower Farm dahlias to put together one of her most extraordinary Instagram posts last year.
If you’re heading to FAM Flower Farm look out for me, I can’t wait to get back…