Unless you have spent the last few weeks in a dark and grim cave, you must’ve noticed that spring is finally here! Butterflies start to fly around in my tummy the minute I think about this wonderful season that brings new life into the world. My mind goes straight back to Easter last year when I spent the weekend at the famous Dutch tulip fields. Oh yes, you read it right: even Dutch people really enjoy the flower fields that grace the western provinces in spring. I even ´flowered up´ my blog, because I love the sight of this colour explosion so much!
Duin & Bollenstreek Holland
There is more than Keukenhof
You’ve probably heard about Keukenhof, the ‘outdoor flower museum’ in Lisse. Of course, you can go there… But another thing you can consider doing is drive around in the surrounding area and visit the tulips ‘in the wild’! The area where you can find the colorful fields of flowers is called the ‘Duin en Bollenstreek’ (Dune and Bulb region) and represents exactly what it says in the name: fields of flower bulbs along the Dutch coast. It’s located right in the heart of historical Holland, surrounded by fascinating cities like Haarlem, the Hague, and Leiden.
So when would be the perfect time for you to make a visit? If you want to surround yourself with a rainbow of colors, between the middle of March and the end of May is the perfect time for you to travel down to the Bollenstreek. That’s the time that the tulips are in full bloom.
Posing admitst the tulips
Back to my Easter break. During our stay, we rented some bikes and cycled around the area. On our way, we made several stops at the numerous of flower fields. All fields are open to the public (obviously you’re required to respect the general rules of conduct), and most flower farmers sell tulips on their property as well.
The weather was gorgeous on this Saturday in April, and later that afternoon we parked our bikes just off the beach in Zandvoort. We had just conquered the insidious dunes that separate the Dutch mainland from the North Sea coastline and figured it was time for a coffee break. We set ourselves down on the beach and observed some surf ‘dudes’ meeting the sea waves, and children desperately trying to hold up their kites.
On just a fifteen-minute walk from the campsite we stayed at, we found ourselves in the middle of the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen, a dune area just south of Haarlem. We strolled around a bit during sunset, and realized we were standing eye-to-eye with deer! I had never seen so many deer gathered at one place. They weren’t tame and stayed at a safe distance from us, but it was a wonderful sight to witness.
Next to the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen entrance, an area is dedicated to the Vogelenzang estate, where House Vogelenzang stands gracefully in the middle of it all. The house was built in 1600 and is now part of the 80 hectare estate. We saw deer here as well, although less than in the Amsterdamse Waterleidingsduinen. We walked around there for a bit, and when it became dark we returned to our tent, where we read a book and enjoyed the sounds of nature around us.
The following morning it was cold and drizzly. Absolutely not the type of weather you need when you want to visit the tulip fields or the beach for that matter. Luckily there are plenty of other options to choose from in ‘Tulipland’, and that’s why we decided to pay a visit to Haarlem. We had breakfast (in the rain), packed the tent (in the rain), and embarked on a 20 minute trip to the North-Holland capital.
Haarlem is nicknamed ‘the Flower Capital,’ and I think by now you’ve figured out the reason why. The town in the heart of the Bollenstreek features typical ancient Dutch houses, small streets, canals, Burgundian restaurants and fantastic museums.
Touring the courtyards in Haarlem
My favorite bits of Haarlem are the several courtyards that are scattered around town. The more than 21 ‘hofjes’ were built in the 14th century by Christian communities, and functioned as the very first elderly care and social housing. You can visit each single one of them on a ‘hofjes tour’, but they are quite hidden, so it will become kind of like a treasure hunt. I definitely couldn’t find all of them, but having seen only a few was enough to get an idea of life inside the courtyards.
When you get tired of the ‘hofjes tour’ you can immerse yourself in the boutique-shop-culture that Haarlem made its own. Because of all the rain (and because we’re very much into shopping), we visited some of the charming shops that grace the cobbled streets of this historic town.
When we were done shopping, we didn’t feel like going into one of the museums, so after a coffee and another stroll through town, we headed back home.
It’s clear, the Bollenstreek has plenty on offer for all kinds of travelers. Whether you’re into culture, beach travel, shopping or nature, there’s always something that’ll suit your wishes. 48 Hours may even be too little to fully enjoy all that the ‘bollen – en duinstreek’ is famous for. With great cities such as Amsterdam, the Hague, Haarlem, and Leiden on your doorstep, you can spent your entire Easter break in ‘Tulipland’ without getting bored. (note: all pictures are mine)