One of the highlights of taking a gentle barge holiday through the canals and waterways of the Netherlands is the opportunity to see the beautiful flowers which are grown here for sale around the world. |
Since the ‘tulip mania’ of the 17th century when the whole of Europe went crazy for these bright, colourful spring flowers, Holland has been the home of Europe’s flower market.
The slow, laidback pace of a barge holiday through the country’s impressive countryside provides the perfect way to see the beautiful blooms which make up the Dutch flower industry.
One of the most spectacular places to visit in order to see the full range of tulips and other flowers grown and traded in the Netherlands is Keukenhof Gardens in the town of Lisse, to the southwest of Amsterdam.
With more than 80 acres of gardens boasting over seven million flowers, including 800 varieties of tulips and a range of crocuses, narcissus and hyacinths, Keukenhof is the world’s largest flower garden park.
The History of Keukenhof
Originally a hunting ground for the nobility of Castle Keukenhof dating back to the 15th century, the park was converted into a flower garden in 1949 as a place to showcase the different varieties of flowers on offer from Dutch and international flower merchants.
The idea was to provide a space in which flower and bulb merchants could show off their wares by displaying them growing in a natural environment, rather than just at a market or auction.
Today, however, Keukenhof is more than a display garden for traders and flower merchants. It is one of the Netherlands’ most popular tourist attractions with more than one million visitors a year.
When to Visit
Those taking a barge holiday in the spring will see the Keukenhof Gardens at its most impressive as this is the time when many of the different varieties of flowers come into bloom. The best months to visit, in order to witness the most dramatic displays of colourful flowers, are March, April and May.
Exploring the Gardens of Keukenhof
With so many blooms to discover, it is well worth planning to spend a full day at Keukenhof, in order to take in all that the impressive gardens have to offer. The park is divided into different sections, such as the English Country Garden with its bursting beds in full bloom, dissected by pretty winding paths, and a fascinating Historic Garden featuring old, traditional blooms grown from historic bulbs.
Travelling by barge through the beautiful flatlands of the Netherlands is a serene way to take in the country’s horticultural history, particularly its reliance on the tulip industry. Not only is it interesting to see scale of the industry in the country, it also makes a backdrop of beautiful patchwork of colour for your peaceful barge holiday.
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury barge holiday itineraries. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.
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