If you read this article, then i'm telling you that this is the first of many articles about my recent (well, not quite recent since i start writing this on September 2017 while the actual trip took place on April 2017) trip to Europe. I visited 5 countries back then (Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Austria. And since the motivation for the trips came from Netherland, i'd like to start telling the story from there.
Speaking about motivation, my first and foremost motivation that got my feet in Europe this time is the beauty of Tulips in Keukenhof Garden. I mean, looking at that flowers. Even if as i writing this post, i just hope i could express my excitement that i have, here and then about this beautiful tulip garden.
Since tulips in Keukenhof is my main drive to Netherland (Windmills come second, of course), I opted to go to the Keukenhof Garden on the first day. My itinerary was to explore Keukenhof and it’s nearby cities, include Haarlem, Leiden. Thanks to Netherlands's integrated and reliable transportation networks, i managed to go places that have been on my must-see list in one day. Here's my travel track on my first day adventure in Netherlands.
The first question popped in my mind was “When is the perfect time to visit Keukenhof?”. The Garden only opens in Mid March until mid May every year. If we’re too early, not all the bulbs have blossomed, but the visitors are not that many. If we’re too late, most of them were gone already. Also, depends on the weather, we may not know exactly when the tulips bloom. But, according to this website looking at the history for the past recent years, it is safe to say that the last two weeks in April is the best time to witness the peak blossom of the Tulips.
Since I had to plan and book tickets in advance, I chose third week in April, and spend few days in Netherland (6 days) with a flexibility to swap itinerary within days so that I can get the most of the Keukenhof. I also subscribe to the newsletter of Tulipsinholland.com to get notified when the bulb starts blossoming.
I booked the ticket in advance through Keukenhof Official Website after it opens it registration. If you visit the website outside the tulip season, you will find nothing on online purchasing. Try to revisit the website 2-3 months before the tulip season (in January/February) to purchase the ticket online. This ticket will be scanned in the entrance gate, so make sure you have it printed. The garden itself opens from 8:00 am to 7:30 pm daily including Sundays and public holidays. Of course, there are many packages that comes with the ticket, including the ones that include the transportation to and from the garden, and other extended packages. You can see the complete options once it opens to the public nearing the tulips season. I booked the basic one that cost 16 euros.
There are many ways to get to the Keukenhof. If you depart from Amsterdam, you will pass the Schipol Airport. I mainly rely on google map advice to go to there. I departed at 5:30 am in the morning and hopped on Intercity bus to Vlissingen and arrived at Leiden Centraal Station. From there, I took the Arriva Bus to Lisse Bus Stop and walked to Keukenhof Garden. It cost about 10 EUROS. My journey plan on that day was not typical to those offered by special discount card, IAmsterdam Card, Amsterdam Travel Ticket, or any other tourist card. Thus, I use OV-Chipkaart and Top it up with the amount just enough to get me around for one day.
As you may guess, i was probably the first-ten people to enter the garden after it opens at 8 am. For me it is important to arrive as early as possible to avoid the mindboggling crowd during the tulips season. That way I got a chance to take pictures whenever I can without taking turns or waiting. And I made it successfully!
It’s hard to describe how beautiful the garden was. The only way to know is to experience it yourself. The garden is very vast and neatly taken care of. There are lots of garden with its own design and type of bulbs, the arrangement of the plant, the bulb color selection to décor each of the garden, and the whole package were simply stunning. I could spend time in a small garden alone for 30-45 minutes, and there are almost ten or more gardens. If you are a fan of flowers, this is definitely your heaven, and you can admire one tulip to another, take a look at it closer, take a picture or selfie with them, and you won’t even realize time has gone hours already. Within 3 hours, I took 400 pictures (it’s about 2 pictures per minute), that’s how pretty they are.
Unluckily, I have so many places on my bucket list in Netherlands I wanted to visit, and I was so sad that I had to leave at 11am for Haarlem (all in all, I spent 3 hours in Keukenhof Garden). And now after having experience that, I can say that it is NOT wise to spend only half day in Keukenhof. After saying goodbye to the tulips, I went to Haarlem using combination of Bus and Trains.
From the back exit of the Keukenhof Garden, I walked to the Lisse, Keukenhof Station, Hopped on Bus #854 to Leiden Centraal (30 minutes ride), then at Leiden Central Hopped on Sprinter Train 6326 to Haarlem for 24 minutes. After that, I headed to Jacobus Pieck Haarlem for some very nice lunch before exploring Haarlem’s historical buildings.
First, I visitedSt Bavo Church or also known as Haarlem Grote Kerk. It is hard to miss St Bavo Church since it is located in the heart of Haarlem. At a leisure pace, a walk from Haarlem Central Station to St. Bavo Church takes about 15 minutes, passing Haarlem Canal and historical buildings on both side of the street. Haarlem atmosphere is calm, serene, and gets vibrant as we approaching the Grote markt (a common term used in Netherland for historic market square or central square of the city). The admission of the church is 3 euros.
I specifically chose St Bavo Church because I love great gothic architecture, and I was blown away as I stepped in the main hall of the church. This church was built in 15th centuries and have undergone numerous renovations. It was dedicated to St Bavo who saved Haarlem from the Kennemers in 13th Century. The star of the architecture is the organ that was built by Christian Muller, and stands grand as we look up to it. This church is simply as beautiful from the outside as it is from the inside. Did I regret leaving the Keukenhof early? Absolutely. But I was simply happy and lucky to left Keukenhof for St Bavo Church.
Teylers Museum is an art, natural history and science museum, located next to Haarlem Canal. Situated in between old architectural buildings in Haarlem, this Museum house paintings, fossils and scientific instruments. And again, the main reason I visited this museum is the unique oval rooms. Although it has two floors, the second floor was closed to visitor when I was there. Minerals and instruments are shown in this first floor. The admission is 12,5 euros per person and it’s worth the time spent in Haarlem.
It is not complete if we haven’t spent our time exploring Grote Markt when in Haarlem. When I visited Haarlem, there was a festival took place in the city. There were carousels, bazaar, and various games that brings the city alive. But even without all those spectacle, just a leisure walk on Haarlem Grote Markt revive Haarlem’s past life and brings visitor going back in time.
From Haarlem, I went to Leiden using Intercity Train to Den Haag. It’s a direct 20 minutes ride from Haarlem Stationsplein to the Leiden Centraal. And here's my walking itinerary for a very short 2 hours around Leiden exploring De Valk Museum and Museum Volkenkunde.
De Valk Windmills Museum is the first windmill that I saw in Netherland. It stood tall beside the river right after passing the main bridge in Leiden. It is one of many things to see in Leiden. Since it was already 4pm, I just took a picture from the outside and stroll along the river and headed to Museum Volkenkunde.
Museum Volkenkunde is an ethnology Museum. It has many collection of painting, artifacts and sculptures from different ethnics around the globe. On the special exhibitions this year named “cool Japan”, I found so many interesting stuffs like manga, japan robot that can dance, and other Japan iconic cartoon such as Hello Kitty. I may spend too little time to explore the museum, but to me it was fascinating and inspiring to see some ancient and modern exhibitions from different continents. If you really want to learn something, 2-3 hours are the minimum. But one hour of a quick look here and there for me is sufficient and it was one of the best one hour spent on a museum.
After a short visit to Museum Volkenkunde, I went back to Amsterdam using a direct Intercity Train From Leiden Centraal to Amsterdam Centraal which took 35 minutes ride. Then I close the journey for the day by having a nice dinner at Latei Café, a vegetarian restaurant that serves Indonesian dishes. It’s interesting to have all Indonesian traditional spices and ingredients are mixed unlike any meal I have ever tasted before. The restaurant itself is situated in the busy red light district and a was a warm and cozy place to have dinner at.
After dinner, I took a stroll along the Amsterdam dock, eyeing the EYE film Museum, NEMO museum from afar, before going back to my Airbnb stay. Stay tune for my second-day adventure in Netherland ;)