Lisse is a town in the Bollenstreek of South Holland. Most visitors come here in spring, to admire the blooming flower fields and the flower gardens of the Keukenhof. With over 800.000 visitors during the two months it's open every year, Keukenhof is one of the main tourist attractions in the Netherlands.
Although you will probably be heading for the Keukenhof when visiting Lisse, the town itself has a few things to offer beside that famous park.
Lisse and the Keukenhof park are located in Zuid-Holland close to Hillegom and south of Haarlem, southwest of Amsterdam. The Keukenhof is huge, spread over 32 hectares with not only tulips, but also hyacinths, daffodils and other spring flowers on display.
With first records mentioning the then village of Lisse in 1198, it has a fairly long history. Consecutive wars caused wide spread poverty in the Middle Ages, and peat harvesting and agricultural activities were the region's main source of income. This changed when the production of flower bulbs gained popularity in the region. The local sandy soils proved very suited for the growth of tulips and other bulbeous flowers, bringing economic growth and wealth to Lisse and the surrounding regions. In late medieval times, the area of Lisse belonged to the gardens and hunting grounds of Slot Teylingen, a castle in nearby Teylingen of which now only ruins remain. Among that castle's most prominent inhabitants was Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut, who lived there in the 15th century. Legend has it that herbs for her kitchen ('keuken', in Dutch) were gathered where the Keukenhof is now, hence the name of the park.
The current Keukenhof Castle (opposite the Keukenhof park) was build around 1642, by Adriaen Maertensz. Block, who had served as a captain and commander for the VOC on the Maluku Islands. In 1840 the castle's park was re-designed by Zocher and son, who also designed the famous Vondelpark in Amsterdam. This design laid the foundations for the current park. The castle was extended in 1865 and has been thoroughly renovated in recent years.
The Keukenhof tulip gardens were created only in 1949, as a flower exposition initiated by Lisse's mayor and some prominent local flower bulb growers. Since it's opening in 1950, visitor numbers rapidly increased.
Keukenhof is situated between Haarlem and Leiden on the N208. There are many routes to Keukenhof.
From Apeldoorn: Follow the A1 to Amsterdam. Follow the signs ‘Schiphol’; you will then reach the A4 heading for The Hague. Take exit 4 and follow the N207 towards Lisse. In Lisse, follow the signs 'Keukenhof'.
From Utrecht: Take the A2 to Amsterdam and then the A4 heading for The Hague. On the A4 take exit 4 and follow the N207 towards Lisse. In Lisse, follow the signs 'Keukenhof'.
From Rotterdam: Follow the A4 to The Hague-Amsterdam and take exit 4 and follow the N207 towards Lisse. In Lisse, follow the signs 'Keukenhof'.
From The Hague: Follow the A44 and take exit 3 Noordwijkerhout/Lisse. Then take the N208 to Lisse and follow signs 'Keukenhof'.
From Amsterdam centre: From the Leidseplein/Museumplein you can take the red Sternet bus 197 to Schiphol Airport (buses run 5-6 times per hour). At Schiphol Airport you have to change to bus 58.
From Schiphol Airport: Bus 58 runs on Monday till Friday 4 times an hour and in weekends 8 times an hour. The bus leaves Schiphol from platform B1/ B3 at the Schiphol Plaza bus station. The journey to Keukenhof takes 35 minutes. The last bus back to Schiphol leaves at 7:22PM.
From Leiden Central Station: Bus 54 runs on Monday till Friday 4 times an hour and in weekends 8 times an hour. The bus leaves Leiden Central Station (city-centre side) from platform 1 at the bus station. The journey to Keukenhof takes 25 minutes. The last bus back to Leiden Central Station leaves at 7:51PM.
From The Hague Central Station: Bus 89 runs only from Monday till Friday every 30 minutes. The journey to Keukenhof takes about 50 minutes. In a weekend take a train to Leiden Central Station and change to bus 54 there. This journey from The Hague Central Station to Keukenhof via Leiden Central Station also takes about 50 minutes in total.
If the weather is good, a recommended alternative is going by bike from Leiden. You will experience the typical Dutch transport and the typical landscape at the same time. Bikes can be rented at the back of Leiden Central Station.
Lisse is small enough to get around on foot, and the Keukenhof is at walking distance from the centre. However, you can also get around the village easily by car or bike. If you want to rent a bike, try * van der Zon, Heereweg 448 b, ☎ +31 252-232768.
The Keukenhof is the main reason why foreigners come to Lisse, and well-worth it. It is an elaborate park and floral exhibition, and actually a promotion for the Dutch flower industry. This famous tulip garden is surrounded by some of the largest tulip fields in the Netherlands. The Keukenhof is a seasonal attraction and opened only in the first two months of spring when the flowers are in bloom. The best time is to visit may depend on weather conditions but is usually mid-April. For the nine weeks of opening, hundreds of growers, breeders and product groups, in various product shows, join forces in an effort to present a high quality flower exhibition to the visitors of the Keukenhof.
The park opens as early as 8:00. Be there around that time and enjoy the wonderful combination of a very quiet park with the flowers opening up. Keukenhof can be uncomfortably busy in afternoons. Closing time usually is 19:30.
There is no direct bus or train from Amsterdam. Instead, travel to Schiphol Airport by train or by bus and then take bus 58 or 61. From Leiden, take bus 54 from Centraal Station, and from Haarlem, take bus 50 or 51 from the train station. Combination tickets for the bus ride and entrance are on sale at the bus ticket offices outside both stations. Additional services are put on during the height of the season, but crowds of tourists at the height of the season can cause near riots.
In 2014 Keukenhof will be open from March 20 up until May 20, including all Sundays and public holidays, from 8:00 till 19:30 daily (ticket office closes at 18:00). Entrance fees for 2014: adults €15 and children (4–11 years) €7.50 per person. Parking €6 per vehicle. Tickets can be purchased at the door (but be prepared for a lengthy wait), or online on the Keukenhof website. If you buy your ticket online, you do not have to stand in line at the ticket office, but you can walk straight to the ticket inspector. If you come by car, it is wise to buy a parking ticket online as well.
The easiest way to visit Keukenhof is Connexxion's all-in Combi-ticket. This ticket includes a return bus ticket to Keukenhof and an entrance ticket to the park. By showing your Combi-ticket you can enter Keukenhof directly, so you don't have to worry about traffic jams, parking problems or ticket queues at the park. You can buy this all-in Combi-ticket at Schiphol Airport train station, Leiden Centraal train station, Den Haag Centraal train station and also on their website. Prices for the Combi-ticket for 2014: adults €20, 65+ €17 and children (4–11 years) €11 per person.
You can also buy an all-in Combi-ticket at the Tourist Information desk at Amsterdam Centraal train station and at the Tourist Information desk at Leidseplein in Amsterdam. Prices for this Combi-ticket for 2014: adults €23, 65+ €17 and children (4–11 years) €11 per person.
- Castle Keukenhof, Keukenhof 1, Lisse (right across the road from the Keukenhof flower exhibition; in Lisse follow the signs “Kasteel Keukenhof”), ☎ +31 252 750690, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Despite having the same name, the castle is not part of the park and you can not just visit it as part of your park visit. Guided tours are available on Mondays and Sundays at 1:30PM but you need to book in advance. On other days, the castle usually is not accessible as it is used as a conference and wedding location. The estate comprises the castle but also some 200ha forest, grass lands and a beautiful park. In total, 18 National Heritage Sights have been officially recognized on the estate's grounds.
Of course you can also buy many flower bulbs on the spot. Five pre-approved vendors sell bulbs for export. You can visit their pavilions and select bulbs for shipment to you. Bulbs will be shipped in time for fall planting.
Make sure the bulbs you select are approved for your country of export. Major credit cards are accepted. For a lasting reminder of Keukenhof you can shop till you drop at the various souvenir shops spread over the park. Our shops offer a wide variety of Keukenhof and Dutch souvenirs.
Keukenhof park has five restaurants, each with a terrace overlooking the park. These are self-service restaurants where you can get coffee, tea, sandwiches and hot meals. If you want to eat in the village of Lisse, there's a number of additional options, many in the centre along the Heereweg and the adjoining streets.
- De Vier Seizoenen, Heereweg 224, ☎ +31 252 418 023. Tasty food, French cuisine and good service. One of the most popular places in Lisse. 3 course menu from €31.
- Il Mulino, Heereweg 192, ☎ +31 252 625 420. Descent Italian place with good food and friendly personnel. This is not a place for a pizza, but a good pick if you like traditional Italian cuisine.
- Pannenkoeken restaurant Vrouw Holle, Kanaalstraat 22 a, ☎ +31 252 413 739. Pancake restaurants are popular in the Netherlands. As usual, this one offers both sweet and savory pancakes. The restaurant is located in an old farm. If you don't like pancakes, they also serve a few salads, soups and mains with both meat and fish. €5-€15.
A little square called "T Vierkant" (which literally means the square) is the centre of the village's simple nightlife, which consists mostly of laid-back cafés. Many double as restaurants or serve at least some small dishes. Some good picks include:
- Grand Café A-muze, t Vierkant. This grand café has a pleasant outdoor terrace, voted one of the best in the wide region. It offers free wifi, high tea and also lunch and dinner.
- De Kroeg, Heereweg 196. This cozy bar is laidback during the day but in the evening, the music is usually turned up.
Lodging options in Lisse and the directly surrounding villages are a bit limited, but remember that you're a short ride away from Leiden, Amsterdam and Haarlem.
- Hotel de Duif, Westerdreef 49, ☎ +31 252 410-076. This hotel has 44 rooms, many of them recently renovated, including some more luxurious suites with kitchenette. The location is good if you want to visit the Keukenhof before the crowds, the service is friendly and breakfast is good. €70.
- De Nachtegaal, Heereweg 10, ☎ +31 252 433-030. A rather large hotel with 122 rooms. Uninspiring in terms of decoration, but rooms are clean and functional. It's popular with visitors of the Keukenhof (which is 2km or a 20 minute walk away), but also with a business crowd. There's a small pool, a small sauna and a downstairs restaurant. If you want, you can rent a small boat to make a trip on the nearby waters. from €50.
- Flora, Hoofdstraat 55, Hillegom, ☎ +31 252 515-100. Some 3 km from the Keukenhof, in the nearby village of Hillegom, this is a friendly and clean hotel, although a bit old-fashioned. If you have a car, its location is quite convenient. If you don't, however, getting here from Schiphol is a bit of a hassle. Low season €55+, high season €85+.
More bulb fields can be found in the Bollenstreek, the region surrounding Lisse. But the Bollenstreek is not the only region in the Netherlands with these fields. If you're looking for more, try the area between Haarlem and Alkmaar in North Holland. While relatively unknown, the largest tulip fields can actually be found in the Noordoostpolder, and a signed bicycle route is set up every spring to give more prominence to the occasion.