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King's Day and Tulips

My husband and I are arriving in the Netherlands on 4/23/20 and were planning on spending a few days in the Haarlem area and heading down the coast stopping in Leiden (and Delft? The Hague?) and then to the small towns in Zeelandic Flanders (where my grandfather was born). This will be followed by a few days in Belgium and back to Amsterdam to fly home. We obviously want to see tulips and will be there to celebrate King's Day on the 27th. My questions are:

We want to go to Keukenhoff, but since the Bloemencorso flower parade is on the 25th, should we avoid that whole area during this time? Or go before or after?

We would like some advice about where to spend King's Day. We like some fun and festivities but want to avoid places like Amsterdam which will be a zoo. Do smaller citites and towns have stuff going on or would they be completely dead? We are trying to find a balance between a bit lively and crazy crowds.

Are there other must see places along the western part of the country?

Thanks for your help!

Posted by
3449 posts

We planned our last trip to the Netherlands abd Belgium specifically to see the Bloemencorso, but we didn't go to the Gardens until the Monday after. It is a zoo on the Saturday of the parade, Sunday and probably for a few days before that weekend. Monday was not crowded at all.

I think the parade is well worth the time, especially if you watch from someplace a bit away from the Keukenhof entrance in Lisse. Here's a link to the parade route and timing. Scroll down to last year's Folder Bloemencorso. It's a printable pdf. They are always later than we planners would like with the current year information, but 2019 gives a good idea of the route.

We stayed in Leiden, had a car and went early enough to park near our chosen watching location. That was near a sports complex where there's a sharp turn on the green of the map between #2 and #3. We saw the floats and marching bands come around that turn.

There were so few people at that location that we could step out into the narrow street to take pictures. One of my favorite things is the fragrance of the floats as they pass by. The ones with the hyacinths are amazing.

After the parade passed by us, we got in our car and headed for the flower fields. We got to see some of them, but many were blocked off. An unexpected sight that sunny, but very cold day was an auto group driving parade-style on one of the roads. Why was this unique? It was 50's era American cars, mostly Studebakers and Cadillacs.

Whether you make it to Keukenhof or the flower fields (also accessible by small boat tours from inside Keukenhof) or the parade, be aware that if it's been a cold spring, there may not be many tulips blooming. You should have better luck than we did with your late April arrival.

The Gardens have massive greenhouses with blooming tulips and other flowers. Those were as interesting to us as the outdoor plantings. Here's a link to Keukenhof for more info.

We flew out of Amsterdam on the very day in 2013 that Queen's Day became King's Day. That was a really big event. Amsterdam was our last stop on our trip. We spent a week there, so we got to see lots of pre-celebration celebrating during that week. I don't know how King's day is celebrated elsewhere.

I couldn't resist looking up Zeelandic Flanders and when I did, I realized that we probably drove right through Zeeland from Bruges to Rotterdam. Knowing our penchant for backroads, I'm sure we were on N253, N61, N62, N254 and N57. We loved all the water and long bridges.

Posted by
31 posts

Hi Megan

Amstetrdam is indeed a zoo on Kings Day but Haarlem should be lovely. The whole country celebrates so wherever you go should be lively.

As for Keukenhof Gardens, the weekends are particularly busy. If you can get there at 8am which is opening time you will have the best experience. Besides dew still being on the flowers, you will get a couple of hours of no crowds.

Also, I recommend seeing the gardens as early as possible during your stay as by the end of April, many flowers in the gardens are past their prime and the flowers removed.

Posted by
165 posts

Haarlem was indeed lovely when we went, such a pretty place in the spring, and that's where the Bloemencorso ends. The floats remain in town and are available for viewing at what was essentially a very family friendly street party on Sunday. Haarlem was also a nice place to spend King's Day, more family friendly options, lots of laughter. We took the bus (854?) from Haarlem to Keukenhof, which was easy.

Posted by
1716 posts

On our first trip, I couldn’t figure out the parade logistics so we chose to see the floats in Haarlem after the parade and it was a lot of fun. You can amble at leisure and get up close. I have been to Keukenhof 3 times and love it. Honestly, it is so mesmerizing that I really don’t remember crowds at all, but YMMV. Safe travels.