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By Audrey Sykes in Amsterdam—
The world’s first stock market crash took place in Holland because of tulips. During the 1600s people were obsessed with buying the rarest tulip and, well, displaying it in a vase at home. The most sought-after varietals had fanatics dishing out 2,000 florins a bulb (in context, a skilled laborer might earn 150 florins a year, and “eight fat swine” cost about 240 florins). Talk about “flower power!”
Today the Netherlands is the largest exporter of tulips worldwide, and many visitors flock there each year for the explicit purpose of enjoying these colorful blooms. One thing is certain: Those in the country during tulip season (March through mid-May) should not miss seeing them.
The Keukenhof garden, located about 45 minutes outside of Amsterdam, is one of the most popular places for tulip viewing, but if you wish to stay in the city, we have some tips for tulip spotting, buying and exploring in Amsterdam.
Bloemenmarkt: Look but don’t buy
Amsterdam’s famed Bloemenmarkt (located at Muntplein) is the only floating flower market in the world, and the stands are packed wall to wall with flowers and bulbs available for purchase. But hold back temptation and stick to snapping pictures. These prices are the most expensive in the city.
If you want to buy tulips, a good alternative is the Albert Hein supermarket, with locations just across the way on both ends of the market. And keep your eye out for tulip vendors walking around the city streets—they often sell bundles of up to 50 flowers for €5!
Try the Tulip Museum
If you’re interested in how tulips shaped the history of the country, as well as global trade, check out the Tulip Museum. It’s small, it’s cute and it’s conveniently located on the Prinsengracht. It takes about 30 minutes to go through museum, and the admission price is €6. (There is no charge to browse in the upstairs Museum Bulb Shop.)
The best part about the museum is that it’s run buy flower farmers, which means they’re passionate and well-educated about all things tulip. Yes, these are the people whose job is to tend to those beautiful, orderly rows of flora along the Dutch countryside. They know the best tips and tricks for tulip tending, as well as where to find the best deals of the day.
Bulb buying? Look for labels
In North America it’s possible to bring tulips home if they’re bulbs. However, you must absolutely, definitely, 100 percent make sure they are certified to be admitted into your country. How can you tell? Look for a sticker on the bag that specifically says you’re good to go.
To buy bulbs with a lucky label, you may have to dish out a tourist price. The Bloemenmarkt is an option, as is the small flower stand located on Damrak just between Centraal Station and Dam Square. Also visit the Tulip Museum for a heads up on the latest good finds.
Take a tulip-spotting stroll
The Artis Zoo is one of the sweetest spots (especially for familes) to walk around and admire Amsterdam’s tulips. But tulips are everywhere in the city, especially along the Museumplein, Vondelpark area and Canal Belt.
If you’re a real tulip lover, however, get out of the city. There are endless tulip fields, and nothing beats a day trip biking along scenic, peaceful farmland. Keukenhof, one of the most photographed spots in the world, holds more than 6 million flowers. To reach it, catch a bus from Schiphol Airport. A ticket costs €21 and includes admission to the garden. (Keukenhof is open until May 20).
For more information, read our post on taking a day trip to the Keukenhof.