Earth : Europe : Benelux : Netherlands : Western Netherlands : South Holland : Bulb Region : Lisse
Lisse is a town in the Bulb Region in the province of South Holland, The Netherlands. It is world famous for the Keukenhof flower gardens, a 32 ha park filled with flowering bulbs in Spring, attracting over 800,000 visitors per year. Outside the flowering season (end of March - early May) there is much less reason to visit Lisse.
Lisse was first mentioned in 1198, and originally was a small village subsisting from agriculture and peat extraction. In the Late Middle Ages, much of the area was part of the domain of the castle of Teylingen (currently in Voorhout), of which only ruins remain today. The castle's most prominent inhabitant was Jacqueline, countess of Hainaut (Jacoba van Beieren, 1401-1436), who played a tragic role in the fight for Holland between the German Empire and the Duchy of Burgundy. Legend has it that the herbs for her kitchen ('keuken' in Dutch) were gathered where the Keukenhof is now, hence the name of the park. In fact, the park was part of the Keukenhof Castle built in 1642 by Adriaen Maertensz. Block, who served as a captain for the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC) on the Maluku Islands. In 1840 the castle's gardens were re-designed by father and son Zocher, famous garden architects who also designed the 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 flower bulb cultivation in the Bulb Region started in earnest in the late 19th century, bringing much prosperity to the region. The Keukenhof tulip gardens were created in 1949 as a flower exposition initiated by the mayor of Lisse and some prominent local flower bulb growers. Since its opening in 1950, visitor numbers rapidly increased, and it remains the foremost marketing tool for the Dutch flower bulb industry.
Currently, Lisse has some 23,000 inhabitants.
From Haarlem, follow the N208 or N205 to the south (approx. 30 min). From Leiden, the easiest way in is by taking the A44 and then follow the exit Lisse (N207; approx. 20 min). From The Hague, either take the A44 or the A4 (approx. 30 min); from Amsterdam also take the A4, and from there the exit to Lisse (approx. 35 min). The Keukenhof is indicated on the roadsigns as soon as you reach Lisse.
Lisse does not have a train station, so if you are going by public transport the best is to take the bus from either Schiphol or Leiden Central Station.
In season, direct buses run to the Keukenhof from Schiphol airport (bus 858, also known as "Keukenhof Express", approx. 35 min). From Leiden, you can takes buses 850 or 854 (approx. 30 min). From Haarlem, take bus 50 (approx. 35 min).
Lisse is easily accessed by bike from both Leiden and Haarlem. The distance is approx. 15 kms from either side (approx. 1 hr).
Lisse is small enough to get around on foot, and the Keukenhof is within walking distance from town centre. Exploring the area around is more convenient by bike or car.
Parking at the Keukenhof is paid (€6); it is possible to park your car in town for free, but on peak days this is not recommended.
The Keukenhof  is the main reason why foreigners come to Lisse, and well worth it. It is an extensive park and floral exhibition promoting the Dutch flower industry, focusing on the many varieties of bulb flowers grown in the area, in particular of course the iconic tulips, as well as crocuses, hyacinths, daffodils and other less well known species. The Keukenhof is open only from the end of March until mid May (check the website for the actual opening period, since this changes from year to year). The best time to visit may depend on the weather conditions but is usually mid April.
The park opens as early as 8AM. If you can be there around that time you can enjoy the wonderful combination of a very quiet park and the flowers opening up. Keukenhof can however be uncomfortably busy in the afternoon, especially during the weekends. Closing time is usually at 7:30PM, ticket offices close at 6PM.
The easiest way is to buy a Combiticket for public transport and park entrance. All tickets can be bought online in advance, which is recommended in order to skip the queue at the entrance. You can also buy Combitickets in the major train stations (Schiphol, Leiden and The Hague) and the Amsterdam tourist offices. If you go by car, you can also buy your parking ticket in advance.
You can follow guided tours, and sign up for lectures and photography workshops at Keukenhof. A popular excursion is the bulb field boat trip that leaves at the edge of the park (advance group reservations possible).
Cycling through the area is easy and will bring you quickly to the many flower fields to find the perfect photo opportunity. Be aware that it is not permitted to enter the flower fields, since these are all privately owned!
In the Keukenhof, you can buy your flower bulbs on the spot. Five pre-approved vendors sell bulbs for export. You can visit their pavillions and select bulbs to be shipped to your home address in time for Autumn planting. Make sure the bulbs you select are approved for your country of export. Of course, Keukenhof also has a wide selection of other bulb- and Holland-related souvenirs for sale.
At the Olmenhorst orchards (see See section) they make their own artisanal fruit juice, jam, syrup and honey. Especially the apple and pear juice have gained national fame and can be bought in supermarkets and grocery stores all around the country.
The Keukenhof has five self-service restaurants, each with a terrace overlooking the park where you can get coffee, tea, sandwiches and hot meals, though the food is not the most inspiring. Lisse has a few restaurants along the Heereweg and adjoining streets where you can go for a bit more variety.
Lodging options in Lisse and its surroundings are limited, but remember that you are only a short ride away from Leiden, Amsterdam, Haarlem and the beach resort of Noordwijk.
Nearby destinations include: