Each year Amsterdam and the whole of Holland host this wonderful flower festival to showcase their long and ongoing flower culture for tourists and day visitors to witness and enjoy. The entire city and neighboring towns decorate their streets from simple to elaborate flower ensembles and decorations
The flower has played such an important role in history, and there has been a lot of talks, writings, art and photos that date back from centuries ago that depicts the importance of these beautiful things in history. In fact, flowers have been so well documented in history that tells us how us, humans, respects the beauty of different types of flowers and how they signified certain events in the past.
I was certainly grateful when I was given a chance to attend this year’s flower festival in Amsterdam which was arranged by Amsterdam Marketing. The experience was amazing, and I respected the flower business even more after this press trip. As we all know, Amsterdam itself is a popular tourist destination and is popular for its canals, beautiful architectures and as well its history. On the other hand, Holland is a popular destination as a whole and is significantly known, amongst everything, for its blooming flower business – most especially, the Tulip. This flower festival, however, covers more than just the tulip but rather how the flower played big roles throughout history – especially during the golden age. We witnessed great artists who celebrated the beauty of flowers through their paintings and as well with words. We also had the chance to learn how the flower business works for them to deliver to us these beautiful flowers to showcase in our homes.
Last April, Amsterdam Marketing invited me to fly via KLM (Holland’s Airline) from Helsinki to Amsterdam to attend this year’s flower festival which was themed “The Golden Age.” They gave us the itinerary before the event, and I was excited to see how much we are going to cover on this trip alone and in two and a half days we saw, not only the best parts of Amsterdam but also the flower culture of the country!
On the first day, I was picked up from the airport to check-in to the new Dutch Design Artemis Hotel just outside of Amsterdam’s city centre and from there, with another journalist who attended the trip, we paved our way to the first part of the trip which is to visit and to have lunch at the city’s famous Restaurant De Kas – a restaurant that specializes in homegrown vegetables (they have a greenhouse just beside the restaurant!). In there we met with the marketing team behind Amsterdam Marketing and as well the rest of the invited journalist from around Europe. We had an excellent three-course lunch that consisted of local, fresh and organic produce which is grown by the people who run the restaurant themselves and as well by farmers located not far from Amsterdam proper.
After our delicious lunch, we went to the world famous Rijksmuseum to see some paintings by famous artists who used flowers as an icon in their paintings to explicitly tell a typical story and, of course, the famous one that was used is the tulip. A lot of Dutch artists have used tulip in their art either because of its beauty or as a symbol to represent themselves during their century. However, a lot of artists have used different flowers, as well, on their paintings to represent something significant during their time. For instance, Ferdinand Bol – an artist turned businessman who used to be Rembrandt’s intern – carved a sunflower on the frame that encases one of his paintings to represent his love for his wife because just like the sunflower, she is like his light and will follow her everywhere. Every flower has a different meaning for these artists, and all of them depicts them in their understanding. To see these paintings was educational not only because we had the opportunity to understand them but also the fact how these beautiful flowers affected these artists works. After our little tour of the museum, we were brought at the property’s backyard where they have their tulip garden which was built after Rijk Museum was opened. The best part about this is that it is a public garden meaning everyone have equal rights to enjoy the beautiful flowers! Rijksmuseum is certainly a must visit if ever you stumble upon Amsterdam, it is a beautiful museum filled with wonderful works of art! If ever I come back, I’ll explore more to see the rest of the arts.
After Rijksmuseum, we were brought by the canal to ride a boat, arranged by Classic Boat Tours, that introduced us to some of the city’s largest canals and as well to its beautiful neighborhoods. We had the chance to have a mini cruise around the town in a beautiful, intimate salon boat with a luxurious interior. It even had a mini bar! It was a wonderful experience to see Amsterdam from a different perspective and to be honest. You get to see the city beautifully from the canal.
After our hour long canal boat tour, we went to one of Amsterdam’s talented florist flower shop called Pompon. It is a small trendy flower shop where we had the opportunity to talk about the flower business over a glass of bubbly wine. The couple who owns it bought the store thirty years ago, and they specialize on stage flower bouquets, and some of their clients are from the film and advertisement industry. They have arranged final decorative flower arrangements, and one of the notable ones which the florist remembers is when the time they had to fill a huge wall with flowers.
To end our first day on this flower festival trip, we went to visit Museum Van Loon. Museum Van Loon used to be a regular house by the canal which is owned by the Van Loon family, a distinguished Dutch family. In fact, even though the house is a museum now, a relative of the Van Loon still resides on the top floor of the building! The house itself has such beautiful architecture and as well interior which has been preserved and at its slightly renovated original state. Though the building is magnificent on its own, the backyard is equally gorgeous. The house has a yard with its private garden where visitors could sit down and appreciate the place.
Our visit in the Museum Van Loon not only fed our eyes with a beautiful 18th-century design but also the amazing people of Amsterdam Marketing arranged our dinner in the canal house’s dining area and invited the Chef and owner of Vork en Mes (Fork and Knife), Jonathan Karpathios, to cook for us. It was such an amazing and humbling experience!
Vork en Mes is Jonathan Karpathios’ restaurant, the chef is well known in Holland and has written cookbooks for us to read and enjoy. I am an aspiring cook myself and has trained for five years ranging from lunch restaurants to perfect fine dining ones. Therefore, food plays such a huge part in my life and the opportunity to listen as Chef Jonathan talks about how he grows his produce was an amazing feat. We had a full 5-course vegetarian meal, and I couldn’t be happier! How he used flowers and even tulip bulbs in food was so fresh and the flavors surely complimented each other. It was such a nice way to end our first day on this Flower Festival Press Trip.
On our second day, we were asked to be in the hotel’s lobby at 6.15 a.m sharp, it was early, but we were promised a good day ahead. We had our ‘breakfast package’ waiting for us in the lobby, and as our sleepy heads eat our first meal we were told that the buses would be waiting for us, therefore, we had to power up for the long day ahead!
After the early call and energizing breakfast, we proceeded on to visit the Royal Flora Holland, a flower factory, located at Aalsmeer just outside Amsterdam. During our visit, we were toured around the vast area and had a lot of explanation on how the flower business works. This place also used, and still is, as the flower international trading center for those who wish to buy flowers in bulks. They have a very Dutch auction system on how to do the tradings and this system dates back from centuries ago. Nowadays, in this digital age, the flower auction happens online. However, there’s still one auction room in this factory where people could come and place their bids. The whole facility itself is massive and organized, to see how a lot of work happen so that we could easily buy these beautiful flowers from our local florist certainly made me respect the flower business even more.
After our early morning visit to Royal Flora Holland, we went straight to Keukenhof, an open flower museum, to see its vast varieties of flower displays. I mean, you have to visit Keukenhof if the trip is about flowers, right? We all certainly had this excitement for us because we know we’re all in for a beautiful (and sweet smelling) treat!
Keukenhof used to be dunes and forests and not far from the area is a castle with a small garden. However, in 1850 a famous landscape artist was so amused to turn this dunes and forests into a large garden and so, with his fascination with English garden landscapes, he renovated the whole place as we know what it is now. It ‘s nice to visit Keukenhof on different times of the year, as our tour guide told us, therefore we could witness all the changes in the park. Keukenhof is famous of course during spring time when the flowers are blooming, and these take place between mid-March to mid-May. The large garden is filled with thousands and thousands of different flower varieties and even houses tulips which were grown back in the 1800’s! It was so impressive! The landscape artists and as well the gardeners work whole year round to maintain this wonderful place for us tourists to enjoy.
After our long walks in the garden, everyone was left tired and hungry but still ecstatic to learn more about the importance of flower in Dutch culture. We headed to one of the city’s famous restaurant called De Vier Seizoenen (the four seasons) and had an excellent lunch which consisted of flowers, of course! We had a started our three-course lunch with beef carpaccio with marinated and fermented tulip bulbs, it was so interesting and surprisingly tasty! The restaurant is located at the heart Lisse and the building which the restaurant currently located used to be the Mayor’s residence. Talk about fancy! It was such an excellent restaurant that serves great food indeed.
After our lunch, we had to check-in again to a new hotel that is located at Haarlem and proceeded on a quick walking tour introducing to us the town. Haarlem is a city just on the outskirts of Amsterdam, about 15 minutes by train from the center and the place is very quaint and quiet but just as beautiful as Amsterdam.
After the walking tour, we headed to Frans Hals Museum to see the on-going ‘Flowers From Afar’ exhibition and as well see some more artworks by famous Dutch artists during the golden age. Artists from the Golden Age sure are amazing as they capture and praise these beautiful exotic flowers forever alive in prints. Frans Hals Museum also partnered with some local artists and florists to create beautiful flower ensembles which the museum could showcase around the area. They have exotic flowers and as well a lot of tulips that are beautifully arranged in vases around the museum for the guests to admire.
Frans Hals Museum and as well Haarlem is a wonderful place to visit while in Holland, and I think that, since it is not far away from Amsterdam, anyone who is visiting should at least see the neighboring towns! They are equally beautiful and even quiet compared to Amsterdam. We also were told that Haarlem is a good place for beer brewing and because they have a huge body of fresh water, beer became an important part of the town. We had the opportunity to visit one brewery in the center of Haarlem that opened in 1994, Jopen is a brewery which is currently situated at the old Jopenkerk (Jopen’s Church) which they renovated and turned into this beautiful brewery, bar, and restaurant. Jopen also has their own larger brewery just outside of Haarlem and their most favorite beer is Mooie Nel IPA. It was a fresh light beer perfect for summer!
After our Jopen brewery tour and many Bitterballen later, we proceeded to the last destination of the day and had a wonderful treat over at Restaurant De Bokkedoorns – a 2-Michelin star restaurant which has been opened since 1961. We were served a carefully curated 4-course menu which combines Chef’s techniques, flavor, and beautiful fresh ingredients. This is the first ever Michelin restaurant I’ve ever eaten, and the experience was something beyond I could even explain. Each meal was an art, and the flavor it comes with was fantastic!
Our dinner at Restaurant De Bokkedoorns was an experience that left us all well satisfied, and as the day proceeds, we were all ready to retire therefore we can welcome the next day with a smile. The whole day was filled with a lot of interesting activities and as well delicious meals. It only kept us keen and interested in the flower culture in Holland and how it has affected the people throughout history until today!
On our third and last half day in this trip didn’t require us to wake up too early but instead we were given such a sunny Wednesday morning to enjoy ourselves in Haarlem. I, however, took few more hours of sleep and headed on for a lovely breakfast and went out for a little walk enjoying this beautiful quaint town. We were picked up by our mini bus and headed to Aalsmeer where we caught a boat ride that would take us around Westeinplassen located at the said town and as well had a little tour around its lilac farms.
We also had the opportunity to speak with a second generation lilac grower who is a local of Aalsmeer. We went to visit his little ‘factory’ and as well his greenhouses where he treats the lilacs before planting in soil. Lilacs are yet another beautiful sort of flowers which is rather popular everywhere, and most people know what they are and to see their natural habitat is fascinating. Every two years they dig the lilacs out from the soil and breed them in the greenhouse since it gets really cold in Holland, and after they start blooming, they are planted back to the ground and have about a year to recover. A lilac stem could live up to hundred years, and in fact, this grower has lilac stems which his grandfather took care of. It was amazing that there are still people who care about proper craftsmanship!
Our boat trip was refreshing, and the lovely weather even made it better. Aalsmeer is only about 20 minutes by train from Amsterdam, and it is a small quiet town to visit if you want to get out from the hustle and bustle of the busy city center. This is the end of our trip covering the flower festival, and although it was a lovely morning spent, the amazing marketing people behind Amsterdam Marketing exceeded themselves by bringing us back to Amsterdam’s The Grand Hotel for a fantastic lunch to beautifully finish off the whole program. The hotel has its courtyard where they have a small but beautiful tulip display for guests to admire and inside they have a lot of beautiful flower ensembles to keep up with the flower festival spirit.
Overall, this experience was fantastic, and I highly suggest visiting Holland around spring time to witness this beautiful flower filled events!
Thank you so much to the team of Amsterdam Marketing for inviting me to represent Two Monkeys Travel Group on this amazing trip!
About the Writer
Evan Kristine is the blogger behind Pretty Wild World – A Visual Travel Blog. A curious young soul who enjoys documenting all possible sorts of happenings and mishaps that come her way. A life enthusiast who loves adventure stories with thrills and twists, a chef by trade and an over all lover of pretty things.
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