The Flower Parade in Holland
Have you ever seen a cow riding a motorbike? Have you ever seen a cow as big as a truck? Have you ever seen a cow as big as a truck riding a motorbike made of flowers? Well if you head to the Flower Parade in Holland then you would have just like me. This is just one of the spectacular floats that are part of the biggest flower parade in the world to mark the end of the tulip season and fields draped in endless colour. The parade has up to 20 huge floats representing anything from the digital age to economics to flower power all done with precise details by hundreds of volunteers that make them up. If you like flowers with a bit of a party or even something a bit different then the flower parade is for you.
What happens and what do you see at the Flower Parade
The parade has lots of bands of different sorts spaced out between the floats including a band that plays while it cycles which is very impressive. The drums, trumpet, trombone etc all played while cycling a bike! The bands are intermingled with cars and farm tractors covered in various flowers, not just tulips. After some teasing with flowers and buses in cars you eventually get to what you want to see and that is the spectacular floats. There were floats of huge men with people dancing on it, floats for musical energy that had people dancing crazily like a rave for hours at end. And of course there was the cow on a motorbike as well as the equally impressive shark eating a taxi! These are only a flavour of what was on offer and the designs change every year.
The Amazing float made entirely of flowers
The streets are lined with people for almost all of the 16km route and we went to the town of Hillegom first and the streets were packed. The town is shut off to traffic and the town centre had a real party atmosphere with adults having a few beers and children and music playing all around. All along the route people take out deck chairs and sit on the side of the road. Many houses by the route had barbecue’s and had neighbours over for the evening sipping beer. This is for the entire 16km
We rented bikes in Haarlem and cycled down most of the route. The beauty of bikes in Holland is that it is so flat that the only hills you come across are tiny bridges over canals which can’t be any more than 6ft high! Unfortunately for us nearly all the fields of tulips had just been beheaded even though the green leaves and tulips are still there. So if you are heading to see the huge fields of colour make sure to go from mid-March to the end of April. We did manage to catch a few patches that were still in colour but it was only a teaser for what you could see would be unbelievably spectacular when in full bloom. It may surprise many people that what the farmers are after are the bulbs, not the flowers, so having rainbow coloured fields is of no interest to the industry. They just want the flowers to be gone so they can harvest the bulbs underground. It is quite a nice side effect though it must be said.
The flower parade starts around 35km south west of Amsterdam in the village of Noordwijk at 3pm and starts to slowly make its way north to the town of Haarlem. It reaches Hillegom at around 5pm Haarlem at approximately 9.30pm even though the route is only 16km long. The floats could be viewed the day before the parade in Noordwijk and after they arrive in Haarlem they are on display in the Grote Markt (market Square) for a day so they can be easily seen and touched. Just make sure to check online for the exact route when you are going.
Tips for the Uneducated
So if you are like me and tried to wing it the whole way then here are some tips that should make your trip to the flower parade that bit easier.
Firstly book accommodation in advance. Everywhere gets booked out and not just in Haarlem but in all towns close by. It is a pain if you have to get a trip back to Amsterdam just when the party is getting started.
Secondly nearly all buses are cancelled for the day that go near the parade route so try to use the trains or even better a bike instead.
Thirdly the best place to have a prime view of the parade is a little bit in the country. If you head to a spot out of the towns of Haarlem, Haamstede or Hillegom then you will be able to walk on the road no problem whereas if you are in a town the atmosphere will be great but you will find it difficult to see properly. In Haarlem particularly it gets fairly packed. That’s why renting a bike a a good idea as you can easily cycle a few kilometres out of town to get a good view and cycle back when finished.
Fourthly rent a bike. There are loads of cycle routes and there are bike lanes everywhere. And I mean everywhere. All junctions even have traffic lights just for bikes! The train station has a bike station that you can rent bikes in and if they are sold out then just a street south on Lange Herenstaat is another shop that you can rent bikes.
Practicalities – About the Flower Parade
€1 = 1 euro, US$1 = €1.37
- Language – Dutch. English though is the second language and nearly everybody has excellent English.
- Bus – The bus station is right beside the train station in Haarlem in the north of the city
- Flights- Amsterdam Schiphol is very close on the south side of Amsterdam and is one of Europe’s busiest airports. Eindhoven airport further south is only 1.75hrs away by bus or train.
- Train- Haarlem is serviced by train every 15min from Amsterdam. Also Sassenheim and Leiden further south are very close to the tulips fields and parade route.
- Accommodation – €70 per night for an average double room IF you book in advance
- Beer – €5 for a pint of beer
- Visa: The Netherlands is in the EU so the same rules apply for visas for the Netherlands as any other EU country
- Population of the Netherland: 16.8million
My Photo Gallery from the Flower Parade