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See tulip fields by train: A slow travel route through the Netherlands

Rows of orange and pink tulips, painted bright across the lush countryside. Purple hyacinths and sunny daffodils, dancing in the wind.


Our favorite way to soak in the sight of the Netherlands’ world-famous blooms?


Taking the regional train offers travelers a front row seat to Holland’s flower fields. It’s a relaxing and authentic way to enjoy the blooms as locals do – from the seat of a train. Plus, with a Eurail Pass, travelers have the option to hop out at any stop along the way and walk to the fields for a closer look.


This April, a group of Eurail colleagues set out to discover the ultimate flower-powered itinerary. Below you’ll find our route, which you can enjoy on its own or as part of a larger trip around Europe.


All you need is an Eurail Global Pass or a Benelux Pass. No seat reservations are needed to experience the best of the Netherlands’ springtime blooms.

A train riding past tulip fields near Hillegom

1. Leiden


Begin your tulip tour in Leiden, the birthplace of the Netherlands’ vast tulip history.


In the 1590s, Sultan Suleiman of the Ottoman Empire gifted the Netherlands’ first tulip bulbs to Dutch botanist Carolus Clusius. He planted them in the Hortus Botanicus, a garden in Leiden that travelers can still visit today.


While in Leiden, take time to lose yourself in the small city’s charm, strolling along its nearly 30 kilometers of canals.


While you explore, keep an eye out for the city’s “wall poems.” Over the past few decades, more than 120 poems have been painted on the walls of buildings in Leiden, in many languages and scripts.  

One of Leiden's canals at sunset

Take the train from Leiden to Hillegom. Travel time: 12 minutes

2. Hillegom


Those postcard-perfect tulip fields you imagine? You’ll find them here in Hillegom – minus the crowds of the Netherlands’ more famous tulip destinations.


Depending on the week you visit, you may get a preview of the fields from Hillegom’s train station platforms. When my colleagues and I arrived in mid-April, we saw dramatic rows of yellow and orange tulips the moment we stepped off our train.


After leaving the station, take a stroll through Hillegom’s quiet, pretty De Buurt neighborhood on your way to the fields. We had luck following Loosterweg towards the Tulip Barn, a roughly 20-minute walk from the station.


Keep to the sidewalks and enjoy the view.  

Tulip fields visible from Hillegom's train station

Take the train from Hillegom to Haarlem. Travel time: 10 minutes

3. Haarlem


Haarlem is often dubbed “little Amsterdam,” and for good reason. The city has the charm of Amsterdam’s most popular neighborhoods with a relaxed, small town atmosphere. Filled with locally-owned shops, Haarlem is the perfect place to search for a meaningful souvenir to commemorate your time in the Netherlands.


For an extra-special tulip experience, time your visit so that you are in Haarlem the night of the “Bloemencorso,” said to be the largest spring festival in the Netherlands. Each year on a Saturday, larger-than-life floats covered with fragrant blooms are paraded 42 kilometers north from Noordwijk to Haarlem. The next day, the colorful floats are placed around Haarlem for all to appreciate.  

An aerial shot of Haarlem's river and windmill

Take the train from Haarlem to Alkmaar. Travel time: 45 minutes

4. Alkmaar


Springtime visitors to Alkmaar, a historic city in northern Holland, are in luck: the last Friday of March marks the first Cheese Market of the season.


Every Friday between the end of March to the end of September, Alkmaar’s Waagplein hosts an ancient and memorable cheese trading extravaganza. For the past 430 years, members of the cheese carriers’ guild have sold cheese out of the stately square. 


Not a dairy fan? Alkmaar is also home to plenty of vegan restaurants, including Soepp, a colorful, eclectically decorated restaurant and B&B in the heart of the city.  


Before leaving Alkmaar, don't miss a stop at Het Kruithuisje, a tiny teahouse and art gallery in a park near the center. 

A cheese wheel at Alkmaar's Cheese Market

Take the train from Alkmaar to Den Helder Zuid. Travel time: 33 minutes  

5. Den Helder


As you travel north by train to Den Helder, you enter the beating heart of Dutch tulip agriculture. The fields between Den Helder and nearby Julianadorp are said to be the largest continuous bulb-growing area in the world.


For a chance at seeing some of the bulbs up close, disembark at Den Helder Zuid and take a walk past some of the nearby flower fields. Though the area seems purely rural, there’s more than meets the eye; next to the station is De Nollen, a modern sculpture park with guided tours.


Continue to Station Den Helder to experience a taste of life at the top of North Holland’s mainland. The Oude Rijkswerf Willemsoord, a former shipyard that is now home to several restaurants and two museums, is an ideal place to begin exploring.  

Tulip fields near Den Helder

Feeling inspired? With Eurail, you can:

Tour Europe by train with 1 Pass
Experience the highlights and hidden gems 
Travel flexibly on trains that don't need reservations
Stay conscious and travel sustainably