Welcome to the Amsterdam Tulip Museum!
I used to think that Ottawa held the prize for being utterly tulip obsessed. Our Tulip Festival is an annual rite of passage to celebrate our survival through winter and the long anticipated arrival of spring. But our tulip obsession is downright subdued compared to what you'll find in Amsterdam! I had long known that tulips were the national symbol of The Netherlands but nothing could prepare me for just how tulip-mad people are in Amsterdam.
The best place to get your ultimate tulip fix is at the Amsterdam Tulip Museum. This is the perfect place to devour all things tulips but it's not just for the flower fans. Anyone who is interested in history or agriculture will find it fascinating as well. But to access the museum you'll first have to pull yourself away from the gift shop!
I'm normally not very interested in souvenirs and gift shops - frankly, I'd rather save my money to travel more! But I do think if you're going to bring back some trinkets and gifts it's a good idea to purchase them a museum gift shop or other non-profit venue so your money really benefits the community that gave you so many fond memories. The gift shop in the Amsterdam Tulip Museum is filled with beautiful, colorful things and has everything a tulip lover could want. They also sell a massive selection of loose tulip bulbs and the array of colors and textures will send any gardener into a shopping spree! Just be sure to read the fine print to identify which bulbs are approved for import into your home country.
The museum section itself is small and, even if you moved at a leisurely pace, you would need less than an hour to see it all. The exhibits are spread over several floors (with very narrow and steep stairs - it's not accessible for anyone with a mobility impairment) and it starts with a look at what tulips are and where they come from. I was surprised to learn that tulips are native to Afghanistan, among other countries, and they're not really regarded as anything special.
The exhibits continue on and show the slow rise of the tulip throughout Europe and the role it played in Dutch history. There was tremendous wealth associated with tulip production and this pretty flower had a fierce role in consolidating Dutch power and influence around the world. The tulip became the symbol of wealth, glamour, and even royalty. But eventually, like all good things, the glory days of the tulip and Dutch imperial power slowly started to end.
But while the Dutch empire never quite regained it's footing, there was no keeping the tulip down. While the market had bottomed out, the demand for tulips never went away and this time they were no longer the privilege of those living in palaces. Tulips soon embellished the most humble of gardens and were even used as sustenance during World War II as the bulbs are edible when boiled or baked.
My favourite part of the Amsterdam Tulip Museum was the final room, which was filled with huge photos of tulips of every shape and color. This is what I love so much about tulips and what drives so many people to visit Ottawa each May - and Amsterdam year round! The endless textures and shades were so stunning that it made me even more anxious for spring!
The 5 Euro admission fee was reasonable by European standards for museums but I couldn't help but feel it was a touch high when I compared the converted cost in Canadian dollars to the size of the museum. I still think it would be a worthwhile visit for anyone with a special interest in the subject. And if you are sightseeing with an iAmsterdam card, you absolutely should make the pilgrimage to visit the Amsterdam Tulip Museum. It won't take up much of your time and it's one of those charming little places that makes having a museum card well worth the investment.
I'd love to hear from you! Tell me about your favourite museum in Europe or your favorite sites in Amsterdam.
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My visit was sponsored in part by the Amsterdam Tourism office. This did not affect my writing and all opinions remain my own.