Tulips in Amsterdam

By Abi King | Western Europe

Apr 05
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Highlights of Amsterdam. Back in 1637, a single tulip bulb could sell for more than ten times the annual income of a skilled craftsman in the Netherlands. Why? How? Find out. - via @insidetravellab
Yes, this is supposed to be a site about unusual journeys and, yes, tulips in Amsterdam are about as unusual as finding a long queue and a surly stare at airport security. But…look! They’re so pretty! And it’s spring (up here in the icy northern hemisphere) and the theme is “bloom” for this week’s #FriFotos and, and…

Oh, all right. I’ll give you some information about the cutesy things.

Tulips in Amsterdam

Not only do tulips feature in the warbly 20th century song but they actually played a prominent role in creating a financial bubble, long before the housing market, the dotcom crisis or the South Sea Bubble came along.

Back in 1637, a single tulip bulb could sell for more than ten times the annual income of a skilled craftsman in the Netherlands.

Why? How?

Well,  the short version says that when tulips arrived in the low countries from the outposts of the Ottoman Empire, they were the boldest, brightest flower that Europe had seen and they soon became a luxury item. Desire was high and supply was scarce, with Dutch merchants setting up futures markets in taverns and inns across the country. Bulbs changed hands up to ten times  a day (on paper at least, ) with those with narrow coloured stripes seizing the highest prices of all (We now know that those stripes come about thanks to an infection from a virus, which rather strips some of the glamour away from the affair but there you go. Diamonds come from squashed lumps of coal after all and that didn’t stop Nicole Kidman and Marilyn Monroe cosying up to them and making them their new best friends.)

Amsterdam & Tulips. A love affair that endures...

Amsterdam & Tulips. A love affair that endures…

Tulips in Amsterdam002And then “tulip mania” came to an end, possibly as a consequence of an outbreak of bubonic plague in Haarlem. Prices collapsed, fortunes were lost and tulip bulbs were left to grow mouldy. The only good thing to come out of the affair was a curious title for a book called Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds written by a chap called Mackay and published in the 19th century.

And the song, I suppose. Which, in part, leads to the tourist fascination with the flowers – and the appearance of these fine petals in 21st century Amsterdam.

Happy Photo Friday everyone.

Disclosure: I travelled to Amsterdam thanks to InterRail and stayed as a guest at the Moevenpick Hotel in the city. I don’t think that either company had anything to do with the tulip bubble. Or the song. 

Would you seek out tulips in Amsterdam? Or are you too cool for such things?


About the Author

Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more.

  • Darlene Foster says:

    Tulips are my favourite flower and I would love to see them in Amsterdam!!

  • Jessica says:

    Interesting to read a little about the history of tulips in Amsterdam – I had no idea they were so valuable at one point. Seeing huge colourful fields of them was definitely a hi-light of the Netherlands for me.

    • Abi King says:

      Wish I’d seen the fields…I only managed to see clusters in they city.

  • Johanna van Zanten says:

    And not to be forgotten of course the novel from Alexandre Dumas: La Tulipe Noire that deals exactly with that period in history in Europe.
    Thanks for reminding me of the colourful spring blooms in my home country.
    The tulip is also my favorite flower.
    Johanna van Zanten

  • Kirsten says:

    Tulips may not be unusual, but I do adore them. They’re one of my favorite flowers and always have been. I would definitely seek them out if I found myself in the Netherlands.

  • Daisy Anne says:

    Tulips are adorable. Thank you for posting the history of tulips and how they arrived in Europe. I think nothing is more surreal than being in a field of colorful tulips.

  • [email protected] World Small Budget says:

    Great post. We hold a tulip festival every year here in Ottawa. The Netherlands send thousands of tulip bulbs to Ottawa every year to commemorate Canada’s role in liberating the Dutch during WW2 and for providing safe harbor for the Dutch Royal Family in Ottawa. Every year in May we have a tulip festival with almost 300 000 tulips near Dows Lake. It really is something to see.

    • Abi says:

      What a fantastic nugget of information! Now that I long to see…

  • Kori says:

    Wow what a wonderful post. I have traveled to Amsterdam frequently but am ashamed to say that I have not stopped to see them. I mainly travel through the Dam Square and see the sights.

    • Abi says:

      Next time, keep an eye out for them :-) And sing a cheesy tune…

  • Travel Musts says:

    I just love tulips! They are so colorful! Thanks for the info about the history of this beautiful flower I didn’t know any of that!

    • Abi King says:

      Heh – neither did I before my last visit. That’s one of the things I love about travel – plenty of chances to learn something new!

  • pam says:

    My friend was just telling me how sad she was cos she’s going to miss the tulips season by the time she travels to Europe for her grad trip and now the tulip exhibition is right here in Singapore at our home country. And She managed to visit to the exhibit before she flew off to Europe.

  • Paul Akpomukai says:

    If you like Tulips then you should certainly come to the Keukenhof in Lisse which is a little city in The Netherlands. Keukenhof is also known as the Garden of Europe, is the world’s largest flower garden. Keukenhof is open annually from mid-March to mid-May. The best time to view the tulips is around mid-April

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