Why Is The Netherlands Known For Tulips?

Did you ever wonder why the Netherlands is synonymous with tulips? It’s a question often asked yet not commonly understood.

As a Dutchman who’s lived here all my life, I looked into the rich history and significance of tulips in Dutch culture to find out where they came from initially.

Let’s delve into this fascinating story together and unearth the roots of our Dutch tulip tradition.

Tulips came from Central Asia via Turkey, Vienna, and Antwerp to the Netherlands. Tulips were introduced to the Netherlands by Carolus Clusius at the end of the 16th century and grew well in the Dutch climate.

Read on to learn more about the history of our “typical Dutch tulips.”

How Did Tulips Arrive In The Netherlands?

Many online stories circulate that tulips came from Turkey, which is incorrect. However, Turkey did serve as a stopover for tulips on their way to Holland.

Originally, tulips came from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia, where they thrived in these mountainous areas. Tulips need cold nights and cold winters, a climate found in mountainous regions.

The story goes that the Turks saw tulips on their campaigns in Central Asia in the 16th century and were very impressed with them. So they took tulip bulbs with them back to Turkey to cultivate tulips. The name tulip is derived from the Persian word for a turban Tulipan because the shape of a tulip is very similar to the form of a turban.

The Turkish sultan occasionally donated a few tulip bulbs to important relations such as the Austrian emperor’s envoy to his court, the Fleming Ogier Gisleen van Busbeke. In turn, he donated a few tulip bulbs to another Fleming, Carolus Clusius, who was then in charge of the Austrian emperor’s hortus botanicus in Vienna.

In 1593, Carolus Clusius came to the Netherlands to become a professor at the University of Leiden. He founded the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden and began growing tulips in the Netherlands there. The area just above Leiden, the Bulb Region, proved to have an ideal climate for growing bulbs on a large scale.

Tulips; From Status Symbol To Commodity

In the 16th and 17th centuries, tulips were still grown and bred on a small scale, making them a status symbol. As a result, tulip bulbs became extremely expensive, and between 1634 and 1637, there was even a real tulip mania in which the prices of tulips reached record heights.

At one point, a tulip bulb cost as much as a canal house on a sought-after canal in Amsterdam, and those houses were already exceptionally expensive in those days.

At some point, the government put an end to this bubble. Growing tulips continued, however, because tulips were also very popular abroad and proved to be an ideal trade product.

Dutch traders roamed all over the world, taking, among other things, good shelf-life tulip bulbs with them to trade. That is one of the main reasons the Netherlands is known for tulips.

That image is still carefully cultivated because it is a fantastic tourist attraction that brings many tourists to Holland.

The Keukenhof, a world-renowned flower garden in The Netherlands, is our most popular tourist attraction in the Netherlands when its 7-8 million flowers are blooming.

Today, more than 2 billion tulips are grown annually in the Netherlands, and tulips have become a mass product. Almost all of the tulip bulbs are exported, and the Netherlands earns more than €300 mln annually from the export of tulip bulbs.

Of course, growing such a quantity can no longer be done only in the Bulb Region, so more regions of the Netherlands have become home to our tulips.

Where Are Tulips Fields In The Netherlands?

There are several regions in the Netherlands where tulips are now grown. It is no coincidence that most of these regions are close to water because you have colder nights there, which is very good for growing tulips.

The six tulip regions with the most tulip fields in the Netherlands are:

  1. Bollenstreek (Keukenhof)
  2. Noordoostpolder
  3. North Holland North
  4. West Friesland
  5. Beemster polder
  6. Zeeuws-Vlaanderen

I described these six tulip regions in the Netherlands in another article on this website to inform you where and when you can best enjoy tulips in the Netherlands without too many traffic jams and hordes of tourists.


Pim has lived his entire life in The Netherlands and he enjoys revisiting all the Dutch towns he liked and rediscovering all activities that he enjoyed.