The Herbalist’s Guide to the Netherlands

I was lucky enough to go on a river cruise through the Netherlands and Belgium in April of this year. Spring is the perfect time to visit this area of the world, as this is when the tulips are in bloom! The Tulip Fever of Holland in the 1600s doesn’t seem to have died off as much as they say: billions of bulbs are still exported from the country every year.

The Herbalist's Guide to the Netherlands | The Witch of Lupine Hollow

Whenever I travel, I usually try to find the local pagan and witchy color. Whether it be a great pagan bookstore, the site of historical witch trials or a haunted castle, there is usually something to appeal to the traveling witch. The Netherlands is a bit different though, as it is an incredibly secular country. They have even converted many old Catholic cathedrals into shopping malls and apartment buildings! Though most witches aren’t necessarily looking for Christian sites when traveling, the Netherlands has a dearth of pagan sites as well. Witch trials were less common there than in basically any other country in Europe and there is just a general sense of pragmatism that doesn’t lend itself to the occult.

Traveling through the Netherlands in spring is any flower lover’s dream come true though, and if you have an interest in herbalism and green witchcraft, here are 5 spots you can’t miss!

The Herbalist's Guide to the Netherlands - Keukenhof Gardens

Keukenhof Gardens

This massive garden is primarily an installation of 7 million bulbs (including tulips, crocuses and hyacinth). It is an absolutely spectacular thing to see – you’ve never seen so many colors of nature all in one place! The gardens also include a number of pavilions with even more specialty tulips, cut flowers and the history of tulips in Holland, as well as cafes and shops, a labyrinth and a petting zoo.

The Herbalist's Guide to the Netherlands - Bloemenmarkt

Bloemenmarkt

This is the main central flower market in downtown Amsterdam. Though I’ve heard that the bulbs you can buy there are not necessarily the highest quality, it is a beautiful spot to wander through and admire. Some of the booths only sell bulbs and some sell cut flowers as well. At the very least, you might pick up flowers for your hotel room!

The Herbalist's Guide to the Netherlands - A Local Tulip Farm

A local tulip farm

If you have the chance to visit a working tulip farm, I really encourage you to do it! We visited Munster Farms, a small family owned farm that also conducts tours for visitors. It was incredible to hear about the whole process of how the bulbs are planted and cared for, how the flowers are cut and what life for the farming family is like. In the peak of the season, the fields at farms like this are filled with row after row of brilliantly colored tulips.

The Herbalist's Guide to the Netherlands - Hortus Botanicus

Hortus Botanicus

Hortus Botanicus is the traditional botanical gardens in Amsterdam and was founded in 1638. They have three large greenhouses, emulating different climates, and formal, hedged gardens of edible plants and tulips. Though not the largest botanical gardens I have been to by far, this one is high on quality. The cafe on site is also well worth a stop. I had basically the best Caesar salad of my life there – it had edible flowers on it!

The Herbalist's Guide to the Netherlands - Amsterdam Tulip Museum

Amsterdam Tulip Museum

If you are interested in the multicultural history of tulips at all, this small museum is absolutely worth the low price of admission. The museum discusses the native origins of tulips, which grow wild in the Himalayan Mountains, and how they found their way to the courts of the Ottoman Empire and then on to Holland via ambassadors. It also talks about the Tulip Fever of the 1600s and about tulip production today.

Have you been to the Netherlands? If so, where would you recommend your fellow herbalists visit?

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