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How Amsterdam during tulip season makes for a wonderful city break – here’s how to stay in luxury

Simon Calder’s Travel

There are peals of laughter behind me as I snap photos of a sea of colourful tulips in a field an hour’s drive outside Amsterdam city centre. I turn to see a elderly couple chuckling as a woman helps a man to stand in a pair of over-sized clogs. She takes a step back and he grins widely as she takes his picture before they swap places.

I am in Lisse at the Tulip Experience Amsterdam, a show garden with more than one million tulips. Despite the somewhat changeable weather, it seems there is something about these bright blooms that makes everyone feel cheerful.

Around me, groups take the opportunity between spring showers to head out into the show gardens to take Instagram-worthy selfies among long, neat rows of tulips interspersed with quintessentially Dutch icons such as those clogs, bikes and a windmill.

The hangar which houses the attraction’s museum and exhibition is packed with visitors – it is the busiest day of the year so far and the tulip season lasts a matter of weeks – but outside feels spacious, with room for everyone to enjoy the Netherlands’ famous flower.

Tulip season is short – but when they bloom, they bloom bold and bright (Getty Images)

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But as I soon find out, while Max Bygraves may have sung of Tulips from Amsterdam, the tulips are from Kazakhstan and arrived here in the 16th century via what is now present-day Turkey.

And the name? Well, flowers were once worn by Ottoman sultans in tulip-shaped turbans as a sign of status and wealth and the word is derived from “tulipan”, once a word for “turban”.

These nuggets of information are provided by Sylvia, a third generation member of the Pennings family. Her grandfather started a tulip bulb business in 1951.

In a short tour of the museum, she tells our group the experience was established by her father, Simon, five years ago, partly in response to concerns that bulb fields were being damaged by visitors keen to take photographs of themselves among the flowers.

Sylvia is an enthusiastic guide as she tells us of the bulb’s history and how it is cultivated. Naming tulips after celebrities or well-known products is common –  apparently it is easier to sell a tulip with a popular name.

Tulips are encountered at all corners of Amsterdam (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

There are varieties named Paul McCartney, Bob Marley and Donald Duck….

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