Today is National Tulip day in the Netherlands, and if you’re wondering how to spend a wintry Saturday, you need look no further than Dam Square, which has been turned into a gorgeous public tulip garden. You can pick your own tulips for free, and get a joyous taste of the spring to come, when the tulip fields turn the Netherlands into a patchwork of rainbow colours. After picking your tulips, you could also find out about the history of this most emblematic plant at the Amsterdam Tulip Museum (Prinsengracht 116).
In the seventeenth century, the Netherlands was hit by Tulip Mania, where bulbs were traded for ever more outrageous prices. Amazingly, the Netherlands is not the only country whose economy was affected by this flower: the Ottoman Empire had not only a Tulip Era, but an Anti-Tulip Rebellion, in which the state had to intervene to regulate the price of bulbs.
When you see the tulip fields spread out across the country, in strips of glowing colour, it’s not difficult to understand why this flower caught the national imagination so completely. But unlike in the seventeenth century, when few ordinary city-dwellers would have the chance to decorate their homes with this flower, we can all go to Dam Square’s fabulous temporary garden and pick a bunch for free!