Amsterdam Tulip Museum

Lonely Planet review

Don't be dissuaded – or distracted – by the gift shop overflowing with floral souvenirs at the front of this small museum. And yes, it is small, but the Amsterdam Tulip Museum offers a nifty overview of the history of the country's favourite bloom, and is a fascinating way to spend half an hour or so, especially before taking a day trip to the Keukenhof Flower Gardens or the Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer flower auction, or strolling the Southern Canal Ring's 'floating' flower market, the Bloemenmarkt.

Through exhibits, timelines and two short films (in English), you'll learn how Ottoman merchants came across the flowers in the Himalayan Steppes and began commercial production in Turkey (the word tulip derives from 'turban' due to the petals' resemblance to the headwear). You'll also find out how fortunes were made and lost during Dutch 'Tulipmania' in the 17th century, how bulbs were used as food in the war years, and discover present-day methods of growing and harvesting. The tulip paintings by 17th-century painter Judith Leijster, a student of Frans Hals, are a highlight; there's also a great collection of tulip vases designed to accommodate separate stems.