• Photo: Travelpeter | Dreamstime.com

Lisse

On arrival in Lisse in springtime, you will be in no doubt that this is the center of the Netherlands' biggest tourist attraction, with bumper-to-bumper tour buses and weaving cyclists overwhelming this provincial town. In the 17th century, like its neighbors Sassenheim and Hillegom, it was surrounded by country estates, just one of which remains (the rest were dug over for bulbs). The estate's former garden is the main attraction, but Kasteel Keukenhof (0252/750–690 www.kasteelkeukenhof.nl) is also open to the public. If you want to include this in your visit, call first to check hours; you can see inside only by guided tour, for which you need a reservation. Another escape from the crowds is the tower directly south of the gardens. Built by a knight-cum-forester (an important position back then), ‘t Huys Dever (0252/411–430 www.kasteeldever.nl) is an atmospheric 14th-century keep.

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