Exploring the Tulip Fields by Historic Steam Tram
If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind experience in the Netherlands, a ride on the Museumstoomtram in Hoorn is an absolute must. This historic steam tram takes passengers on a scenic journey through the picturesque countryside of North Holland, passing by charming villages and stunning landscapes along the way. But what really sets this journey apart is the opportunity to witness the breathtaking tulip fields in full bloom during tulip season. From the comfort of the steam tram, you can sit back, relax, and soak up the beauty of the vibrant tulip fields. As Hoorn is closely located to Amsterdam, this is a fun thing to do on a day trip from the Dutch capital city. Join us as we explore the fascinating history and unique offerings of the Museumstoomtram in Hoorn.
The history of the Hoorn-Medemblik railway
The railway between Hoorn and Medemblik was opened in 1887 and meanders from village to village to serve as many inhabited areas as possible. As a result, the railway covers a distance of only 20 kilometers, yet the journey takes over an hour by tram. For comparison, the 14-kilometer road distance between Hoorn and Medemblik is just 20 minutes by car. Passenger traffic on this railway stopped in 1935, but the line was kept open for goods traffic into the 70s. In 1968, the Museumstoomtram took over operations on the line. The authentic stations of Wognum, Twisk, Opperdoes and Medemblik were restored, and a replica station was built in Hoorn.
The difference between trains and trams
Back in the day, the Minister of Transport assigned a legal status to each railway line. Main lines are designated as railways, while branch or tramway lines fall under the tramway classification. If a line is designated a railway, the vehicles on the line are called trains. If a line is designated a tramway, the vehicles on the line are called trams. Tram lines were typically constructed for shorter or less significant routes where the construction of a full-scale railway would have been too costly. Trams were generally smaller and lighter, requiring a lighter permanent way and often using narrow gauge tracks, which enabled them to travel at lower maximum speeds. The Museumstoomtram has former railway coaches and former tramway coaches in their collection. The coaches are pulled by an authentic coal fired steam locomotive. Additionally, the museum also has several historic diesel locomotives.
Practical information about the Museumstoomtram
From April until November, the Museum offers almost daily steam tram trips between Hoorn and Medemblik. Besides a return journey by steam tram, it’s also possible to hop on a boat in Medemblik that takes you to Enkhuizen. From Enkhuizen you can take the “regular” train back to Hoorn. You can check the timetable of the steam trams (and boat experience) on the website of the Museumstoomtram. During the year, various themed rides and events are organized, of which the Tulip Tram is one of them. You can buy tickets for the steam tram and boat trips online. If you’re planning on going on a themed ride, such as the Tulip Tram, we would highly recommend getting tickets a few weeks in advance. We bought our tickets over a month in advance. For the daily steam tram rides, it’s not necessary to buy tickets that many weeks in advance, but we would still recommend buying tickets at least a few days in advance to secure a spot. However, it is possible to buy tickets at the ticket office of the Museumstoomtram upon availability.
The steam tram station in Hoorn is a museum station. There’s a small exhibition about the history of steam trams in the Netherlands and a restaurant that offers snacks and drinks. Most likely, there will be some steam locomotive traffic on the rails from the workshop to the platforms. If you’re taking the steam tram, it might be nice to get there 30-60 minutes before the departure time of the steam tram to see what the station has to offer.
You can buy snacks and drinks on the steam tram that departs at 10:40 in Hoorn and at 13:20 in Medemblik. Steam trams with different departure times and themed steam trams, don’t have this option. When buying tickets online, you can also buy a lunch box for during the ride. Alternatively, you can bring your own food and drinks. Be aware that you can only get snacks at the restaurant in the station of Hoorn, such as cakes and sweets. They don’t serve sandwiches or meals.
Return tickets for the steam tram (Hoorn - Medemblik) are €25,95 per person. Tickets for the steam tram and boat trip (Hoorn - Medemblik - Enkhuizen) are also €25,95 per person.
How to get to the Museumstoomtram in Hoorn
By public transport
The Museumstoomtram is well-accessible by public transport as it’s located next to the train station in Hoorn. There’s a direct intercity train from Amsterdam Central Station to Hoorn that leaves twice an hour and the journey only takes 32 minutes. This makes a visit to the Museumstoomtram perfect on a day trip from Amsterdam.
It’s also possible to visit the Museumstoomtram by car. The park & ride area of the Hoorn train station is right in front of the museum and offers plenty of parking spaces. Parking here is very reasonably priced. It’s not possible to pay by the hour, but a day ticket is only €2,80. The drive from Amsterdam to Hoorn is around 40 minutes.
The Tulip Tram experience
At any time of the year, taking the steam tram between Hoorn and Medemblik is a unique experience, but during tulip season it’s even more special as there are several tulip fields along the railway. Before boarding the tram, you’re told when you can expect the tulip fields on the ride. In 2023, the tulip fields were near Abbekerk and Oostwoud, approximately halfway along the tram ride. The precise locations of the tulip fields may vary each year, because the tulip bulbs are usually replanted every other year, allowing the soil to recover and produce better bulbs.
On the first stretch of the journey, you’ll pass old restored stations such as Zwaag and Wognum. There’s a huge cherry blossom tree next to the old station in Zwaag that might still be blooming mid-April, so keep your eyes peeled. The steam tram stops at the old station of Wognum for a few minutes. You can get off the tram to stretch your legs and/or for a sanitary break. The first tulip fields will appear after the Wognum station.
Most of the tulip fields we witnessed, we’re quite a bit in the distance. However, when nearing the village of Twisk, we were suddenly surrounded by tulips as there were tulip fields on both sides of the railway. The tram stopped here for a few minutes, allowing the passengers to take photos.
After the tulip fields near Twisk, you’re on the last stretch of the journey to Medemblik. Before driving into the station of Medemblik, you’ll pass a historical wind mill. In Medemblik, the tram will be prepared to drive back to Hoorn. The locomotive will switch sides, which is fun to watch. If you have a long stop in Medemblik, you can explore the town of Medemblik or visit the Bakery Museum. If you booked the tram & boat experience, Medemblik is where you board the boat. We had a short stop of only 15 minutes before driving back to Hoorn with the steam tram.
On the return journey, you have a second chance to experience the tulip fields along the railway. As in typically Dutch fashion, it started pouring when we drove past the tulip fields for the second time. The rain was a bit of a bummer, but at least we were glad we were inside the tram.
Overall, we really enjoyed the steam tram experience. Even without the tulip fields, it’s a unique way to witness the Dutch countryside and it feels like you’re transported back in time. If you’re taking the steam tram during tulip season, don’t expect to be surrounded by tulip fields all the time. This simply isn’t the case. Nonetheless, the tulip fields that you witness from the steam tram make it an extra special experience.
During tulip season, the Museumstoomtram offers extra tulip tram rides. In 2023, there were extra tulip tram rides in the last two weekends of April. We took one of those extra tulip tram rides, as the times worked best for us. However, there is no difference between the journey of the “regular” steam tram and the extra tulip tram. This means that you can book any of the daily steam tram journeys during tulip season for the same experience. The tulips typically bloom between mid-April and mid-May. However, the exact blooming period depends on the weather conditions in winter and early spring. We took the steam tram on 22 April 2023 and we only saw one field that wasn’t in full bloom yet. Some farmers already start cutting the tulips in the beginning of May. The later you go in the season, the more tulips will be cut. Therefore, we’d recommend taking the steam tram in Hoorn between mid-April and the end of April if you want to see the tulip fields.
Locations of the tulip fields between Hoorn and Medemblik
We pinned the coordinates of the tulip fields we witnessed from the steam tram in Google Maps. You can use these locations as reference points when taking the steam tram, so you know when you have to grab your camera. You can also drive or cycle to these locations.
- 52°41’54.7”N 5°01’29.4”E
- 52°42’24.6”N 5°02’20.6”E
- 52°42’43.4”N 5°01’48.4”E
- 52°43’20.1”N 5°00’45.5”E
- 52°44’00.7”N 5°04’23.2”E
- 52°43’51.4”N 5°04’39.1”E
- 52°44’31.0”N 5°04’03.3”E
As mentioned before, the precise locations of the tulip fields may differ each year. However, most probably there will be a tulip field very close to these locations.
After the steam tram experience we decided to drive to some of the tulip fields we saw along the railway. We first drove to this field, but the fences on the field were closed so we decided to check out another field further along the same street. It wasn’t possible to access this field as it was surrounded by a ditch. However, we found a parking spot along the road and decided to park our car there. We put our tripod up on the parking spot and with a little bit of zoom we were able to take photos of us and the field across the ditch.
Respect the tulips
It is important to be respectful of both the tulip flowers and the farmers’ property when exploring the tulip fields. Only access the fields through designated entry points where entry is permitted. If a field is closed off by a fence, entry is not permitted. Avoid stepping on the tulips at all times, as the bulbs are delicate and easily damaged. The tulips don’t grow for aesthetic purposes, but as a check for the farmers to see whether the bulbs are in good condition. After a few weeks, the flowers are cut off allowing the bulb to grow. When the bulbs are big enough, they’re sold all over the world.
Alternative tulip fields regions in the Netherlands
Over the years, we’ve been to multiple tulip field regions in the Netherlands and Flevoland remains our favorite region. The tulip fields in Flevoland are huge with lots of different colors of tulips and no crowds at all. If you’re wondering where to find the best tulip fields in Flevoland, check out this link for more information.
The tulip fields in Goeree-Overflakkee come in second place for us. Goeree-Overflakkee is an island just south of Rotterdam. There aren’t as many tulip fields there as there are in Flevoland, but most of the fields are huge with different colors of tulips. We didn’t experience any crowds during our visit which is a huge advantage. Click here to find out the exact locations of the tulip fields in Goeree-Overflakkee.
Lisse and the neighboring villages is the most popular tulip field region in the Netherlands, mostly because the Keukenhof is located in this area. The Keukenhof attracts thousands of tourists each year making this a very crowded region. To protect the tulips from the massive number of tourists, most of the fields are closed off by ditches and fences. Because of the crowds, this is our least favorite tulip field region in the Netherlands. If you’re interested in exploring the tulip fields in and around Lisse, click here for a guide containing exact locations to the fields.
All in all, the Museumstoomtram in Hoorn is a fascinating and unforgettable experience that offers a glimpse into the past. It’s a unique way to explore the Dutch countryside and if you happen to be visiting during tulip season, you’re in for an extra treat!
Have you seen the tulip fields in the Netherlands, or is it still on your travel bucket list? Let us know in the comments below!
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