Flowers are big business in the Netherlands, and the flower auction at Aalsmeer is the largest of its kind in the world. Known as the "Wall Street of the flower trade," the auction sees 21 million flowers and 2 million potted plants sold every day in approximately 144,000 transactions, in a building that spans 10.6 million square feet. If you're a plant or flower enthusiast, the auction complex -- called Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer in Dutch -- is an easy excursion as it's just a short distance from the center of Amsterdam.
When To Go
The auction complex is run by FloraHolland, a cooperative of over 5,000 growers. It's open to the public on weekday mornings; the complex is closed on weekends and public holidays. It is best to get there as early as possible -- before 9 a.m. -- when the auction house is at its busiest and most exciting. Most visitors spend one or two hours at the complex.
Getting To Aalsmeer Flower Auction
The Aalsmeer flower auction is located in the Amsterdam suburb of Aalsmeer, about 14 miles from from the city center and 3 miles from Schiphol Airport. You can get there easily by bus or car. Bus 172 -- look for the name "Connexxion" on the side of the bus -- goes directly from Amsterdam Centraal Station to the flower auction entrance. Get off at the Hoofdingang stop. Buses start running at 5 a.m. and the trip takes about 45 minutes. From Schiphol Airport, catch bus 198 for a 15-minute trip to the entrance or take a taxi. If you're driving, take the A4 from central Amsterdam and get off at exit 3, then follow the signs to the auction house. The journey takes about 30 minutes without traffic.
What To Expect When You Visit
Visitors can't walk around on the trading floor, but are allowed to peer down on the action from behind giant windows on a raised viewing platform. Small informational panels explain what you are seeing in four different languages. From the viewing area you can see the bustling warehouse area where thousands of crates of flowers are wheeled around in an intricately choreographed dance by workers driving small vehicles. Over one-third of all flowers bought in the world are sold here, some coming from as far away as Uganda, Kenya, Ecuador and Israel. Further down the walkway are the five auction bays which, surprisingly, are silent. Buyers sit wordlessly in rows and make bids on computers, all the while minding the auction clock on the wall, which counts down until the "winning" bid is reached.
Additional Useful Information
You can't buy flowers at the auction complex, but there is a small gift shop on the grounds that offers flower-related souvenirs. Guided tours are available in four languages. Groups must book in advance. Self-guided tours are also on offer. Combination tickets, which offer access to the auction, the historic garden and a boat tour of nearby Westeinderplassen, are also available to purchase at the visitor center from April through October.