a VirtualTourist member
We have only two days in Holland in April and want to see Haarlem and Keukenhof Gardens. We are wondering if we should stay in Leiden or Haarlem? (Are there no hotels in Lisse?) It sounds like Leiden is more convenient to the gardens, but we also want to see Haarlem.
I recommend staying at Leiden. From the station there's a direct bus to the Gardens (Keukenhof Express).
Haarlem is just a short train ride away (or a bus ride if you prefere to see the tulips fileds in slower pace).
Lisse has some accommodations, but you have to see how easy you get to the Keukenhof (walking, cycling, bus or cab [depends where you will stay]).
Enjoy your trip,
You will be able to travel around very quickly on the train, so you could do Haarlem as a day trip from Leiden, no problem. If the main point of your trip is to see the gardens then stay in Leiden as there is a direct transport link to save you time.
I remember flying into Schiphol and it was like only another 20 minutes or so by train to Leiden, which is a nice town with lots of interesting museums, a fortress, some nice churches, a windmill, canals and good shopping so take some time to see the place itself.
Haarlem is more quaint, with cobbled back streets that look like the setting for a Vermeer painting. The local art gallery is supposed to be very good, but it was shut the day we visited. The biggest church in town is also one of the most impressive we saw in the country, very beautiful! A good choice for a day trip!
I visited Keukenhof, Leiden and Haarlem by train and bus a few years back - this time I will be returning by rental car as I usually would - the public transport is fairly efficient but still nothing like having your own vehicle so you can see better, change routes (for say getting closer to tulip fields or windmill scenes rather than trying to see them from the blurry window of a train full of people) and just not having to rely on public transport timetables and so on!!which therefore maximises time available to use.
half a day at Keukenhof is enough and half a day in Haarlem might be enough for you (I had to make do with an hour or so and everything was closed which is why Id like to go back).
Ive driven around the Netherlands numerous times and its as easy as anywhere.
All the best.