If you thought the Dutch were finished with their crazy flower shenanigans after Keukenhof Gardens, you were sadly mistaken. There are no limits to the extreme flower obsession in The Netherlands.
So naturally, the Aalsmeer Flower Auction is located here. It’s the largest flower market in the world, selling over 30 million flowers daily.
(Please take a minute to think about what an absurd amount of flowers that is. 30 million. Every single day.)
Now y’all already know that I have relatively neutral feelings about flowers, but I’m extremely impressed with large quantities of things, and in those terms, this place is UNREAL.
Plus, for some reason, they allow people to wander around the facility and watch the real-time buying, selling, and shipping of millions of flowers and plants all over the world. And if someone is going to let me wander around a really cool place, totally slack-jawed, while important business things are happening… well, I’m going to take them up on it.
And I’m also going to take videos.
The Aalsmeer Flower Auction is the largest building in the world by footprint (beating out the Tesla Factory, the Boeing Factory, and the John Deere warehouse). So the employees ride around on little segway-esque scooters, moving flowers from one place to the next.
It’s crazy to watch them all scurrying around, in seemingly random directions, but at the same time, you know this operation has got to be ridiculously efficient. (Remember the part about 30 million flowers every day??) They all know exactly what they’re doing, where the flowers need to go, and what their next task is.
We stood and watched them for a while. And I waved at some of the scooter people, but they had Serious Flower Business to attend to.
All of the flowers and plants are subjected to no fewer than 30 inspections/quality checks prior to sale.
And they are often neatly stacked in “buffer areas” during the auctions before they are promptly whisked off to shipping, so the purchaser can get them ASAP.
Because this place is absolutely nuts, there are over 20,000 different varieties of plants and flowers.
We saw some interesting ones, including deep blue roses.
And flowers that were decorated and packaged to look like a box of chocolates.
(For the record, I would be extremely disappointed if I thought I was getting a box of chocolates and then it turned out to be roses. Like, I might actually punch someone.)
There were also plenty of standard, long-stem, red roses.
No really, there were like a million.
But eventually we stopped watching scooter guys and flower carts, and actually went to see the auction process.
Aalsmeer uses the Dutch auction process, which means that the bidding starts at the highest possible price. The auction clock up on the screen starts ticking down from 100, lowering the price as it goes. The first person to “raise their paddle” (aka, push a button on their computer) stops the ticking clock, and wins that auction.
With this process, a quick bid might mean overpaying, but any buyer that waits too long for the price to drop might not get the flowers they want.
Some buyers purchase from auction rooms at the warehouse (pictured here), but these days, internet bids are also accepted, so buyers don’t actually have to be physically present.
Each individual auction is over in a matter of seconds, and it is a completely mesmerizing process.
There are over 100,000 transactions per day, which equates to approximately €9.6 million in sales.
And (are y’all sitting down for this??), every single day, the flowers go from being cut in the fields, to the Aalsmeer warehouse, to delivered anywhere in Europe – all within 24 hours. The flowers spend no more than 14 hours total in the warehouse.
The empty carts totally blew my mind, because all those flowers that I literally just saw, were now being shipped all over the world.
As we were leaving, we noticed a photo station. You can choose a background, stand in front of a green screen, and snap a photo souvenir of your time at the Aalsmeer Flower Auction.
I know, I know.
These things are at tons of attractions these days. And they are really stupid. Honestly… why would you want an obviously fake picture, when you were at the attraction and have plenty of photos of the real thing??? But we were the only people there, and I like to make Michael do stupid things. So we stopped anyway, and chose a stupid flower background.
Clearly we weren’t ready for how amazing this was going to be.
Instead of awkwardly standing in front of a fake background, the wonder of technology placed us inside of the scene. My eyes lit up with the possibilities of all the silly things we could do with this.
For starters, we retook the original picture.
Clearly I needed to be tending to the flowers that were RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. And this time, Michael was appropriately delighted to be in the middle of a kajillion flowers.
It was a little tricky, because we never knew exactly what the photo was going to look like until about 3 seconds before the camera snapped. But we gave it our best effort anyway.
It was absolutely ridiculous and I loved it.
And at the very least, these are probably the most enthusiastic green screen souvenir photos ever taken.
We even took a cute picture, because HELLO, WE ARE IN THE TULIP FIELD. And also, STOP IT, BECAUSE THIS IS JUST TOO MUCH.
With the help of yet another green screen, I even got to star in a FloraHolland promotional video, riding through the flower warehouse like a pro. (I appear in all my scooter driving glory at the 0:58 mark, but the whole thing is totally worth watching.)
Once again, I had no idea the joy that was in store for me.
Even without the green screen fun, this place was awesome. It was totally unexpected, but the Aalsmeer Flower Auction was an AMAZING place to visit. Definitely a must-do in Holland!
And I never thought I would say this, because flowers are so not my thing… But this flower auction is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.
It was also a great reminder that even when doing Serious Flower Business, sometimes you gotta stop and smell the roses!
BenSeptember 8, 2016
Who knew?! So cool!
Also, I dread the day you get a box of flowers that looks like chocolates and the poor delivery guy gets a thwack to the face. And by dread, I mean, I hope I get to witness that.
BriSeptember 12, 2016
Hopefully that will NEVER happen. I would be so disappointed! (And also I would feel bad for the delivery person who would be the outlet for my rage.)
FlowerhubJune 22, 2019
Who in the earth would give a thwack to the face of a delivery guy after receiving awesome flowers?
NicoleMarch 12, 2017
I kind of love the photo booth thing. It’s so silly and fun!
BriMarch 12, 2017
I KNOW! Super fun. I wish that all green screen photo ops at tourist attractions were like that!