The most exciting day in the Dutch calendar is soon to be upon us – Koningsdag! Otherwise known as King’s Day, the national holiday celebrates the birthday of King Willem-Alexander with a day full of community driven festivities such as city and town wide street markets, parades, music and a whole lot of the colour orange! This year, Koningsdag is taking place on Saturday 26th April, and there’s a lot to learn about the day before it arrives…
For the first time since before 1890, the Kingdom of the Netherlands is set to celebrate Koningsdag, or King’s Day – until last year, the national holiday was called Koninginnedag, otherwise known as Queen’s Day. In January last year, the previous monarch Queen Beatrix announced her abdication to the throne, and was succeeded by her son Willem-Alexander. In 2013, the last Queen’s Day was celebrated with Willem-Alexander’s inauguration, making 2014 the first King’s Day in over 100 years.
The national holiday was originally instigated by Queen Wilhelmina in August, 1885 to celebrate her birthday. The date changed to the end of April with the birth and inauguration of her successor, Queen Juliana, and the date has remained at this time of year since – even if the monarch’s birthday didn’t happen to fall in spring. Over the years, the date of the celebratory day may have changed, but the festival spirit that spreads across the Netherlands has most definitely remained the same!
The revelries of King’s Day are varied, and have mostly remained the same from the very first royal celebration. A large part of the excitement of the day comes due to the vrijmarkt, or free market, where people take to the streets to sell their unwanted belongings and items of delicious homemade food. The market takes on more of a family-friendly community spirit building role than anything truly commercial, and it’s a day where the Dutch spend time with their neighbours and friends rather than a dedicated and competitive trading day. For many, this day of calm socialising is welcomed after the night before – King’s Night is one of intense partying across the Netherlands!
Certain areas of the Netherlands also host large public events, with traditional dancing and singing enjoyed alongside local street food. The rock concert on Museumplein in Amsterdam has reached legendary status, and the gay scene celebrates too, with a big party taking place outdoors in the Westermarkt area of the city, all of which begins early on in the day.
The majority of Dutch tourist attractions do shut on King’s Day, but going by previous years, you won’t be short of things to do if you happen to be in the Netherlands at the end of April! Amsterdam is particularly well known for its involvement with King’s day – the canals are often gridlocked with boats full of orange-clad partygoers and all corners of the city have something going on, but you’re sure to find excitement and fun across the entire kingdom.
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