Celebrate King’s day in the Netherlands


The most exciting day in the Dutch calendar is – without a doubt – Koningsdag! Otherwise known as King’s Day, the national holiday celebrates the birthday of King Willem-Alexander with street markets, parades, music and a whole lot of the colour orange! Koningsdag takes place on the 27th April, and there’s a lot to learn about the day before it arrives…

The History

In 2014 the Netherlands celebrated its first Koningsdag in over 100 years. Previously, the national holiday was called Koninginnedag, or Queen’s Day. But in January 2014 Queen Beatrix announced her abdication from the throne and was succeeded by her son Willem-Alexander.

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 ever 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 celebrations

The revelries related to King’s Day are varied, and have mostly remained the same from the very first royal celebration.

King’s night

Festivities actually begin on the evening before King’s Day (King’s night). when clubs in Amsterdam organise special all night parties and events. Some people party all the way through until the next day, while others go home to get some sleep. Either way, make sure you’ve got some energy left for the big day.

Free market (vrijmarkt)

A large part of the excitement during  King’s Day centres around the vrijmarkt. This is a nationwide flea market where people take to the streets to sell their unwanted belongings and delicious homemade food. It’s a friendly and community spirited event more than anything truly commercial. The Dutch spend time with their neighbours and friends and raise a little bit of money as they go. Indeed, for many, this day of calm socialising is welcomed after  a heavy King’s Night!

Music events

Certain areas of the Netherlands also host large public events, with traditional dancing and singing enjoyed alongside local street food. The Radio 538 concert has reached legendary status. Formerly it took place on Museumplein in Amsterdam, but it has now been moved outside of the city due to the massive and growing crowd. There is also a big outdoor LGBT party in the Westermarkt area of the city.

Boat parade in the canals

During the afternoon a festive boat parade takes place in the canals. Thousands of decorated boats, full of orange-clad partygoers, pack the narrow canals of Amsterdam. If you’re not on a boat, you can enjoy the fun from one of Amsterdam’s 1,500 bridges.

Tourist info

The majority of Dutch tourist attractions are closed on King’s Day, just a few museums remain open. However, you won’t be short of things to do if you happen to be in the Netherlands at the end of April. And while Amsterdam is particularly well known for its King’s day celebrations – with something going on in all corners of the city – you’re sure to find excitement and fun across the entire country.

About the Author Miriam Melchers

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