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A guide to celebrating the first King's Day in the Netherlands

A guide to celebrating the first King's Day in the Netherlands

Dust off those orange pants and get excited - it’s time for King’s Day (Koningsdag)!

Although the accession of Willem-Alexander has forced a name change on our beloved Queen’s Day, the enthusiasm and zealous celebrations will remain very much the same.

A holiday fit for a (Dutch) King

Last year’s Queen’s Day was much more subdued, and rightly so, as the nation’s attention was fixed on the Inauguration Ceremony where, after reigning for 33 years, Queen Beatrix abdicated the throne in favour of her son Prince Willem-Alexander.

It was a historic moment for both the Dutch Royal Family and the Netherlands, as it had been 123 years since the last ruling king (Willem III).

As a result of the change in head of state, the name of the annual birthday celebration has been changed to King’s Day.

Along with the name change, the date has also been moved from April 30 (the birthday of Queen Juliana and Queen Beatrix’s chosen day to officially observe her own birthday) to King Willem-Alexander’s birthday, April 27.

However, this year is an exception due to April 27 falling on a Sunday.

In order to avoid conflict with a traditionally religious day of rest, the party has been pushed back to April 26: our first King’s Day!

King’s Day traditions

Continuing the Queen’s Day legacy, King’s Day will be a nationwide celebration with the largest parties in AmsterdamUtrecht and Eindhoven.

If you’re looking to celebrate in a more low-key atmosphere, Rotterdam and The Hague also have many events but with fewer crowds.

Vrijmarkts: Flea markets for everyone

King’s Day is a time to let your inner entrepreneur flourish and get rid of all that junk those treasures that have accumulated in your attic.

On the morning of King’s Day, cities and towns transform into open air markets known as vrijmarkts where anyone is allowed to participate.

The largest of these flea markets are in Amsterdam and Utrecht. 

These cities also pay special attention to the next generation of business men and women with special locations set up for children: the most popular being the Vondelpark in Amsterdam and Park Lepelenburg in Utrecht. 

If you’re looking to set up shop, be aware that prime real estate in larger cities is sometimes claimed or demarcated days in advance by would-be tycoons looking for the best spots, while other areas have special rules or regulations established by the city.

An entire nation in orange

Whoever doubted that orange could be stylish had clearly never seen a Queen’s Day…or maybe they did.

In either case, pay homage to the House of Orange-Nassau and don your best ginger-tinged outfit for the King.

Dress up to stand out! There will be a variety of styles that day, but many people will be wearing clothes closer to a costume than a fashion statement: big hats, ridiculous pants, suspenders, oversized suits, etc. 

No orange is no fun, so get into the spirit and be sure to add a touch of the royal colour to your outfit!

Practical tips for King's Day

Avoid common mistakes and make the most of your King's Day by following these practical tips.

 Selling at the Vrijmarkt. To sell any form of meat, fish, dairy product, refreshments in glass bottles and/or alcohol, the proper permits are required.

 Drinking alcohol. Open containers are not allowed on the train. City regulations will vary; those for Amsterdam are here.

› Museums and shops. King’s Day is a public holiday, meaning many museums, attractions and shops will be closed or operate on altered schedules.

 Transport. In major cities, public transport will be crowded. Keep in mind that cycling can also be difficult with the mess of people, trash and broken glass in the streets.

 Mobile phones. Especially in Amsterdam, the signal towers have been known to get overloaded with the surge in usage. This can result in text messages and calls being delayed or unavailable.

kings day 2014

 DOKA | 15 
 /K Met Peren Studio K | 14 
 [in]cognito | Secret Location | 27,50 
 Dave Clarke Presents | Melkweg | 20
 NGHTDVSN Warehouse Roest | 25
 Decoy Kingsnight | Bitterzoet | 15
 FORMAT Warehouse Elementenstraat | 29
 Rood Wit Baut | Baut | 17,50
 Straf_Werk Kingsnight | Overkant | 24,50

Rotterdam

 Decadent | Maassilo | 17,50
 Koningsnacht | Cruise Terminal | 19,50
 Yardbird | Bird | 12
 Nacht van Oranje | Ahoy | 34 - 43,50

Utrecht

 Beat-rix at Night | Janskerkhof | Free
 Kill All Hipsters | Tivoli | 10
 Super Sunday | Centraal Studios | 27,50

The Hague

 Life I Live | The Hague Centre | Free
 King’s Fair | Lange Voorhout | Free

Eindhoven

 Koningsnacht | De Effenaar | 14,50

King’s Day Parties | April 26

One of the most delightful things about King’s Day is that cities and towns effortlessly transform into one big party.

From canals to village squares, simply by walking around you’re bound to find neighbourhood celebrations, live music, food stands and the Dutch in better spirits than you ever thought possible.

Along with the spontaneous citywide parties, there are of course larger, professionally organised events throughout the country. These are the ones that will give you the most bang for your euro.

Amsterdam

Kingsland Festival | Amsterdam RAI | 32,50
Kingsday Festival | Olympisch Stadion | 29,50
Festival The Union | Westergasterrain | 25
Loveland van Oranje | Oosterpark | 17,50
Bachanaal Royaal | Roest | Free
Vrijhaven | NDSM Werf | 20,50
Kingsday Madness | Riekerhaven | 13,95
 The Lion Never Sleeps | The Sand | 25

Rotterdam

 Koningsdag Festival | Willemsplein | 10
 Oranjebitter | Parklaan | 25
 Electric Deluxe 6 Yr. Birthday | Maassilo | 29

The Hague

 Superstijl | Paard van Troje | 11
 Kingsday in the Park | Zuiderpark Paviljoen | 10

Eindhoven

La Fête D'Orange | Oude Rechtbank | 20
Majestic Dance Event | Stadhuisplein | Free

Leiden

Citymoves | Parkeerterrein Molen | Free

Gefeliciteerd met uw verjaardag!

Here’s to wishing His Majesty Willem-Alexander a very happy 47th birthday. Thanks for inviting the nation to your party!

Benjamin

Author

Benjamin Garstka

Raised in Massachusetts. University years in New York City. Graduate school in Utrecht. Amsterdammer by choice. Cultuurliefhebber. Urbanist. Affinity for sarcasm, craft beers, art criticism, stand-up comedy and the Dutch...

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Daniela BP 16:57 | 16 March 2018

Do you have any recommendations for me? I'm looking to stay the whole weekend with my friends, we want to party but have never really been to Amsterdam so we want a king of package with accommodation, food, and pubcrawls/parties... we found the Stoke Travel campsite, but we're not sure how good it is?

Casey Lewis 17:03 | 16 March 2018

Hey Daniela, i think im goign with stoke! i did oktoberfest with them last year and had too much fun! theres food, beer and the staff are insane. might see you there