Top tips for celebrating King’s Day in the Netherlands
It’s that time of the year again: there might not be any major sporting events, but that isn’t stopping people up and down the country from digging out and donning all their best orange attire. But why are the Dutch doing this? Well, for King’s Day of course!
How to celebrate koningsdag in 2023
Whether you’re a new arrival to the Netherlands who’s looking for tips on how to survive the day, or someone who’s been here a while and is ready to fully embrace this aspect of Dutch culture, here are some ideas for celebrating King’s Day the Dutch way this year.
1. Kit yourself out in head-to-toe orange
This one probably goes without saying, but the number one key to making the most out of any and every koningsdag is wearing orange. Orange shirts, orange accessories, orange face paint - everything goes on April 27!
2. Decorate your house with a Dutch flag
Regardless of what you’re planning on April 27, one way to visibly get into the spirit is to hang a Dutch flag outside your house. Many homes in the Netherlands will have a place in the brickwork to place a flagpole, but if you don’t have all the fancy equipment then of course you can get a little creative: why not hang the flag over your balcony railing, or in one of your windows?
Wut_Moppie via Shutterstock.com.
3. Make some cash (or spend some coins) at the vrijmarkt
One of the perhaps more unusual aspects of Dutch King’s Day traditions involves families and households setting up stalls to sell food, drinks, or second-hand items on April 27 - a tradition that’s known as the vrijmarkt (“free market”). This custom can make it rather difficult to get around on King’s Day, as not only are you left having to navigate the (drunken) crowds, but you also have to find your way through all the impromptu stalls!
If you’ve been planning to declutter your home, this could be the perfect opportunity to clear out while also making a little extra cash (note that by little we really do mean little - don’t expect to be able to charge high prices for anything on sale). Alternatively, sell food and drinks to passersby looking for a King’s Day pick-me-up, or if you live centrally in one of the cities, you could even charge people for using your toilet!
If you’re not too fussed about pitching a stall and having to sit there from the early hours of the morning, then another great way to spend the day is walking through the streets and seeing what gems you might be able to pick up - King’s Day is after all the biggest flea market in the Netherlands!
Stalls will open at different times depending on where you live (in Amsterdam, for example, the vrijmarkt starts at 6am!) and each city will have different hotspots that you definitely won't want to miss.
ingehogenbijl via Shutterstock.com.
4. Attend an event or festival
If you’re after a plan that’s less profitable and more party, then why not get tickets to one of the many festivals and events that take place across the Netherlands on April 27. Some famous ones include Loveland van Oranje in Amsterdam, Kingsworld in The Hague, Free Your Mind in Breda, and Kingsland in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Groningen.
If you don’t want to have to buy tickets for an event, don't worry - there are plenty of other parties going on across the Netherlands that aren't ticketed! Many bars and restaurants will hire DJs and set up bars on the street so passersby can grab a drink and have a little dance as they're roaming and taking in the general atmosphere of King's Day.
5. Hop on a boat and cruise the canals
This is a great tip, especially for those in the Dutch capital. Whether you get together with friends to rent a boat or are lucky enough to know someone who owns one, hopping on a boat and celebrating King’s Day on the canals is always a great time - especially if the weather is nice!
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6. Go wild on King's Night
If one day of celebration simply isn’t enough, then you’re in luck! True party animals can also go hard on King’s Night (koningsnacht) on April 26. Doing something the night before King’s Day is also a great way to ensure you’re making the most of your public holiday as you’ll likely have to drag yourself back to work on April 28, so April 26 might even be a better night for partying.
7. Eat tompouce
Not so interested in partying until the dawn? Don’t worry, we’ve got tips for you too! One of the traditional foods that reappear in shops across the country in honour of King’s Day are tompoucen: a pastry that is essentially the Dutch equivalent of a mille-feuille. While these days you can get festive varieties of these snacks all year round, the King’s Day ones are truly iconic as they are - of course - orange. They’re very sweet, very messy, and very tasty - so long as you don’t think about all the calories!
The most famous (and most popular) tompoucen are from Hema, but most supermarkets and bakeries will be selling their own versions in honour of the day. Do note, however, that these sweets are so popular that you might have to put in an order in advance to make sure you can get your hands on some!
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8. Watch the King on TV
And last but certainly not least, another low-key (but appropriate) way to celebrate the day is to watch the coverage of the official King’s Day celebrations with the Dutch royal family on TV. Every year, a city or town is selected to host koningsdag, and King Willem-Alexander will visit and celebrate his birthday with locals as well as his family. The interviews, events and games held in honour of the King are normally televised, so you can get into the King’s Day spirit without even having to leave your sofa!
Marcel Alsemgeest via Shutterstock.com.
Have a very happy King's Day!
Regardless of how to decide to celebrate the day - of whether you just decide to take it easy and enjoy the rare day off - here's hoping you have a great one. Happy King's Day everyone!
Thumb: Photos by D via Shutterstock.com.