King’s Day in Amsterdam

April 20, 2017

Live music, street markets, big parties, and copious amounts of orange – King’s Day (Koningsdag) is one of the Netherlands’ most exciting national holidays. As the name suggests, it’s a celebration in honour of the monarch, currently King Willem-Alexander, held on 27th April (or 26th if it falls on a Sunday) to mark the day of his birth.


A Brief History of King’s Day

Originally the day was Prinsessedag or Princess’s Day, first celebrated back in 1885 in honour of Princess Wilhelmina, heir to the throne. When she became queen, the day became Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day), which continued with her daughter, Queen Juliana, and her granddaughter Queen Beatrix.

When Willem-Alexander inherited the throne in 2014, after the abdication of his mother, Queen Beatrix, the day became King’s Day, and was moved to 27th April.


Orange Honours

Every year the royal family visits a different town or municipality for the celebrations, stopping in Zwolle in 2016, and heading for Tilburg this year. It’s also when the monarch issues the honours list, awarding people who have made significant contributions to the nation.

As the monarchy is the Royal House of Orange-Nassau, orange, the national colour of the Netherlands, plays a big part in the festivities. People dress up in orange to varying degrees, many people also dye their hair, and you’ll often find orange food and drink served up at the festivities. All this is appropriately known as oranjegekte – orange madness.


Amsterdam Festivities    

The Dutch capital celebrates King’s Day in a big way, starting the evening before on King’s Night. The day itself is a national holiday, so everyone can join in the fun, taking to the streets to enjoy the carnival atmosphere. The city’s canals also bustle with colourful decorated boats full of orange-clad revellers, while people watch from the many bridges.

The city’s squares become outdoor concert spaces, with DJs and live bands entertaining the revellers. The biggest concert in the city takes place on Museumplein, where a whopping 800,000 people gather to enjoy popular bands and artists.

Another King’s Day tradition is the street sale, known as the vrijmarkt. This ‘free market’ gives everyone the chance to sell their unwanted possessions on the streets of the city, as well as attracting a huge variety of food stalls to keep the thousands of bargain hunters happy.

Just remember if you’re visiting Amsterdam on King’s Day, the city is entirely given over to partying, so there’s not much open in terms of museums and attractions. Stay for an extra couple of days after the event if you want to see the city when it’s in a more relaxed mood.


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