Celebrating King's Day in Amsterdam

Regarded as the most important and colourful celebration in the country, King's Day is a must-see event that brings together hundreds of thousands of participants every year. Organised on the occasion of the King's Birthday, the Netherlands decorates itself in its most beautiful orange, the national colour. Zoom in on the festivities planned to celebrate King's Day like a local.

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What is King's Day?

King's Day is called Koningsdag in Dutch. It is held every year on the birthday of the King of the Netherlands, 27 April. It was first held in Utrecht on 31 August 1885 in honour of Princess Wilhelmina, as Prinsessedag (Princess Day). At that time the event was a kind of garage sale combined with a carnival with food and game stalls, music and shows. The tradition survived and spread throughout the country. The date of the celebrations now changes according to the reigning monarch: since 2013, with the accession of King Willem-Alexander, King's Day is celebrated on 27 April.

Today, King's Day is synonymous with celebration throughout the Netherlands. Every year, the King joins the crowds in one of the country's cities and walks through the organised activities.

The whole city is decked out in King's Day colors on April 27.

- © photosmatic / Shutterstock

Orange in the spotlight

You can't celebrate King's Day in Amsterdam or anywhere else in the Netherlands without wearing head-to-toe orange! But why has orange become the country's official colour when the Dutch flag doesn't even have orange? To understand this, we need to take a look at the history of the Netherlands.

On King's Day, orange is in the spotlight!

- © Ekaterina Kupeeva / Shutterstock

Originally, the territory consisted of several independent regions that were united into one kingdom in the 16th century by William of Orange-Nassau. He led rebellions for the independence of the country against the King of Spain, Philip II, and his supporters were nicknamed the Orangemen, so naturally they adopted this colour for their banner. Since then, the Dutch have regarded orange as an integral part of their national culture.

King's Day is often synonymous with celebration!

- © Dmitry Kalinovsky / Shutterstock

If orange isn't part of your wardrobe, don't panic: browse the stalls at the Vrijmarkt, the city's free market, and complete your outfit with festive accessories. That way, you can easily blend in with the crowds on the streets of Amsterdam and celebrate King's Day like a local!

It's a holiday in Amsterdam

On 27 April, Amsterdam's canals are filled with orange-decorated boats celebrating this special day with loud sound systems and DJs. If you don't have a boat, you can still join in the tradition by watching from one of the city's 1,500 bridges. Good to know: Herengracht, Singel and Prinsengracht are the best canals to watch the boats.

Boats on the Amstel on King's Day.

- © Steve Photography / Shutterstock

The streets and parks of the city are transformed into a giant flea market: the Vrijmarkt. No permission is needed, the people of Amsterdam set up stalls on the pavement and sell the things they no longer need: clothes, children's toys, books, furniture... you can find it all! Do not hesitate to wander through the different districts of Amsterdam to find the best treasures and do not forget to bargain! The children do not hesitate to challenge passers-by to various fun games and challenges, will you be able to beat them?

Hats on a stand at King's Day.

- © Sander van der Werf / Shutterstock

For King's Day, Amsterdam also takes on a carnival atmosphere. The music is in full swing and the locals parade through the streets dressed in their finest orange. From the Dutch national anthem to the hits of the moment, there is something for everyone.

Taste local specialities

What would King's Day be without Dutch food stalls around every corner? When visiting the Netherlands, it's essential to try some of the local specialities. After all, partying all day gives you an appetite, doesn't it? The famous stroopwafel waffles, or the sweet pastries tompouces, a kind of mille-feuilles filled with cream and decorated with orange icing, are a must.

The tompouce is King's Day's flagship pastry.

- © Picture Partners / Shutterstock

Incidentally, sales of tompouces increase by 600% on King's Day. If you prefer savoury rather than sweet, the Amstellodammers' guilty pleasure is bitterballen, delicious crunchy bites. And don't forget to try a few pieces of gouda cheese dipped in a little grainy mustard: yum!

A national toast will be made in honour of the King at 4pm. Oranjebitter, a bitter alcohol made from orange peel and spices, is usually drunk, but an Aperol Spritz or a simple beer will also do the trick.

Time to party!

A party on a boat for King's Day.

- © lornet / Shutterstock

On 27 April, many of Amsterdam's public squares will host DJ parties. Let yourself be guided by the music spilling out on every street corner, from restaurant to terraces, or mingle with the crowds at the big events dedicated to King's Day. The highly popular Loveland and Kingsland Festivals are must-sees on King's Day! The following day, for those who still have some energy left, a whole host of after-parties liven up Amsterdam and the surrounding area.

A whole host of other festivals take place all over the city on King's Day, and here's a non-exhaustive list:

  • Urban Music Legends Festival in Rhone Park
  • Cartel King's Day at the WesterUnie club
  • King's Day Boca's at Boca's nightclub
  • Nachtbloesem to celebrate the last 8 hours of King's Day
  • Happy Feelings Koningsdag after party to round off King's Day in style

Start the festivities on 26 April

Locals and regulars will know that the festivities start the night before, on King's Night. Stroll the streets in search of bars and nightclubs hosting a party for the occasion, or attend one of the annual events.

© Blue Planet Studio / Shutterstock

Every year, the Westergas club hosts a special King's Night event on 26 April between 5pm and 3am. The event features a variety of stages and styles of music: pop, rock, soul, jazz... there's something for everyone!

Another festival, Fiesta Macumba XL King's Night is a Latin music and dance event. Reggaeton, merengue, cumbia, dancehall, salsa, bachata, Latin hip-hop... you name it!

There's also the King's Night Special at the Chin Chin Club and the King's Night Party at Café de Ceuvel. Whichever night you end up at, you'll never be bored!

Where to stay in Amsterdam?

Mr. Jordaan 3* - Amsterdam Amsterdam

Mr. Jordaan 3* - Amsterdam

This 3-star hotel in the heart of the Jordaan is sure to please thanks to its decor and the friendliness of its staff.
£192 / night

Practical information for King's Day

King's Day times

The big garage sale starts very early on the morning of King's Day, with stalls taking over the streets from 6am and closing at around 8pm. Most other events take place from midday.

King's Day with the family

Apart from the alcoholic evenings, children are welcome at all celebrations.

Plan ahead!

Beware, those wishing to take part in the major celebrations or festivals will need to book their tickets in advance! Similarly, we advise you to book your accommodation several months in advance to make sure you find one at a reasonable price.

A few tips for your visit

  • Traditional shops are authorised to open on this public holiday, but the majority choose to remain closed for the day. Supermarkets and mini-markets will be open.
by Jude JONES
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