Amsterdam’s King’s Day Celebration

If you’ve never experienced Amsterdam’s King’s Day (or “Koningsdag” in Dutch) – then you’re in for quite a surprise.  King’s Day could quite possibly be the biggest birthday party you will ever attend.  This national holiday on April 27th celebrates King Willem-Alexander’s birthday – and all of Amsterdam joins in the festivities with dancing, live music, a citywide street market and a carnival-type atmosphere that takes hold over the entire city.

Can’t wait to get the party started? Not to worry, some celebrations kick off the night before on King’s Night (or “Koningsnacht”).  This is when some of Amsterdam’s best clubs, bars and pubs throw their doors open to orange-clad revellers for King’s Night events and parties – some of whom carry the festivities through the night and into the next day.

The party on the canals of Amsterdam during King's Day

Boats create a traffic jam in the canals as everyone wears orange to celebrate King’s Day in Amsterdam.

Whatever you do, make sure to wear some orange – and if you’re covered from head to toe, even better!  By the way, feel free to don that orange wig at the back of your closet and indulge in some orange face paint.  (Don’t worry, you won’t be alone.)  Everyone in Holland (really, everyone) attires themselves in orange on this special day to show their pride and support for the Dutch Royal Family – also known as the House of Orange-Nassau.

Once in orange, you’ll fit right in – dancing along to live music in the public squares, on one of the many bridge and in the streets, all while watching the colourfully decorated boats in the canals. Kids are also part of the fun with face-painting, games and sports events.

Though King’s Day is new to Holland, these birthday celebrations aren’t. King’s Day started as recently as 2014, but before this it was celebrated on April 30th as Queen’s Day to honour Queen Beatrix, the former monarch.  However, April 30th isn’t Queen Beatrix’s actual birthday – it was her mother’s. After Queen Beatrix took the throne, she kept Queen’s Day as April 30 to celebrate and honour her mother’s birthday (an especially prudent move as Queen Beatrix’s actual birthday is in the wintry month of January).

So, this long-standing national celebration continues.  On King’s Day, Amsterdam’s streets bustle and overflow with activities and events for people of all ages with live music, parties and a citywide street market – one of the world’s largest – where you can haggle, bargain and shop (an homage to Amsterdam’s important trading roots).   This free open-air market kicks off at 6 in the morning and goes until about 8 o’clock in the evening.

Since you’ll need to re-fuel after all that partying, head to one (or a few!) of the city’s hundreds of food vendors dotting the many streets and squares.  Whatever you do, don’t end the day without trying some tompouce, a sweet Dutch pastry filled with delicious cream that you won’t soon forget. (For King’s Day, these treats are specially decorated with bright orange icing.)

One of many squares in Amsterdam with loud music during King's Day

The many squares in Amsterdam are packed with people dancing during King’s Day in Amsterdam.

A few notes for visiting Amsterdam on King’s Day:

  • There is no public transportation into the city centre on King’s Day, so be prepared to walk.
  • Though buses and trams will operate during the day, most lines normally passing through the city centre will be re-routed.
  • Taxis won’t be allowed to enter the city centre.
  • Most likely, you’ll be travelling to and from your hotel (and everywhere else) on foot.
  • The day is a haven for pickpockets – make sure to watch your wallets, purses, electronics and never let go of any baggage you might have.

For more information on activities and events, visit King’s Day in Amsterdam.

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