April 11, 2023
If you happen to be in Amsterdam on 27 April, don’t be surprised if you end up in a huge street party. Every 27 April the Netherlands celebrates King’s Day, unless it’s a Sunday then it’s celebrated on 26 April. On King’s Day, or Koningsdag, the Netherlands celebrates the birthday of their king, Willem-Alexander. As it is a national holiday most people have the day off from work or school to enjoy the day.
How to best celebrate King’s Day in Amsterdam
On King’s Day in Amsterdam, locals and tourists from all over the world gather not only on the big squares like Dam Square and Rembrandtplein; even the narrow, emblematic canal streets are full of people dancing and celebrating. King’s Day in Amsterdam is like no other day in the capital. An average of 700.000 visitors join the over 820.000 locals in this yearly street party.
There are many things you can do on King’s Day in Amsterdam. Stroll through the busy streets of the city, dance with strangers or enjoy a bite to eat with your friends at one of the many stands outside. Take a look around the many street or flea markets where locals sell second hand items. One man’s trash is another’s treasure definitely applies to the King’s Day street markets.
On any other day of the year, the Amsterdam canals see plenty of canal cruise boats but not on King’s Day, at least not in the afternoon. On King’s Day, the locals reclaim Amsterdam’s canals as thousands of brightly decorated party boats fill the famous waterways.
If you don’t have a boat (or a friend with a boat), then you can still enjoy the nautical fun from dry land. The corner of the Prinsengracht and Amstelveld is a great spot to watch the parade of King’s Day boats go by, or try one of Amsterdam’s 1,500 bridges.
History of King’s Day
If your travel guide refers to Queen’s Day, or Koninginnedag on 30 April, instead of King’s Day on 27 April, it is time to buy a new travel guide. On 30 April 2013, Queen Beatrix abdicated the throne to her son Willem-Alexander, which made him the first King of the Netherlands in 123 years. As the Dutch celebrate the birthday of their sovereign on King’s Day (or Queen’s Day), the date of the celebration changed when a new monarch came to the throne.
The first time the Dutch celebrated the holiday was on 31 August 1885, when it was called Princess’s Day, the fifth birthday of Princess Wilhelmina who was then heir presumptive to the Dutch throne. It became known as Queen’s Day, when she became queen at the age of 10 in 1890. 58 years later, when Wilhelmina’s daughter, Juliana, became queen, the date moved to 30 April.
When Juliana’s daughter, Beatrix, ascended to the throne in 1980 she decided to keep the celebration on 30 April as her own birthday is on 31 January. She did change the way the royal family celebrates the day. Instead of the tradition of receiving a floral parade at Soestdijk Palace, she choose to visit a different Dutch town each year and join in the festivities with her children.
Are you ready? Get started early!
The King’s birthday is celebrated all around the Netherlands and even abroad, but it just can’t be compared to the party you will experience on King’s Day in Amsterdam. In fact, the party always starts early, with King’s Night. In the night before the national celebration, Amsterdam’s best clubs, bars and pubs welcome hordes of excited revellers to special King’s Night parties and events.
The orange crowds can become a bit too much throughout the day. If you need a break, several attractions and museums are open on King’s Day, such as the Rijksmuseum and BODY WORLDS, Ripley's Believe It or Not! and the Amsterdam Icebar. Though they may have other opening hours than on other days.
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