The 27th of April every year is a special day in the Netherlands: it's our King's birthday and therefore a reason for everyone to take a day off work and party hard.
If you're in Europe around this date, try as hard as you can to get to Amsterdam for King's Day or, as the Dutch call it Koningsdag. King Willem-Alexander's birthday celebration is the biggest street party of the year and there's no better place to celebrate than the Dutch capital. According to the official tourism website for Amsterdam, between 600,000 and one million people flock to Amsterdam for the King's Day celebrations and it's estimated that Amsterdam's population on King's Day is twice that of any other day. If that in itself doesn't make you excited to spend April 27th in Amsterdam, here are a few other reasons you should start organising your trip:
36 hours of non-stop celebrating
Don't think for a moment that the Dutch only celebrate on the King's birthday. Oh no - the partying actually starts the night before on King's Night (or Koningsnacht). Across the city there are outdoor street parties which you can join in for free or bars and clubs which have special events lasting early into the morning. Visit the official tourism website for Amsterdam for more information on where to dance the nights away.
Everything is orange
On the day of Koningsdag, the whole of the Netherlands turns orange. Don't believe me? I guess you'll just have to come visit to experience it for yourself. Despite not being in the Dutch flag (which is red, white and blue), orange is the colour of the Dutch royal family and has therefore become an integral part of the Dutch identity. In the days leading up to King's Day, orange food and drinks will be sold at grocery stores across the country in addition to orange costumes, face paint and decorations. If you visit the Netherlands on King's Day, don't feel like an outsider - make sure you have an orange shirt, feather boa or lei.
You can tick "party on a canal boat" off your bucket list
Uniquely Dutch, the canal parties on King's Day are pretty incredible to behold and definitely something you don't want to miss. Thousands of decorated boats fill the picturesque Amsterdam canals, with people dancing on the boats themselves as well as on the bridges and roads bordering the canals. Expect live music and DJs, flowing alcohol and a lot of happy Dutch people dressed in orange.
Amazing bargains at the vrijmarkts
Across the Netherlands, children and their families wake up early on King's Day to set up stalls at the vrijmarkts ("free markets") in their local town centres. Amsterdam is no different. Starting at 6:00 in the morning, you'll find people selling a huge assortment of things on the streets, from second hand books to used bicycles. The large Vondelpark, situated just outside the central rings of Amsterdam is reserved for stalls organised by the young inhabitants of Amsterdam looking to sell their old toys or sweet treats they baked. Have fun hunting for bargains and deals - make sure you bring small change with you (fifty cents and euro coins) to pay for anything you find or to give to young musicians hoping to raise some money.
Thrills at the funfair
In the days leading up to King's Day, towns and cities across the Netherlands set up small funfairs (known in Dutch as a kermis) with a classic assortment of thrilling rides, fun houses and carnival games. Whilst the kermis set up on the Dam Square in the centre of Amsterdam is considerably smaller than the one in The Hague, it offers one of the most incredible views of Amsterdam from the top of some of their rides. For a couple of euros you can swing 60 meters above the city or admire the rooftops of Amsterdam from the top of the ferris wheel.
There's a huge range of street food
One of the perks of having a funfair come to town and vrijmarkts set up all over the city is the sheer amount of delicious street food available to fill your stomach while you explore the chaos of Amsterdam. Whether it be cakes sold by adorable Dutch children or the more exotic foods available at the funfair, there will be something you will want to eat.
A couple of tips for King's Day:
- bring small change to pay for snacks, things you want to buy at the markets or to use the bathroom
- wear good walking shoes as you will be on your feet most of the day walking through the markets or dancing on the bridges
- book your accommodation far in advance and consider staying outside the centre of Amsterdam
- if you don't like big crowds, stay away from Amsterdam on King's Day. Consider visiting a smaller town such as Leiden to experience Orange Fever
- as in most situations with large crowds, limit the valuables you bring with you, and if you do have to bring valuables, keep them close to your body at all times
- have fun and don't be afraid to go a little crazy!
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