Every year on the 27th of April, orange-clad citizens of Amsterdam gather to celebrate King’s Day (Koningsday in Dutch). Kingsday in Amsterdam is a day of festivities and outdoor fun with activities for the whole family to get involved in. During this event, there’s no public transport, nor taxis in the city centre as the streets are filled with crowds of people, food stands, flea markets, musical festivities. The canals are turned into a floating crowd of drinking and partying people. On the outskirts of the centre, and in the parks there’s room for kids to learn trading or show their musical skills on the flea markets.
The History of Kingsday Amsterdam
The event has gone through a few different incarnations over the years, depending on the current makeup of the Dutch Royal family. When it was first celebrated in 1885, was initially observed on 31 August 1885 as Prinsessedag or Princess’s Day, the fifth birthday of Princess Wilhelmina, heir to the Dutch throne. On her accession in November 1890 the holiday acquired the name Koninginnedag, first celebrated on 31 August 1891. In September 1948, Wilhelmina’s daughter Juliana ascended the Dutch throne and the holiday was moved to Queen Juliana’s birthday, 30 April. It has since become a tradition to celebrate the holiday was celebrated on this date from 1949.
“Koningsdag” came into being after Queen Beatrix abdicated the throne in favour of her eldest son, Willem-Alexander. It will be the first time the holiday will be observed in honour of a king. It is a national holiday that is always filled with a lot of fun and colour. Please note that activities can differ by region. A lot of nightclubs and restaurants organise activities with a certain amount of tickets up for sale. The fun thing about King’s Day is that the partying starts on the eve of the national holiday, which is called “Koningsavond” or in English, “Kingsnight”. Friends gather to drink and enjoy each other’s company and pubs all over Amsterdam and other parts of the Netherlands are filled with people drinking and cheering to the King’s health.
Amsterdam residents celebrated Queen’s Day under the long reign of Queen Beatrix from 1949 to 2013. The holiday only became King’s Day in honour of the newly crowned King Willem-Alexander in 2014. Please do not get fooled by outdated travel guides; Queen’s Day used to be the 30th of April but is celebrated since 2014 on the 27th of April as King’s Day. The name may have changed, but the joyful spirit of the festival has always been kept the same.
The Kings Day Flea Market
One of the most notable features of the day is the massive Vrijmarket or “Free market”, a street sale which takes place in every town and city in the Netherlands. This is a completely open flea market in which every citizen of the country is encouraged to have their own private sale of second-hand goods. King’s Day is the one day of the year that the Dutch government allows sales of goods on the streets without a permit and without paying value-added tax.
The selling starts early in the morning, as early as 7 am, and normally continues until about 4 pm. Because so many different people are participating, there is a huge range of different things available to buy (and not just second-hand goods either). A lot of the sellers are kids who are making their first profit selling their old toys.
Prices are generally very low to match the spirit of the day. Goods can be offered for as little as 20 cents. One of the most fun traditions of the flea market is the reversed negotiation where a seller will try to give something away for free, and the buyer keeps raising the price. This most commonly happens when children are sellers.
Good market spots to visit are Vondelpark and the market at the Jordaan area and also the street outside the Hilton hotel.
King’s Day 2018 dance events & music festivals
One of the best things about King’s Day is loads of music concerts and festivals being organised in the city of Amsterdam. Nightclubs in the Netherlands organise special events especially during Koningsnacht (King’s Night). Many young people celebrate in the streets and attend parties on King’s Night as well as on King’s Day. They attend both in- and outdoor parties organised by popular event planners and nightclubs. Most of these events are advertised on Facebook’s “events” section and tickets are usually available on their websites.
In order to keep the big crowds drawn by large-scale festivals manageable, the city council has moved them out of the city centre. Besides that, visitors are now required to buy tickets upfront. There’ll be no door sale, so if you want to attend a festival make sure to buy a ticket as soon as possible. This year you’ll find the following big festivals;
- VBX Kingsday: dance to underground techno, minimal and house by DeWalta, Spokenn (Ferro & Reiss) and Frank Haag/
- Loveland van Oranje: in the Meerpark in the east of Amsterdam an orange-coloured crowd will gather to dance to the house & techno beats of Benny Rodrigues, Secret Cinema, Samuel Deep and many more national and international artists.
- Mea Culpa Records Kingsday Blockparty: strictly house beats by ROOG, MIKE SCOT & ROJECT89! Right in the city centre, right across Amsterdam Central Station. No tickets required.
- Unwise – Kingsday: dance to R&B, (Future) Beats and a touch of Hip-hop. Starts in the evening at 20:00 till 04:00 in the morning. This party will be held in nightclub Bitterzoet. Check out the facebook event for more info.
- OranjeBloesem: 4 stages with different artists. Expect house, techno and experimental electronic music.
- Backspace Kingsday After: when King’s Day ends, the afterparty goes on in nightclub SugarFactory, house and techno from 22:00 till 06:00 in the morning.
- Alive and Kingsday afterparty: get your groove on with live band Howitiz and DJ Mikulas. You hear blues, rock ‘n roll and lots more. Especially suited for an older audience and everybody who doesn’t like house music!
- Urban Music Festival Kingsday: urban beats from 12:00 till 20:00 in the evening. Dance to the best, the Dutch Urban and R&B has to offer.
Things for Families to Do
Aside from the kid’s market at Vondelpark, there are lots of other things for kids and parents to do together. Activities with music, dance, games, art and food abound all around the city throughout the day.
NDSM Vrijhaven takes place at the old wharf. Through the afternoon, there is a large line up of DJs up and down the wharf. There is live music, art, theatre, karaoke, food, side attractions and a party ferry. This event is open to everyone of all ages.
The Bredeweg Festival in the Oost district of Amsterdam is a kid-friendly street party with a fair, market, live music, theatrical performances, face painting, workshops and story tellers.
Do we have your attention? Take a look at all the things to do in Amsterdam during the year!
The Day and Night Parties
The eve before the big day is called King’s Night and is a time for nocturnal partying and celebration. Clubs across the city hold their own special King’s Night events with DJs and live music. There is music of all kinds from techno to jazz to R&B. Some of the parties are free entry and for some, you will need to buy tickets in advance.
Of course, the day is the main event, and that is when the biggest parties happen. At WesterUnie there’s Cartel Kingsday, a huge house and techno festival. Kingsland Festival features some of the world’s most famous DJs playing hip-hop, house, hardstyle, and electronica. Many boat parties are available including the famous (and a little pricey) King’s Day boat party. This runs for 3 hours at a time throughout the day offering alcohol and finger food.
One of the main things about the King’s Day celebrations is the boat rides on the canals of Amsterdam. There is nothing like the beautiful sea of orange on the Amsterdam canals stretching from one part of the city to the other! The atmosphere is always relaxed and festive with music, dancing, drinking and goofing around. Since King’s Day is always in the summer, a lot of people can be seen scantily clad and dancing on the boats they’re sailing in. It’s basically one big party on the canals.
Every year, the Dutch government has tightened the regulations on the canals, so make sure to check the rules if you intend to take a boat out. Amplified music is now banned on the canals, as are very large boats, and drinking is also restricted.
A Great Day for Everyone
Make sure to book your flights and hotel early to avoid disappointment. Public transport is rerouted for the whole day and will not pass through the city center. Taxis are banned from the center all day too. Ferries between the Northern part of the city and rest will still be running.
Travelling needs to happen by foot. Don’t let go of your luggage and make sure to watch for pickpockets in the crowd. Rates of pickpocketing are down thanks to greater police vigilance, but you still need to be careful.
Kingsday Amsterdam is a wonderful day out for the whole family. Make sure to get along there next year, and don’t forget to wear orange!
Tips for King’s Day
King’s Day (Koningsdag previously) formerly called Queen’s Day (Koninginnedag) can be considered the Netherlands’ biggest festival. No other Dutch public holiday is embraced with such enthusiasm and energy as King’s Day (Koningsdag). Here are some tips on how to safely enjoy King’s Day, especially in Amsterdam.
- Of course, it’s not a must but it is always fun to show up to the “party” in orange! Wear any orange costume you have and if possible, put on an orange wig to stand out and attract some positive attention.
- Stay away from drug dealers on the streets. If you must buy weed, visit a coffee shop as some of them are open on King’s Day.
- Wear comfortable shoes (preferably sneakers) because you’ll have to do a lot of walking to get to the popular places. Also, check which transport routes are open and see which ones are going towards the desired direction.
- Take lots of small change – many vendors won’t have large bills. Plus, sellers at the flea markets usually only accept cash.
- Be vigilant and look after your belongings. Have fun but be wary of pickpockets.