Koningsdag, or King’s Day, is an annual celebration of the Dutch King Willem-Alexander’s birthday. This unique event formerly celebrated the birthday of Queen Beatrix, and was known as Queen’s day. Since Queen Beatrix abdicated in 2013, King Willem has been the subject of which this event is celebrated. This year King’s Day is set to take place on Wednesday 27th April 2016, and usually consists of live music, international DJs, parties and street markets all in the name of creating a fun and upbeat atmosphere. During this time, the majority of the country may turn orange for one of the largest and most colourful celebrations in The Netherlands.
Amsterdam celebrated King’s Day for the first time in 2014, after the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander on 30th April 2013 (what was then still Queen’s Day). The first royal celebrations took place in August 1885 to honour the birth of Queen Wilhemina, which is where the Queen’s tradition was born. The date has changed over the years however the event tends to fall on at the end of April between the 27th to the 30th. During King’s Day the royal family aims to visit a different town or municipality in The Netherlands as part of the celebrations and this year they are set to visit Zwolle in the Overijssel province.
A large part of traditional celebrations during this time include selling second-hand things on the streets. During King’s Day the entire country essentially turns into a giant flea market, where one may pick up bargains and food for a relatively cheap price. This begins on the eve of King’s Day at night-time, however the fun continues into the big day. When visiting Amsterdam or any other city in The Netherlands during King’s Day, one may expect to see canals packed with boats full of people dressed in orange. In Amsterdam, local DJs have been known to play sets on boats which sail through the city centre amidst the celebrations. It is possible to hire a boat for this occasion, however just as much fun may be had on land.
For those interested in visiting museums, there are a limited number of museums open on King’s Day and many have shorter opening hours. The only museums open this year according to the official Amsterdam tourist board are the Anne Frank museum, Artis museum, Diamant Museum, the Heineken Experience, the Van Gogh museum and Remrandthuis museum.
The Dutch royal family bears the name House of Orange, which explains the reason why almost all Dutch and tourists wear something orange during King’s Day. The colour orange has historic significance in The Netherlands and over time it has become the country’s national colour. A popular tradition on Kings Day is to make a toast to the king with an orange bitter, a bright orange liqueur. The drink was created in 1620 to celebrate Prince Fredrick Henry’s victory. Initially it was lesser known however after William of Orange became the first king, it was produced once more. Since then, Orange Bitter has been closely associated with the Dutch Royal Family.
On the streets of Amsterdam many food stalls may pop up selling exotic street food ranging from Indonesian and Surinamese dishes to Turkish and Moroccan snacks. On this special day drinking is allowed on the streets as many people tend stay outside and celebrate rather than drinking in bars or pubs. Therefore, many stalls sell Dutch beer such as Heineken or Amstel for a cheap price. For those keen on visiting The Netherlands during this time, it may be advised to book accommodation in advance and anticipate the cities to be busy.
Which other countries may celebrate royal occasions?