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King’s Day in Amsterdam: A Local’s Guide to Celebrate Like a Dutchie!

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King’s Day is easily one of my favorite festivals in the Netherlands. It’s the perfect harmonious blend of a Mardi Gras-like atmosphere and a family-friendly and enjoyable experience for any path you want to go to celebrate the festival. In this guide, I will showcase the variety of options. You have to celebrate the way you like to enjoy festivals.

King’s Day, known in Dutch as “Koningsdag,” embodies the heart and soul of Dutch festivities, marking the monarch’s birthday and the country’s love for epic celebrations. The streets of Amsterdam transform into a bustling canvas of orange as locals and visitors come together to enjoy street parties, flea markets, concert performances, and the jovial spirit that sweeps the city.

Places like Vondelpark, where you’ll find a family-friendly atmosphere with vendors selling their own used items completely tax-free and games you can play in the park. Here’s me and my daughter enjoying the moment in front of Figure découpée, a sculpture by Pablo Picasso and Carl Nesjar.

Family During Koning's Dag in Vondelpark, Amsterdam
Me with my daughter on King’s Day (Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers)

Amsterdam’s take on King’s Day is notable for its unique blend of tradition and modern-day revelry. The 27th of April is a day when the ethos of Dutch culture is on full display, paying homage to the nation’s royal heritage while also making room for contemporary music, food, and entertainment.

I was on a KLM Airlines flight from Costa Rica to Amsterdam for one year and arrived on King’s Day, jet lag and all. They even had King’s Day streamers on the plane, and the flight attendants wore crowns!

Orange garland decorations celebrating King's Day inside a KLM aircraft with violet lighting and branded overhead compartments.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

I’ll have full time to prepare this year, so I thought this guide would be helpful as I’m eagerly awaiting this epic day. For those planning to join the festivities, understanding the day’s origins enriches the experience. King’s Day has its roots dating back to 1885 as a celebration of national unity and pride, evolving over the years to become the all-encompassing festival it is today.

The day is open to everyone and is particularly family-friendly during daylight hours, with activities and games for all ages. As the sun sets, the city morphs into a hotspot for electronic and dance music enthusiasts, welcoming globally recognized talent and thriving on the energy of the night.

The History of King’s Day in Amsterdam

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands

King’s Day, which takes place on April 27th, marks the birth of King Willem-Alexander and is epitomized by orange-clad festivities. Before 2013, the nation celebrated Queen’s Day, honoring the female monarchs of the Dutch royal family.

Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, has been the epicenter of these festivities for many years. The tradition began in the early 20th century and was initially called Princess’s Day, marking the birthday of then-Princess Wilhelmina.

In 1949, the holiday changed as Queen Juliana ascended to the throne and shifted the celebrations to her birthday on April 30th. It remained this way until Queen Beatrix, in a nod to her mother Juliana, kept the celebration on April 30th during her reign, although her birthday was in January.

It wasn’t until Willem-Alexander’s ascension that the day was renamed King’s Day, concurrently changing the date to his April birthday. A key indicator of its significance to Dutch royalty and the country’s identity is the royal family’s participation in the yearly celebrations and visits to different cities.

Amsterdam’s celebrations are renowned, featuring street markets, music performances, and boat parties on the canals. King’s Day in Amsterdam has always been more than just a royal celebration.

It’s a day for Dutch pride, fostering community and national unity. The color orange on this day symbolizes the royal family’s lineage, the House of Orange-Nassau.

Preparations for King’s Day

Balloons Tied to an Amsterdam House for Koningsdag
Sarawut / Adobe Stock

When the calendar flips to April in the Netherlands, the excitement for King’s Day permeates every corner of Amsterdam. The city braces itself for a sea of orange as local shops and residents adorn their windows, doors, and streets with decorations to honor the Dutch monarch’s birthday. 

What to Expect Weather Wise

Weather in the Netherlands is incredibly unpredictable, but by this time of year, the rain starts to cool down, and the days become much longer, which is a boon for partygoers on a sunny day. Surprisingly enough, it hasn’t rained in the last five years on King’s Day. Hopefully, I’m not jinxing it here.

Here is a table summarizing the weather conditions for the last five years on April 27th, King’s Day.

YearHigh Temp (°F)Low Temp (°F)Historic Avg Temp (°F)Precipitation (in)Max Wind Speed (mph)
20195446490.025
20206643490.014
20215936490.014
20225237490.010
20235534490.012
Source: Weather Underground

Rules of the Day: Wear Orange

The first rule of King’s Day is to wear orange, the national color of the Netherlands. Orange is the standout color of the preparations, symbolizing the royal family’s lineage from the House of Orange-Nassau.

Expect to see a city draped in orange, from flags and balloons to extravagant costumes and accessories. Shops all over Amsterdam start selling orange items early, so grab your gear before it sells out.

Residents eagerly sketch their itineraries, strategizing the best routes to navigate the bustling free markets or “vrijmarkt,” which present a treasure trove of second-hand items. It’s not just about the sales; it’s also an opportunity for children to set up mini-stalls, participate in the tradition, and learn the ropes of entrepreneurship.

King’s Day Eve

Nightlife at The Bulldog Palace, Amsterdam with neon lights, festive decorations, and Dutch national colors.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

On King’s Day’s eve, preparations for the merry-making reach their peak. Boats are draped in orange garlands and balloons, gearing up to join the flotilla of festivities on the city canals. Businesses and food vendors prepare for the crowd of party-goers while event organizers put the final touches on stages for live music and performances.

Planning TipsDecoration IdeasLocal Insights
Check event schedulesDress in orange attireStreet parties are a must-attend
Plan transportation routesHang orange flags and bannersHouseboats often join the flotilla
Bookmark your favorite spotsUse orange flowers for a touch of natureFree-markets are a tradition

As the city gears up for the celebration, the atmosphere becomes thick with anticipation. The locals reflect on past King’s Days, readying themselves to create new memories. Understanding these preparations gives visitors a glimpse into Dutch culture, enhancing their experience of this unique festival.

Royal Procession and Its Significance

At the heart of the festivities is the Royal Procession, a display of nationwide unity and joy. Members of the royal family make a public appearance, often in a chosen locality within the Netherlands, underscoring the enduring bond between the monarchy and its people.

The procession embodies cultural significance, as the Dutch royalty engages in lively interactions with the public, partaking in traditional games and festivities. This unique event brings the Royals closer to the public, showcasing their support and involvement in national culture. The presence of King Willem-Alexander and his family during these processions is not only ceremonial but also a symbol of national pride and unity.

Practical tips for those attending the festivities include arriving early to secure a good viewing spot. Attendees can immerse themselves in the sea of orange as the entire city dons the national color in a grand show of patriotism. From the crowd’s cheers to the music that fills the streets, the procession is a key highlight for locals and tourists, each eager to glimpse the royal family.

The day’s events underscore the rich heritage of Amsterdam and the Netherlands. With the city at a standstill, the Royal Procession traverses through the historic streets, etching a modern-day narrative into the country’s longstanding monarchy traditions.

Street Parties and Festival Highlights

King's Day Street Party in Amsterdam, filled with orange-clad partygoers and iconic Dutch architecture.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Amsterdam comes alive on King’s Day with a burst of orange as locals and visitors flock to the street parties that spread across the city. The air fills with the sound of pop, rock, and EDM as makeshift stages pop up in public squares, providing a platform for both up-and-coming local talents and established performers.

Festivals take over numerous venues around Amsterdam. They combine elaborate line-ups catering to diverse musical tastes — from electronic dance music to more eclectic genres. Kingsland Festival holds the crown for being the most majestic, offering an unforgettable one-day dance event experience.

  • Vondelpark: Known especially for family-friendly festivities, this sprawling green space hosts many performances for all ages.
  • Jordaan: For a more traditional feel, Jordaan’s narrow streets and canals buzz with Dutch folk music and an infectious, convivial spirit.
  • Music and Dance: The sheer diversity in music and dance is evident as you traverse the city, with every corner echoing a different rhythm or melody – ensuring that every attendee finds their beat.

See Related: Best Music Festivals to Attend This Summer

Traditional Events and Activities

Streamers and Boats on King's Day in Jordaan Amsterdam
Liudmila / Adobe Stock

Flea Markets

Thrift enthusiasts revel in the Vrijmarkt, or “free market,” a nationwide flea market where locals can sell their wares without a permit. It’s a tradition for many to rummage through second-hand goods, antiques, and homemade items. The streets come alive with families setting up stalls, displaying everything from vintage clothing to rare collectibles.

Boat Parades

The city’s canals become a spectacle of merriment with boat parades, where vessels adorned with banners and balloons sail through the waterways. They often carry parties of exuberant celebrants, with music and dancing visible from the banks. This flotilla is not just for show; it symbolizes national pride and unity, with many boats showcasing elaborate decorations.

Traditional Games

Dutch koningsspelen, or King’s games, offer a playful return to childhood, with games of skill and chance that delight both young and old. Participants can engage in spijkerpoepen (literally “nail pooping”), where they tie a string around their waist with a nail dangling from the free end and attempt to lower it into a bottle.

There are also old-fashioned sack races and koekhappen, a game where participants try to bite off chunks of ontbijtkoek (spiced bread) dangling on a string without using their hands.

Best Places to Experience King’s Day

King's Day celebration with live music in Vondelpark, Amsterdam
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

King’s Day in Amsterdam provides an overwhelming number of venues, each boasting its unique flair for festivity. Here are some prime locations for revelers to immerse themselves in the celebration:

  • Vondelpark: Ideal for family-friendly fun, the park is also a hotspot for flea markets. Navigate the stands full of second-hand treasures and enjoy the park’s natural beauty.
  • Jordaan district: Known for its electric atmosphere, it is a quintessential stop. Wander the picturesque streets and enjoy live music and spontaneous street parties.
  • Canals: For a memorable celebration, head to the waterways for a canal parade. Renting a boat and joining the colorful flotilla offers a distinctive perspective of the city’s festivities.
  • Bredewegfestival: This festival combines cultural events with King’s Day celebrations, creating a fusion of fun for attendees.
  • Amsterdam Center: The beating heart of the city, the center is filled with stages, DJs, and crowds of orange-clad partygoers.

For those willing to explore beyond the typical tourist trails, lesser-known suburbs often have local bands and authentic Dutch celebrations. Street vendors will serve traditional foods such as poffertjes (mini pancakes) and oranje tompouce (orange custard-filled pastries), amplifying the local experience.

Whether participating in the canal parades, dancing to live music in Jordaan, or bargaining at the flea markets, visitors will surely find a corner of the city that resonates with their festive spirit. It’s wise to arrive early to secure a good spot, especially along the canals or in the bustling Vondelpark.

Food and Drink Specialties

During King’s Day in Amsterdam, the city’s streets showcase traditional Dutch cuisine. Celebrants can savor a plethora of King’s Day Specialties that tantalize the taste buds with sweet and savory delights.

  • Oliebollen: These are deep-fried dough balls, typically dusted with powdered sugar. They are a perennial favorite and a staple at outdoor festivities.
  • Poffertjes: These mini pancakes are fluffy and sweet, often served with a generous slab of butter and a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

Street food vendors are also integral to King’s Day’s gastronomic experience. Visitors should expect to encounter a variety of stalls serving up hearty dishes that provide the perfect fuel for a day of celebration.

A hand holding a Happy King's Day chocolate box with colorful royal ribbon decoration.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Among them, the Dutch herring, served raw with onions, is a traditional delicacy not to be missed. For those with less adventurous palates, classic options like frites, or French fries, served with mayonnaise, offer a familiar comfort.

As for beverages, there is no shortage of choices. Adults often enjoy local beers and jenever, a Dutch gin that warms as it is sipped. Oranjebitter, a bright orange liqueur, is specifically enjoyed on King’s Day, echoing the national color as they toast to the King’s health.

These culinary customs taste Dutch heritage and testify to the nation’s festive spirit and hospitality. Visitors are encouraged to explore the food stalls early to enjoy this triumphant day’s full spectrum of flavors.

Shopping and Markets Insights

Kings Day Celebrations at Vondelpark, Amsterdam - Cheerful crowds in orange attire gather under spring canopy for festivities and local markets.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

During King’s Day in Amsterdam, the city blossoms into a flea market paradise, presenting an eclectic mix of goods that range from vintage treasures to artisan crafts.

Shopping Tips for Flea Markets:

  • Get there early: To snag the best items, shoppers should arrive early as the markets can get quite crowded.
  • Carry cash: Many vendors at flea markets only take cash, so it’s advisable to have enough on hand.
  • Haggle politely: Bargaining is part of the flea market experience. A respectful negotiation can produce a satisfactory deal for both buyer and seller.

King’s Day Finds:

  • Vintage Clothing: A haven for fashion enthusiasts searching for retro styles.
  • Antiques: Perfect for those looking to add a touch of history to their homes.
  • Handmade Goods: From jewelry to crafts, these items infuse a personal touch to one’s purchases.

Shoppers should be prepared for crowded streets and utilize their navigation skills to weave through the bustling alleys. They should watch for the street markets where locals set up shop. This is where one can uncover second-hand goods and handcrafted souvenirs emblematic of the Dutch culture.

Remember, King’s Day markets are not just about shopping; they’re a cultural experience where one can soak in the local ambiance and partake in a cherished Amsterdam tradition.

How to Get Around

Blue and white Amsterdam tram en route to Station RAI
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

During King’s Day, Amsterdam’s public transportation system sees significant alterations to manage the high volume of celebrants. Trams, buses, and metros are typically rerouted to avoid the most crowded areas. Planning your commute is key.

King’s Day Schedule Adjustments:

  • Trams and buses may follow simplified or altered routes, especially in the city center.
  • The schedule for metros could also be adjusted; check the current times before you travel.
  • Train services to and from Amsterdam usually increase but expect crowded carriages.

Travel Tips for King’s Day:

  • Purchase your tickets in advance to avoid queues at ticket machines.
  • Consider alternative modes of transport, such as biking or walking to nearby destinations.
  • Due to road closures and detours, using a personal car is not advisable.

Advantages of Preparation: Review the provided routes for trams that facilitate access to the Central Station. Leverage the practical info on King’s Day from I Amsterdam. Awareness of these changes ensures a smoother and more enjoyable visit to Amsterdam during this incredible celebration.

Safety Tips for King’s Day

King's Day celebrations along Spiegelgracht in Amsterdam: vibrant orange festivities, Dutch flags, classic canal houses
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

During King’s Day, Amsterdam transforms into a sea of orange, with jubilant crowds filling the streets. To ensure a joyous and secure experience, attendees should heed the following safety precautions.

  • Crowd Management: Stay vigilant in densely packed areas and keep an eye on any accompanying friends or family. If moving through crowds, keep personal belongings secure, and consider using anti-theft bags or clothing.
  • Emergency Services: Familiarize oneself with the locations of first aid stations and have emergency contact numbers handy. If in need of urgent assistance, approach the ever-vigilant police and event staff.
  • Personal Safety Measures:
    • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water, especially if consuming alcohol, to avoid dehydration.
    • Protect Valuables: Use a money belt or hidden pouch to guard passports, money, and phones.
    • Plan Your Route: With public transportation altered, charting a return route in advance is prudent.
    • Ear Protection: The festivities can be loud, so consider earplugs to shield one’s hearing.
    • Wear Comfortable Clothing: Dress appropriately for the weather and wear comfortable shoes for extended walking.

See Related: Essential Packing Tips for Travel to Maximize Your Trip

Experiencing Koningsnacht (King’s Night) Nightlife

King’s Day in Amsterdam doesn’t just end when the sun goes down; the evening brings a new wave of celebratory energy to the city. After-party parties emerge in various forms, from club events to cozy bar gatherings, each with a unique twist on the holiday’s festivities.

Bars and clubs through Amsterdam’s light up, inviting locals and tourists to continue their orange-clad revelries. Iconic venues often feature special performances and DJ sets, turning the night into an electrifying dance marathon. For those looking to immerse themselves fully, these are a few can’t-miss spots:

  • Kings Night is the way to celebrate on the eve of King’s Day with performances from high-profile DJs and artists, creating an unforgettable kickoff to the celebrations.
  • Themed Events abound in the local club scene, offering an array of music genres and atmospheres. Whether one desires house, techno, pop, or a mix, there’s an after-party fitting their taste.

Practical tips for navigating the nightlife:

  • Plan, as popular events may require tickets.
  • Public transportation can be limited due to the influx of partygoers, so consider staying within walking distance of your desired venue.
  • Dress in orange to honor the tradition and blend in with the festive crowd.

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