A useful guide to celebrating King’s Day in The Netherlands
King’s Day may well be the best party in the Netherlands. From the biggest cities down to the smallest hamlets, the entire country celebrates King’s Day on the 27th of April. We celebrate our king’s birthday with music, street parties, flea markets, and fun fairs. King’s Day is renowned for being one of the biggest and most colorful (orange) festivities in the Netherlands!
But why do we celebrate King’s Day? What do we wear? And what activities do we do? Here you will find the ultimate guide to celebrating King’s Day in the Netherlands!
A short bucket list for celebrating King’s Day in the Netherlands
- Put on your best orange outfit
- Visit one of the many flea markets
- Toast to the king
- Say lang leve de koning
- Try ‘spijkerpoepen’
- Watch a boat parade
- Eat like a King all-day
- Celebrate King’s Day in Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague or Eindhoven
What is King’s Day in the Netherlands?
Originally, Princess’ Day was celebrated in the Netherlands on Wilhelmina’s birthday (31 August), when she was still a princess. The celebration involved many children’s games and decorated streets.
When Wilhelmina became queen, it was changed to Queen’s Day. Juliana, the next queen, celebrated Queen’s Day on 30 April and Beatrix (the other next queen) celebrated Queen’s Day on 30 April (her own birthday is in January). Contrary to her mother, Beatrix took her entire family and traveled around the country to visit several municipalities.
King Willem Alexander has followed in this tradition. The royal family visits one city each year where they play games and visit the free markets. Willem Alexander was born on 27 April and this became the official King’s Day in 2014.
King’s Day is a national holiday in the Netherlands and is also celebrated in Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten, constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Why do Dutch wear orange on Kings Day?
The Dutch royal family bears the name: House of Oranje. In Dutch this literally means the color orange. As a result it has become our national color. On King’s Day almost everyone wears orange clothes, often even donning orange wigs or make-up.
Also our national sports teams wear the color orange. When there’s an important national sports match, we will wear orange and almost every bar, stadium and street will be completely decorated in our national color. There even exists a phenomenon known as Oranjekoorts (Orange Fever) and becomes just as weird as it sounds.
So, our love of orange is clearly not a small one, and comes back to the same reason we wear the hue on King’s Day. Where orange originally symbolizes the Dutch Royal Family, it also is a symbol for Dutch national pride.
Tip: fear not if you’re not already suited up in orange from head to toe. Among the flea market stalls, there are endless opportunities to top off your outfit with orange details.
When not to wear orange in the Netherlands
You can wear orange every day in the Netherlands, except for one day: April 30.This day used to be the day when we celebrated the birthday of our queen Beatrix. Since Willem-Alexander is our king and we celebrate King’s Day on April 27, many tourists have still arrived in the Netherlands fully dressed in orange on April 30. In Dutch we call these tourists vergistoeristen (mistake tourists). It is hilarious for us.
How to say Happy King’s Day in Dutch
King’s Day in Dutch is called Koningsdag. To say Happy King’s Day, you need to master our pronunciation. Here are some Dutch sentences you can use on King’s Day in the Netherlands:
- Fijne Koningsdag! – Happy King’s Day!
- Lang leve de koning! Hoera, hoera, hoera! – Long live the King, hurrah hurrah hurrah!
- Oranje boven! – Orange on top!
King’s Day activities in the Netherlands
Celebrate King’s Night
Yes, we also celebrate King’s Night! This is the night before King’s Day is celebrated, so on 26 April. Many clubs will be throwing parties and in parks and squares you will find stages with live music, outdoor bars and festivals. Click here to discover King’s Night activities in Amsterdam.
Tip: you are typically not allowed to have more than one alcoholic beverage in your possession at a time in public spaces. Six-packs and kegs of beer are considered more than one drink and may be confiscated.
Visit the flea markets and participate in traditional Dutch games
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure: during King’s Day we peddle all our unwanted stuff by setting up shops in the streets and parks, transforming our entire country into a giant garage sale known as the vrijmarkt. No permit is required, haggling is encouraged. You can find market stalls everywhere. Children challenge you to participate in goofy games and challenges. Try some traditional Dutch games like koekhappen, spijkerpoepen or spijkerbroek hangen:
- Koekhappen: Hang a cookie at head-height from the ceiling and try to eat it while blindfolded.
- Spijkerpoepen: Tie a nail to the bottom of a rope, then tie the rope around your pants so the nail hangs behind you like a tail. Place a bottle beneath you and try to get the nail into the bottle using only coordinated hip motions.
- Spijkerbroek hangen: Throw a pair of jeans over something that can support your body weight, grab onto the legs of the jeans and lift yourself off the ground. See how long you can hold on.
Tip: most of the street markets kick off at 06:00 and go until 20:00. In Utrecht, the flea markets even start the night before King’s Day.
Watch the mayhem on the canals
In many Duch towns you can find canals. Think about Amsterdam or Utrecht. During King’s Day the canals will be flooded with a sea of orange, as thousands of brightly decorated party boats fill the famous waterways. Try to be on a boat or just watch the sea of orange from one of the many bridges. It’s definitely fun to watch the parade of boats as they often have loud sound systems.
Tip: in Amsterdam is the corner of the Prinsengracht and Amstelveld a great spot to watch the parade of King’s Day boats go by (or one of the many bridges).
Soak up the festival atmosphere
After a burst of festivities on King’s Night, the party atmosphere continues throughout our country on King’s Day itself. Again, you can find plenty of stages with live music and outdoor bars throughout the country.
Tip: please note that you will need to buy a ticket in advance if you would like to attend one of the major organized parties.
Eat and drink like a King all-day
All that partying sure does work up an appetite, so thankfully, you’ll find delicious Dutch treats around every corner. There are hundreds of street food vendors lining the roads and squares. If you have a sweet tooth, you should try an orange tompouce (a sweet pastry loaded with cream that will be all over your cheeks in no time at all). They are decorated with orange icing, especially for King’s Day and you can find the tompouces in one of the many bakeries or at HEMA.
Best Places to Celebrate King’s Day
Kingsday is a public holiday in The Netherlands. So almost everyone has a day off, and we know how to celebrate it!
King’s Day in The Hague
The Hague is a great place to celebrate King’s Day in the Netherlands and is most known for the parties during King’s Night. Several parties are organized at various squares like Kerkplein, Grote Markt and Plaats.
During King’s Day you can find many street markets, hustle and bustle around the canals and plenty of parties. Famous markets and parties are organized at Statenkwartier and Noordeinde. The Hague also sets up a huge kermis (fair) in Malieveld with plenty of fun rides, attractions, and games to play.
King’s Day in Utrecht
Utrecht is best known for its massive flea market, which runs for 24 hours beginning on April 26. The flea market is held throughout the city center. You can catch kids’ markets (flea markets for children to sell their things) around Park Lepelenburg and Nijntje Pleintje.
Of course there are also concerts on multiple stages such as Domplein, Janskerkhof, Neude, Begijneplein and Ledig Erf. There is music everywhere, ranging from trendy DJs playing dance music to live jazz, pop and rock. Utrecht is also known for its canals and during King’s Day you can find plenty of decorated boats sailing through the canals.
King’s Day in Eindhoven
Eindhoven also is a popular town to visit during King’s Night. Multiple parties are organized on Wilhelminaplein, Stationsplein and Stadhuisplein. King’s Day itself is especially enjoyable, with street markets around Mathildelaan, Strijp-S and the squares we just named.
King’s Day in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is by far the most popular Dutch city to celebrate King’s Day (no surprise). I heard that over a million visitors come to Amsterdam to haggle and drink beer.
Activities abound throughout the city. There is a huge street market of rugs and stalls where we sell all kinds of items. Of course there are also plenty of street performances and music festivals organized in all the different neighbourhoods, particularly the Jordaan and Amsterdam Zuid. Leidseplein, Rembrandtplein, and the Jordaan are a must-see if you’re into the party scenes.
During King’s Day the Amsterdam canals will be flooded with a sea of orange, as thousands of brightly decorated party boats fill the famous waterways. Try to be on a boat or just watch the sea of orange from one of the many bridges. It’s definitely fun to watch the parade of boats as they often have loud sound systems and you can make your own party on the street.
Tip: In Amsterdam is the corner of the Prinsengracht and Amstelveld a great spot to watch the parade of King’s Day boats go by (or one of the many bridges).
King’s Day in Groningen
The biggest city in the northern part of The Netherlands is also great to attend during King’s Day. Celebrating King’s Day in Groningen is choosing for a traditional King’s Day. The city has many activities, and there are a few events you can attend during Kingsnight.
You can find flea markets at the Coehoornsingel, Ganzevoortsingel, Praediniussingel and Ubbo Emmiussingel in the city center. At Westerkade, you’ll find the kids-market. The canal belt of Groningen turns into a King’s Day parade with many boats attending. And at the large vismarkt square there’s a music festival with different live bands performing.
Host your own King’s Day party in the Netherlands
Can’t make it to the Netherlands for King’s Day? No worries, we have some tips for you, so you can celebrate it from anywhere in the world.
Of course you have to start the day with singing our national anthem. Then decorate your home in orange colors, wear your nicest orange outfit, and put on some Dutch traditional music. Think about dweilorkest (mop orchestra) or meezing music (sing-alonger), with a few international all-time party faves thrown in the mix for good measure.
King’s Day isn’t complete without traditional Dutch food, so go the kitchen and prepare one of these 30 traditional Dutch dishes! Invite your friends and family, play silly Dutch games as spijkerpoepen or koekhappen and drink some (virgin)cocktails. We are sure you can transform your day at home into a royally good time!
Traveling on King’s Day in the Netherlands
Please remember that King’s Day activities usually occur in the city centers. The festive markets, parades and festivals may mean that roads are closed down. We recommend traveling by public transport or bicycle on King’s Day.
Below you can find some other tips for traveling on King’s Day in the Netherlands:
- The best way to get to Amsterdam for the King’s Day festivities is by train
- Public transport routes are adapted on King’s Day itself, with the buses and trams only running up to the outskirts of the city center.
- In order to deal with the increased volumes of travelers during the celebrations, modified timetables will be put in place on the evening of 26 April and on King’s Day itself. More information about train travel on King’s Day can be found on the NS website.
- Traveling from another country? Check your international journey on the NS International website.
- Large signs are traditionally erected to help you navigate the city by foot, with coloured pedestrian routes guiding the way to major events and points of interest.
Tip: alcohol is usually not allowed in trains and at train stations from 19:00 on the night preceding King’s Day to 05:00 on the day following King’s Day.
Tip: through GetYourGuide, you can purchase a card that allows you to benefit from unlimited access to all GVB public transportation services throughout Amsterdam. They also have an Amsterdam City Pass that allows you to visit museums and attractions in Amsterdam for free in addition to unlimited access to GVB public transportation. Love it!
Book a hotel at King’s Day in the Netherlands
King’s Day is a feast that you should really experience for yourself. Book a hotel well in advance because they fill up quickly. The longer you wait, the fewer rooms available, and the more you pay. We recommend booking a place to stay in advance.
If you have any questions or tips for celebrating King’s Day in the Netherlands,
feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below!
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