A day and night fit for a king
Believe it or not, the first ever King’s Day took place in 2014 after the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander in 2013. However, such royal celebrations stem back to 1885 when Queen’s Day honoured the birth of Queen Wilhelmina. It just so happens there hasn’t been a king until recently. Everyone wears orange, the Dutch royal colour, on the day as a show of pride to the royal family, who each year on Koningsdag select a town in the Netherlands and join in the local celebrations. For tourists though, the biggest display of celebration, colour and festivities is certainly to be had in Amsterdam.
On King’s Day eve, known as King’s Night, a carnival atmosphere erupts to mark the start of the public holiday. On Koningsdag, the streets of Amsterdam become a giant vrijmarkt (free market) where anyone is welcome to sell their secondhand goods. It’s a great way to meet locals and practice your haggling and bargaining skills. Throughout the celebrations, you will see countless DJs and live music being performed in public squares across the city, parties spewing out from cafes and bars onto the streets, and the canals jam-packed with colourfully decorated boats greeted by dancing revellers at every bridge.
When is it?
Tips and tricks
King’s Day is a popular time to head to Amsterdam, so it’s best to book your accommodation and transport in advance or choose a tour that might include some meals, party entry tickets and other activities.
Plan ahead – most of Amsterdam’s museums and attractions are closed on King’s Day, minus a few that are announced closer to the date. The same applies for smaller shops and popular high street shops on Kalverstraat and larger supermarkets will have reduced opening hours.
The street markets officially open at 6am on King’s Day with most other events starting at midday. Wear orange to get in the spirit of the celebration (although it’s not mandatory).
Entry to some of the biggest organised parties and concerts requires a ticket, so book in advance to avoid missing out.
It is legal to carry one unit of alcohol for your own consumption in the streets; any other alcoholic drinks found on you will be confiscated.
There are restrictions on buses, trams and taxis in the city centre until late in the evening, with most dropping you off on the outskirts of the city centre. The best way to get close to the action is via train – then you’re on foot for the rest of the way.