King’s Day in the Netherlands
When it comes to national holidays, the Netherlands isn’t overly generous. But there is one day in the year that you can always count on— King’s Day.
King’s Day in the Netherlands: A History
If you want to participate in the country’s biggest party of the year, then you need to mark your calendar for April 27th. Since King’s Day is technically all about celebrating King Willem-Alexander’s birthday, it makes sense that the holiday is on his birthday, but it wasn’t always that way.
King’s Day (Koningsdag in Dutch) started as Princess’ Day to celebrate the birthday (August 31st) of the then Princess, Wilhelmina. Wilhelmina eventually became Queen, resulting in a name change from Princess’ Day to Queen’s Day (Koninginnedag). Wilhelmina’s daughter, Juliana, continued the tradition, changing the date to her birthday (April 30th). Beatrix, Juliana’s daughter, also kept Queen’s Day a national holiday, but instead of changing the date to January, when her birthday is, she kept the previous date, allowing Dutch people across the country to breathe a sigh of relief. Outdoor parties in the middle of the winter are, after all, a little tricky.
As you can imagine, these date changes have at times caused confusion—most recently for tourists with out-of-date guidebooks. While seeing orange clad tourists three days too late might make the locals smile, it’s an altogether better experience to show up on the correct day (April 27th).
A Day of Orange: What to Expect
King’s Day in the Netherlands is known for musical performances (especially the evening before), street parties, flea markets, and fun fairs. And if you were wondering about all of the orange, that comes from the Dutch Royal Family being known as the House of Oranje (oranje = orange).
King’s Day Trivia: The Koningslied (King’s Song) is a song that was written to celebrate Willem-Alexander becoming King of the Netherlands in 2013. The song cost huge amounts of money to produce, was filled with famous faces (and voices), and ended up a gigantic flop—causing national controversy. If you really want to listen to it, the Koningslied is on YouTube. But don’t say we didn’t warn you.
King’s Day in the Netherlands: City by City
Amsterdam: In the Dutch capital you can expect to find the canals bursting with orange decorated boats. Artists and sellers will sell their wares at street markets, and there are plenty of large parties, some with famous DJs.
The Hague: You’ll find the traditional street markets and activities of King’s Day in The Hague, especially around Statenkwartier and Noordeinde. But the real highlight happens the night before when bands and DJs perform during King’s Night.
Utrecht: In Utrecht, you will find the biggest street market of King’s Day, with stalls opening the night before.
Eindhoven: You’ll want to head to the city’s squares both the night before and on King’s Day itself to enjoy performances and flea markets.
Rotterdam: There are plenty of festivities happening in Rotterdam, including on stages next to the iconic Erasmusbrug. Or, head to Stadhuisplein where the restaurants and cafes will be celebrating in style.
For more information on making the most of King’s Day, including activities in each of the main Dutch cities, have a look at this Expatica guide.