This year marked my first time participating in King’s Day (formerly Queen’s Day) even though I’ve been in the Netherlands for almost three years. When I received a notice from the Gemeente advising of noise nuisance, I knew I was in for quite the experience. Koningsdag, held on 27th of April, is a country-wide celebration marking the birth of King Willem-Alexander. The festivity begins the preceding night (King's Night) and continues the following day with the largest open-air festival in the Netherlands.
Although there are activities in each city, people from all over the Netherlands flock to Amsterdam for this massive display of Dutch pride. You can find throngs of people gathered in areas like the Grachtengordel, Dam Square, Nieuwmarkt, Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein, Spui, and Vondelpark dancing and singing without a care in the world. Ready to party like a Dutch native, I donned my orange shirt shirt (the official color of the Dutch Royal Family) and headed to meet some friends on the Prinsengracht canal. On my walk there, I noticed that several restaurants and hotels had DJs and bars set-up outside. I also came across a few bands playing their hearts out. As I waded through the thick crowd, the air of jubilation was both palpable and contagious.
There was plenty reason to be happy. In addition to all the partying, there was potential to make some cash. King’s Day is the only day that free trade without a license is permitted from 6am to 7 pm. People indeed took advantage of the temporary lift. Most of the sidewalks were lined with merchants selling everything from old clothes to bad advice. Others with homes or businesses in the middle of the madness sold restroom access.
Finally arriving to my destination, I met new people and made a few new friends. We sat on the canal with our snacks and wine, enjoyed the music and watched the boats and drunk hot messes go by. It was the most fun I'd had in a while.
It is reported that up to a million people clog Amsterdam’s city streets on King’s Day. It’s basically a city-wide block party. It reminded me of Mardi Gras back home in New Orleans. To see so many people care-free and joyful was a treat. I definitely plan to participate next year. Perhaps I’ll even sell something.
Are there any expats out there who attended their first King’s Day? Where did you go? What did you do? Let us know in the comment section below!
‘Til next time!