April 22nd, 2015 | Last updated: April 30th, 2015
If you only visit Amsterdam once in your life, make sure your visit coincides with April 27.
King’s Day — Formerly Queen’s Day1 — is the annual Dutch national holiday in honor of King Willem-Alexander.
The name change is due to the fact that in 2013 Queen Beatrix abdicated in favor of her son.
The investiture of Willem-Alexander took place in Amsterdam on Queen’s Day, April 30, 2013. This made him the Netherland’s first king since 1890.
King’s Day (not Kingsday) is pretty much like Queen’s Day used to be. (Though you’d be surprised how many Dutch people still say Koninginnedag instead of Koningsdag).
But the date has moved from April 30th to April 27th, Willem-Alexander’s birthday.
On King’s Day there are celebrations throughout the Netherlands. However, the most popular destination is Amsterdam where up to one million visitors join the 750.000 locals in the world’s largest street party.
Special undercover police teams roam the city in search of the cretins — with good results. Last year only 100 people filed a police report claiming they had been pick-pocketed, versus 620 in 2014. Mind you, many people simply do not bother to file a report.
Don’t think it won’t happen to you. Take all necessary precautions.
In recent years Amsterdam authorities have actually taken some measures, with success, to try and stem the flow of visitors as the city simply became too full.
Large-scale, DJ and artist-driven events have been moved to the outskirts of the city, where they can be reached via nearby train stations. Plus, you need tickets to get in. All of the events have long ago sold out.
This means there will be fewer ‘herds’ of people thronging and pushing their way through the city on their way to various events, held at squares and other public locations already filled to capacity.
Note that there will be no public transport in the center of Amsterdam during this day. No taxis either. If you need to travel to and from your hotel on this day, you’re in for an interesting commute — on foot. (Never, ever let go of your luggage, by the way).
On this map, the yellow lines with numbers represent tram lines; the purple ones, bus lines — showing the temporary routes they take today only.
The Night Before King’s Day
King’s Day festivities start around midnight and last throughout the night (though official rules state that pubs must close for an hour or so before sunrise).
Simply walk around in downtown Amsterdam (the Jordaan and Nieuwmarkt areas being among the most popular spots) and you’ll find plenty of partying going on.
That said, our advice is that you pace yourself. You’ll want to be more or less sober for the main feast.
King’s Day Proper
6:00 AM marks the start of the ‘free market’ – a street market where half the population sells their bric-a-brac, used clothes, and crafts for next to nothing. Where? Everywhere people live. What? Well, you’ll find anything from broken toys, last year’s King’s Day purchases, and second-hand clothes to fantastic bargains on musical instruments, electronics, software from a bygone era and everything else under the sun.
Throughout the city, professional street performers vie for attention. There are pick-up bands, aspiring opera singers, teenage rappers and street discos. Rio-style drum bands have been very popular the past few years.
In the past, huge concerts were organized at various locations in the city, such as Dam square, Rembrandtplein and Museumplein.
But because those free concerts drew too many people to Amsterdam — overwhelming the city, the trains, and the police — nowadays they are a) all located on the outskirts of the city, and b) no longer free.
The throngs lining the streets and canals wear orange, the national color (after all, the Queen hails from the House of Orange). Take ‘throngs’ literally – particularly in the city’s center where you’ll be shoulder to shoulder with other revelers.
By way of indication: you can normally saunter from Central Station to Dam Square in about 7 minutes. On Queen’s Day the same distance will take you at least an hour.
Again: for most of the day, there is no public transport in the center of town. Taxis and private cars will not be able to travel through the center either.
King’s Day on the Canals
If the weather is good (which isn’t always the case) the canals offer little relief as thousands of boats, large and small, filled with party goers clog the city’s waterways.
In recent years the City of Amsterdam has introduced more and more rules and regulations covering use of the water during King’s Day. Huge barges (and any boat longer than 10 meter), and amplified music are banned, as is carrying more than 1 can or bottle of beer per passenger.
Most canals have one-way traffic only.
The beer flows freely, though mostly in the form of reduced-alcohol ‘event beer,’ which is served in plastic containers that come with a deposit fee.
Book your hotel early
King’s Day (Queen’s Day) Explained
We found this nice-to-look-at video on YouTube… It was made before the day changed from Queen’s Day to King’s Day:
- Last celebrated in 2013, Queen’s Day took place on April 30th — in celebration of the birthday of then Queen Beatrix. ↩
Do not republish or repost.