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Queen’s Day: The World’s Biggest Street Party

April 27th, 2013 | Last updated: May 9th, 2013

If you only visit Amsterdam once in your life, make sure your visit coincides with April 27. 1

King’s Day — Formerly Queen’s Day — is the annual Dutch national holiday in honor of King Willem-Alexander, whose investiture took place on April 30th, 2013.

The content below still refers to Queen’s Day. Except for the date and some other details, King’s Day will just like Queen’s Day. This article will be updated as we get closer to the event.

Queen’s Day 2013 is shaping up to be one of the most spectacular events ever. That is because in addition to all regular Queen’s Day festivities, this year the abdication of Queen Beatrix — and the subsequent investiture of her son, Willem-Alexander — will all take place in Amsterdam, on the same day.

Banners adorning Central Station feature the letters W A, for Willem-Alexander, Holland's new king.

Banners adorning Central Station feature the letters W A, for Willem-Alexander, Holland’s new king.

On Queen’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.

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.

Computer models used by a workgroup of city-, transportation-, and police officials show that this year Dam square and surrounding areas will be virtually unreachable by as early as 9 am.

By the end of the morning the area around Central Station is also expected to be so overwhelmed with people that it will be very difficult to handle the crowds.

The abdication and investitute ceremonies will take place in the Royal Palace and the Nieuwe Kerk (‘New Church’), both located at Dam Square.

Note that there will be no public transport in the center of Amsterdam during this day. This map shows a number of walking routes. (In typical Amsterdam fashion it’s not available in English). The yellow lines with numbers represent bus- and tram lines.

arrow Queen’s Day 2013 Map of Amsterdam

Between 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm there will be a boat parade of tall ships, marine ships, antique vessels, and other boats at the IJ. Note that the ferries will not be operated between 5:30 pm and 10:00 pm:

arrow Where to watch the Royal Boat Parade

The Night Before Queen’s Day

Queen’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.

Queen’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 Queen’s Day purchases, and used bras to fantastic bargains on musical instruments, electonics, software 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.

Huge outdoor concerts are organized at various locations, such as Dam square and Museumplein.


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.

Queen's Day crowd on its way to an event. Posted at Flicker by Photochiel

Queen’s Day crowd on its way to an event.
Posted at Flicker by Photochiel

For most of the day, there is no public transport in the center of town.

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.

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.

At all trains stations, trams and buses maps will handed out [or view them here] showing suggested walking routes — although as always we wonder whether anyone has ever completed the traject. There’s just way too much to see and do along the way.

If you are coming to Amsterdam from out of town, take the train.

• Finally, this phrase is here just for those who misspell Queen’s Day in the search engines: Queens Day.

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Queen’s Day Explained

We found this nice-to-look-at video on YouTube…


  1. Until 2013 it was April 30th — the birthday of then Queen Beatrix.
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Published: April 27th, 2013 Last updated: May 9th, 2013

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