Illustration of a crown surrounded by people and tulips with the text "Fijne Koningsdag" on top

King’s Day (Koningsdag) in The Netherlands

King’s Day (or Koningsdag, as the Dutch would say)—the day when the Netherlands turns into an orange sea of celebrations, market stalls, and all-around gezelligheid (a Dutch word that’s a little bit cozy, a little bit fun, a little bit "just right" atmosphere). This national holiday is a fascinating blend of tradition, patriotism, and party that captures the essence of Dutch culture in a unique way. Let's dive into the details of this vibrant celebration, shall we?

Just the facts

For those in a hurry, here's all you need to know about King's day. For everyone else, enjoy the article. =)

  • Date: King's Day is celebrated annually on April 27th, the birthday of King Willem-Alexander.
  • Traditions: Wear orange attire to show national pride and join in the festivities.
  • Activities: Enjoy the vrijmarkt (free market), street parties, boat parades, and royal walkabouts.
  • Crowds: Expect large crowds, especially in major cities. Plan transportation accordingly.
  • Inclusivity: King's Day is for everyone, Dutch citizens and visitors alike, to celebrate and enjoy Dutch hospitality.

What is King’s Day?

King’s Day is the birthday celebration of the King of the Netherlands, King Willem-Alexander. It's a day marked by national pride and a widespread sense of community. Streets, boats, and people are decked out in orange (the national color, thanks to the House of Orange-Nassau), showcasing a collective spirit of unity and joy. It’s like the entire country is throwing a birthday bash for their king!

When Did it Start?

The tradition began over a century ago with the celebration of Princess's Day in 1885, in honor of Princess Wilhelmina's fifth birthday. This day evolved into Queen’s Day when Wilhelmina became queen. The date has shifted with each monarch, and since King Willem-Alexander ascended the throne in 2013, we've been celebrating King’s Day on April 27th (his birthday), transitioning from the previous Queen’s Day which was observed on April 30th.

How is it Celebrated?

Oh, where to start? King’s Day is celebrated with an exuberance that’s hard to match. Here's a snapshot:

  • Vrijmarkt (Free Market): The country transforms into one gigantic flea market. People set up stalls to sell old treasures, homemade goods, and everything in between. It’s a free-for-all in the best possible way, where haggling is part of the fun.

  • Street Parties and Festivals: Major cities like Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Rotterdam become epicenters of music and dance. DJs, bands, and performers take to the streets and stages, ensuring there’s a beat for every step.
  • Boat Parades: The canals, particularly in Amsterdam, are a sight to behold, with boats of all shapes and sizes creating a lively flotilla of joy.
  • Royal Walkabouts: Traditionally, members of the Royal Family visit one or several towns on King’s Day, participating in the festivities and engaging with the public in various activities.

What You Need to Know

A couple of things that make King’s Day even more special:

  • Wear Orange: Seriously, the more orange, the better. It’s a sign of national pride and a nod to the royal family. From hats to shirts to face paint, orange is the way to go.
  • Plan for Crowds: Especially in the big cities, King’s Day attracts huge crowds. Public transportation can be packed, and some streets may be closed to traffic. It’s all part of the experience, but a little planning goes a long way.
  • It’s for Everyone: One of the most beautiful aspects of King’s Day is its inclusivity. Whether you’re Dutch or a visitor, young or old, it’s a day to come together, celebrate, and enjoy the Dutch hospitality and gezelligheid.

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