On the 27th April the Netherlands will be awash with orange as the whole country comes together to celebrate Koningsdag – or King’s Day. But what’s all the hullabaloo about? Find out more about the Netherlands’ national holiday here – and discover the best places to join in the festivities.

Birthdays are always a reason to celebrate. And when it comes to parties and inviting guests we are all well acquainted with the old adage: “The more the merrier!” But just imagine having the whole country coming out to celebrate your big day!

That’s essentially what King’s Day is all about. It’s a day where everyone can come together, wear silly costumes, and generally just have the craic – as long as you’re wearing orange of course. Join me on a little adventure to discover more about the biggest event in the Netherlands and who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired to join in on the fun!

King’s Day in the Netherlands

What’s it all about? | The parties | Locations

shutterstock_190044260_EDITORIAL ONLY_Melanie Lemahieu
Photo: Melanie Lemahieu/Shutterstock.com

What is King’s Day?

King’s Day has traditionally been celebrated on the 27th April each year to celebrate the birthday of King Willem-Alexander. This has been going on since 2014, when the king inherited the Dutch throne from his predecessor, Queen Wilhelmina. While she was still reigning, the national holiday was called Queen’s Day instead, and was celebrated on the 31st August.

Whether it’s a King’s or Queen’s Day, the idea remains the same. The whole country is out in full force to throw quite possibly one of the biggest parties in the Europe. There are colourful street festivals, loads of live music, bustling flea markets and even funfairs going on everywhere. And it doesn’t matter if you’re living in a major city or a tiny little village – you can be sure that there’s something going on anywhere and everywhere! The guest of honour will even go and visit a few cities personally as well, as per tradition.

People celebrating Kings Day in Amsterdam on kings day
Photo: iStock/Nisangha

How do they celebrate King’s Day?

The answer’s simple – just get into the party mood! Street parties are organised all over the country, accompanied by music, dancing and lots of shows. In some cities, celebrations will be kicked off the night before the official King’s Day starts, something that’s often known as King’s Night (Koningsnacht). Concerts are performed, DJs hit the decks, and a keg of beer is often tapped in front of cafés.

Why do people wear orange on King’s Day?

Despite the Dutch tricolour being red, white and blue, it’s actually orange that’s considered the national colour. The reason being is that the Dutch Royal Family are of House Orange – and the Royal Family are very popular in the Netherlands. On royal birthdays, an orange pendant will be flown on the top of the Dutch flag.

There’s also one special rule that’s particularly popular: this is the only day in the year that you can sell without a license! For this reason, huge flea markets – or vrijmarkten– take place all over the country. From children’s toys to quirky antiques, people come from all over to haggle for the best deals. You shouldn’t forget that orange clothing is an absolute must on King’s Day too! The national colour is worn all day long – wigs and make-up are also used alongside orange clothing. The whole country shows its unity, and people usually toast to a shot of oranjebitter – a liqueur that’s obviously orange-coloured!

Vrijmarkt_shutterstock_378286648_EDITORIAL ONLY_ ingehogenbijl
Photo: ingehogenbijl / Shutterstock.com

The biggest parties

If you’re celebrating King’s Day in Amsterdam, then I can point you in the right direction! Definitely take a detour to Vondelpark, which will have been transformed into one massive vrijmarkt. Blankets are laid out everywhere and there’s a fantastic atmosphere going on as people are haggling for good bargains and browsing the wares on display. The canals transform into a massive party scene, with DJs spinning their records and people celebrating on boats of all shapes and sizes.

The Hague is another great place to go – except maybe visit there the day before, since this city is actually famous for its King’s Night celebrations. Kerkplein, Grote Markt and Plaats are all squares that focus on live music in particular. The canals and Statenkwartier are other areas where the parties will be in full swing too. Or why not head to Utrecht? This charming city has a huge flea market that starts the day before King’s Day from 6pm onwards – and partygoers should head to Domplein, Lucasbolwerk, Mariaplaats, Neude, Janskerhof and Beijneplein, where most of the parties will be kicking off.

I tell you what – it must be pretty cool having a whole country celebrate your birthday. In fact I wouldn’t mind that myself! If you’d like to plan a last-minute trip to join in on the festivities but don’t know where to look, then I’ve popped in some handy links below to help you find any last-minute deals that may be going. :)

Here’s some more Netherlands inspiration!

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