Party Like a King: 5 Tips for Celebrating King’s Day in Amsterdam
It’s that time of the year again – the whole of Holland is turning orange. No, I’m not talking about the world-renowned Keukenhof gardens or the famous tulip fields – I’m talking about King’s Day.
What is King’s Day? Well, as the name suggests, it’s a day dedicated to the current Dutch King Willem-Alexander (until a few years ago, it was known as the Queen’s Day after Queen Beatrix, who abdicated in 2013). King’s Day is celebrated yearly on the 27th of April, and it is one of the biggest if not the biggest party in the Netherlands. Up to one million people celebrate it in Amsterdam alone.
Last year I was one of these people, and I had a great time, partying 36 hours straight. However, there are a couple of things I wish I’d known beforehand: to make most of King’s Day, you need to plan ahead. So, without further ado, here are my top five tips for celebrating King’s Day in Amsterdam.
1. Wear Orange
This one kind of goes without saying, right? The Dutch monarchy is known as the house of Oranje, so it’s no surprise that everyone wears orange for King’s Day. If you don’t happen to have an orange dress like I do and don’t want to invest in a new wardrobe for the sake of one party, as amazing as it might be, there’s a wide array of cheap and cheerful accessories available from stores such as Hema and Tiger. Think orange balloons, orange hats, orange vuvuzelas, orange crowns, orange ticker tape… there’s even orange lipstick. I wanted to buy one for myself, but my boyfriend begged me to reconsider.
2. Don’t forget the change
Flea markets are traditionally a big part of the King’s Day celebrations in Amsterdam. From early morning until late afternoon, the streets and canals are lined with stands selling everything from second-hand clothes to jewellery to houseware to food (which often comes with orange frosting, see above). You might also need cash for less traditional activities – last year we witnessed a couple of guys selling eggs on the street. The point? After buying the egg, you could throw it at one of the sellers. We didn’t try it for ourselves, but if you have any bottled-up aggressions you want to get rid off, it might be worth having a go.
3. Start early
The celebrations start on the evening of the 26th of April, known as the King’s Night. Judging by last year, the night before is no less entertaining than the actual King’s Day: the bars are open late, there are house parties around every corner, and people take to the streets drinking and dancing (though I have to say I wish there was a bit more of the latter and a bit less of the former..). If partying until the sunrise is not your thing, it might be a good idea to get up early on the 27th: the first stalls open for business at around 6 am, and there’s considerably less competition for bargains at that hour than there will be later in the day.
4. Jump on a boat… if you can find a spot!
From all I’ve heard, the best way to celebrate King’s Day in Amsterdam is aboard a boat. I wouldn’t know, because getting any sort of vessel for King’s Day is extremely difficult unless you or one of your friends happen to own one. Not only are the rental fees exorbitant, but the boats are often booked weeks if not months in advance. No worries if you’re a late planner, though: there are some big boat parties and commercial tours that you might still be able to join. I’m thinking about doing this, but I’m a bit worried about being stuck on a boat with hoards of drunk people for several hours. Which brings us to the next point…
5. Prepare for crowds and general debauchery
King’s Day in Amsterdam is busy. Super busy. Think Notting Hill Carnival, but on narrow medieval streets. It is also loud, chaotic and, at least for someone who does not drink, at times almost distressingly boozy. But it’s also fun, entertaining, and interesting: a great way to get a little peek into the Dutch culture. So leave your valuables and, even though cycling is usually by far the best way to get to know Amsterdam (click!), your bikes at home and prepare to have fun.
Have you celebrated King’s Day in Amsterdam? Have you got any tips to share?
If you can’t make it to Amsterdam for this year’s party, you can join me for our King’s Day celebrations on my Instagram Stories. Don’t forget to also follow Studying the World on Facebook and Bloglovin. Interested in the Netherlands? You’ll find all my Dutch posts behind this link.