5 things to do on King’s Day to celebrate the Dutch way

It’s almost that time of year again: King’s Day. 🧡 The day to party, drink, buy and sell random things — and forget even the slightest semblance of worry.

King’s Day is the day when the Dutch celebrate the birthday of King Willem-Alexander. But don’t be fooled, this national holiday is not so much about the birthday of the King. Instead, it’s much more about wearing orange, drinking stupid amounts of alcohol and roaming the streets of your favourite Dutch city.

New to this favourite of Dutch traditions? Here are some things you can do that’ll catapult you at least ten steps forward in your inburgering (integration) process to become a true Dutchie.

People-wearing-orange-and-celebrating-Kings-day-in-the-netherlands
How many orange hats can you count in this picture? Image: Depositphotos

1) Attend Festivals

Well, let’s get one of the most obvious to-do’s out of way, shall we? It doesn’t matter where you are in the Netherlands, there’s always going to be a King’s Day festival within a comfortable travelling distance. (And by ‘comfortable’ I mean an overly packed train and an incessant stream of hour-long delays.)

While almost any venue will be hosting a King’s Day event, it’s the annual festivals that boast the biggest parties. Most festivals focus on genres like house and techno, but if you’re looking to party the Dutch way, then it’s an ideal way to let loose. And there are dozens of options when it comes to festival choice.

Kingsland is likely the nation’s biggest festival, spanning 3 different cities with big names like Martin Garrix and Afrojack heading the line-up. Other festivals like Loveland also attract thousands of guests.

After two years of coronavirus measures and minimal festivities on King’s Day, we can’t wait for the 2022 aftermovie. 😍

If you’re looking in Rotterdam, then check out Oranjebitter, or the Kralingse Bos Festival. In The Hague you can check out The Life I Live.

2) Visit flea markets

If you don’t think the Dutch are weird enough, and you’re not feeling the festival vibe, then make sure to check out the King’s Day flea markets. It’s the one day of the year that the ban on free trade is lifted and so everyone sets up their own makeshift shops and begins to haggle mercilessly with everyone else in sight.

Why? Because we’re Dutch and we like a ‘good’ deal. And so yes, we will shamelessly spend half an hour trying to convince our neighbours to cut 20 cents of the asking price of their third-hand copy of a useless Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban DvD.

So if you’re in need of some useless old crap, need to get rid of some, or if you just want to witness the grand phenomenon that is Dutch haggling, make sure to hit up the King’s Day flea markets.

Most cities will have a number of centres where the newly-christened merchants set up more densely, but it’s not uncommon to see them spread all throughout urban areas.

street-flea-market-in-Amsterdam-on-kings-day
From homemade treats to second-hand books and hidden treasures — you can really buy anything on King’s Day fleamarkets! Image: Depositphotos

3) Witness royalty

For those wondering what the King actually does on King’s Day, wonder no longer. Each year the King visits a different city where he parades around with his family and everyone can come together to celebrate with the monarch himself.

In the past King Willem-Alexander has visited De Rijp, Amstelveen, Dordrecht, Zwolle and Tilburg. This year Maastricht is the lucky host.

The Dutch royal family will kick off the celebration at 11 AM on the Sint Servaasbrug and conclude the parade at 1 PM on the Vrijthof.

King-Willem-Alexander-and-Queen-Maxima-at-a-Kings-Day-parade
The Dutch King and Queen at a King’s Day parade. Image: Depositphotos

4) Drink beer

There’s not much explanation needed for this. While the weather on any Dutch day is excuse enough to resort to beer drinking, King’s Day is truly a special day for the nation’s favorite alcoholic beverage.

It might also just be the most popular thing to do on King’s Day. While public drunkenness is regularly frowned upon, King’s Day makes the practice entirely acceptable, or at least tolerable.

I’m not saying you should start day drinking, but if there’s ever a day for it, King’s Day is that day. If nothing else, King’s Day is the country’s biggest annual party and it wouldn’t be a Dutch party without a bit (read, a lot) of beer. Or drink wine, no one’s going to judge you (probably).

5) Do nothing

And if you’re not into doing any of the activities above, just do nothing. No one can stop you. It’s King’s Day. No one can force you to work today (unless, of course, you’re helping to facilitate the aforementioned activities).

So just go lie in bed, snuggle under the covers, and spend your entire day watching all the Netflix you could ever dream of….until the next day, when it’s straight back into the daily grind.

How are you spending King’s Day this year? Tell us in the comments!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in April 2017, and was fully updated in April 2022 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Noah Bloem
Noah Bloemhttp://www.redelephantstories.com
Noah grew up in Dhaka, Jakarta, and New York City before finding his way to Rotterdam (and now back to New York again). Despite having recently snagged a bachelor’s degree at Erasmus University College, he is fully committed to postponing adulthood as long as possible.

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