6 things you should know about King’s Day in the Netherlands

It’s that time of the year again. One of the holidays Holland is best known for. We celebrate our dying monarchy by congratulating our king and drinking ’till we drop. To warm up to the Dutch partying ways hereby I share with you six things you should know before King’s Day.

Yeah, unfortunately, it’s not a normal year. King’s Day will live on, but coronavirus has changed the way we are celebrating this year. In fact, while King’s Day is effectively cancelled, you can bet that people will still be drinking, wearing orange, but (hopefully) sticking to social distancing. But, keep reading this article for what you need to know about King’s Day!

1. Where to celebrate King’s Day in the Netherlands in 2021?

So you have something orange, you’ve been saving up your beer, and you’re ready to go all out on King’s Day. But wait – where do you go? We know there will be something happening everywhere in the country, but what events should be on your radar? Don’t worry, we’ve done all the hard work for you and put together a list of events in all the big cities in the Netherlands!

UPDATE: Well, we did — we were pretty ready for this, but unfortunately coronavirus has put a spanner in the works. Check out what is happening for King’s Day 2021 here.

2. What is King’s Day?

If you’ve just moved to the Netherlands, it’s good to know that this is a national holiday. This might be a strange concept to expats, but it means you most likely get the day off to sit in the sun, drink and be merry. Thanks for being born King Willem! 👑

As suggested by the oh so subtle name, King’s Day is King’s Willem-Alexander’s birthday. It’s a bit of an adjustment for everyone since for decades it used to be called Queen’s Day when we only used to celebrate King Willem-Alexanders’ coronation.

Before that, we used to celebrate the birthday of our queen mother, Beatrix. But now she has retired, we’ve switched things up and now put the onus on King’s Day. Why? Because in-laws are always ignored and should be happy just to be there. Right, post-mortem Prince Claus? (R.I.P)

prince claus
Always the bridesmaid (prince) never the bride (King). Image: Dutch National Archives/ Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Our Willem Alexander is the proper heir to the throne because of, well, genetics. So Maxima’s queen title is just there for the fun of it. She is as much a queen as Rupaul is. (yaas queen, slay 💅 )

Nonetheless, King’s day is upon us. But for decades it has been celebrated as Queen’s day, even though it isn’t Maxima’s birthday. Maxima’s birthday is actually on January 31. After queen Juliana’s rule, ending in 1980, whose birthday was on April 30, Queen Beatrix decided to keep celebrations around that time of year.

Before Juliana’s rule, Queen’s day was held on Queen Wilhelmina’s birthday on August 31, the holiday originating in her younger years when she was still a Princess. The day was given the apt title: Princess’ Day. Looking at a photo of her from back in the day it becomes clear why — who doesn’t want to throw that sexy little minx a party? 💃

Wilhelmina queen
It’s Wilhelmina herself! Image: Atelier Jacob Merkelbach/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

King’s Day in the Netherlands: Meet the royals

Yes, since Beatrix started the tradition, the royals go out on the town and celebrate with “the people”. So you too can catch a glimpse of the King and Queen. Every year the royals go to a different region in the country to show how connected they are to the common man. They usually play silly games, enjoying old Dutch traditions involving clogs and swamp monster re-enactments (oh, how I’d wish that were true). They small talk with the locals and do the rounds of kissing babies (in non-pandemic times of course).

3. Where were the royals visiting this year?

So want to catch a glimpse of the royals this year? Well now anyone can, via the power of the internet. The royal family will be hosting a digital event from a studio in Eindhoven for Kings Day 2021.

As well as a heartfelt message from the royal family you can expect behind the scenes actions and live music to be streamed all day. It saves you from arguing whose Spotify account to synch up to!

4. What usually happens on King’s Day?

Sadly, we have another year where King’s Day won’t be the scale of party we’re used to in the Netherlands. Not to make you too sad, but here are the events you can usually expect on Koningsdag.

Flea Market Wars

King’s Day is also known for the flea markets that descend themselves on most cities. The ban on free trade is lifted for this holiday. Days, and sometimes weeks, in advance people mark their territory with crayons and tags. Curbs, sidewalks, bridges, every patch and centimetre becomes a potential reason for dispute and conflict. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people mark their territory like a dog (the streets certainly smell like it 🤧 ).

Want to get rid of some of your old junk? Put it on display and you might sell some of it (obviously depending on how crappy your stuff is). Half of Holland has fond childhood memories (and trauma) of saving up for that special toy by selling their old stuff during Kongingsdag.

This is also the day you can actually make some spare change by selling any unwanted booze, drinks, food, refreshments or just providing plain silly entertainment. It doesn’t really matter how, but you can make money. Drunks are easy targets.

Speaking of alcohol…

King’s Day drug of choice: Beer

The Netherlands loves it’s booze. After decades of smart marketing by Heineken, a product of national pride, we’re all hooked on the foamy sweet nectar of the gods on King’s Day.

And oh, how we love it.

No beer glass is left full, no mind is left clear. If there’s ever a day to enjoy a drink, it’s this one.

It’s not just the day itself, the night before is half the fun. It’s usually as busy as King’s Day minus the kids and families. That means even more opportunities to spill your beer, pee your pants and slur your words. (Don’t we love drunk people). For your safety and sanity, please, for the love of God, wear Orange!

5. Everything will still be Orange

Yes, the colour of Dutch pride is used for any occasion. Whether it’s the World Cup, the Olympics, or national holidays like Koningsdag. Wear orange and you confirm your place as a Dutchie. Whether you were born in the Netherlands, or not, it doesn’t matter. Everyone is united in a sea of orange. Especially when you combine it by shouting some classic phrases at complete strangers like “Leve de Koning“. Even shouting nonsense will create a ripple of shouting, laughter, and high fives.

On King’s Day in 2021, we can finally reclaim the colour orange as the colour of national pride. (Although it may induce flashbacks for the past four years 🍊).

Orange man bad King's Day 2020

Plenty brands use the Dutch love of the colour orange to their advantage. To show their patriotic (highly corporate) streek: orange shaving razors, headphones, grills, barbies, lube can all be purchased in the name of national pride. Brands tap into our Dutch sense of belonging to then exploit it to the full. And so the cycle continues.

Crowd forecast: chillax

In normal times, you really need to watch out in the big cities. If it’s a sunny day, the streets are packed, especially in Amsterdam. Dutch streets and canals aren’t made for crowds, that’s for sure. And as fun as the music, singing and performances can be, the canned sardine dance gets old after a while (although of course a true classic).

Boats on canals Amsterdam Kings's Day 2020
People having a blast on the canal in Amsterdam during King’s Day. Image: Annabiasoli/Pixabay

6. Bonus survival tip for King’s Day 2021: Herstelbiertje

Unfortunately, you still have to go to work the next day. Not to worry, just have a herstelbiertje (recovery beer)! The English call it “hair of the dog” and according to the Dutch, it’s the best way to get over your hangover in the morning. Just keep drinking so you can never be hungover, simple! And who in their right mind would argue with that? So just ignore the desperate cries of your liver, and go for that good old Dutch beer! The real breakfast of champions.

Well, that completes the King’s Day 2021 survival kit. Now, have a blast and let’s nostalgically commemorate a time when the monarchy still mattered within our tiny imaged community!

What do you like best about Kingsday? Let us know in the comments.

Feature Image: Shutterstock
This article was originally published in March 2020, and was fully updated in April 2021 for your reading pleasure.
Martijn Van Veen
Martijn is a filmmaker and curious mind fascinated with the ever changing world around him. He loves to overshare and to mingle in debates surrounding feminism, LGBT rights, ethnicity, immigration, copyright, new media and the war on drugs.

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30 COMMENTS

  1. Poorly written piece of article with a video of 2008 .. ?

    The writer’s attempts of being witty feel quite shallow.

  2. It’s 2016 and you still decide to go with “And looking at a photo of her from back in the day it becomes clear why: who doesn’t want to throw that sexy little minx a party” and “A man in a dress??? No silly, it’s Wilhelmina!”

    Maybe time to do some editing there

  3. […] King’s Day market is perhaps one of the coolest markets you will ever witness in your life. The whole Netherlands practically turns into an open marketplace on this day. The Dutch calls it the “Vrijmarkt” (free market). In some places, adults could be seen to mark the prime spots with chalk while kids could be seen out camping with their stuff since the early morning of King’s Day in order to get their favorite spots. […]

  4. […] King’s Day market is perhaps one of the coolest markets you will ever witness in your life. The whole Netherlands practically turns into an open marketplace on this day. The Dutch calls it the “Vrijmarkt” (free market). In some places, adults could be seen to mark the prime spots with chalk while kids could be seen out camping with their stuff since the early morning of King’s Day in order to get their favorite spots. […]

  5. Last year I went to Amsterdam during Kingsday with a company called Stoke Travel. It was amazing. We did a pubcrawl, had lots of fun at the hostel and in the streets. The crew was suuuper nice aswell! They partied with us and where always there to help you.

  6. I am new in Europe, currently living in Barcelona. I am an avid backpacker and I would love to visit Amsterdam during the King’s Day. How do I go about it? Are there any camping trips or something? I am lost! WTF

  7. […] King’s Day is a national holiday in Holland. It falls on April 27 (or April 26 if the 27th is a Sunday). It was originally created to help popularise a deeply unpopular monarchy and to promote national unity. The observance was also originally held only in Utrecht, but it quickly spread nationwide. While it is a “holiday”, it is not a day of rest. It is marked by traditional celebrations. DJs play music to public crowds in large squares, brightly decorated boats fill the canals, and cities turn into a mixture of street fair-visiting tourists and bargain hunters. […]

  8. This article is so negative1 When you’re hating your countries traditions that much…. don’t write an ariticle at all man..King’s day is one of the most entertaining and interesting days in The Netherlands. You’re just making fun of it and in my opinion you don’t deserve to call it ‘our’ national celebration. shame on you pall. In the and there are over 15 million people celebrating Kingsday and more to come because people all over the world are joining us in our traditions!

  9. A poor attempt at sarcasm. It’s just grumpy.

    Also you should really google “turning tricks” before you mention Dutch kids doing this. It gives a bad impression.

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