King’s Day in Amsterdam is a unique experience that I am so happy to see each year! The vibe from the entire city–whether locals or visitors–is contagious.
What is King’s Day?
King’s Day (or Koningsday in Dutch) is a celebration for the birthday of King Willem-Alexander of the House of Orange. He is the King for the Kingdom of the Netherlands and is fairly beloved. However, the party is mostly for the people…they would party even if they didn’t like the king!
Side note: The Kingdom of the Netherlands spans much farther than the country of the Netherlands…and the country spans farther than you’d think, too! Here’s an awesome video we watched to learn all about it. Sometimes geography can be fun and super interesting!
The King Willem rarely, if ever, spends King’s Day in Amsterdam. He’s usually spending the day (his birthday) in a smaller town. Let’s be honest, we do not need to give more people a reason to visit Amsterdam on King’s Day. It’s already insane!
Back to the the color orange. That’s the color of the day on King’s Day since the King is from the House of Orange. If you are in Amsterdam, or anywhere in the Netherlands for King’s Day, be sure to pack something – anything – orange.
Here’s the video from 2019 to get you in the mood! We spent it with the YouTubers, The Way Away.
When in King’s Day?
Every year it is April 27 unless that is a Sunday, then it will be April 26. Since it’s King Willem’s birthday, it doesn’t change. Before his mother Queen Beatrix abdicated, it was called Queen’s Day and she kept it on April 30 in honor of her mother’s birthday…and because Queen Beatrix’s birthday was at the end of January. These are outdoor festivities, so it made sense.
Where is King’s Day?
You’ll find celebrations all over the Netherlands, in every town. People tend to think Amsterdam is where everything happens, but for a truly local experience, take a day trip to another Dutch town.
However, this guide is about King’s Day in Amsterdam, so while you’ll find events all over the whole city, the main parties are in the center of Amsterdam.
One of my favorite things about King’s Day is that the festivities seamlessly flow from the streets into the canals of Amsterdam. You know those high school movies that show amazing school spirit and everyone is dressed in the school colors from head-to-toe? It’s exactly like that except 1,000 times bigger and in my favorite place.
What to expect during King’s Day
A day in Amsterdam for King’s Day can be overwhelming, but also energizing and fun!
Expect a ton of people in the center of the city and along the canals. There’s a canal parade that lasts all afternoon. I’d suggest going early (before noon) and grabbing a spot. If you’re with a group, even better! Then it’s not a big deal if someone gets hungry or needs to use the bathroom and leave for a bit…you’ll still have your spot.
Each boat is its own party while bystanders watch the parade float by and try to squeeze under the characteristic bridges. How any boat gets anywhere on King’s Day is beyond my comprehension. There are so many that it’s actually hard to see the canal itself.
Music is everywhere. People are on boats dancing, DJs are in the street, and some DJs are in windows above the street. Anywhere and everywhere can be a dance party. But, this is a daytime dance party. If you’re more of a night owl, be around for April 26 which has been dubbed King’s Night and that’s when the parties are extra wild because people don’t work the next day.
Do you like antiques or flea-markets? Then head to Vondelpark for the biggest concentration of residents selling things from their homes. Yep, part of King’s Day is that it’s a free day from sales when you are selling in the street. What gems can you find? Children will be walking around selling treats or playing an instrument to get your attention and hopefully earn some play money for themselves.
For those moments when you’ve danced yourself hungry, there will be a bunch of food stalls and carts around the city. It’s legal to sell food even if you don’t have a license to normally sell food. Use common sense and only eat at places that look decent. Some restaurants will also be open, and some will have quick take-away tables outside for a grab-and-go set up.
Get ready for some local specialties: from fries to herring, and even Surinamese dishes. Dig in and enjoy the taste of Amsterdam!
The city will have toilet trailers throughout the city as well as extra outdoor urinals for men. The trailers are usually very clean but you do have to pay between €.50 and €1.
Don’t expect a lot of public transportation options. Buses, trams, metros and ferries will be running for the most part, but will be non-existent in the center. They’ll get to the the outside areas where the streets aren’t blocked off, but then you’ll need to walk. And no, don’t try to cycle either. It’s just a nightmare.
King’s Day tips
- Take plenty of cash (mainly Euro coins and small bills)
- Have good walking shoes
- Wear orange
- Wear layers
- Bring a bag for shopping
- Bring water