Koningsdag or King’s Day is a national holiday and city-wide street party in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The festival is held every year in honor of the Kings birthday.
For us, it was mainly an excuse to go to Amsterdam in the Springtime and drink with the locals. About an hour after we first learned about King’s Day, we started looking up flights. If there’s ever something as fun as this, in a city as cool as Amsterdam, you should just plan on going. It seems obvious when you say it out loud.
We were living in Sofia Bulgaria when we first heard of it.
We were looking for some good festivals to go to. We Googled keywords like the best, most fun, the funkiest, the weirdest, music, or wine-related types of festivals in Europe. We found a few interesting results but King’s Day stood out. It’s one of the things we consider when planning our year and deciding how to use the days available on our visas. Our year is flexible, and we’ll plan around fun things that we want to attend. Looking at the calendar, we knew that King’s Day fell eight days after we were moving to Budapest. So, we booked our flight from there. One thing for sure is that the snow in Bulgaria is a lot easier to bear when you’re dreaming of Amsterdam.
King’s Day is a birthday celebration and
continuation of a tradition that started out as Queen’s Day.
The first Queen’s Day was on August 31, 1885, in honor of Queen Wilhelmina’s birthday. The day was switched to April 30th in 1949 in honor of her daughter Queen Juliana’s birthday. It eventually became King’s Day on in 2014 and was switched to April 27th in honor of King Willem-Alexander’s birthday. So naturally, as a good citizen of the Netherlands, you wear orange and throw a city-wide festival style street party. As devoted supporters of street parties and festivals, logically we felt that we should attend.
Keukenhof and our Triumphant Return
We had been to Amsterdam before and had fond memories of the city. So, we arrived in Amsterdam a couple of days before King’s Day just to hang out. We watched some very enthusiastic Hare Krishnas have a pep rally of sorts and ate some surprisingly delicious street corn. Since we were visiting at the perfect time of year we spent the more beautiful part of our second day visiting the tulips of Keukenhof.
It had been a busy couple of days, but a fond memory kept tugging at us. We wanted to revisit something from our last trip.
Just off of Rembrandt Square is the houseboat we stayed on the last time we were here. Singing “Memories” in our best Barbara Streisand voices, we slow danced past the houseboat. It looked just like we remembered it, except that it now featured a fancy new dock on the canal side. We even looked for Bubbles the Attack Swan but had no luck. Strolling further down Memory Lane, we followed it up by returning to the Old Dutch Pancake House for the Poffertjes. We had really enjoyed those delicious traditional treats, and they were just as good as we remembered them.
Our second stop was less sentimental but far more necessary. Picking a tourist shop at random we bought our “orange gear.” It was vital for
Decked out in our orange finery, we found a bar and began the all-day process of toasting to the king.
Everywhere you looked was part of the festivities, so we picked directions randomly and started walking. The canals were filled with boats, decorated with orange and packed with people having a good time. The streets featured block after block of DJ’s blasting songs, each in the genre they specialized in, but all of them making people dance. We’d stop at a bar, raise a glass, make new friends, and then take one to go.
It was a party that just kept moving and we had a blast.
There was a big rave style concert in the city as well and if that’s your thing, it was probably a lot of fun too. We’re more the street party type of people, so we stuck to the main area. I guess you can attribute it to all of that time we spent living in New Orleans. We find embracing the chaos more fun than organized events usually.
At first appearance it may seem that the whole point of King’s Day is to wear a lot of orange and get drunk. But no, it’s far more than that. There’s also music and boat parties, and celebrating the King’s birthday of course. He’s probably a really nice guy, so Happy Birthday to King Willem! The wearing orange and getting drunk in Amsterdam part is just a bonus. Cheers, Amsterdam, you really know how to have a good time.