Koningsdag or King’s Day is a national holiday and city-wide street party in the Kingdom of the Netherlands in honor of his birthday.
For us it was mainly an excuse to go to Amsterdam in the Spring time and drink with the locals. When we first learned about it, we immediately 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 when we first heard of it.
We were looking for the best, most fun, funkiest, weird, music or wine related whatever types of festivals in Europe. It’s one of the things we consider when planning our year and deciding how to use the days available on our visa. 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. 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, it was winter last time we spent the more beautiful part of the second day visiting the tulips of Keukenhof.
It had been a busy couple of days, but a fond memory kept tugging at us and we wanted to check on something.
Just off of Rembrandt Square is the houseboat we stayed on 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, so we followed it up by returning to the Old Dutch Pancake House for the Poffertjes, a delicious traditional treat.
Our second stop was less sentimental but far more necessary. Picking a tourist shop at random we bought our “orange gear,” to help us get into the spirit. The King’s Day stuff was everywhere so it was pretty easy to find something we liked. With our party preparation completed, we were ready for the big day.
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. But we’re more the street party type of people. 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.