As far as national traditions go, King’s Day is a recent one. Up until 2013, the Dutch had toasted a much-loved line of queens since the celebrations started in 1885. Amsterdam’s enthusiasm for the monarch’s birthday, currently on 27 April, remains unchanged. Navigating the city in a sea of orange-clad revellers can be bewildering – here are five insider facts to help you prep for the big party.
King’s Night, on 26 April, starts early, with many employers closing up shop so everyone can head for a toast or two in their local brown bar. Officially celebrations start when the clock strikes midnight. For a typical Dutch hangout right in the middle of the city, head to favourites like Café van Zuylen, De Blaffende Vis and Louis.
Fancy yourself an antiques dealer or street food hero? Anyone is free to set up a stall on King’s Day – the perfect excuse to practice your haggling skills. Locals start claiming their spots on the streets with tape and chalk a week before the big day. Some entrepreneurial souls with canalside digs even stock up on toilet paper so they can charge passers-by to use their bathroom.
With all of the food stalls, pop-up bars and second-hand haggling, cash is king on the day. Most ATMs run out of money during King’s Night – it’s a good idea to plan ahead and carry more than you think you’ll need.
Unlike the city’s Gay Pride boat parade, it’s actually free for boats to parade down the Prinsengracht canal on King’s Day. Rental prices skyrocket, though, so most people will pay a friend for a spot on their boat. If you can squeeze onto one, expect food, drinks and – if you’re in luck – a few DJs on board. It’s the Dutch way to celebrate in style.
Museumplein and Dam Square used to host spectacular concerts from headlining artists. Things are far less raucous in the centre of town these days, as all the larger celebrations have moved to the outskirts. If you’re looking for a big party, head to the beachside Orange Blossom Festival in Blijburg, or check-out the indoor-outdoor Cartel Kingsday festivities at WesterUnie nightclub.