About This Festival
Koninginnedag - From Queen to King
On April 30, 2013 Holland welcomed its first male monarch since 1890: King Willem-Alexander. This succession means many changes for the festival of course, including the fact that Queen's Day will have a new name, a new date and a new significance.
The Dutch have been celebrating Queen's Day on 30 April, which is the birthday of the previous Queen Juliana, since 1949. On her investiture Queen Beatrix decided to retain the date in honor of her mother (and because in all honesty, the weather on her own birthday on 31 January isn't nearly as nice). While we've yet to experience King's Day specifically, it's likely that many of the traditions and characteristics of Queen's Day will be carried over.
I am Amsterdam
When it comes to parties, Amsterdam's annual celebration of their monarch's birthday is the ultimate Dutch treat. In a city known for its "anything goes" party vibe, this annual event is the wildest 24 hours of the year. While the laws are more than tolerant the other 364 days, rules practically don't exist on this day as police are strictly forbidden to intervene in the festivities. It's not as if many real crimes occur in the Netherlands, but the cops sure won't shut down your party—whether you're selling your grandma's record collection or dancing in the streets wearing her vintage orange tutu. It's all in the name of a good time and between the costumes, clubs, canals and street parties, the whole city is hell-bent on having fun, painting the town orange and celebrating all things distinctly Dutch.
Why orange? The flag of the Netherlands is red, white and blue, but orange is the color of the royal family and most everyone embraces this bright, happy color, welcome after a long, gray winter. Even the flags are adorned with a mini-flag of orange.
Despite a reputation as straight-laced yet tolerant with progressive legislation, the Dutch are among the most enthusiastically festival-loving nations in the world. These well-traveled residents have an international party presence that is impressive, especially compared to much larger countries. On a normal day, the Dutch are disguised in more shades of gray than even E.L. James knows how to describe. Come spring and summer festival season, a transformation occurs: drab banker by day; party superhero by night. In fact, the Dutch are such avid partiers, you might meet more of them than locals at other European festivals. So when we're talking about the best party in the Netherlands, don't take our word for it, take theirs. Not only do they let down their hair, they dye it orange.
The Dutch are among the most enthusiastically festival-loving nations in the world.
The first Koninginnedag (Queen's Day) on August 31, 1885 was actually called Prinsessedag, or Princess's Day, for Princess Wilhelmina's fifth birthday. Because she was heiress to the Dutch throne, the name of the celebration changed following her coronation as queen. After a succession of rulers, the current date was first celebrated on April 30, 1949. It was Queen Juliana's birthday, a quiet affair by today's standards, celebrated with some orange cake, a military parade and bicycle races (how very Dutch!). When Queen Beatrix, Juliana's daughter, rose to the throne in 1980, her first order of business was to honor her mom with a massive party for her birthday. But Beatrix was born in dreary January, so the partiers-that-be in Amsterdam decided to shift the festivities to the end of April to both welcome the great weather and belatedly celebrate the queen's birthday.
Queen's Night, or Koninginnenacht, is the eve of the official birthday. It's much like New Year's Eve — you want to ring in your birthday with a smash, right? That's more than easy to do in Amsterdam, one of the nightlife capitals of Europe. But don't start your night off at one of Amsterdam's infamous "coffee shops." Unlike coffee, these marijuana joints, space cakes or other trippy treats are not of the energizing variety and you just might end up melting into a sofa for the rest of the evening. Best to save the stoner vibe for any other day. The other Amsterdam green — a tall bottle of Heineken — is the libation of choice. Euro-techno music throbs from Amsterdam clubs that put on their best shows of the year on Queen's Night. Chances are, come morning, you won't know if you're in Holland or the Netherlands, or whether that's Nathalie or Nathaniel in bed with you.
Various Ways to Celebrate
Whether you have slept or not, on the morning of the 30th the streets come alive with a massive flea market, or vrijmarkt. It's the only day of the year that anyone can sell things on the street without a permit, and today, anything goes. If you forgot to bring something orange, here's your chance to grab some festive clothes and blend right in. Wigs, dresses, tutus, boas and neckties — you guessed it, all orange! Fancy dress and costume revelers rejoice! It feels like Mardi Gras with dancing in the streets.
Amsterdam is blessed with an abundance of transportation options. Streets run parallel to an electric rail, then a bike path, followed by a walking path and then a canal, of course! A boat on the canal is the best place to enjoy the festivities. All manner of watercraft pack the waterways, from wooden rowboats to standup paddleboards. On deck, there are picnics and orange dressed crews drinking oranje bitter, which has been the drink of choice on Queen's Day. It's made with orange peels soaked in jenever (a type of gin) and is naturally colored a bright fluorescent orange.
Off the water, partiers walk the city. If you want to experience a massive concert, head to Museumplein with almost a million-strong concert goers. The second biggest party is at Rembrandtplein, just follow the crowds. If you need a break from all this partying, just want to chill out or bake in the stoner vibe, head to Vondelpark — the city's urban oasis where "everything is possible and (almost) everything is allowed."
The holiday certainly isn't limited to Amsterdam, but the city certainly throws the best party. If you happen to be anywhere in the Netherlands, you will be able to find something going on, just follow the orange-clad revelers. To really fit in, join the crowds spontaneously singing the anthem of the day, "Het Wilhelmus," a poem written in 1574 that describes the life of William of Orange and his fight for the Dutch people.