Are you in Amsterdam during King's day? Wonderful! But how to enjoy this crazy celebration? Here's what an Insider would tell you...
The celebration of King’s day in The Netherlands is the time when EVERYTHING is allowed!
So, for those of you who are not familiar with the (in)famous Koningsdag or King’s day, you must know that it is a sacred day in The Netherlands. Originally, this celebration symbolized the birthday of the queen Beatrix. Born in the 19th century, this celebration is a tradition that Dutch people care about deeply. One could almost think that they are waiting for this particular occasion the whole year, boats being reserved sometimes up to a year in advance, restaurants are fully booked beforehand and obviously nobody works or well, almost nobody. Even plane tickets are more expensive before the event. It must be said that this party is becoming known more and more internationally, and it’s right to state that King’s day or Queen’s Day is a rather unique celebration of its kind.
Everybody is wearing orange during King’s day, the national color of The Netherlands and tradition dictates that one must wear a disguise, walk the streets where plenty of people have come to sell various objects and clothing at very low prices or be on a boat on the canals amongst friends while listening to music and drinking. Every year King’s Day falls on the 27th April.
This party is in fact a huge drinking feast, a flea market, a carnival and a music festival all at once. The first year that we celebrated it we were taken aback by the amount of people in the streets. There are more people outside during King’s Day than during New Year’s Eve celebration! The whole country takes a break to “let go” and it’s truly incredible to witness it. You will see the most ludicrous getups, individuals completely wasted sleeping in the streets (as this party lasts 24h from 12h am the day before nonstop), local artists’ concerts a bit everywhere throughout the towns, fireworks and a vibrant city during a whole day. Obviously, the day after the towns look like ghost cities after a natural disaster that only spared a couple of survivors. The 28th April, the day after Kingsday, marks for sure the peak consumption point of the year for Ibuprofen and Doliprane.
As far as the streets are concerned? The majority of garbage is removed during the night but the cleanup will continue for a couple more days. You will also see some of the living dead wandering in the streets.
In the shops? Messed up aisles and many shops closed.
From an environmental point of view, this party is not very green, especially due to the waste that it generates. 200,000 kg of waste only for the city of Amsterdam, not to mention the urine in the canals that flows into the sea and the plastic retrieved a bit everywhere. Therefore, little by little, certain bars and cafes have started to not distribute anymore disposable plastic cups, but glasses instead – this forces people to bring them back to the bar in order to get their 1 or 2 eur deposit back. Every year, after King’s day, the towns try to find solutions, but many of our waste goes into the water, thus it’s best to avoid disposable glasses and not throw things in the canals.
Here is a list of what locals do and what is customary, as well as a couple of tips to properly prep you for King’s Day in Amsterdam
Be on a boat (yes yes it’s possible) or rent one yourself if you are with a group
If you plan on coming to Amsterdam during King’s Day, do note that rental boats are already all booked at least one month in advance but you can of course always give it a try. Here is a website listing all the various boat rental companies. You could also try your luck and ask people on boats if you can join their party, this works if the boat is not already full, and it’s an awesome way of making new friends!
Go to the big squares like RAI in order to enjoy free concerts and crazy crowds
Indeed, the cities put in place animations and other events such as concerts. The best way to be a part of this is by going to the main town squares such as Leidseplein, Rai or NDSM or to parks like Westerpark or Vondelpark.
Wander around in the Joordan neighborhood
Where you will find yourselves in the middle of a crowd of giant Dutchies and you will attend free concerts (attention please: it’s Dutch artists, so don’t expect Justin Bieber to show up!)
Dress up in orange
This one is absolutely mandatory if you don’t want to look like a tourist! You will find in Albert Heijn and a bit everywhere actually accessories and decorations typically suited for King’s Day (celebration of the King’s birthday). I strongly advise you to not buy any. On the one hand, these trinkets will end up one way or another in the trash and this will be wasted money, and secondly these are products made mostly out of plastic, therefore not really great for the environment.
Get snacks and food the day before King’s day
as shops are going to be trashed on the day. Already, the majority of shops will be closed, but in the few supermarkets that are open, don’t hope to find anything after 15h unless you want to purchase baby diapers!
Walk along the Amstel river
to observe the animated boats while sipping a beer on the docks (purchase your drinks the night before!!!)
Peruse the flea markets that are to be found almost everywhere downtown and in the Pijp neighborhood
Go early in the day to discover the rare gems or at the end of the day in order to benefit from discounted or bargain items.Faire les marchés aux puces présents quasiment partout en centre-ville
Start partying the night before King’s Day
only if your liver is in top shape and you have planned for 3 recovery days afterwards (the bars can stay open all night on the evening before King’s Day)
Take the ferry to go to NDSM from Barentzplein pont
There is a big ferry leaving the Barentzplein ferry stop on Kingsday, crossing the harbor and going to NDSM Vrijhaven party. This ferry is pretty special as it is bigger than others and play music so you can pre-party to reach the bigger party!!!
Do something different and unique ; green your orange day with Greenpeace fun activities
Yeap, as you may know Greenpeace headquarters are in the Netherlands and for King’s day, they are sometimes organising different activities for you and for families in NDSM with the theme “Save The Artic” or “Save the bees”. You can take a boat or create candles with bee wax, This year (2017) no Greenpeace activities, but nothing prevents you from visiting places like Cafe Ceuvel, which is an environmental friendly place, 100% climate neutral. And you could carbon offset your stay by planting trees.
Do not lose your friends!!!
(unless you prefer to make new ones): no functional phone network, packed streets, drunk crowds!
Plan your pee stops!
Oh yes bars will deny people access to use the toilets. And it turns out that peeing becomes VERY complicated…There are toilets planned around the city more or less but you have to pay a fee (around 1 eur)
Download an app that displays all the events in the city!
Bring a backpack and a garbage bag!
This might seem silly but if you are even a little bit concerned about the future of your waste, plan to hold on to it up to the point where you find a free trashcan (they are often very full on King’s day). Especially do not throw it in the canals!!!
HAVE WILD FUN!
But keep in mind that excessive alcohol is harmful to your health…and to the planet (unless you are only drinking local and bio beers, obviously)!
A useful map for you:
Translation & Copy Editing by Liana Marinoiu