Going Dutch: A Guide to Koningsdag (King’s Day)

By Rhonda Jimenez

April 27 is King Willem-Alexander’s birthday. That means in in the Netherlands, Koningsdag (or King’s Day) is a celebration and a giant party. The entire city turns orange in his honor. (He is a descendant of the House of Orange-Nassau.) People dye their hair orange, dye their dogs orange, wear orange three-piece suits, drink orange beverages and eat orange bonbons.

Start collecting your orange gear now as it sells out quickly! Try Hema, AH and Witbaard Feestartikelen in de Pijp for your giant orange sunglasses, hats, leis and boas. Also, remember Koningsdag can be freezing — a winter coat, gloves and hat might be needed, or perhaps you should wear a sundress and shorts. You never know.

Don't be afraid to wear your best outfits!

This is truly my favorite Dutch holiday. I love it because young and old celebrate it with unbridled passion.

What to do on Koningsdag?

We have a sloop, so we love to experience the nuttiness of the canals. It is like bumper boats with alcohol and almost no water. If you don’t have a boat, stand on a canal and watch the insanity. If you do venture out on a rental or your own sloop, check waternet.nl (they also have an app) for routes. The city creates a traffic system to manage the flow of boats. They now have water-based waste stations throughout for trash collection and potty breaks. Well done, City of Amsterdam!

Our boat with the signature cocktail the orange Aperol Spritz

If you have kids: Vondelpark turns into a giant kids’ yard sale. All used toys are recycled on the cheap, so it is fun to see what your kids can buy with €2. If you have things to sell, you can actually set up a table on the sidewalk and let your kids raise some cash. For just one day, it is legal to sell almost anything anywhere and everywhere. The park is just one of the popular places for kids to set up games. “Give me a euro and you can throw eggs at my face.” My son spent €10 at that game. There are games of skill where you have to smash a rolling tomato or water balloon toss. Some kids sing. Some kids dance. Others perform skits or music. Last year our VP Christine Collins’ daughter earned €300 singing with a friend. This is a fun place to go or take part in the money-making. No joke, the egg-faced kid made hundreds.

Like to shop? Head to the ritzy parts of town like Apollolaan, Beethovenstraat or the canal houses for designer bags, jewelry and clothing. This is a bonus, as it is very green to recycle clothing and wear something that isn't from Zara or Mango.

Like to eat? Anywhere you go, the free-market concept is set-up to relieve you of any extra cash. Pop-ups from restaurants sell food; kids sell (home-made) cookies and cakes; even Auntie Antje will sell soup from her window. Food is everywhere. (And just as important if not even more so: People even will allow you to use their toilet for a fee.)

Join us for a bake sale! We'll raise money for Safe Spaces at a bake sale on Apollolaan, near the Hilton. Would you like to help by baking or selling during a two-hour shift? Find more information and sign-up sheets on this post on our members Facebook page.

Like to party? The party actually begins on Koningsnacht, which is the night before Koningsdag. Do not miss it. Head to Rembrandtplein where bands and strange polka music take over. Caution: don’t get crazy on this night because tomorrow is another day of drinking. Pace yourself.

Koningsnacht at Rembrandt Square

Then on Koningsdag, head to Dam Square or any of the massive music festivals dotted around the city. In the Dam, you will find thousands of orange friends dressed in anything you can (or can’t) imagine. Music, events and mayhem, guaranteed.

It's one day only: As the day winds down, around 4:30 p.m. the city becomes a ghost town. A really dirty ghost town left with the remnants of an awesome party. Discarded treasures, beer bottles, orange boas and other things not to be mentioned are found on the streets and sidewalks. Don’t fret because the city is prepared. Cleaning crews dispatch and the city will be clean again by morning.

To the Dutch, Koningsdag is not a celebration of the royal family or even a holiday that celebrates the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is about community. The free-market, food and revelry are designed to encourage the citizens to go out and meet their neighbors. By purchasing a trinket, a treat or playing a game, they come together and celebrate being Dutch!

Happy Koningsdag!