April 27th marks King’s Day in the Netherlands. This national holiday takes place on King Willem-Alexander’s birthday and was originally devised to promote national unity by honoring the Dutch royal family. Over 700,000 visitors descend on Amsterdam during King’s Day, turning the city into a massive carnival.
Clubs, bars and venues throughout Amsterdam host nighttime events the evening before King’s Day, which usually continue until the early morning, or even well into April 27th. For obvious reasons, these parties are usually promoted under the title King’s Night and often coincide with the next day’s festivities. Due to the large number of events happening on the 26th, it’s always worth planning ahead by checking out websites or social media.
During King’s Day, an orange tide sweeps over Amsterdam, as thousands of locals and visitors take to the streets wearing sunset-shaded wigs, face-paint and clothing. This unified color scheme simultaneously expresses Dutch national pride whilst paying tribute to the country’s Royal family, who descended from the House of Orange-Nassau.
Almost every thoroughfare in central Amsterdam is inundated with people on King’s Day, creating a city-wide street party. As Thursday, April 27th is always a national holiday in the Netherlands, most workers are given time-off, meaning that the large majority of Amsterdammers are able to spend the entire day partying. Apart from these impromptu festivities, larger, organised events also take place around the city, including open-air concerts at Rembrantplein and Musuemplein.
A constant, huddled mass of boats stream through Amsterdam’s canals over King’s Day, allowing the party to spill over onto the city’s waterways. Although these aquatic parades aren’t actually coordinated by the municipality, they are superbly entertaining. The largest concentration of boats usually channels along Prinsengracht and camping out on this canal is always rewarding.
In order to declutter their homes or simply pass on old, unwanted possessions, many people in Amsterdam set up small market stalls outside their apartments on King’s Day. In fact, April 27th is the only time of the year when street vending is permitted without a license and during the holiday Amsterdam becomes one, enormous flea market, which is commonly called de Vrijmarkt. While every neighbourhood in Amsterdam has its fair share of stalls, a particularly large assembly of traders congregate around Vondelpark every year.
Food and drink
According to statistics, 600 times more tompouce are consumed in Amsterdam during King’s Day than on average. In honor of the holiday, this delicious, cream-filled cake is coated with an orange layer of icing and sold at stores across the city. Savoury street food is also available at stalls and kiosks throughout central Amsterdam, while many bars turn their street-side entrances into improvised beer tents. As supermarkets are required to limit the amount of beer available to customers, it is wise to stock up the night before King’s Day.