King's Day in the Netherlands is a national holiday celebrated each year on April 27th. It marks the birthday of King Willem-Alexander, who ascended to the throne in 2013 after the abdication of his mother, Queen Beatrix. On this day, the entire country turns into a sea of orange, the national color, as people take to the streets to celebrate with parties, parades, and outdoor concerts. It's a fun day for all ages, with games, singing, dancing, and lots of traditional Dutch food and drink.
The festivities are not just about the king, but also a celebration of Dutch culture, values, and identity. Besides being a fun-filled day, King's Day has a deeper meaning for the Dutch. It’s a day symbolizing unity, democracy, and social cohesion. It's an opportunity for people to come together and celebrate everything it means to be Dutch.
Below we highlight 5 of our favorite ways to celebrate this national holiday.
Party in the Streets (Nationwide)
One of the most fascinating and fun things about Kings Day is the nationwide partying that takes place in the streets. The atmosphere is electric, with music blasting from speakers and people dancing in the streets. The streets are completely packed with people who are all looking to have a good time. Dutch people are friendly and welcoming, so don’t be surprised if you’re handed a beer or a snack as you join in the festivities. With the streets lined with food trucks and vendors selling all sorts of goods, Kings Day in the Netherlands is truly a sight to behold.
This is our personal favorite way to celebrate, as you will surely experience good drinks, traditional food, good conversation, and have access to a bathroom (boaters will know what we mean).
Rent a Boat on the Canals
Renting a boat in the Netherlands on King’s Day is a unique and exciting experience. The canals and waterways of Amsterdam especially become a sea of orange, as locals and tourists alike celebrate the birthday of King Willem-Alexander.
From the deck of a rented boat, you’ll witness the festivities and enjoy a one-of-a-kind perspective of the city. As you cruise through the water, you'll pass by colorful boats filled with people partying and dancing to the festive music (though “pass by” may be generous – in some parts of the city you’ll be bumper-to-bumper all day). The atmosphere is lively, and the sense of community is palpable. Renting a boat on King’s Day is a really fun way to celebrate for anyone visiting the Netherlands during this time.
However, we must caution that if you are not used to boating or not familiar with the canals, you may be in over your head. When we say the canals are busy with people partying, we mean busy. It's not the best day to try boating for the first time, but if you can find a seasoned captain, then by all means – indulge.
On King's Day in the Netherlands, it's common to see people dressed head-to-toe in bright orange. This tradition dates back to the House of Orange-Nassau, the Dutch royal family that has kept the title of Prince of Orange since the 16th century.
Taking to the streets decked out in orange clothes, hats, and face paint is a way to show support for the monarchy (in more traditional interpretations) and above all, a sense of Dutch national pride. But the festivities don't stop there - the Dutch also indulge in tompouce, a pastry filled with whipped cream and topped with bright orange icing, and drink orange-based liqueurs like Orange Bitter or Oranjebitter. It's a sweet and festive way to celebrate the king's birthday and honor the House of Orange-Nassau.
Go to the Flea Market
Flea markets have become an integral part of Dutch culture and are especially popular on King's Day. On this day, the Dutch streets come alive with thousands of stalls selling pre-loved items, crafts, and snacks. The great thing about these markets is that everyone can participate and set up their own stall without a license or paying fees for just one day each year.
It's a perfect opportunity for people to declutter their homes and neighborhoods to gather together in the spirit of celebrating their King's birthday. The lively atmosphere created by the enthusiastic shoppers, haggling merchants, and street performers truly makes this event an unforgettable experience.
Kings Night in Amsterdam:
Kings Night, also known as Koningsnacht, is a festive celebration that takes place on April 26th in the Netherlands.
The night before King's Day, the entire country comes together to honor the king with bonfires, street parties, and concerts (but the vibe is especially alive in Amsterdam). The Dutch take to the streets and indulge in traditional Dutch snacks like bitterballen and stroopwafels and, of course, Heineken. Celebrations continue into the early hours of the morning, and the festive atmosphere is contagious. It's a night that brings communities together and showcases the Dutchies’ love for their country.