Koninginnedag, the Queen’s birthday celebration on April 30 is a national holiday in the Netherlands. Officially it’s the birthday of the previous Queen Juliana, the mother of the current Queen Beatrix. Her birthday on January 31 isn’t exactly the best time to hold one of the biggest street parties in Europe!
For those who aren’t familiar with the Queen’s Day celebrations, the party starts on the evening of Friday 29 April with live music or DJs on most of the squares around the city, in every bar and café, on open air stages, from boats… Basically, in every inch of the city there’s something happening. Saturday, during the day, the streets are turned into one big flea market, with everyone using the space in front of their apartments to sell their secondhand goods. And once again on Saturday afternoon the party starts again.
Be warned, the city is packed, with well in excess of 1 million visitors flocking to the city (a lot for a city that normally has a population of 750,000). It puts such a strain on the city’s services that the city council are asking people from the Netherlands to stay in their own city! This means that public transport runs at a snail’s pace, and getting anywhere involves a lot of shuffling among crowds. The city becomes a sea of orange, the national colour representing the royal family, and the empty bottles, cups, cans, and food wrappers pile up to ankle height over the weekend, blocking most of the bike lanes from use.
Queen’s Day Checklist:
- Book your accommodation well ahead as every single room within a 20-kilometre radius of Amsterdam is booked
- Check the special train timetable at www.ns.nl
- Dig out any bright orange clothes or accessories you have to join in the spirit
- Get lots of sleep in advance as the parties continue until the early hours, so even if you want to sleep in the center it can be noisy
- Buy your wine, drinks, food, and water in advance, as most supermarket shelves are cleared by lunch time on Friday
- If you’re with children, head to the Vondelpark on Saturday as this is reserved exclusively for children’s activities
- The city is one big party, but there are stages with live music at the following locations (and more): Leidseplein, Marie Heinekenplein, Museumplein, Rembrandtplein, Thorbeckeplein, Vondelpark, Westerpark, Weteringplantsoen, and the Jordaan
- The 16th edition of Loveland Queen’s Day will take place at Sportpark Parkschouwburg near to the Wertheimpark between 12:00 and 8:00pm on Saturday. Entrance is free but there are a limited number of places
But most of all, have fun. Once you’ve experienced one Queen’s Day in Amsterdam, you’ll be waiting enthusiastically for the following year!