Koninginnedag or Queen’s Day is a national holiday in the Netherlands and it’s territories on 30 April (or on 29 April if the 30th is a Sunday). Queen’s Day celebrates the birthday of the Queen of the Netherlands and is supposed to be a day of national unity and “togetherness” (Dutch: saamhorigheid). The tradition started on 31 August 1885 on the birthday of Princess Wilhelmina, later Queen Wilhelmina. Since 1949, after the ascension of Queen Juliana, Queen’s Day is Queen Juliana’s birthday on 30 April. Although Queen Beatrix’s birthday is on 31 January, she officially celebrates her birthday on 30 April.
Queen’s Day is known for its “freemarket” (Dutch: vrijmarkt) all over the country, where everybody is allowed to sell things in the streets. Other activities during Queen’s Day are children’s games, individual musical performances, and music concerts. The night before Queen’s Day is celebrated too in some cities, and this is called Queen’s Night (Dutch: Koninginnenacht). The largest celebration of Queen’s Day is in Amsterdam and of Queen’s Night in The Hague. During the celebrations as reference to the colours of the House of Orange-Nassau, people dress in the colour orange, which is sometimes called “orange craze” (Dutch: oranjegekte).
Some of the highlights of the “celebrations” are:
This is a typical occasion for oranjegekte (orange craze), when the colour orange is a ubiquitous sight, referring to the name of the Dutch royal family, the House of Orange. There are orange banners, orange colored foods and drinks, and extreme amounts of orange clothing and creative accessories are worn as well. Sometimes even the water in fountains is dyed orange. It is not uncommon for people to impersonate the queen, not always in a flattering manner (rudely).
The so-called ‘vrijmarkt‘ (‘freemarket’) is similar to a US car boot sale or Flea market. Owing to a holiday dispensation from the Dutch government, people do not need to pay taxes on their sales. The items sold are traditionally old rubbish, but for commercial traders this is also an extremely profitable day. The freemarket in Amsterdam attracts the most visitors. Prices tend to be very negotiable and drop as the day progresses. By the end of the festivities, much of the unsold merchandise is left on the streets to be picked through until it’s hauled off by local municipalities shortly after. There are, however, some areas where the original style is preserved. One of these is the Jordaan (pronounced: Yordaan), a gentrified former working class neighborhood, where prices are very low because the sale is just an excuse to have a nice day and a friendly chat with complete strangers. Sections of the Jordaan can become so full of pedestrians that they become completely gridlocked, despite the absence of cars. Another is the Vondelpark (pronounced: Fondelpark), which is officially reserved for children. Especially there, but also elsewhere, there are many other activities besides selling second hand goods, such as performing music or providing other entertainment for money.
Open air concerts
In recent years, Koninginnedag has become more and more of an open-air party, with many concerts and special events in public spaces, particularly in Amsterdam, which attracts anywhere from 500,000 to 800,000 visitors. Many Dutch people living abroad try to make the pilgrimage home to experience this holiday each year. Booking accommodations in Amsterdam and elsewhere for Queen’s Day is notoriously difficult, requiring booking 6 months or more ahead.
During the preceding ‘koninginnenacht‘ (Queen’s Night) many bars and clubs throughout the Netherlands (particularly in Amsterdam and The Hague) hold special events catering to revelers that last all night long. The event draws tens of thousands of visitors every year.
1. Reach early (if you are staying out of the city) to avoid the rush in trains and on the streets. Most of the concerts start early (or been going on all night-previous).
2. You can buy a glass of beer for €5 at any of the hundreds of beer-selling counters. Remember to save that glass because you can refill for €2 at any of the counters. You don’t necessarily have to be at the same counter where you purchased your first one.
3. Wear something Orange. Wait – wear everything orange, because you’d feel totally out of place if you don’t!
4. Be safe – Take care of your belongings and beware of pickpockets. There may be at least a million people in the city and while you’re clicking away those moments, you may not realize that someone might be robbing you.
5. Frequency of the trains is very less and they are packed with people going to the city. Trams and cars are not allowed to run and Amsterdam being a relatively small city, walking around is the best way to experience the energy and celebrations.
6. Officials install “pole-toilets” across the city (which can be used by men) and public toilets are not clean and usually used by women.