4 years, 9 months ago
What are you up to on April 27th? Not sure? Well you’re obviously not Dutch, because everyone in The Netherlands from Amsterdam to Utrecht knows exactly what they’re up to on April 27th (quite a bit of the 26th and the 28th too). It’s King’s Day and the entire country pitches up to party in the street, on bridges, down canals, across beaches, around parks and basically in every available space.
Huge flea markets are the norm: the Dutch have a history of trading and selling and buying is one of the big King’s Day traditions. Live gigs, dance parties and street music kick off all over from the evening of the 26th. Orange is almost compulsory and it’s rude not to at least sport a splash of the colour somewhere about your person on King’s Day. Water plays plenty a big role in the festivities, naturally. And the man himself, King Willem-Alexander takes his family on tour, traditionally visiting at least two towns on the day the Dutch honour him.
So where should you be and why? Here’s our quick guide to what’s happening around Holland on King’s Day 2015.
Unsurprisingly, the Dutch capital does King’s Day with abandon. Just wandering around is mesmerising, but with the locals up for any old nonsense it’s almost impossible not to get absorbed into some kind of activity.
For sheer charm head to Vondelpark and visit the huge children’s market where young Amsterdammers gather en-masse to sell their old toys and games and outwit enchanted adults with some very grown-up haggling techniques.
Partying starts as soon as possible for most of Amsterdam. If you want colourful, raucous and very, very dressed up try Westermarkt and Reguliersdwaarstraat home to most of the city’s gay bars and clubs. Jordaan does street market with loud and relentless music. Museumplein is best for local bands, beer and sitting about on the grass. And if you’ve got real stamina start your King’s Day on April 26th, King’s Night, and just party on through till you can party no more.
But the big unmissable in Amsterdam is the King’s Day Boat Parade. Everyone with so much as a watertight bucket takes to the city’s canals, eats, drinks, dances and sails (sort of). The trick is to grab a vantage point on one of the bridges. Or, for the more adventurous, hang out canal-side and it’s almost certain someone on a boat or a barge or a floating something or other will invite you to climb aboard and join the celebrations for real.
Sober and responsible most of the time, The Hague runs completely contrary to reputation on April 26th every year. Not only does the city have the biggest, noisiest and most glamorous King’s Night celebrations, it’s so determined to own the event it even renamed it. The Life I Live Festival, as it’s known, is all about live music. From local indie bands to international performers the line up is vast, eclectic and you can catch the acts on various stages in almost every square in the city all (King’s) night long.
The beautiful, historic city of Utrecht built around the imposing Dom Tower is home to the biggest King’s Day Flea Market in Holland. The locals are so bitten by the annual trading bug they sleep overnight in the streets to bag the best pitches (markets aren’t allowed to open before dawn on April 27th). Sweetest sight has to be the children selling their wares on Miffy Square – Utrecht is birthplace and home to Miffy creator, Dick Bruna.
Fun Fairs are another great King’s Day tradition in towns and cities across Holland. The size of the rides is directly related to the size of the location and the biggest and most terrifying can be found in Rotterdam and Harlaam. You can do sedate and have a spin in some teacups. But if you’ve been tempted into a glass or two of King’s Day’s national drink, Oranjebitter, you might find yourself feeling courageous enough to go white knuckle and the giant Rotterdam and Harlaam fairs are more than happy to oblige.
And on that note we’ll leave you with a word of warning. You can drink Oranjebitter mixed with anything you want on the 364 days that aren’t King’s Day. But, when you’re toasting King Willem-Alexander on April 27th, drink the fiery, bright orange liqueur straight or don’t drink it all.