4 years, 6 months ago
In 2013, Amsterdam spent an entire year celebrating the 400th Anniversary of the historic Canal Ring, the reign of Queen Beatrix, her abdication and then the inauguration of her son, King Willem-Alexander. Any city would be forgiven for patting themselves on the back, hanging up their dancing shoes and taking it easy for the next 12 months at least. But no one ever accused Amsterdam of being just ‘any city’.
Far from resting on last year’s laurels, Amsterdam’s planning to throw a 2014 party of all parties to celebrate its first ever King’s Day on April 26th. Although King’s Day is generally on April 27th. But since that’s a Sunday, this year it’s on the 26th and it’s really only the name ‘King’s Day’ that’s a first, because there’s been a traditional Queen’s Day in the Netherlands since 1885, normally on the 27th.
Confused? Don’t be. King’s Day is an immense celebration on April 26th 2014 all over the Netherlands, and Amsterdam is partying harder than anywhere – all day and all night – and everyone’s invited.
It’s a Dutch Royal Event so from cake frosting to clothes, pet costumes, hats, houses and faces, orange is the colour of the day – you don’t need to go all out, but even a tiny hint will get you into the King’s Day spirit. If you’re in Amsterdam you won’t see the Royal Family (they’re visiting Amstelveen and Graft-De-Rijp this year), but the city’s not short on action in every other aspect and as always the focus is on fine Dutch traditions like trading, sailing, eating, drinking and intense partying.
VRIJMARKT (King’s Day Citywide Free Market)
credit: Hindrik Sijens
Kicking off the King’s Day celebrations at 6am, the annual Vrijmarkt is the mother of all Flea Markets. Almost every inch of Amsterdam is commandeered by traders (basically anyone with something to sell) and the atmosphere is incredible; noisy and colourful with lots of friendly haggling, loud music, excellent street food and some amazing finds. It’s as if the entire city turned out its attic and put the contents up for sale. Vintage clothes, millions of books, home stuff, kitchen stuff, paintings, photographs, you name it and someone is selling it. But if you really want to see where the Dutch reputation for steely determination comes from, visit The Vondelpark on King’s Day. The biggest and most famous park in Amsterdam is given over to children from 9am on April 26th so they can sell their outgrown toys and clothes and make some cash to buy new ones. It’s very endearing no doubt about it, but the smaller citizens of Amsterdam drive a hard-bargain, so don’t be too fooled by the cute.
BOATS AND BRIDGES
If you live in Amsterdam and you aren’t selling your worldly possessions on April 26th, you’re probably sailing instead. This isn’t the day to take a Canal Cruise because every waterway in the city’s packed with barges and houseboats and motor boats and rowing boats and dinghies and anything else that floats. They’re all glammed up for the day and going nowhere fast. But that’s ok, because it’s not the point of being on the water on King’s Day. The point is just to party and because there are just about as many bridges as there are canals in the city you don’t even need a boat to be part of the spectacle. Just leave every shred of inhibition behind, find a vantage point, get dancing and go for it.
BREDEWEG AND BEYOND
credit: Charles Roffey
The traditional Bredeweg festival in Amsterdam’s Oost District is the city’s busiest and best known street party. It starts on King’s Night and doesn’t stop till King’s Day is done and dusted and there’s nowhere more family-friendly. Performance artists, face painters, story tellers, musicians, bands, theatre, a huge street market, rides, workshops and even a fair, make Bredeweg an event in itself and it’s free. Free, family-friendly and great fun can also be found at NDSM Vrijhaven 2014 in the city’s Noord District, an enormous party with the emphasis on food, drink, art and live music – plus another huge children’s Street Market.
FREE KING’S DAY PARTIES
Live music is one of the big King’s Day traditions and there are loads of ticketed parties in Amsterdam with everything from techno and house to hardstyle, jazz and about as many DJ’s as you’d ever want in any one city. But if you can’t get tickets (some parties were sold out months ago) or partying for free is just more satisfying, then you’re in luck. De Pijp’s famous Albert Cuypmarket is closed for King’s Day but open for ‘Arcade King’s Day’, a mammoth music event from midday to 8pm that’s madly busy and totally free. The Noord District’s NDSM Wharf is hosting ‘These Guys King’s Day’ with live electronic acts and dj’s doing their stuff surrounded by shipping containers. And local noise takes centre stage at the free ‘Kingsize Festival’ (added bonus of Kingsize XXL after-party at Club Underground from 11pm).
KONINGSNACHT (King’s Night 25th April)
If you’re looking to spend King’s Day in a pleasantly spacy, sleep-deprived haze, you want to hit King’s Night hard on April 25th. Be prepared for anything, as long as it’s loud, relentless and lasts all night because that’s what over a dozen music marathons city-wide have in store for King’s Night 2014. Not fussed about what or who you listen to and just want to party? Then visit www.lastminuteticketshop.nl on 25th April and take your chances.
LGBT KING’S DAY (AND NIGHT)
No party’s complete without a Mardi-Gras (at least as far as Amsterdam’s concerned). So don’t wait till the city’s Gay Pride carnival in August. Get some of King’s Day’s pink and orange spectacle on April 26th as well. There are LGBT events all over the city, music and dancing are the rule, the atmosphere is full-on party and the places to be are Reguliersdwarsstraat, Westermarkt, Wamoesstraat and Zeedijk. www.iamsterdam.com has regularly updated LGBT King’s Day party info.
If I missed someone or something, I’m sorry. But there’s a lot going for King’s Day this year and I am, but one lowly writer. All I can say by way of compensation is; go to Amsterdam for April 26th you’ll love it and all my oversights will be forgotten.