Things to do in Amsterdam

Orange Madness: Navigating King’s Day in Amsterdam

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Amsterdam holds a reputation for being a party hub, but have you ever seen the entire city come together to party anywhere and everywhere? King’s Day, or Koningsdag, is a vibrant explosion of orange that washes over Amsterdam every year on King Willem-Alexander’s birthday, which falls on April 27. On this national holiday, everyone from the young, the old, tourists, families and students will throng the streets donning their brightest orange attire (which is also their national color).

Read on as this guide will be your orange compass, helping you navigate through the organized chaos and hidden gems of King’s Day in Amsterdam.

The history behind King’s Day

Kansai International Airport

Well, it wasn’t always called King’s Day. In fact, King’s Day was first celebrated in 1885 as Princess’ Day on August 31 as it commemorated Princess Wilhelmina’s fifth birthday. When she became a queen in 1891, it was renamed Queen’s Day and celebrations continued. When Queen Juliana took the throne in 1948, she wanted to make it grander and changed the date to her birthday, April 30. Queen Beatrix followed suit in 1980 and kept the tradition alive. Things changed once again when Williem-Alexander became the king in 2013. The date of the celebration changed to April 27, and the name to King’s Day or Koningsdag. Talk about royal treatment, right?

What happens on King’s Day?

Kansai International Airport

Over the years, King's Day has really grown into something special for Dutch culture and heritage, bringing everyone together to celebrate the royal family with bustling parties, colorful parades, and tons of orange everywhere! Here’s everything you can expect during King’s Day in Amsterdam:

Stay Orange

If you haven’t got the drift yet, on King’s Day, everyone wears orange. Everywhere you look, you will see people dressed only in orange – everything from clothes, hair and makeup. If you don’t own anything orange, there are heaps of stores and stalls that will have something for you.

Boat and canal parties

Canal parties are all the rage on King’s Day, where boats are adorned with, of course, orange decorations! There will be DJs entertaining you while you cruise along Amsterdam’s picturesque waterways. Talk about dancing to some sick beats and drinking under the open sky!

Market sights

The Vrijmarkt, also known as “free market”, sees locals setting up stalls on streets to sell second-hand goods, crafts, and homemade treats, creating a vibrant community spirit from 6 am until stocks run out.

Festive foods

From traditional Dutch snacks like bitterballen, stroopwafels to festive treats like orange tompouce, there’s something for every palate. Normally, the tompouce, which is a local variety of the mille-feuille, is pink in color. However, for this one day only, it’s served orange.

Live music and entertainment

As the boats host lively parties, the streets come alive with music. You’ll see plenty of street musicians and free outdoor stages featuring local bands and DJs working their magic. There are also ticketed concerts like the Kingsland Festival in Amsterdam, featuring artists such as Martin Garrix, Bankzitters, Cho, and Kris Kross Amsterdam.

Getting there

Itami Airport

When most of Amsterdam is going to be out and about on the streets, you have to plan out your travel situation. Don’t worry, we have you covered.

By Train:

For a busy day in Amsterdam, taking the train will be your best bet (even if you are reaching from other cities). However, with limited trains available for the day, you can expect cancelations and very crowded carriages. The timetable will be announced on the eve of April 26 and on King's Day itself. For more information about train travel, check out the NS website. International travelers can check the NS International website for train schedules.
If you require travel assistance (in case you have a physical disability or help entering, exiting, or transferring between trains), there are alternative forms of NS Travel Assistance available. On April 26, you can board trains from Arnhem Central, Utrecht Central, or Den Haag Central. On King's Day, you can board from Alkmaar, Utrecht Central, Breda, Eindhoven, Amsterdam Central, Amsterdam Zuid, Arnhem Central, Groningen and Zwolle. Check the website for the train schedule.

By Public Transport:

Amsterdam's public transport by GVB (metro, tram, bus, ferry) runs on a limited schedule on King's Day.

  • Trams: You can opt for tram routes; the details for it will be available on the GVB app as it’s yet to be updated. Nevertheless, it’s informed that three tram routes will operate, primarily connecting to and from Amsterdam Central Station.
  • Buses: Since the streets will be crowded, the availability of buses will be next to zero. We recommend you choose other options instead of buses on King’s Day.
  • Metro: This is another safe option you can choose to get to your destination. Stations will remain open, except the Nieuwmarkt and RAI stations.

By Taxi:

We don’t recommend this as most roads will be occupied by pedestrians, and even if you manage to find one, it’ll be very expensive.

By Bike:

Amsterdam is a bike-friendly city, so even if you don’t own one, you can rent one for the day from Black Bikes, Starbikes or MacBike. It's a great way to navigate the city and avoid traffic congestion. Be mindful of the crowds and watch out for the party folks!

On Foot:

Walking is probably the best way to get around. Explore the streets freely, but expect crowds on major canals and central streets like Damrak, Kalverstraat, and Leidseplein.

What if you don’t want to party on King’s Day

While the King’s Day celebration is for all age groups, we understand if you want some peace. Well, here are some recommendations:

  • Explore the charming Jordaan neighborhood, known for its picturesque canals, historic buildings, and relaxed vibe.
  • Take a chill stroll along the canals for awesome views of bridges, cool houses, and cute houseboats. Grab a spot by the water for a picnic.
  • Hit up Westerpark’s flea market for vintage goods, handmade crafts, yummy treats and fun activities for kids like face painting and workshops.
  • Check out NDSM-Plein, a former shipyard turned creative hub for a carnival experience with rides, games and entertainment that fit all ages. Oh, there’ll be food trucks too!
  • If you want to avoid the crowds altogether, chill at home or Airbnb with your friends and family. Throw a DIY King’s Day bash, make traditional Dutch snacks, and crank up some tunes. Food deliveries may not be an option but you can do takeaways!

Tips to follow for King's Day

  • Parking will be tough to find. So, opt for a mode of public transport.
  • Travel light, especially if you’re taking the train. The Amsterdam Central Station’s lockers will be unavailable on King’s Day.
  • Some canal cruises might even offer special themed parties to experience the King’s Day festivities.
  • If you’re planning to party on the boats all day, be aware that there are no bathrooms on the boat!
  • Don’t forget to bring cash! Many vendors at the Vrijmarkt only accept cash.
  • April weather can be unpredictable, so check the forecast and dress accordingly. Bring layers and rain gear if needed.
  • Familiarize yourself with local customs and regulations, such as the rules for selling at the Vrijmarkt or the restrictions on alcohol consumption in certain areas. In fact, you aren’t allowed to walk around with more than one drink in your hand.
  • Many shops and restaurants close on King's Day, so grab snacks and drinks beforehand.
  • It’s going to be a busy and chaotic day. So, be patient!
  • And if this guide wasn’t screaming this point out enough, don’t forget to wear orange!

Safety Factors

It’s natural to wonder if it’s going to be safe when the entire city (along with outsiders) is out on the streets and intoxicated. Here's what we suggest.

  • Be aware of your surroundings. The authorities will be working round the clock but due to the sheer crowd, there may be some delays.
  • Public restrooms are limited during the festivities, so plan bathroom breaks strategically.
  • Some areas are wheelchair-accessible, but busy markets and uneven surfaces can be tricky. So, consider alternative activities or plan your route carefully.

Other fun things to do around Amsterdam

King's Day