• 23 March 2021

King’s Day may well just be the best party in Holland! On 27 April, the Netherlands turns orange in honour of King’s Day as the country celebrates King Willen-Alexander’s birthday with music, street parties, flea markets, and funfairs. Traditionally, the Dutch share in these festivities by dressing in orange and partying along streets and canals. This year things will be different. Covid-19 means the Dutch and King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima will have to stay home. But there is no doubt about it, the day will still be filled with festivities at home! 

Expat Explore has put together a guide to King’s Day in the Netherlands as well as a few tips on how to celebrate at home. Read on to find out everything you need to know about this unique Dutch holiday.  

View of WestKerk and canals in Amsterdam on King's Day
The Dutch traditionally gather in huge crowds to celebrate King’s Day.

What is King’s Day?

In the Netherlands, King’s Day (Koningsdag) is a national holiday to celebrate the monarch King Willem-Alexander’s birthday which falls on 27 April. The country gets the day off work and various events take place across the country. In past years, celebrations were different. Major cities usually host big celebrations but you can also find cosy events taking place in smaller towns. On the day, people can browse numerous flea markets that pop up, toast to the king’s birthday at lively parties and eat and drink to their heart’s content! Traditionally, the King will visit a selected city and meet with locals who are celebrating.

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands King's Day
King’s Day takes place on King Willem-Alexander’s birthday – 27 April. 

Amsterdam is usually the centre of celebrations of course! Over one million people flock to the city to enjoy the street parties, browse the city-wide markets and experience the festivities on boat parties floating along the canals! In many places, the celebrations begin the night before, on King’s Night (Koningsnacht), and carry on all through the next day!

A brief history of King’s Day

The Netherlands has been celebrating King’s Day on 27 April since 2014 after King Willem-Alexander ascended the throne in 2013. King Willem-Alexander is the first male monarch of the Netherlands in 123 years as various queens have reigned from 1890 until 2013. The date changes inline with the monarchs birthday. The holiday was first celebrated on 31 August 1891 as Queen’s Day in honour of Queen Wilhelmina. She was followed by her daughter Queen Juliana who celebrated on 30 April (this day eventually became a public holiday under Queen Juliana). Although she was born in January, the next monarch, Queen Beatrix, continued to hold the celebrations on 30 April due to the weather being better for outdoor parties at this time of year.

People celebrate on canal boats in Amsterdam King's Day
You will usually find people celebrating all through King’s Day! 

King’s Day celebration traditions in the Netherlands

While celebrations may be different this year with large events cancelled and people asked to celebrate at home (more on that below!), here are a few traditions from King’s Day celebrations of previous years:

  • The Dutch dress up in orange!

    Wondering why places like Amsterdam turn into a sea of orange on King’s Day? The Dutch Royal family are known as the “House of Oranje” so orange has become the Netherlands national colour. It’s now a tradition to wear orange on King’s Day and people go all out! Full orange outfits, hats, wigs and makeup – the wackier, the better!

    Couple dressed in orange King's Day
    The country turns orange on King’s Day! 
  • People flock to flea markets

    On King’s Day, everyone is allowed to sell things on the street without a permit. This has led to tons of flea markets (vrijmarkten) popping up across different cities! Amsterdam boasts an almost city-wide market as the streets are filled with people peddling their wares! Browse for bargains and enjoy the street performers and musicians as you go. Vondelpark in Amsterdam is the place to go to look for kids stuff. It’s also the only place in the city exclusive to vendors under the age of 16 – the perfect place for kids to practice their bargaining and selling skills!

    People browsing markets in the Netherlands on King's Day
    Practice your bargaining skills at a flea market on King’s Day.
  • Revellers dance the day away at King’s Day parties

    Celebrating the king’s birthday is the perfect excuse for a party! There are traditionally numerous events across the Netherlands – some are free and some you will have to buy tickets for. The four best places to go for big King’s Day celebrations are Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. 

  • People make a toast to the king with Oranjebitter

    This orange liqueur was created hundreds of years ago to honour a Dutch prince. That makes it the perfect drink to toast the King’s birthday! Grab a glass of orange bitter and say “proost!”

  • And they indulge in a tompouce

    There will be many street vendors selling food in major cities. The one thing that you can’t miss out on is tompouce! This is a sweet pastry filled with cream (similar to a napoleon or mille-feuille).

Dutch pastry tompouce King's Day
Be sure to try tompouce on King’s Day.

King’s Day 2021: Tips to celebrate at home

Unfortunately, this year’s King’s Day holiday will take not place as usual. But this doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate all things Dutch at home! Here are a few ways to bring the joy of King’s Day into your own home.

Throw on your best orange outfit:

Whether you live with family, roommates or stay alone, you’ll definitely feel the vibe of King’s Day by putting on your best orange outfit! It’s almost impossible not to smile while wearing bright orange! It will also put a smile on other people’s faces if you need to venture out for groceries or for a socially distanced walk! 

Man playing trumpet and dressed in orange for King's Day
Feel festive at home in your best orange outfit!
Have a virtual party:

Gather a few friends and family for a virtual party! Have a group video call, put on some music, play some games, grab some snacks and refreshments and make the most of this untraditional King’s Day!

Eat like a king for the day:

Since people will be staying at home, why not take the party to the kitchen and try out some traditional Dutch recipes? Indulge in your favourite treats, sip on delicious drinks and make a toast to the king’s birthday. Definitely not a bad way to spend the day! 

Boats and confetti on canals in Amsterdam King's Day
It might not be the King’s Day celebrations we are used to but you can still have fun at home this year! 

The Netherlands is an incredible destination to visit. Planning a trip during King’s Day will definitely make your Dutch holiday one to remember! Take a look at our tours that visit the Netherlands and start planning your future trip! 

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