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If there’s only one thing I could say about Amsterdam’s King’s Day, it’s that it is very, very orange.
Thankfully, I’ve more than enough room to introduce you to this delightful Dutch event, formerly known as Queen’s Day because, well, they celebrated a Queen back then. Known as Koningsdag (formerly Koninginnedag) it’s essentially the capital’s main carnivalesque event, today held every April for one rip-roaring day, which sees around 1, 750, 0000 people attend. Yep, that's pretty crowded –made up of Amsterdam’s population, plus the one million or so visitors. But if you’re up for a party, come and join in the fun – the spring weather and joy-filled atmosphere mean it’s more than worth making the short one-hour flight across.
It might not be on the bucket list, but dancing with orange-clad Dutch people is something you won’t soon forget.
Amsterdam King’s Day: everything you need to know
Amsterdam’s King’s Day: history
King’s Day is usually held on 27 April (though it’s April 26 for 2014) because that’s the birthday of King Willem-Alexander, who ascended the throne in 2013. It was originally held on 31 August back in 1890, to celebrate Queen Wilhelmina’s big day, and then, when her daughter Juliana came to power, it changed to 30 April to celebrate her getting a year older. But when Beatrix took the job, she decided to just keep the date (clearly getting presents on January 31 was enough...) – and, rather than hold a large floral parade as was custom, she decided to visit towns all over the Netherlands and take part in their own events instead. When it got to Wllem-Alexander’s crowning, however, well he decided to change the date again. Clearly these royals don’t mind the back and forth.
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Amsterdam’s King’s Day: fashion
Needless to say the day’s oranjegekte or ‘orange madness’ is a fairly new phenomenon – I’m not sure they really did tango-coloured hair-dye in the late 19th century. But I digress – grab everything orange you can find, and whack it on. King’s Day is certainly no fashion parade, with everything from afro-style wigs to starry-eyed sunglasses on show; it’s a chance to be silly. Once you’re geared up, you’ll find concerts and events all over the city, with the biggest being held on Museumplein. If you’re too hungover from the night before (it’s become traditional to hold King’s Night events now, as well), you’ll find plenty of orangey drinks to consume.
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Amsterdam’s King’s Day: events
Parties are the name of the day. You could head to the NDSM Wharf, a former shipyard in Amsterdam Noord where you’ll find music, food stalls and art by day, techno and house by night. Or, for a huge DJ line-up, make your way to Oosterpark in east Amsterdam. You’ll find multiple stages and dozens of artists when attending King’s Land, an event held at the international conference venue Amsterdam RAI, but for a little more grit, opt for happy hardcore at Haparanda Fields, west Amsterdam. If something that doesn’t involve feeling ill the next day sounds appealing, try Riekerhaven Sports Park – expect clowns, confetti and bouncy castles.
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Amsterdam’s King’s Day: markets
One of the best things about King’s Day is the vrijmarkt, or ‘free market’, which takes place across the country. The only day of the year on which people can rid themselves of old, unwanted or useless tat, without first applying for a permit or charging VAT, it’s a dream for us Brits: a nationwide car-boot sale. Of course the words ‘free market’ aren’t literal, but you can haggle down prices if you’re feeling particularly penurious. Some will start on 25 April in the evening, so you’ll be able to browse that little bit longer. In Amsterdam, Jordaan is the place to splash your cash – it’s the largest in the city, so there’s no telling what strange second-hand items you'll find.
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Amsterdam’s King’s Day: alternatives
There’s no public transport to speak of on King’s Day, so you’ll need to rely on your toes to get you around. That said, it’ll probably take you four times as long to get to any given destination, purely because of the crowds. If it does all get a bit too much, or if you’re travelling with little ones who find the rowdiness a bit crazy, you could always head to Vondelpark. Here, it’s all about Koningsdag kids: there’ll be children selling their old toys and clothes or playing music (it’s a chance to be a grown-up and take part in proceedings), as well as face-painting, games and the like. Over in the Oost District, you’ll find craft workshops, live music and platefuls of yummy food.
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