What do you get when you put over a million people in the small city of Amsterdam, lots of live bands and entertainment, canals full of party boats and the entire city covered in orange?
The Dutch national holiday is to mark the birthday of King Willem-Alexander. This tradition began in 1885 and was known as Koninginnedag (Queens Day), celebrating the birth of the Queen. However in 2013 Queen Beatrix stepped down, handing the crown to her son therefore creating the first ever Koningsdag (Kings Day). A nationwide public holiday, Kings Day is a day where the Dutchies let their hair down and celebrate being Dutch. The country turns a bright shade of orange and the streets come alive with parties and festivities. Vrijmarkt (free markets) pop up everywhere with locals selling their second-hand goodies for dirt cheap prices. Amsterdam is known as the place to be for Kings Day and over a million people flock to the canal lined streets of Amsterdam for the carnival-like atmosphere that Kings Day is so famous for. With Amsterdam only a 45 minute tram ride away it was a given that I would attend Kings Day, this however was not before utterly obliterating myself the night before for Koningsnacht (Kings Night).
Kings Night has said to be the crazy party that Kings Day is, minus the families and children. My pals and I celebrated in Den Haag where they were holding the ‘Life I Live’ festival and I can safely say we celebrated in royal style. Pre-drinks were held at my friend A’s house and we made some orange punch, had orange snacks and dressed in ridiculous orange outfits. We had missed the memo about not dressing up on Kings Night so we stuck out like sore thumbs in our fluro-orange paraphernalia but that didn’t dampen our spirits. The ‘Life I Live’ festival is a free music festival in The Hague that has been running for the past four years. This year there were nine stages set up around the centre of The Hague with different bands and DJ’s playing. We intended on having a reasonably tame night so we weren’t too hungover for the following day, however as I stumbled into my bed at 4:30am I think our intentions were definitely ruined.
The next morning with slightly sore heads my friend E and I got dressed up again in crazy orange outfits and headed to the train station to join the party in Amsterdam. The streets of The Hague were empty as we cycled to the station, leaving us with the assumption that either this Kings Day business was very over-rated or everyone had flocked to Amsterdam to celebrate – we were praying for the latter. Our train ride to the Amsterdam replaced any doubts we had as people in orange squashed themselves into the trains. When we walked out of Amsterdam Centraal we were greeted with thousands of people milling about, and the initial doubts we had in The Hague were gone. The party was definitely here.
We headed towards the masses of people and wondered how on earth we would find our Spanish friends who were already here. We decided not to worry just yet and grab some drinks and check everything out. The streets were packed with locals and tourists alike dressed head to toe in orange or the flag colours of red, blue and white. The canals seemed to be the place to be with boats clogging up the narrow waterways with boats overflowing with people. It felt like we were swimming through a sea of orange. Street food vendors were offering delicious goodies so we opted for some frites and beer as we plonked down by the canals to watch the festivities. After our hunger was tamed we continued through the party, dancing in the streets, cheering with locals and just generally having a blast. We managed to find our Spanish friends and our little duo soon turned into a party of ten. We found a DJ playing so got our boogie on while the DJ put on all the good tunes and his companion absolutely ripped it up on the saxophone.
Moving further through the streets we stopped again in Leidesplein where another DJ was blasting all the hits. We danced, did shots and made friends with randoms. Before we knew it the sun was starting to go down and the effect of the previous night and today were starting to hit us. Deciding to find some food and rest for a bit we wandered towards Museumplein and found some shoarma to eat in front of the IAMSTERDAM sign. By this time we were totally buggered so made the trek back to the train station. The party was winding down as we walked through, with drunks swaying down the tram tracks and rubbish piled up everywhere. Once on the train I was so glad to have my feet up, after a solid day of walking and dancing and totally elated with the day’s fun.
Much like St Patty’s Day in Dublin, Kings Day is something you have to experience in Amsterdam. The atmosphere, the festivities and the general craziness is at its peak here and its absolutely amazing. National celebrations like Kings Day and St Patties are my favourite thing ever. Being involved in celebrations where hundreds of thousands of people come together and uniting as a whole (a drunken whole nonetheless) and celebrate their country is so refreshing and wonderful, everybody should it experience it! And besides, orange is such a lovely and flattering colour – who wouldn’t want to dress head to toe in it! 😛
From the girl celebrated every little bit of her 0% Dutch heritage in fine form.