King’s Day in Amsterdam is the ultimate can’t miss birthday party of the year. Held annually on April 27th, this national holiday celebrates King Williem-Alexander’s birthday and brings more than one million people to Amsterdam every year, despite it being regarded as a fairly well kept secret to foreigners.
King’s Day used to be called Queen’s Day because the Netherlands is all about girl power! But actually, the name of the holiday simply changes based on who’s leading the monarchy at the time. That means the day of this holiday can also change based on the next King or Queen’s birth date, so set your Google Alerts accordingly! The holiday was first held on August 31st 1885 in honour of Queen Wilhelmina and was celebrated as Queen’s Day until 2013 when Queen Beatrix abdicated the throne and the day was changed to reflect her son’s birthday.
Amsterdam comes alive with celebrations the evening before King’s Day, referred to as — you guessed it — King’s Night. The bars and clubs of the city organize a plethora of special parties and concerts to kick off the birthday celebrations that continue on into the morning, typically not stopping until the end of King’s Day.
At daybreak, the real party starts. Street carnivals, parades, and concerts break out across Amsterdam and it suddenly becomes critical to determine an itinerary. Grab your breakfast and make your first stop the Vrije Markt (or Free Market) which begins as early as 7:00 am. This is an incredibly unique market experience as everything you’ll find is typically no more than a knick-knack from the seller’s home. Pick your favourite second-hand treasure and begin negotiating. Don’t be diswayed if the seller suddenly raises the price on you...that’s part of the fun! It is of course possible to find some great items hidden amongst the average ones as professional traders also show up on this day to sell their wares. The lively haggling typically peaks around 11:00 am and the market clears out around 4:00 pm.
You can spend your afternoon on the Prinsengracht Canal, watching thousands of decorated boats float by. There’s a happening party on nearly every boat and if you’re lucky you may even be invited by some merry locals to climb aboard and join in the fun. An important tip to note is that most boats don’t have a bathroom so keep an eye out for a docked plasboot (bathroom boat).
If music is your passion, you have plenty of options to fill the rest of your day with! Head to Museumplein, a big open air pop and disco music festival. This particular location is very popular with young people who hang out on the grassy square all day, dancing and partying. You can also head to Jordaan, a trendy spot to shop while enjoying the musical stylings of local folk singers performing popular Amsterdam songs.
When you need a break from the chaos of the street-filled parties, you can check out one of the few museums that are still open despite the national holiday. Your options include The Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum (the only museum in the world you can ride your bicycle through), the Stedelijk Museum and the world famous Anne Frank House.
Of course a birthday party isn’t complete without an abundance of confectionary treats to satisfy your sweet tooth! There are hundreds of street food vendors lining every road and it’s highly recommended you sample the local speciality: tompouce, a sweet pastry covered in orange icing and packed with cream.
How to Get There
By Train: There are plenty of options if you are travelling to Amsterdam by train. For a full schedule click here.
By Plane: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is approximately 20 km from Amsterdam. Once you depart the airport you have several options to reach the city. You can purchase a Connexxion Amsterdam Round Trip Ticket for €10 which can take you from Amsterdam Airport Express directly to the city centre in about 30 minutes, departing from bus stop B9 every 15 minutes.
You can take a taxi from the airport to the city centre (approx. 30 minutes) but it will cost you around €40. Keep in mind that you are not advised to take rides from drivers that solicit you within the airport as these are not legal taxi drivers.
Schiphol train station is located beneath the airport. Intercities and slower trains from the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railways - NS) can take you to Amsterdam Central Station (city centre), Amsterdam Zuid (World Trade Center) and Amsterdam RAI (conference centre). Information obtained from Iamsterdam.
By Boat: There are also a few options for travelling to Amsterdam via water vehicle:
- By boat at the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam
- DFDS Seaways Ferry from Newcastle to Ijmuiden
- Stena Line Ferry from Harwich to Hoek van Holland
- P&O from Hull to Rotterdam
Getting Around Town
Do your best to choose accommodations that will allow you to explore the city centre on foot during King’s Day. It will be impossible to take a taxi or drive a car throughout the city centre on this day and most public transit will be rerouted to avoid the downtown core where the parties are held.
Your transportation options will greatly increase following the conclusion of King’s Day and you can look forward to taking advantage of one of the best public transit systems in the world!
Where to Stay
To secure affordable and centrally located accommodations make sure you book way in advance! You’ll want to stay as close to the city’s centre as possible to enjoy King’s Day on foot because public transport is restricted to the outskirts during this time due to crowds and road closures. Amsterdam South is a good place to find accommodations and anywhere close to Museumplein will allow you to knock a few attractions off your King’s Day bucket list right away.
Photo courtesy of Melanie Cloud Mine on Flickr.