Dutch National Day
Once every year Dutch nationals set aside their inhibition and enjoy a day of wild laughter, generous smiles, buckets of love and a whole lot of — orange. Welcome to the Netherlands’ National Day or Koningsdag (King’s Day).
Koningsdag falls on Saturday, 26 April, one day ahead of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands’ birthday. The Dutch National Day is traditionally held on the reigning monarch’s birthday, but it has been moved to the nearest Saturday this year as tradition dictates.
Although Koningsdag commemorates King Willem-Alexander’s birthday, the Dutch national day has become so much more than just a day for the monarchy or for patriotism. Rather, it is more focused on belongingness and setting aside differences in the name of harmony.
This year’s National Day is actually the first ever Koningsdag to be celebrated in Netherlands. During the reigns of the last three queens, the holiday was called Koninginnedag or Queen’s Day and before that it was called Prinsessedag or Princess’ Day.
The first time the holiday was celebrated was in 1885’s Prinsessedag, when Queen Wilhelmina, the current king’s great-grandmother, celebrated her 5th birthday on 31 August. That time, Prinsessedag was created to promote national unity because then reigning King William III was disliked by his people.
The holiday changed its name to Koninginnedag by the time Queen Wilhelmina ascended the throne in 1890. It was during her reign as queen that the holiday grew in popularity, attracting a massive number of crowds into major cities like Amsterdam and The Hague.
When Queen Juliana succeeded her mother, Koninginnedag was moved to 30 April. Queen Juliana’s daughter Queen Beatrix kept the same date in memory of her mother. She also kept the date because her birthday fell on wintertime, 31 January.
During her reign Queen Beatrix changed the ‘traditional’ way Koninginnedag had been celebrated by her predecessors. Instead of receiving floral tributes and staying at Soestdijk Palace, Queen Beatrix chose to be where the people are and celebrated the holiday in almost 60 different Dutch cities and towns.
This year in Koningsdag, King Willem-Alexander will continue his mother’s tradition of visiting towns by going to Amstelveen and De Rijp in North Holland.
How it is celebrated now
There are two important features about how the Dutch celebrate their National Day today: vrijmarkt and oranjegekte.
Vrijmarkt means ‘free market’ and it sets the whole look of the holiday. During the National Day anyone can sell their secondhand items on the streets, turning the Netherlands into one of the world’s biggest flea markets. The items that are up for grabs can be anything: gadgets, vintage and even bizarre finds. Some cities restrict the areas where people can set up shop. That is why it is important to know where these streets are when planning to bargain-hunt.
Oranjegekte means ‘orange craze’ and it sets the whole feel of the holiday. The carnival-like atmosphere has people wearing the Dutch royal family’s traditional colour in all manner of clothes, accessories and props. Some even dye their hair orange to mark the occasion. Wearing the colour in an outrageous manner helps the Dutch, who are known for keeping strict rules on behaviour, let loose and enjoy. The wearing of a single colour also symbolises national identity and oneness.
Koningsdag is a day for the people of Netherlands to have fun through street parties, nightlife, concerts in public spaces, food, games and more. Here are some events visitors can go to around the Netherlands during Koningsdag:
- Bargain hop in Amsterdam’s street markets like the Vondelpark, known for focusing on kid’s toys and clothes. Here’s a list of other street markets to visit.
- If you’re bringing the family with you, Bredeweg Festival in Oost District will feature everything for the family like theatre performances, music, storytelling, face painting, workshops and more.
- Adults can enjoy overnight partying in clubs starting Koningsdag eve or Koningsnacht. Here’s a list of clubs and bars that will celebrate King’s Night.
- Want to celebrate in Amsterdam’s famous canals? Visitors can bring their own boats if they follow these rules.
- Visitors who want a touch of culture can visit some museums that are open on Koningsdag.
- Explore The Hague’s street market locations here.
- The Hague Philharmonic will be playing a tribute concert to Queen Maxima and the Argentine Tango in Paard van Troje.
- If you enjoy gardening, the city is hosting the annual Geranium Market on the Lange Voorhout featuring day trips and workshops on flower arrangement.
- Visit open museums like the Historical Museum of The Hague and the Van Kleef Museum and Distillery.
- Join historic tram tours around the city organised by The Hague Public Transport Museum.
- Bargain shops and carnival rides for all ages will be featured in Funfair in Lloyd Multiplein, Schiehaven.
- Listen to top bands and musicians from the city during Oranjebitter Rotterdam on Parklaan
- Do you love singing? Then join this pop concert Nacht Van Oranje on Koningsdag eve where you can sing along with others or visit conferences.
- Dance away in Willemsplein square as it echoes all day long with heart-thumping techno and house music.
- Drop by Plein 1940 in Leuvehaven for the afternoon party Sohoranje led by several popular DJs.