King’s Day, known as Queen’s Day, is a national holiday in honour of the Head of State, but for most it’s about being dressed up in 100 shades of orange, getting up at the break of dawn to visit streets and flea markets during daytime and dance all night long.
During the last couple of years, lots of people turned up on 30 April, all dressed up in orange outfits and ready for all the festivities the Queen’s Day had to offer. They found out, a little too late, that their edition of Lonely Planet was a bit outdated, as the Dutch have celebrated King’s Day on 27 April since 2014.
When Willem-Alexander became King of the and Queen’s Day became King’s Day, some things were introduced, like the King’s Day breakfast for primary school children followed by the King’s Day games. They were held in honour of the King’s inauguration by the National Committee Inauguration and they turned out to be a hit and recurring events. The games are usually on the Friday before King’s Day and of course the children are dressed up in orange as is common on this day.
Some of the traditions remained the same, like the street markets and musical festivities during the night prior to King’s Day, which is called King’s Night. The streets and flea markets start around 6 am and especially the flea markets are run by children, with some guarding parents in the back. They sell their family’s old furniture, tableware, old toys and curiosities. Sometimes you can find real gems, but often it’s just junk. The sport is to find that one unique piece of art that turned out to be created by one of the old masters. Looking for one-of-a-kind LPs and rare CDs is an occupation for many people too. Lots of children play a tune on a guitar, flute of violin to make a little money. Apart from children selling their belongings there are enough market traders who sell the most incredible and unthinkable stuff. You don’t have to get hungry or thirsty as there are more than enough food trucks around.
King’s Night in The Hague is very popular. It’s a big street festival with stages spread out all over city centre. Small and big bands, unknown and famous, you can find them everywhere. It’s mostly music, but you can find cabaret and other street artist too. Apart from entertainment you can also find culinary curiosities from all over the world.
It is important for this day to blend in, which means dress up in orange. All shades of orange are okay and if you mix them up with red, white and blue you are even more in tune for the nationwide street festival. Every city and village has its own atmosphere, so get in touch with some local people to find out if that city is right for you. Amsterdam, The Hague, Eindhoven and Utrecht are usually very busy and street markets have usually more traders than children, whereas there are smaller cities with smaller street markets that have a calmer atmosphere. Wherever you feel like joining in on the festivities, keep in mind that it’s only April and the weather can change suddenly, so wear layers and bring a raincoat, sunglasses and sun cream.