Every April 30, the Netherlands turns a bright shade of orange (the national color) as the country takes to the streets to celebrate Queen’s Day. This year’s event is set to be more festive than usual, as Prince Willem-Alexander is crowned king in Amsterdam on the same day.
The party starts the evening before on Queen’s Night, when stages showcase live music and DJs, cafés provide extra bars outside on the street and several big-ticket events (like Queen’s Night Concert at the Concertgebouw featuring American jazz artist José James). Then in the morning, there’s an enormous street market with people selling clothes, shoes, books, furniture and food items, such as cakes and soft drinks. As the day progresses, orange-clad revelers fill the streets and go boating in the canals for a floating celebration.
Because the city gets incredibly busy and moving around can be slow, the best way to enjoy the event is to pick an area and stay there or abandon all plans and see where the crowd takes you. Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s main green space, is traditionally reserved for children who sell unwanted toys and clothes or busk to earn a few euros. Head to the Jordaan for street parties and free open-air concerts. The Noordermarkt will host a jazz, funk and soul stage, while Festina Lente bar on Looiersgracht has a line-up of pop acts throughout the day. Otherwise, find yourself a spot on one of the canals and watch the day unfold.
The majority of businesses and attractions will be closed on Queen’s Day. However, if you want to squeeze in some culture, a handful of museums are open. The most notable are Anne Frank House, Stedelijk Museum and Rijksmuseum, which is showing an exhibit featuring paintings with classic Dutch themes, such as the princes, watery landscapes and the citizens of the Netherlands.
Queen’s Day was first celebrated on August 31, 1885, to mark Queen Wilhelmina’s birthday. It was moved to April 30 when her daughter Juliana succeeded her in 1949. The current monarch, Queen Beatrix, took the throne in 1980. Since her birthday is in January — not a good month for an outdoor party — she chose to retain her mother’s birthday as Queen’s Day.
On January 29, Beatrix announced that she was abdicating the throne, the third successive queen to do so. Her heir, Willem-Alexander, will be the nation’s first king in more than a century, and because of the historical significance, an additional program of events has been organized to mark his coronation.
The king’s inauguration will take place in the Royal Palace on the Dam and nearby Nieuwe Kerk. Then starting next year, the holiday will be called King’s Day and moved to April 27, Willem-Alexander’s birthday.
Try to secure a spot on Dam Square to catch a glimpse of the royal family, who is expected to appear on the palace balcony at 10.30 a.m. In the evening, the new king and queen will take part in a boat parade, leaving from EYE Film Institute on the northern banks of the IJ and ending at Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ. Along the way, the royal couple will be treated to a festive program, including a dance-meets-classical performance by top DJ Armin van Buuren with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. For a guaranteed royal sighting, pack a picnic and follow the entire ceremony on large screens set up on Museum Square.
Photos Courtesy of iAmsterdam