King’s Day (Koningsdag) – Everything you need to know

Sofia Van Dirk

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King’s Day – or as the locals charmingly call it, “Koningsdag“. Rooted in rich history and bursting with Dutch pride, King’s Day is not just a national holiday; it’s a captivating celebration that envelops the entire country.

Whether you’re new to the Netherlands or have been here for years, understanding the essence of King’s Day will elevate your experience manifold. Join us as we dive into the heart of this splendid day, its traditions, and the unmistakable Dutch spirit that shines through. Prepare to be enthralled and, perhaps, to join in the celebration like you’ve been a part of it all your life!

Key Takeaways:

  • Koningsdag, or King’s Day, celebrates the birthday of the Dutch monarch and is a nationwide festival of joy, unity, and tradition.
  • Originating from royal birthdays, the day has evolved to symbolize Dutch pride and communal spirit.
  • Major cities like Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Rotterdam are hubs of festivity, with Vrijmarkt, music festivals, and canal parades as highlights.
  • Foreigners are encouraged to partake fully, dressing in orange and engaging in local activities, offering a chance for cultural immersion.
  • Prioritizing safety and respecting local customs and etiquettes ensures a joyful and harmonious Koningsdag experience for all.

Origins of King’s Day (Koningsdag)

Steeped in royal history and national pride, Koningsdag has a tale that’s as colorful as the celebrations themselves. As you navigate the bustling streets during King’s Day, it’s heartwarming to realize that this festivity is more than just a day off work; it’s a nod to a centuries-old tradition and an emblem of Dutch unity.

Once known as “Queen’s Day,” or “Koninginnedag” in Dutch, this day originally celebrated the birth of Queen Wilhelmina in August 1890. As the years flowed and monarchs changed, so did the date of the celebration. Queen Juliana’s ascension brought the festivities to April 30th, which remained the date for Queen’s Day throughout her reign and also that of her daughter, Queen Beatrix.

However, a twist awaited when King Willem-Alexander, the first male monarch after three generations of queens, took to the throne. With his ascension, Queen’s Day transformed into King’s Day, and the date shifted to April 27th, marking the King’s birthday. A nation that had for decades celebrated its queens now joyously transitioned to honoring its king.

But beyond the monarchs and dates, the true essence of Koningsdag lies in its reflection of Dutch culture. It’s a day when the past intertwines seamlessly with the present, where royal heritage meets modern revelry. With every orange-clad individual and spirited gathering, there’s a whisper of times gone by, a collective memory of the lineage of monarchs who’ve shaped the nation.

How the Dutch Celebrate

king's day

Enter the heart of the Netherlands on King’s Day, and you’ll witness a transformation like no other. The typically calm and composed Dutch cities burst into life, becoming sprawling playgrounds of joy, music, and camaraderie. The excitement is palpable, and even if you’re miles away from your homeland, the Dutch will make you feel right at home on this special day. Let’s delve into the kaleidoscope of traditions and festivities that make Koningsdag a spectacle to behold.

Wearing Orange

It’s impossible to miss the sea of orange that floods every street, canal, and square. Known as “Oranjegekte” or “Orange Craze”, this tradition pays tribute to the House of Orange-Nassau, the Dutch royal family. From orange hats and feathered boas to entire outfits in the national color, the Dutch showcase their creativity and pride in every conceivable shade of orange.

Related: The color orange in the Netherlands

Vrijmarkt (Free Market)

Imagine a country-wide garage sale where everyone’s a participant. That’s the Vrijmarkt for you. Locals spread out blankets and set up stalls, selling everything from vintage trinkets to homemade treats. For many, it’s a cherished tradition, and for visitors, a golden opportunity to engage with local culture and bag some unique souvenirs.

Festivals, Parties, and Musical Events

Koningsdag is a symphony of sounds. Major cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Utrecht pulsate with music festivals and street performances. Genres span from traditional Dutch tunes to international beats, ensuring there’s something for every musical palate.

Canal Parades and Boat Parties

If there’s one thing more iconic than the Dutch wearing orange, it’s the canal parades. Amsterdam’s canals, in particular, become vibrant arteries of celebration, with boats decked out in festive decor and filled with merry party-goers. As music echoes and laughter resonates, the canals truly encapsulate the spirit of King’s Day.

Related: Dutch Holidays: A Guide for Foreigners

Participation for Foreigners

If you’re a foreigner in the Netherlands during King’s Day, consider yourself fortunate. Koningsdag is not just a day for the Dutch; it’s an open invitation to every soul in the country to join in the jubilation. But how do you navigate this ocean of orange and tradition as an outsider? Fear not, for Koningsdag is as inclusive as it is festive, and here’s how you can partake in the celebration with the same zeal as the locals.

Dressing the Part

Embrace the “Oranjegekte” with gusto! You don’t need to be Dutch to don the national color. Local stores, market stalls, and even online shops overflow with orange merchandise as King’s Day approaches. Whether it’s a simple orange scarf, a quirky hat, or a full-fledged outfit, dressing in orange is your first step in merging with the festivities.

Engaging in Vrijmarkt

The Free Market isn’t just for locals to sell; it’s a platform for interaction and cultural exchange. If you’ve got items to sell or trade, feel free to set up your own little spot. Alternatively, stroll around, haggle a little, purchase unique finds, or simply enjoy the myriad of items on display. The Vrijmarkt is a melting pot of stories, and each transaction is a tale waiting to be told.

Dancing and Mingling

The music isn’t just for listening; it’s for dancing! Don’t shy away from joining a dance group or swaying to a street performance. The Dutch are welcoming and will be more than happy to have you join the fun. And who knows? You might even pick up a few Dutch dance moves along the way!

Understanding and Respecting Traditions

While it’s a day of unrestrained celebration, it’s vital to approach everything with respect. Familiarize yourself with key Dutch traditions, ask questions if unsure, and always approach every activity with an open heart and mind.

Must-Visit Locations

Bathed in a wash of brilliant orange, every nook and cranny of the Netherlands becomes a tableau of festivity on King’s Day. However, certain spots truly encapsulate the essence of Koningsdag, drawing both locals and foreigners into their vibrant embrace. Whether you’re seeking the grandeur of large-scale celebrations or the charm of quaint local traditions, here are some locations that promise an unforgettable Koningsdag experience.

AmsterdamVrijmarkt in Jordaan, boat parades, concerts at Museumplein
UtrechtGriftpark activities, Oudegracht canal market
RotterdamVroesenpark concerts, harborside festivities
The HagueEvents in historic center, especially Lange Voorhout
Smaller TownsIntimate celebrations in towns like Haarlem, Leiden, and Delft


Often dubbed the epicenter of King’s Day celebrations, Amsterdam‘s streets, squares, and canals buzz with an unmatched energy. From the bustling Vrijmarkt in the Jordaan district to the lively boat parades on the Prinsengracht canal, the city offers a myriad of experiences. The Museumplein, with its concerts and events, becomes a hotspot for music lovers. And if you wish to simply soak in the ambiance, wandering along the canals or the Dam Square will give you a front-row seat to the city’s pulsating celebrations.


A city that beautifully balances modernity with tradition, Utrecht‘s King’s Day celebrations are nothing short of magical. The Griftpark turns into a children’s paradise with games and activities, while the Oudegracht canal and surrounding streets become vibrant marketplaces with music, dance, and festivity.


A modern city with a heart steeped in tradition, Rotterdam’s Koningsdag festivities are a delightful blend. The city’s parks, especially the Vroesenpark, become hubs for concerts, food stalls, and games. The city’s harborside, with its iconic skyline, becomes a picturesque backdrop for celebrations.

The Hague

As the seat of the Dutch government and residence of the royal family, The Hague offers a unique King’s Day experience. The city’s historic center, especially areas like Lange Voorhout, brims with cultural events, music, and traditional festivities.

Smaller Towns

While the major cities pull crowds with their grand celebrations, the smaller towns and villages of the Netherlands offer an intimate Koningsdag experience. Places like Haarlem, Leiden, or Delft, with their cobblestone streets and historic charm, present a more relaxed yet equally joyous celebration. Participating in a local town’s festivities can often feel like being welcomed into a large family gathering, making it a must-try for those seeking an authentic Dutch experience.

Safety and Etiquette

Koningsdag, with its exuberance and festivity, is a day like no other in the Netherlands. As streets fill with orange-clad revelers and the air rings with joyous celebration, it becomes essential to ensure that the day remains not only fun but also safe for all. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a long-time resident, understanding the dos and don’ts of King’s Day will help you celebrate responsibly while imbibing the true spirit of the occasion.

Safety Tips

  • Stay Aware: While the atmosphere is merry, crowded areas can sometimes be overwhelming. Always be aware of your surroundings, especially in packed zones like city centers.
  • Stay Hydrated: With all the dancing, walking, and celebrating, it’s crucial to keep yourself hydrated. Carry a water bottle and drink regularly.
  • Plan Your Transportation: Public transportation often runs on adjusted schedules, and some areas might be restricted for vehicles. Plan your routes in advance and be prepared for delays.
  • Keep Valuables Close: In bustling areas, it’s a good idea to keep your valuables in a secure bag or pouch and avoid displaying expensive items.
  • Stay with Your Group: If you’re celebrating with friends or family, establish a meeting point in case you get separated.


  • Respect Public Spaces: Koningsdag sees a lot of public activities, but it’s essential to respect public property, green spaces, and monuments. Dispose of trash responsibly.
  • Engage Respectfully in Vrijmarkt: Haggling is a part of the Vrijmarkt culture, but always do it in a friendly manner. Remember, for many, this is a cherished tradition.
  • Limit Alcohol Consumption: While it’s common to enjoy a drink or two during the festivities, it’s vital to drink responsibly. Always know your limits and avoid public intoxication.
  • Appreciate Local Traditions: Every city or town may have its unique Koningsdag traditions. Approach them with an open mind, and when in doubt, ask. The Dutch are usually more than happy to explain and share their customs.
  • Dress Respectfully: While dressing in orange is encouraged, ensure your attire remains respectful and appropriate for public celebrations.

Related: New to the Netherlands: Everything You Need To Know (2024)

ABOUT Sofia Van Dirk

Sofia van Dijk is our resident Relocation Expert at Born and raised in the Netherlands, Sofia possesses extensive knowledge of Dutch culture, local customs, and the practicalities of living in this unique country. She studied International Relations at the University of Amsterdam and spent several years working for an international relocation company before joining our team.

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