Koninginnedag: Celebrating Queen’s Day in the Netherlands

Every year on April 30th the Dutch celebrate Koninginnedag, or “Queen’s Day”.  Queen’s Day is a national holiday recognizing the official birthday of Queen Beatrix.  For one day, the entire country dresses in head-to-toe orange and goes crazy partying in the streets.  This year though, Queen’s Day will be more than just a party.  It will be a historical event!


Earlier this year, Queen Beatrix announced that she will be abdicating the throne in favor of her son, Willem-Alexander, and that she would officially step down on April 30th—Queen’s Day.  So in addition to the normal Queen’s Day festivities, Her Majesty will abdicate during a ceremony at the Royal Palace on the Dam Square in Amsterdam; in a separate ceremony the same day, Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife, Maxima, will be invested as King and Queen at the Nieuwe Kerk.  Starting next year, the holiday will become Koningsdag, or “King’s Day”, and will be celebrated on a different date.

Willemalexander en Maxima in Amsterdam

The soon-to-be King Willem-Alexander, and his wife Maxima

The Netherlands is already simmering with excitement about the historical celebrations that will be occurring on next Tuesday, and so am I! Every window display is saturated with orange, and a constant topic of discussion revolves around whether or not the weather in this perpetually cloudy nation will cooperate for the millions of people planning their outdoor parties.  In case you’re interested in knowing a little more about this insane (and surprisingly underrated/unknown in the rest of the world) holiday, I’ve compiled some essential facts about the day to get you in the mood to party like it’s the last Queen’s Day in history!

Interesting Facts about Queen’s Day in the Netherlands:

  • A Day in History- The holiday that evolved into the modern-day Queen’s Day was first celebrated on August 31, 1885, in honor of the birth of Princess Wilhelmina, who later became Queen Wilhelmina.  
  • Weather Worries- Queen’s Day, while commemorating Queen Beatrix’s official birthday, is not her real birthday. Queen Beatrix’s actual birthday is on January 31st; however, she chose to continue celebrating Queen’s Day on her mother Juliana’s birthday because the weather in April is much more conducive to outdoor celebrations than January in the Netherlands.
  • Don’t Coronate! Inaugurate!- Dutch monarchs do not have a coronation when they become King or Queen because they are not technically crowned.  Instead, the new monarch is “inaugurated” or “invested” as King or Queen.  It sounds strange, but that’s the way it is done in this quirky little country.
  • Girls Rule- When Prince Willem-Alexander is named king on April 30th, it will be the first time the Netherlands has had a king since 1890. That is a long line of strong ladies!
  • Crowd Control- Amsterdam is (unsurprisingly) the most popular place in the Netherlands to celebrate Queen’s Day.  Combine Amsterdam’s 750,000 inhabitants with over 1 million visitors and you get a very crowded city. In fact, the city of Amsterdam has literally been filled up on Queen’s Day in the past.  I use literally in the true sense of the word here: one year the city was actually CLOSED to further cars/buses/trains because the city was at capacity.  This year is expected to attract even more people, so come early if you want to make it into the city on public transport.  Once you’re in the city, expect to do a lot of walking.


    Crowds on the canals in Amsterdam on Queen’s Day

  • Hoarder’s Paradise- Queen’s Day is the only day of the year in the Netherlands where people can legally sell goods on the street without a permit and without being subject to value-added tax. This is called the Vrijmarkt, or “free market”.  Anyone and everyone is free to take part in this national yard sale madness.  In Amsterdam, the vrijmarkt temporarily becomes one of the world’s largest flea markets. Savvy wanderers can find anything—from antiques to worthless knick-knacks. It is a hoarders dream.
  • Orange Craze- If you plan to celebrate Queen’s Day with the Dutch, make sure you wear something orange.  This mass orange-wearing by the Dutch populace during holidays and sporting events even has a name: Oranjegekte, or “Orange madness”.   Why do the Dutch wear so much orange, you ask?  The Dutch royal family is descended from the House of Orange-Nassau, so despite there being no orange in the Dutch flag, the color remains close to their hearts.  To help you blend in on the big day, below is a little fashion inspiration I created for celebrating Queen’s Day in true Oranje-style. Add in a few orange feather boas and a bright orange hat, and you’ve got yourself an outfit!

Fingers crossed the weather on April 30th matches the sunny Dutch spirit of revelry!

Queen's Day AmsterdamQueen’s Day Amsterdam bysbedenbaugh


2 thoughts on “Koninginnedag: Celebrating Queen’s Day in the Netherlands

  1. Have a great Queen’s/Kings Day!

    What most people forget is that we have a relationship with the “Oranges” that started in 1559 when William the Silent became Stadtholder of Holland, Utrecht, Zeeland and Friesland and later became head of the Dutch Revolt [against Spain].

  2. Pingback: Lang Leve de Koning! Queen Beatrix’s Abdication and Queen’s Day 2013 | Life in a State of Wanderlust

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