The festivities on Koningsdag are often organised by Orange committees (Oranjecomité), local associations that seek sponsorship and donations for their activities. In recent years some committees have had difficulty in recruiting new members from among the younger Dutch.
The vrijmarkt (literally “free market”) is a nationwide flea market, at which many people sell their used goods. Koningsdag is the one day of the year that the Dutch government permits sales on the street without a permit and without the payment of value added tax. ING Bank found in 2011 that one in five Dutch residents planned to sell at the vrijmarkt and estimated they would earn $100 per person for a total turnover of $290 million. Over half of the Dutch people buy at the vrijmarkt. ING Bank predicted they would spend over $28 each at the 2011 vrijmarkt. The Queen has been known to buy at the vrijmarkt, in 1995 she purchased a floor lamp. The bank also forecast that the lowest level of sales at the vrijmarkt in 2011 would be in the province of Limburg, site of the Queen’s visit.
Among the most popular areas for the vrijmarkt in Amsterdam is the Jordaan quarter, but the wide Apollolaan in front of the Hilton hotel in Southern Amsterdam is gaining in popularity. Children sell their cast-off toys or garments at the Vondelpark, also in Southern Amsterdam, and in a spirit of fun passers-by often offer the young sellers more than they are asking for the goods. Untill `996 the vrijmarkt began the evening before and discontinued for 24 hours. This was ended in the hope of gaining a pause in the celebrations so preparations could be made for the daytime activities. Utrecht, uniquely among Dutch municipalities, retains the overnight vrijmarkt.
Koningsdag now sees large-scale celebrations, with many concerts and special events in public spaces, particularly in Amsterdam. An outdoor concert is held on Amsterdam’s Museumplein, where as many as 800.000 people may gather. To aid visitors in returning home by train after the festivities outdoor events must end by 20,00, and the Museumplein show by 21.00. The city center is closed to cars, and no trams ride in the heart of the city; people are urged to avoid Amsterdam Centraal railway station and use other stations if possible from their direction. International trains that normally begin or terminate at Amsterdam Cenraal are instead directed to a suburban stop.
In recent years parties and concerts have been held the evening before Koningsdag. Until 2013, nightclubs across the Netherlands organised special events for what became known as Koninginnenacht (Queen’s night). Many young people celebrate in the streets and squares (and in Amsterdam, the canals as well) throughout the night, and after all-night partying join the crowds at the vrijmarkt.
While King’s day celebrations take place throughout the Netherlands, Amsterdam is a popular destination for many revelers. Often the city’s 750.000 residents are joined by up to 1 million visitors. In recent years Amsterdam authorities have taken some measures to try and stem the flow of visitors as the city simply became too full.
Those taking part in Koningsdag commonly dye their hair orange or wear orange clothing in honour of the House of Orange-Nassau, which rules over the Netherlands Orange-coloured drinks are also popular. This colour choice is sometimes dubbed “orange madness” or in Dutch Oranjegekte. A local Orange Committee member said of Koninginnedag in 2011:
Friendships and community will be formed. For me that’s really what Queen’s Day is all about. It’s not an outburst of patriotism, it’s not even about the popularity of the royal family. It’s about a sense of belong. For one day, everybody is the same in Holland. Bright orange and barmy.