Koningsdag/Koninginnedag (King’s Day/Queen’s Day) Activities


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.

Flea Market

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.






Jenever (also known as geniévre, genever, peket or Dutch gin), is the juniper-flavored national and traditional liquor of the Netherlands and in Belgium, from which gin evolved. To this day traditional jenever is very popular in these areas. European Union regulations state thatonly  liquor  made in the Netherlands, Belgium, two French provinces and two German federal states can use the name jenever/genever/geniévre. And only jenever made in East-Flanders, Belgium can use the name O’de Flander-Oost Vlaamse graanjenever.


Jenever was originally produced by distilling malt wine (Dutch translation moutwijn) to 50% ABV. The resultation spirit was not palatable due to the lack of refined distilling techniques (only the pot was still available), therefore herbs were added to mask the flavour. The juniper berry (Dutch translation jeneverbes), was chosen for its alleged medicinal effects, hence the name jenever (English translation gin).

It was first sold as a medicine in the late 16h century. While many believe that Dutch chemist & alchimist Sylvius de Bouve, the problem with this theory is that Dr. Sylvius was born in the 17th century and that during his fourteen-year tenure as a professor at the University of Leyden, his research included distilling medicines with juniper berry oil, but none of his research papers contain any reference to genever. 

Additionally, in 1606 the Dutch had already levied taxes on genever and similar liquors which were sold as alcoholic drinks, suggesting that genever had stopped being seen as a medicinal remedy many years before Dr. Sylvius was even born.

There remains no definitive proof from either Belgium or the Netherlands as to who invented genever but we can unambigously claim that the early history of genever lies in Flanders, Belgium.

Old jenever and young jenever

There are two types of jenever: old jenever and young jenever. This is not a matter of aging, but of distilling techniques. Around 1900, it became possible to distill a high-trade type of alcohol almost neutral in taste, independent of the origin of the spirit. A worldwide tendency for a lighter and less dominant taste, as well as lower prices, led to the development of blended whisky in Great Britain, and in the Netherlands to Jonge (young) Jenever. During the Great War, lack of imported cereals and hence malt, forced the promotion of this blend. Alcohol derived from molasses from the sugar beet industry was used as an alternative to grain spirit. People started using the term oude for the old-style jenever, and jonge for the new style, which contains more grain instead of malt and can even contrain plain sugar-based alcohol. In modern times, jenever distilled from grain and malt only is labeled Graanjenever. Jonge jenever can contrain no more than 15% malt wine and 10 grams of sugar per litre. Oude jenever must contain at least 15% malt wine, but no more than 20g of sugar per litre. Korenwijn (grain wine) is a drink very similar to the 18th century style jenever, and is often matured for a few years in an oak cask; it contains from 51% to 70% malt wine and up to 20g/l of sugar.

Although the name oude jenever does not necessarily mean that the jenever is, in fact, old; there are some distilleries that claim their jenever is aged in Oak barrels.


Jonge jenever has a neutral taste, like vodka, with a slight aroma of juniper and malt wine. Oude jenever has a smoother, very aromatic taste with malty flavours. Oude jenever is sometimes aged in wood; it’s malty, woody and smoky flavours lend a resemblance to whisky. DIfferent grains used in the production process make cause of different flavoured jenevers. These include barley, wheat, dinkel wheat and rye.

Jenever cities

Hasselt and East-Flanders in Belgium, and Schiedam and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, are well known for their jenevers and often referred to as “jenever  cities”. In Amsterdam, jenever is made by Van Wees and Wynand Fockink. Well-known Schiedam jenever distilleries include Nolet, Onder De Boompjes, Wenneker, De Kuyper, Dirkzwager and Hasekamp (who export significant quantities to Africa). Near the Dutch-Belgian border, in Baarle-Nassau, Zuidam produces traditional jenevers and Dutch liquors. Other jenever-cities in the Netherlands are Groningen and Dordrecht. In Belgium, Deinze is very well known for the Filliers distillery and Aalst is well known for Stokerij De Moor, Belgium’s smallest distillery and only Belgian distillery to export genever to the USA.

Drinking traditions

Traditionally the drink is served in a tulip-shaped glass filled to the brim. Jonge jenever is served at room temperature, sometimes, though this is now quite old-fashioned, with some sugar and a tiny spoon to stir. The drink is sometimes served cold from a bottle kept in a freezer or on the rocks (with ice), but this is frowned upon by purists. The higher quality oude jenever (and korenwijn) is usually served at room temperature. When jenever is drunk with beer (normally lager) as a chaser, it is referred to as a kopstoot (headbutt) or duikboot (submarine) in Flanders. Traditionally, jenever is served in full shot glasses taken directly from the freezer. As the glass is very cold it is advisable to take the first sips without holding the glass, leaving it on the table and bending one’s back to apply one’s mouth to the glass.