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.




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



Koningsdag or King’s Day is a national holiday in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Celebrated on 27 April (the 26th if the 27th falls on a Sunday), the date marks the birth of King Willem-Alexander.

From 1890 to 2013, the day was known as Koninginnedag or Queen’s Day. The holiday was first observed on 31 August 1885 as Prinsessedag or Princess’s Day, the fifth birthday anniversary of Princess Wilhelmina, heiress to the Dutch throne. On her accession, the holiday acquired the name, Koninginnedag. When held on 31 August the holiday was the final day of school summer vacation, leading to its popularity among children. Following the accession of Wilhelmina’s daughter Juliana in 1948, the holiday was moved to Queen Juliana’s birthday on 30 April. Her daughter, Beatrix retained the celebration on 30 April after she ascended the throne in 1980, despite her actual birthday occuring on 31 January. Beatrix altered her mother’s custom of receiving a floral parade near a Royal palace, instead choosing to visit different Dutch towns each year and join in on the festivities along with her sons. In 2009, the Queen was carrying out this custom in the City of Apeldoorn when Karst Tates attempted to attack her by trying to ram the Royal family’s vehicle with his car; instead he drove into a crowd of people who were watching the parade and fatally crashed into the monument. Seven people in the crowd were killed, and the car’s driver also died soon afterwards.

Koningsdag is known for its nationwide vrijmarkt (free market), at which many Dutch sell their second-hand items. It is also an oppourtinity for “orange madness” or oranjegekte for the national colour, when the normally strait-laced Dutch let down their hair, often dyed orange for the occasion.



Wilhelmina (presided as princess 1885-1890, as queen 1890-1948)

Faced with an unpopular monarchy, in the 1880s the liberals in the Dutch government sought a means of promoting national unity. King William III was disliked, but his four-year-old daughter Princess Wilhelmina was not. A holiday honouring King William had been intermittently held on his birthday, and J.W.R. Gerlach, editor of the newspaper Utrechts Provinciaal en Stedelijk Dagblad, proposed that the princess’s birthday be observed as an opportunity for patriotic celebration and national reconcilation. Prinsessedag or Princess’s Day was first celebrated in the Netherlands on 31 August 1885, Wilhelmina’s fifth birthday. The young princess was paraded through the streets, waving to the crowds. The first observance occurred only in Utrecht, but other municipalities quickly began to observe it, organizing activities for children. Further processions were held in the following years, and when Wilhelmina inherited the throne in 1890, Prinsessedag was renamed Koninginnedag, or Queen’s Day. By then almost every Dutch town and city was marking the holiday.

Juliana (1948-1980)

Another summertime birthday celebration in the Netherlands was that of Wilhelmina’s mother, Queen-Regent Emma, who after Wilhelmina attained adulthood generally spent her own birthday, 2 Agustus, at Soestdijk Palace in Baarn. Untill her death in 1934, Emma received an annual floral tribute from the townsfolk on her birthday. In 1937 Wilhelmina’s daughter and heiress, Princess Juliana, took up residence at Soestdijk Palace following her marriage and the townsfolk made their floral presentation to her, moving the date to Juliana’s birthday, 30 April. In September 1948 Juliana ascended to the Dutch throne and from 1949 onwards Koninginnedag was on her birthday. The change in date attracted immediate approval from Dutch children, who gained an extra day of holiday. The first observance of the holiday on the new date included a huge circus at the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium – one not attended by the royal family, who remained at Soestdijk Palace. Queen Juliana retained the floral tribute, staying each year on Koninginnedag at Soestdijk Palace to receive it. The parade became televised in the 1950s, and Koninginnedag increaslingly became a national holiday, with workers given the day off. Juliana had a reputation as a “queen of the people”, and according to Peek “it felt as if she invited her subjects to the royal home”.

Beatrix (1980-2013)

When Queen Beatrix succeeded her mother Juliana on the latter’s abdication on 30 April 1980, the new queen decided to keep the holiday on 30 April as a tribute to her mother. The reason was practical as well – Beatrix’s actual birthday on 31 January is less conducive to the traditional outdoor activities. The birthday of the Queen’s son and heir, Willem-Alexanders, Prince of Orange is a 27 April. Rather than remaining at the palace and letting the Dutch people come to her, Beatrix instead usually visits two towns each year for Koninginnedag celebrations. Local crafts and customs are demonstrated for the royal family, who have the opportunity to join in.

Koninginnedag celebrations have sometimes been affected or disrupted. In 1988 three British servicemen stationed in Germany who were in the Netherlands for Koninginnedag were killed in Irish Republican Army attacks. In 1996 the celebrations in Rotterdam were dampened by an alcohol ban, put in place following riots earlier in the week after local football club Feyenoord won the Dutch League Championship. The Queen’s scheduled 2001 visits to Hoogeveen and Meppel were postponed for one year owning to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth-disease.

On 28 January 2013 Queen Beatrix announced her abdication on 30 April 2013 in favour of her son, Willem Alexander.


Willem-Alexander (2013-present)

On 30 April 2013, on Queen’s Day, Prince Willem-Alexander succeeded his mother Beatrix and Became King of the Netherlands. Consequently, from 2014 onwards the name is to be changed from Queen’s Day into King’s Day. Also the date would change from 30 April to 27 April, which is the birthday of Willem-Alexander. On the first King’s Day, which is scheduled for 26 April 2014 because 27 April is a Sunday, the king is scheduled to visit Amstelveen and De Rijp.