Now here’s a Queen who knows how to throw a party. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands celebrates her coming of age with a national holiday for her minions on 30th April. No one pays attention to the fact her birthday is actually January 31st – the mild weather of April provides a much better setting for the annual celebrations.
2013 will be the last-ever Queen’s Day as Crown-Prince Willem-Alexander will be crowned King on this date. In 2014, the celebration will move to April 27th and be called King’s Day.
Every year over 700,000 well-wishers turn up from around the globe to revel in the party atmosphere and show off their best orange attire. Boat parties, exclusive raves and family-friendly stage performances are the order of the day, but be warned, the accommodation gets booked up fast!
The free market
Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein and Museumplein are given over to the free market (vrijmarkt). Anyone can set up a stall selling food, drink, bric-a-brac and anything else they can lay their hands on, without a permit.
Entrepreneurial residents set up shop outside their front door, marking their money-making territory with ‘bezet’, meaning occupied, days beforehand. It’s a can’t-be-missed tax-free opportunity for the professionals and bargaining for a good deal is all part of the entertainment for potential customers.
Where to go
Getting from A to B during Queen’s Day is a mission – best to go slow, enjoy the journey and make friends as you duck and dive between the crowds.
To experience a unique site within the city get to the oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands, the Hortus Botanicus of Leide. It provides a beautiful backdrop for the world music stage. Or make your way to the Bredeweg Festival, an area of the main festival with more of a family vibe featuring a market, theatre groups, clowns, salsa, latin, blues, percussion and choral music.
Reguliersdwarsstraat and Westermarkt hold a massive gay and lesbian street party with live music, DJs and performances.
Put on your dancing shoes
Last year’s raving delights included dance parties on Rembrandtplein, dedicated Dutch-language performances on Thorbeckeplein, up and coming talent in Nieuwmarkt and Latin pop, rhythm and blues in Blaffende Vis.
Loveland organise the seminal Royal Fire! club night at Stoperaplein with DJs playing dance, house and top 40 tunes.
Any spare inch of space is taken up by an orange-clad raver – including the boats on Amsterdam’s waterways. Queen’s Day boat parties are legendary with top DJs spinning the decks.
Eat and drink
You’ll be fighting the hoards to get to a good restaurant on Queen’s Day. But this is one festival that’s not about the food, it’s about the music and the atmosphere maaan. Eat on the run at the many street food stalls, stick to orange food to really show your dedication to the party. Popular concoctions include pumpkin and butternut squash soup, cheesey crisps and chips, orange jelly shots, peaches, apricots or mango and carrot and pineapple salad.
By law, you can only carry one bottle (plastic) of alcoholic drink on you while in public. If you have any more than that you could be deemed to be a dealer. The beer at the many street bars is ‘events beer’ meaning it has less alcohol than normal, and it’s always served in a plastic cup.
All our hostels have a 3- or 4-night minimum stay rule over Queen’s Day, but the good news is we still have quite a few hostels in Amsterdam left. Click through to find a place to stay, but hury – they’ll go quick!