For the uninitiated, Koningsdag, or King’s Day, is a national holiday in the Netherlands which celebrates the birthday of the Dutch king, currently King Willem-Alexander. The Dutch national color is orange, as the royal family is the House of Oranje-Nassau. On King’s Day (27 April), the entirety of the Netherlands decks out in their finest orange tuxedos and feather boas and takes to the streets to celebrate. It is the most quintessential Dutch holiday of them all. Therefore, if you ever find yourself in the Netherlands in late April, be sure to join the party. The city of Groningen already started the festivities the day before King’s Day, known as King’s Night, with the Nacht van Oranje (Night of Orange) party. There were food trucks selling drinks and snacks, several stages set up in the city center with various live bands performing, and public restrooms set up in one of the main squares of the city. Traffic was rerouted or closed off in many areas of town for safety reasons. King’s Night was incredibly crowded and, personally, was not worth the effort to me. I met up with some friends downtown, but we basically just ended up standing around and talking, which we could have done any day of the week. Koningsdag, however, is very different; unlike King’s Night, Koningsdag is when the families come out. The atmosphere is casual and festive. This is the only day of the year when Dutch people are permitted to have yard sales (albeit in certain designated streets), so it’s nice to shop around the “vrijmarkt” or free market. I went into town with one of my friends and we ended up wandering around a little before stopping to have lunch at a casual restaurant. Fortunately, the weather was nice, so we stopped for ice cream a little while later before heading back. All in all, King’s Day (and King’s Night) can be a great experience, as long as you keep a few things in mind:
1. Don’t feel pressured to wear orange. Most non-Dutch people do not have orange in their wardrobes, and even so, half the people I saw were either not wearing orange or were wearing their coats, so you couldn’t see their orange outfits anyway. If you don’t want to spend the money on a new orange outfit, don’t worry too much about it!
2. Bring cash. Due to the sheer amount of customers, many restaurants and vendors will only take cash and will not allow you to use your debit or credit card.
3. Know that it will be extremely crowded. Koningsdag in big cities like Groningen will definitely be very busy. Clubs, restaurants, and bars may also be hard to get into due to the sheer amount of people.
4. It will be difficult to find restrooms. If you think you may need to use the restroom in the near future, it may be a good idea to go ahead and use the public restrooms, since the odds of finding a restroom to use later may be slim, especially on King’s Night when many of the restaurants will already be closed.
5. It may not be worth it to go to Amsterdam for King’s Day. A lot of the exchange students I talked to seemed to be under the impression that Amsterdam was the best and the only place to go to celebrate King’s Day, but many cities in the Netherlands, certainly including Groningen, have great events planned as well. In general, unless you’re looking to go to the Rijksmuseum or the Anne Frank House, other cities in the Netherlands have exactly the same things Amsterdam has, just on a smaller scale. Traveling to Amsterdam can be very expensive on King’s Day, as the discounted group train tickets don’t apply on King’s Day, and neither do the heavily discounted day cards you may be lucky enough to get. These train discounts don’t apply because they don’t want to encourage people to travel on King’s Day, since crowd control is already difficult during King’s Day celebrations. These are just some things you may want to take into consideration when deciding where to spend your King’s Night and King’s Day.
No matter where you go and what you decide to do, a little bit of planning can go a long way, especially when it comes to such a major holiday as this! All in all, I had a great Koningsdag, and I wish the same to anyone who is fortunate enough to be in the Netherlands in April. Until next time!