I’ve said it before. The absolute best thing about having a multi-cultural family is the holidays. Living in the UK, we get gems like Boxing Day, which we whole heartedly welcome – you don’t just ignore free days off. From America, we have Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, both provide an excuse to cook up wonderful food and stuff our English friends until they cry. (From joy of course.) The Netherlands brings us Sinterklaas and my favorite of all, King’s Day. With three countries to choose from, we are always celebrating something.
King’s Day is a massive celebration of the reigning Dutch monarch, a festival of epic proportions where people take to Amsterdam’s canals and streets in a giant wave of beer guzzling orange. King’s Day has only been King’s Day for the past two years. (It was Queen’s Day for over a century.) Queen Beatrix abdicated her throne in 2013 and gave the reigns to her son King Willem-Alexander.
When we were living in The Netherlands, we never missed the party. Despite all the drunken party-goers, it really is a family event. The Vondelpark becomes a children’s fantasy on King’s Day, where kids of all ages set up shop and sell their old toys in a giant flea market. There are games and activities, music booming through the green spaces, and families in their orange best just having a generally awesome time.
We haven’t stopped celebrating since moving to England. King’s Day is officially celebrated on April 27th, the perfect day to begin barbecue season and decorate our garden in patriotic hues of red, white and blue – with a splash of orange of course. The truth is, we’d rather be in Amsterdam. We do our best with a case of Heineken, awkward Dutch music, and a smile plastered on our faces, but there is nothing like celebrating amongst a million other people in the middle of the world’s craziest party.
This year, KLM and Heineken got together to surprise ten lucky people from around the globe with a trip to Amsterdam for King’s Day. The winners were whisked off to the airport, arriving in Amsterdam to a very Dutch welcome where they were able to experience the city by bicycle and canal boat, alongside DJ Hardwell. (He is the number one DJ in the entire world!)
Check out the awesome video below to see what they got up to, and get a taste of the epicness that is King’s Day.
If you are planning a trip to Amsterdam for King’s Day, here are my ten tips for making it as amazing as possible.
Ten Tips for King’s Day in Amsterdam
1. Hire a Boat
The absolute best way to experience King’s Day is by boat. The canals are jam-packed with people, so you shouldn’t actually expect to go anywhere. My favorite thing to watch is the poor people living in the house boats on the canals who have to guard their homes from the hoards who think jumping on their roofs might be a fun idea. (You’ll want to book your boat way in advance, this is undoubtedly the most popular day of the year and they will sell-out fast.)
2. Prepare the Wardrobe
To do this right, you are going to need a bright orange outfit. Whether you opt for a t-shirt, dress, or a crazy costume (all are acceptable) you’ll want to blend in with the madness. If you arrive without the proper attire fear not, there are loads of street sellers near Amsterdam Centraal Station waiting with orange themed gear aplenty.
3. Take Public Transport
If you are coming into Amsterdam from elsewhere, do not try and drive into the city on King’s Day. Most of the revelry is in the the centre, and most of the streets are closed down. Instead, take the train to Amsterdam Centraal, a straight shot from the airport if you are flying in. From there, you can easily walk to everything you’ll want to see.
4. Bring Cash
If you want to experience the traditional Dutch ‘rommelmarkt’ (like a flea market) you will want to have some small change and bills on hand. I’d recommend hunting around at Vondelpark. While there are lots of toys, books and clothing for the smaller people, I have found some awesome antiques and random gems for myself.
5. Be Mindful with the Alcohol
Everyone, and I mean everyone, has drinks in hand on King’s Day. Officially however, you are only supposed to have one alcoholic beverage in hand at any time. If you are seen carrying around a six-pack, it may get confiscated. Play it safe and bring a backpack for the extras. There are also hundreds of licensed vendors around the city, so you can always get a nice cold beer on tap if that is your preference.
6. King’s Day to King’s Night
While the main party starts from the early morning until the evening, there are tons of King’s Day events in the later hours. Just about every club in town will have something amazing on, so if you are still standing at the end of the day – there is dancing aplenty to look forward to.
7. See the King
If you want to see the man of the hour, the royal family always makes an appearance somewhere in The Netherlands on the day. This isn’t always Amsterdam, for 2015 the family graced Dordrecht with their presence. There is always a parade and lots of exciting things going on, regardless of the year’s location. While the biggest party is in Amsterdam, the entire country celebrates, so you can always go further afield to get a look at the birthday boy or enjoy King’s Day on a slightly more local, smaller scale.
8. Girls Who Need to Pee
Okay, this is a random one but if you are a girl on King’s Day, toilets are hard to come by. There are urinals set up all around the city for the boys, but those are a little hard logistically for us females. Cafes and restaurants generally don’t mind you coming in, just be prepared to pay a euro or two for access. Many locals who live in the centre also open up their home toilets for a fee, a sign will generally be posted if this is the case, a great opportunity to get the inside scoop on Amsterdam living while you relieve yourself.
9. Cameras + Expensive Stuff
I would suggest you leave expensive camera equipment at your hotel. While King’s Day is undeniably an incredible event to capture on film, the sheer amount of people you have to wade through makes it a risky move. Bring your phone instead, you can relive your orange filled memories on Instagram the next day.
10. Be Prepared to Have Fun
Rio has Carnival. New Orleans has Mardis Gras. Amsterdam has King’s Day. While they each have a little something special, King’s Day is just so laid-back and happy that you will definitely have the time of your life. Even wearing the ugliest hue of orange conceivable (I mean seriously, that color doesn’t look good on anybody!) King’s Day is the most fun party on the planet.
This post is sponsored by Heineken & KLM. All thoughts and general ramblings are my own.