This 27th of April will mark the second King’s Day in the Netherlands after 123 years previous Queen’s Days. The name might change, but the essence of the day will remain. It’s a Dutch institution where everyone pulls out their best orange outfits and go out in the street, whether to set up stall selling whatever they fancy, buying them, partying, or just walking around soaking up the atmosphere. Naturally, Amsterdam is the epicenter of all the crazy parties and crowds, with literally millions of visitors descending to Amsterdam that day (the city’s population is around 750.000). Parties will start the night before (don’t miss them by assuming King’s Night comes AFTER King’s Day) all the way until the morning, while junkyard sellers will be up and about before dawn to secure the most strategic spots around the city.
It’s all exciting and fun, but if you’re an introvert like me, it gets overwhelming. But being an Amsterdammer for the past 13 years had taught me a thing or two about surviving the day without resorting to staying home with the curtains drawn.
1. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen
Celebrations are everywhere, but Amsterdam city centre will have most of the crowds during the day (and the night previously). Avoid the concentration of jostling masses around Central Station, Dam, Nieuwmarkt, the canal belts, Rembrandtplein, Museumplein and Leidseplein and go somewhere closer to residential areas. Parks are popular places for people to set up stalls and putting up performances (including children), but instead of going to Vondelpark or Museumplein, head to more relaxed Oosterpark, Sarphatipark or Westerpark. Browse the free market offerings away from the canal belts, residential areas are where the best bargains can be found, especially in the more upmarket neighbourhood in the southern part of the city.
2. Get out of Amsterdam and spend the day in surrounding villages and towns
Our preferred strategy is usually to go outside of Amsterdam itself and spend it in Monnickendam, where our boat is moored. Small towns and villages celebrate the day in more traditional ways with communities organising games an events for people of all ages. There is more space in the water for a boat trip (compared to packed Amsterdam canals), and the crowd you encounter is a more convivial lot (and usually a less drunk) than the Amsterdammer version.
Other nice little towns to visit during King’s Day that are easy to reach from Amsterdam are Haarlem, Edam (but not Volendam) or Muiden.
3. Plan your transportation method
Getting out of the city centre or the city altogether can pose an additional problem: public transport operates on different route and timetables during the day, and some don’t run at all.
If you stay in the city, public transport will not run to/from the center and even cycling can be difficult. And forget about driving. Walk like everyone else, or get a ticket to the canal boats. They will have an adjusted route for the day, avoiding the busiest of waterways, but you will still be able to see the city in a comfortable pace. Some of the canal boats also sell a 24 hour ticket, which mean you can get off and on at any time during the period, which make it a perfect alternative public transport for the day, especially if you have young children or someone not able to walk for long period of times.
To get out of the city, the trains and regional buses still run, but the station will be packed with people from all over Netherlands coming to Amsterdam. Either take the early rides, or go a day before and stay the night in your preferred out-of-Amsterdam towns. Toward the end of the day, people will start leaving the city and it gets easier to navigate around the city.
4. Get a vantage point
If you’re stuck in the city anyway, get the most of it by trying to get a vantage point to watch the crowds go by. Staying the night where the actions are, with a window/balcony overlooking the main squares might have a deleterious effect on your sleep while King’s Night parties are underway, but during the day, you will have the best spot for to observe the celebration. Even better, get to know a local who lives in the centre and spend the day at their house.
5. Have a meal plan for the day
All restaurants will be full and the staff overworked. Even if you reserve a table in advance, expect slow service and limited menu. Either prepare your own food, order room service, or stock up on food from the open food stalls from the day’s free market. Best option on good weather: crank up the BBQ set (but make sure to shop for supplies the day before)!
6. Wear orange and enjoy the day!
However and wherever you’re celebrating (or caught in) it, put on something orange and enjoy the day! It’s not everyday that you can wear lurid orange without anyone batting an eye.