King’s Day is when the Dutch celebrate the birthday of their king. King Willem Alexander was born on 27 April and so there are many parties, flea markets and, of course, the king himself visits one or several cities with his family.
- Put on your best orange outfit.
- Visit one of the many free markets.
- Toast to the king with an Oranjebitter.
From Princess’ Day to King’s Day
Originally, Princess’ Day was celebrated in Holland on Wilhelmina’s birthday (31 August), when she was still a princess. The feast involved many children’s games and decorated streets. When Wilhelmina became the new queen after her father’s death, it was changed to Queen’s Day.
Juliana, the next queen and Wilhelmina’s daughter, celebrated Queen’s Day on 30 April with a parade on Soestdijk. Beatrix also celebrated Queen’s Day on 30 April (her own birthday is in January) but contrary to her mother, she took her entire family and travelled around the country to visit several municipalities. King Willem Alexander has followed in this tradition. He was born on 27 April and this became the official King’s Day in 2014.
The Dutch royal family bears the name: House of Oranje. This literally means the colour orange. As a result it has become Holland’s national color. On King’s Day people wear orange clothes, often even donning orange wigs or make-up.
On King’s Day, people are allowed to sell things on the street without requiring a permit. Flea (‘free’) markets are held in parks and streets, with many people offering their unwanted possessions, music or other entertainment for sale. In Utrecht, the flea markets even start the night before King’s Day.
A feast requires a toast. On King’s Day, the people make a toast to the king with Orange Bitter, a bright orange liqueur. The drink was created in 1620 to celebrate Prince Fredrick Henry’s victory. Initially it was not well-known but after William of Orange became the first king, it was produced once more. Since then, Orange Bitter has been closely associated with the Dutch royal family.
Spending the night
King’s Day is a feast that you should really experience for yourself. Book a hotel well in advance because they fill up quickly.
Editors’ tip: Search just outside the cities for great offers.