Queen’s Day is the annual Dutch national holiday in honour of the late Queen Juliana’s birthday.
On Queen’s Day there are celebrations throughout the Netherlands, make sure your visit coincides with April 30. However, the most popular destination is Amsterdam where some one million or more visitors join the 750.000 locals in the world’s largest street party. (A word to the wise: book your Amsterdam hotel accommodation early if you expect to have a place to sleep).
Queen Beatrix, who succeeded her mother in 1980, decided to keep the holiday on April 30 as the weather on her own birthday, January 31, tends to prohibit outdoor festivities
The Night Before Queen’s Day
Queen’s Day festivities start around midnight and last throughout the night (though official rules state that pubs must close for an hour or so before sunrise). Simply walk around in downtown Amsterdam (the Jordaan and Nieuwmarkt areas being among the most popular spots) and you’ll find plenty of partying going on.
That said, our advice is that you pace yourself. You’ll want to be more or less sober for the main feast.
Queen’s Day Proper
6:00 AM marks the start of the ‘free market’ - a street market where half the population sells their bric-a-brac, used clothes, and crafts for next to nothing. Where? Everywhere people live. What? Well, you’ll find anything from broken toys, last year’s Queen’s Day purchases, and used bras to fantastic bargains on musical instruments, electonics, software and everything else under the sun.
Throughout the city, professional street performers vie for attention. There are pick-up bands, aspiring opera singers, teenage rappers and street discos. Rio-style drum bands have been very popular the past few years.
Huge outdoor concerts are organized at various locations, such as Dam Square, Rembrandt Square and Museumplein.
The throngs lining the streets and canals wear orange, the national color (after all, the Queen hails from the House of Orange). Take ‘throngs’ literally - particularly in the city’s center where you’ll be shoulder to shoulder with other revelers. By way of indication: you can normally saunter from Central Station to Dam Square in about 7 minutes. On Queen’s Day the same distance will take you at least an hour.
For most of the day, there is no public transport in the center of town.