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If King’s Day in Amsterdam is not on your radar, you need to put this Dutch holiday on your bucket list. One day a year, the Netherlands becomes a street party of massive proportions; Amsterdam is the epicenter of this party. Tourists and locals alike take to the canals to drink, dance, and buy/sell goods from the street. This post is full of helpful tips to know before your trip to Amsterdam for King’s Day.
King’s Day in on April 27th.
King’s Day used to be Queen’s Day, but Queen’s Day isn’t celebrated anymore. Now, it’s a running joke among Dutchies about the tourists who dress up in orange to celebrate Queen’s Day only to see nothing happening…. King’s Day is on the 27th of April. Don’t mess this up.
Most supermarkets will sell out of beer on King’s Day. If you want to be prepared, stock up on beer the day before at a supermarket. Technically, you can buy everything on the street, so if you’re not feeling like you want to carry around wine or beer, it’s easy to buy it. However, it’s cheaper to buy it yourself as most people are just marking up the price.
We carried our beer around in a backpack, which worked well enough. However, many bars won’t allow you in with a backpack full of beer. Otherwise, you can easily buy drinks (including non-alcoholic drinks) on the street.
Don’t start too early and pace yourself.
This was our mistake from the previous year. I was very excited for King’s Day in Amsterdam, so I stopped off at a cafe on the night before prior to sleeping in. We had beers with our lunch, which just killed our energy. We ended up being done pretty early.
Most days, people cannot sell things on the street without a license, but this isn’t enforced on King’s Day. On King’s Day, you’ll see people of all different ages selling things on the street. My favorite from last year? The little girl selling an adorable portrait of Dobby the elf. I was tempted, but she was a fierce bargainer. It’s a big yard sale as well, so if you love to thrift, be sure to have some smaller bills as well as coins (as many things tend to be less than 2 euros). Similarly, you can buy homemade food/drinks on the street, including wine. (Dobby painting?)
Be sure to get your cash out the night before as there will be long lines for the ATMs, especially in center. I would recommend having around forty euros on you, which should cover souvenirs, drinks, food, and any incidentals.
Don’t expect free bathrooms. Be sure to carry some extra euros on you to pay for toilets as you see them. They’re rare and you might spend a significant amount of time in line/looking for one. Last year, I ended up using an entrepreneurial Dutch person’s toilet after they charged two euros for use. I was desperate.
Finding your friend(s) will be impossible.
Pick a foolproof meeting place away from the crowds. We thought we had picked a good meeting place for King’s Day in Amsterdam, however, the crowds made it so hard to walk across the city that a few of our friends were unable to make it as they got stuck and walking even a small distance took so long. Prinsengracht tend to be very crowded, but smaller canals tend to be better.
Don’t expect public transit to be working in the center.
On King’s Day, Amsterdam public transit will be far less functional. Although it will be working on the outskirts, you’ll need to walk a fairly long distance. If you’re thinking about going out, it’s usually best to go out close to your neighborhood as it will take longer to get everywhere due to the crowds.
Don’t bother bringing your bike. Bike parking/biking in the center on King’s Day is an impossible task. It’s definitely possible on the outskirts, but I recommend taking the train or bus into Amsterdam Centraal and walking from there.
Expect the trains to be packed.
People from all over the world AND the Netherland flock to Amsterdam for King’s Day. Expect fewer trains as well as crowds. Amsterdam Central is pretty insane on King’s Day, so be warned in case you decide to get a flight from Schiphol…
Don’t get on the train too late if you’re staying outside of Amsterdam. Train service on King’s Day is cut back and the trains will be packed. Although the parties, especially on the night before King’s Day go late, be warned that the trains will be full of messy drunk people.
Celebrate Koningsnacht (the night before King’s Day)
Be sure to look up what’s going on the night before on Koningsnacht! If King’s Day falls on a weekend, you’ll definitely see festivities that night, however, most Dutchies go out the NIGHT before as King’s Day is a national holiday. The night before is always a fun night at bars, so check for events, and double-check that you don’t need a ticket. Why be tired for work the next day when you can just go out the night before your day off when you can sleep in?
Many shops and museums will be closed, so be sure to get dinner supplies the day before or make a reservation
Everyone is out celebrating, so be sure to stock up on dinner supplies at Albert Heijn (which closes early on King’s Day) or find some take-out. Many things are closed, so you’re warned. It’s best to plan to eat dinner at your hotel or stock up on some sandwiches the day before. You’ll find some restaurants serving to the public, so be sure to take this opportunity if you see it.
Not all the parties and festivals on King’s Day are free!
Check for festivals and be warned that many parties for King’s Day require buying tickets ahead. There are some amazing music festivals around Amsterdam with famous DJs, but tickets sell out quickly, so if you want to attend, book in advance. Similarly, many bars close to the public besides a select number of patrons who buy tickets in advance. King’s Day is NOT the day to seek out the best bars in the city for drinks as they’ll be packed and many have a line IF they even allow anyone in.
Your friend with the boat? EVERYONE is going to be sending them a message right before King’s Day asking about their plans. Unless you’re lucky, you’re not cruising down the canals on King’s Day. I promise that it’s fun to walk around!
Boats are very expensive to rent close to King’s Day, so you’ll need to act fast and be prepared for steep rental costs. Usually, there’s not space just for one person as people pay up in advance to be on the boats, so you’ll be very lucky if you’re let onto a boat!
Travel to Amsterdam will be expensive on King’s Day
Prices for flights for King’s Day will be high. It’s a popular holiday during the peak season of April. Don’t expect flights to Amsterdam to be cheap on the day before King’s day OR the day after as many people leave directly after. Similarly, a lot of Amsterdammers leave Amsterdam for King’s Day as they don’t want to deal with the crowds in the city and instead to spend the holiday on vacation.
Book your Amsterdam accommodations way in advance.
Book your accommodation in Amsterdam WAY in advance. Most hotels and hostels will be booked up and prices will be significantly higher. If you’re looking into Couchsurfing, you’re unlikely to find anything available. I’ve seen a lot of SOS requests close to King’s Day and Amsterdam is very hard to find accommodations in otherwise.
Many hostels, as well as hotels, will increase the rates for King’s Day and many accommodations require having multiple days booked, so it’s unlikely you’ll be able to only book one day at a hotel. Book in advance to get the lowest rates.
What to wear for King’s Day in the Netherlands
Wear a good pair of sneakers. Most restaurants and bars remove the chairs to accommodate more people, so you won’t get to sit for a while. Looking cute is great, but we must have walked for five hours until I sat down next to a canal.
Wear ALL your orange on King’s Day. Gabby from Packs Light found a shirt at HEMA that was a large girl’s shirt. She made it into a cute and warm crop top with some scissors. (Something that is orange or has a Dutch flag works too!) Many of the King’s Day specific shirts will sell out around the city, so if you’re in the Netherlands a few days before, I recommend buying one if you have the chance.
Be sure to bring a jacket and/or layer as it’s often colder and rainy on King’s Day. You can see the rest of my Amsterdam packing list here.