Place Amsterdam, Netherlands
Style A right royal knees-up
Setting Clubs & canals
You might not expect a head of state’s birthday to inspire a 24-hour party, but Queen’s Day does exactly that. The date, which still honours Juliana, late mother of the present queen, Beatrix, has become a national day of orange madness. Koninginnedag is celebrated all over the Netherlands, but nowhere more intensely than Amsterdam, where there are boats and floats on the canals, impromptu markets (trade laws are temporarily lifted), open-air concerts, and dancing in the streets, with most revellers patriotically sporting some shade of orange. Many of the bars and restaurants host their own celebrations, so even if you don’t make any plans, you’ll have a ball popping into cafés for pints of Amstel, and stumbling into neighbourhood street parties.
Event highlights The festivities actually begin the night before, with Koninginnenach, or Queen’s Night, when the city goes wild in every bar and restaurant. The next day is a national holiday, so a lie-in is mandatory.
Head count The whole city – some 750,000 plus – and maybe a million visitors fill Amsterdam on the day.
Packing tips Relax – you’re in the Netherlands, so you won’t need to dress up for any of the Queen’s Day events. If the desire takes you, pay tribute to the House of Orange by wearing tangerine from top to toe.
Bar chat Following tradition, the holiday should be celebrated on Queen Beatrix’s birthday, 31 January, but she chose to stick with the spring weather and honour her mother.
- Do try the delectable local liquor called Oranje Bitter.
- Do visit the flower market, it really is a must. You can buy virtually any plant imaginable, and tulip seeds to bring home.
- Do rent a boat for the day. Boating bans are lifted for the day and Amsterdammers take to the water in anything and everything. Sesa Rent-a-Boat rents sloops for up to 10 people (+31 (0)20 509 5050).
- Don’t go to Amsterdam if you are looking for a quiet weekend – the whole city parties all day and night.
NEED TO KNOW
Getting there Amsterdam Schiphol airport is 18km outside the city. You can take a taxi into town for around €40, but we’d recommend hopping on one of the quarter-hourly trains to Centraal Station, which takes about 20 minutes.
Children With half a dozen play areas, Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s biggest green space, is an excellent family destination at the best of times, and on Queen’s Day it hosts lots of activities for children, and turns into a bit of a swapshop, with kids trading their old toys and clothing.
Parking Driving is generally pointless in Amsterdam. Instead, go Dutch and rent bikes for the day, or get an Amsterdam Pass, which gives you unlimited travel on the city’s trams, buses and subways. Purchase them at all tourist information centres and at Schiphol and Centraal Station.
Food & drink The celebrations mean that it can be difficult to get into a restaurant, so it’s a good idea to book early. One of our favourites is the cosy De Prins, with excellent food at reasonable prices. On a good clear night, Vertigo, located in Vondelpark, is the perfect alfresco experience. For Pacific fusion food, head to the grand Mansion on Hobbemastraat, where you’ll also sup some excellent cocktails. There’s a glut of good restaurants around Utrechtsestraat: Italian, Indian, French…
Sleep The Dylan hotel, located on a canal, is perfect if you want a haven away from the full-on partying. It has its own canal boat, and affiliation with a local gym. Or there’s Seven One Seven, an old townhouse converted from private home into unique residence, set on one of Amsterdam’s most picturesque canals, Prinsengracht. Set in a former schoolhouse, College Hotel is, appropriately, staffed entirely by students and boasts a great restaurant and an elegant bar. Alternatively, escape the frenetic party-pace of the city in waterside Monnickendam, at the Michelin-starred Suitehotel Posthoorn.
We’re keeping a close eye on the international event calendar, so watch this space every month for more insider info on inspiring shenanigans around the world.