As March is slowly winding down, I’m getting excited for April to arrive – not just because it is my birthday month (and I finally get to see the Cherry Blossoms in Japan), but it’s consistently a month with good weather filled with interesting travels.
Last year, I had the good fortune to kick off April in Hong Kong and spend the rest of the month traipsing around parts of Europe. To cap the month off, I spent April 30th partying with a bunch of my local friends in Amsterdam to celebrate one of their biggest national holidays — Queen’s Day.
Queen’s Day, or Koninginnedag, takes place on April 30 and is officially the national holiday and celebration for the birthday of the Queen Mother. Queen Beatrix’s birthday is actually in January, but since her mother Juliana’s April birthday sees much better weather, they continue to celebrate Queen’s Day on April 30th. Honestly, the holiday really seems more like an excuse to do some serious partying. And one thing I’ve learned having a lot of Dutch friends that I meet up with around the globe –- they know how to party!
If you’ve never spent Queen’s Day in Amsterdam, it’s definitely a worthwhile event you should consider experiencing at least once if your travel plans allow.
I’ve seen Amsterdam during expected peak times, but nothing compares to Queen’s Day, which is seriously just a sea of orange everywhere you look. Queen’s Day turns Amsterdam into a citywide party with streets shut down to vehicle traffic, and street-side vendors and flea markets lining canals and alleyways. Everyone gets in the spirit and wears orange — whether it be clothes, fun accessories, or even orange hair color. The guys in our group quickly found that even facial hair was a prime target for the temporary orange spray-in hair color.
You can experience a more low-key introduction to Queen’s Day by walking along the bigger streets, people watching and sampling dishes from restaurants and food stalls, or be bold and join celebrations at local bars and clubs.
And you never know who or what you might see while wandering around – some of the day’s more unique sights we encountered included a drunk guy carrying the leg and buttocks of a mannequin, and these interesting two – how often do you see dancing Jägermeister deer!
The popular Vondelpark area transforms into a bit of a family carnival atmosphere, while large groups stake out places to enjoy picnics, or in our case, a much needed afternoon nap between celebrations.
If you are into music, especially trance and DJs, the Museumplein becomes like a giant open-air concert arena. It really kicks off in the evening, but by early afternoon it was so crowded that we couldn’t even see a glimpse of the stage. Probably standing behind a group of Dutch guys that had a good four or five inches on me didn’t help!
Some innovative groups decided to climb atop the roof of the local grocery and made “balcony” seating to watch DJs like Armin van Buuren, a local DJ that is often considered to be number one in the world.
The party I want to score an invite to next Queen’s Day is with one of the boats drifting along the canals.
Nearly every canal was completely wall to wall with boats out celebrating. People went all out decorating their boats – some complete with couches and other interesting decorative touches. And the theme didn’t end there – most boats were filled with people dressed in various costumes.
The highlight though was the ingenious group that had the foresight to create a makeshift bathroom for the all day party – someone holding up a shower curtain on a ring surrounding a bucket when someone needed to go. Priceless!
Sadly, I am missing Queen’s Day this year as I fly in a day later to start apartment hunting, but you will find me donning my orange and partying on Queen’s Day 2013 for sure!