UPDATE: in 2014 this celebration moved to became King’s day and is now celebrated on the 27th of April, we have not made it to celebrate King’s day, but the traditions decribed below are still occuring, just on a slightly different day!
Every year on April 30th, Queen’s Day (Koninginnedag), all across the Netherlands, the nation becomes a massive sea of orange to celebrate the House of Orange. As Bell and I lived in Amsterdam for a few years, we celebrated this day on a few occasions and it’s a blow out great time. We’ve done St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, and frankly, Queen’s Day far surpasses it in terms of sheer partying and enthusiasm. So what to expect on Queen’s Day?
While the day is meant to celebrate Queen Beatrix’s birthday, it actually falls on her mother’s birthday, the old Queen Juliana. Queen Beatrix’s birthday is January 31st, far too cold for a good party.
While it is technically a celebration of the monarchy, the Dutch use the day as an excuse to just have a great time. On a typical Queen’s Day, the monarchy chooses a random Dutch town to have a parade. Tragically in 2009, in the town of Apeldoorn, a frustrated and crazy man drove his car through the crowd in an attempt to take out the Queen’s carriage, killing 7 people and injuring an additional 10. We lived there at the time and while many other Dutch towns cancelled subsequent celebrations, the party did not skip a beat by people on the street in Amsterdam. So short of a terrorist strike on the canals, nothing will dampen the party there.
If you haven’t booked a hotel yet and are on a tight budget, don’t bother in Amsterdam. At the time of this writing there are still some beds left, but all at extortionate prices. A much better option would be to stay in a nearby town like Leiden, just a 30 minute train ride from Amsterdam. A quick hotel search on Booking.com shows good rooms can still be had April 29th-May 1st for under €90 ($117 USD) per night, a couple hundred less than you will currently pay for a hostel bed in Amsterdam. The densely populated Netherlands is very well connected by an efficient and frequently running train network so many additional cities like Utrecht, Eindhoven, The Hague and Rotterdam would all be better options for accommodation at this point.