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King's Day 101: how to celebrate the orange spectacle

It's almost Wim-Lex's birthday, which means only one thing: King's Day is on. Although we’re always up for a cold beer, April 27 is also about non-alcoholic Dutch traditions. From raising the flag to eating orange pastries, you'll know how to celebrate King's Day in no time with our tips.

What do we celebrate on King's Day?

The name is a major spoiler. On April 27, we celebrate the birthday of King Willem-Alexander of Oranje-Nassau. Some people save the celebration of their birthday for the weekend, but being king, you claim a day off. Fortunately, he is generous enough to grant us that day off too. Most people (especially outside the Netherlands) still know King's Day as Queen's Day, which refers to the celebration of the birthday of former Queen Beatrix … which we celebrate on her mom Juliana’s birthday (on April 30). Here's a heads-up: you can only catch the orange fever on April 26 & 27. Unless April 27 falls on a Sunday. Then the whole party is moved to Saturday. Makes perfect sense, Saturdays are for parties, Sundays are for hangovers.


Where does the King celebrate his birthday?

The big question remains: where does the birthday boy go for his birthday? As the big boss of the country, you don't have to throw yourself a party. Municipalities throughout the country compete for that honor. The king, his family, and other royal family members visit whichever city has the best plans on April 27. As part of the tradition, the royal family participates in the festivities organized there, from sack races to ‘koekhappen’, where you try to eat a piece of gingerbread on a string without using your hands. In 2021, the King, Queen Maximá and Princess Amalia, Princess Alexia, and Princess Ariane visited Eindhoven, The High Tech Campus in particular. 

This year, the big day will take place in Emmen. Are you a mega fan of royals? Then you can wait for hours and catch a glimpse of the royal couple. If not, then you can just follow the whole event on television. The day will be broadcasted live by NOS. Don't forget to check out our fashion queen's outfit; it will be the day's topic. 

You may raise the flag

The plebs stick to cheerfully colored flags on their birthdays. But for His Majesty's birthday, we fly the national flag. With an orange pennant! His birthday is a special occasion, and on special occasions of national importance, we raise the flag in the Netherlands. You can leave it up all year round, but if you are a decent citizen (and you are), then you follow the flag protocol. For birthdays of the Dutch royals, you can add the orange pennant to your flag. So on King's Day too. Whereas in America they consider the flag sacred, we just stuff it in an Albert Heijn bag when we're not using it.  


Orange all around

Perhaps the most important or most striking thing about this day is the color orange! The Dutch love orange. Shirts, suits, hats, everything needs to be orange for King's Day. We do this for Wims birthday, but actually for all events where we can be overly nationalistic. Why orange? If you've been paying attention, you read that the king's family name is 'Van Oranje', which translates to Of Orange. The king's ancestor, William van Oranje, founded the Netherlands. And what better way to honor your national history than dressing up in a skimpy orange dress? Is orange not really your color? Then the colors red, white, and blue are also tolerated. Or you could just tell people who call you out on it that you are wearing orange underwear.

Let’s get the party started

Since it is difficult for Willem-Alexander to host a party for over 17.5 million people, we'll do it for him. That’s one of the perks of being a monarch. In Eindhoven alone, there are many parties to go to. King-S, Royal Rawk, and Kings Plaza are some of our favorites. The best part is that we start partying on April 26. Because, as a king, you celebrate your birthday for at least two days. Eat that, peasants! We call the night before King’s Day King's Night, very original. Is two days of partying a bit much? Then you can just enjoy beats, beers, and bitterballen during the day. 

Strolling around the flea markets

Is it even King's Day without the flea markets? We don't think so! There are flea markets, called ‘rommelmarkt’ or ‘slingermarkt’ everywhere! The streets will be full of rugs and stalls with 'junk' that still has a few more good years left, such as toys, picture frames, and vintage sandals. You can and may sell everything during the orange markets if you've paid for a spot. With 300 stalls around the Woenselse Markt and the Kruisstraat, this flea market is the largest. You can find more markets here

A tip for buyers: come early and do your research. That way, you'll be able to pick up all the gems. Do you have a box of stuff you no longer need? Rent a stall and sell your stuff! You can spend the proceeds at the market or in the pub. It's up to you ;)

King's Games (Koningsspelen)

King's Day is extra festive for kids in primary schools. Since the accession of King Willem-Alexander, primary schools organise 'Koningsspelen' on the last Friday before King's Day. It's a joyous day that focuses on the importance of a good breakfast and exercise. The day begins with a hearty breakfast, after which the children start the sports part of the day full of energy. On the Koningsspelen website, you can already practice the moves or download the printable placemats. Fun!

Tompoucen & Jumbollen

One tradition that holds a special place in our hearts is the orange HEMA tompouce, or the orange Jumbollen from Jumbo. No party without orange pastries. French fries, bitterballen, and sausage rolls are also on the snack list. Can’t decide what to shove in your face first? We have made you a guide with all the typical Dutch snacks.