Cursor explains: King’s Day

Everything you need to know about the best Dutch tradition

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Cursor explains: King’s Day

Tomorrow it’s that time again. On the occasion of Willem Alexander’s birthday, the whole country will dress in orange, the parks and streets will be flooded by flea markets, and we’ll raise our glass of beer to the King. But where does this tradition come from and what’s changed over the years? Cursor explains!

photo Robert_vt_Hoenderdaal / iStock
Wilhelmina, Juliana, and Beatrix

King’s Day started out as Princess Day. The first time this was celebrated was on August 31, 1885, to mark the fifth birthday of Princess Wilhelmina. When Wilhelmina became Queen at age ten (!) in 1890, the first Queen’s Day was celebrated. In 1949, Juliana ascended to the throne and from that moment on, Queen’s Day was celebrated on April 30 – her birthday. When Juliana was succeeded by Queen Beatrix in 1980, it was decided to continue the tradition of celebrating Queen’s Day on April 30, rather than on Beatrix’s birthday. This was doubtlessly due in part to Beatrix birthday being in winter. Snow and ice wouldn’t have set such a great stage for the festive activities that mainly take place outdoors.


In 2013, Queen Beatrix abdicated and her oldest son became the new King. Since then, King’s Day has been celebrated each year on the birthday of Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand, King of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau, Squire of Amsberg. Or just Willem-Alexander, for friends and acquaintances. You wouldn’t necessarily say it by looking at him, but the Dutch King is turning 57 years old this year.

Public holiday

King’s Day is a public holiday, which means most people are off that day. Unfortunately, this year King’s Day is on a Saturday, which means we’re not getting an extra day off. When King’s Day falls on a Sunday – like next year – it is celebrated a day earlier, so people can drink beer all afternoon and won’t have to go to work or university with a hangover the day after. So in 2025, we’ll be celebrating King’s Day on April 26, once again a Saturday.


Ever since the era of Wiliam of Orange, father of the nation, ‘Orange’ has been in the family name of the member of the royal family. This is why orange has been the national color of the Netherlands for centuries and is also inextricably linked to King’s Day. That’s why most people dress in orange that day, sometimes accompanied by accessories like an orange hat or boa. The crazier the better. And you’ll blend right in on King’s Day with the Dutch flag painted on your face as well. Even festive snacks served on King’s Day tend to be orange. A traditional King’s Day treat is the orange tompouce – a take on the popular pastry that’s normally pink.


Every year, the royal family – King Willem-Alexander, Queen Máxima and their daughters Princess Amalia, Princess Alexia, and Princess Ariane – visit a Dutch municipality on King’s Day. The idea is for the royals to mix with the commoners once a year. And it’s an opportunity for the chosen municipality to present itself to the rest of the country. This year, Emmen is the lucky town that gets to welcome the royal family and be decked out completely in orange for the occasion. At 11 AM, the royal family will take a walk through Emmen and thousands of people will gather along the route to catch a glimpse of them. If you don’t feel like traveling all the way to Emmen, you’ll be able to follow the royal walk live on national TV channel NPO1.


A lot of beer is consumed on King’s Day. Especially when the weather is kind, parks throughout the country are filled with people who raise their glass (or plastic cup) of beer to the King. But do note it’s not permitted to drink beer just anywhere. For example, from 7 PM on April 26 to 7 AM on April 28 it’s illegal to have alcohol with you in train stations or onboard trains.

Flea market

A standard feature of King’s Day is the traditional flea market where people sell their stuff. This would normally require a permit, but on King’s Day everyone’s free to peddle their wares in the street. Dutch people think browsing the flea market is gezellig, but it’s also a great opportunity to buy second-hand items at a smart price.

King’s Night

For those who can’t wait to celebrate King’s Day, there’s King’s Night. In the night of April 26 to April 27, parties and festivals are organized all over the country. Think of it as a preparty. There will be plenty to do in Eindhoven this year as well! For instance, the King-S Festival with disco house vibes will be organized at Strijp-S, you can go to the Klokgebouw for techno party King-S Rave and Stratumseind will turn into one big outdoors festival. Click here to check out everything that’s on during King’s Night 2024. One final tip: Camelot fraternity will be hosting student house party Kingsnight to warm up a bit for King’s Day.

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