One thing you must do before you die: Attend Queen’s day in Amsterdam!
Gezellig is a word that the encompasses the heart of Dutch Culture. It conveys a feeling of coziness and warmth, as well as a relaxed ambience and a fun, friendly atmosphere. Gezellig is the heartbeat of Amsterdam and the best way to soak up Dutch culture and experience the true essence of Gezellig, is by attending Queen’s Day in Amsterdam, the biggest national event and celebration held in the Netherlands every year.
Queens’s Day (Koninginnedag in Dutch), is celebrated every year on the 30th of April to commemorate the Queen’s birthday in the Netherlands and it is a symbol of national unity and pride. The Dutch refer to Queen’s Day as Oranjegekte (orange mania) as the entire city of Amsterdam becomes a sea of people decked in orange, the official color of the Dutch royal family. No cars are allowed on the streets and the trams are rerouted as thousands of people take to the streets and canals of Amsterdam to paint the town orange.
The best way to experience the sights and sounds of Queen’s Day is by literally losing yourself in the streets of Amsterdam. This allows you to truly immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere of Queen’s day and to rub shoulders with the locals and thousands of tourists who converge on the city.
I was lucky enough to attend Queen’s Day 2 years ago while living in Amsterdam as an exchange student. I remember being mesmerised by the sheer number of people all decked in orange hats, wigs, crowns, feather boas, face paint and even orange dyed hair. Everywhere you turn, the city is buzzing with activity. Boats sail along the canals filled with people waving Dutch flags and bouncing orange balloons in the air, while the streets are alive with free outdoor concerts, huge drum bands, street parties and performances and children’s games and activities.
Queen’s Day also provides an opportunity for the Dutch to show off their entrepreneurial spirit in a nationwide flea market or garage sale known as vrijmarkt (free market). Many people set up stalls or blankets in parks and on sidewalks to sell anything from books and clothes to antiques and furniture. Food vendors also set up shop in the middle of the street and offer a vast array of food including the deliciously addictive Dutch stroopwafels which are two small honeycomb waffles held together by hot caramel syrup and made fresh right in front of your eyes.
The Queen’s Day festivities are not only for the adults however, as Amsterdam’s largest park is transformed into a children’s wonderland and haven where children can sell their toys, put on performances and take part in numerous games and activities arranged just for them.
Queen’s Day in many ways embodies the essence of Dutch culture and the meaning of Gezellig; ambient, friendly and welcoming. So if you ever find yourself in Amsterdam, be sure to immerse yourself in the orange craze that it is Queen’s Day and experience for yourself the Gezellig feeling of being in a warm and inviting place.