Surviving Queen’s Day in Amsterdam

Newsflash –  flash fiction online here After Easter only 300 words!

HOORAY, IT’S MAYDAY! sssshh, I mean hooray, it’s Mayday. Most Queen’s Day revellers are nurturing a headache, no doubt. ‘Koninginnedag’ (don’t try and pronounce if you are of a nervous disposition) is a national holiday and an excuse for a giant street party all over the Netherlands. Most partygoers choose to descend on Amsterdam, however. By mid-afternoon the ring of canals turns into a claustrophobic crush of people. Especially on the humpbacked bridges that act very effectively as bottlenecks. Go along if you enjoy being squashed by lofty, orange-clad drunkards. Mind you a lot of punters normally have to pay for that kind of thing in Amsterdam. On Queen’s Day it’s free. Luvverly! Not.

Join the crush on the canals…

So what’s it all about this Queen’s Day thing, then?

Well, on 30th April the Dutch celebrate Queen Juliana’s birthday. Queen Beatrix is the current queen of the Netherlands and Juliana was her mother. It’s a day where everyone can be unashamedly patriotic, wear orange and sell all their old tat, I mean unwanted stuff on the streets in one giant car boot sale. It’s also an oppurtunity for budding singers/musicians to showcase their talents. For one day of the year everyone can be an entrepreneur or entertainer, selling homemade food or performing for the passers-by.

When I first moved here I used to love setting up a stall and even printed T-shirts and made jewellery especially. Now, owing to the vast invasion from out-of-town visitors, it’s much more regulated in the centre and you can’t get anywhere near by car or bike. For that reason I tend to avoid; the Jordaan, Prinsengracht, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Singel. I get rather townist on 30th April. Stay in your hometown and celebrate there! Don’t clog up Amsterdam’s ring of canals. Just heard on the radio, ‘only’ 800,000 visitors this year, 100,000 fewer than last year. Result!

Head to the Apollobuurt for old- fashioned ‘gezelligheid’ and bargains!

Budding musicians in the more sedate Apollobuurt

What did I do on this wonderfully sunny day? In the morning I headed to the Apollobuurt, where Amsterdam’s well-heeled live and enjoyed street food and budding musicians while snuffling out some bargains, including a Barbour jacket for hubby for just 15 euros! Afterwards we escaped to the allotment to languish amongst the birdsong. Savouring my bargains I enjoyed a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc and the view of my shed in the spring sunshine. Jaded? No, it’s called post-modern ironic, (whatever that means). Anyway, I survived. Now only 364 days till the next one.

Holland’s Got Talent

What have they done to the Queen?

Just 50 cents for this adorable bag.


Total cost of bargains including Barbour jacket – 39 euros!
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About susancarey

Writer and teacher living in Amsterdam. Trying to be mindful and occasionally succeeding!
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8 Responses to Surviving Queen’s Day in Amsterdam

  1. Jany says:

    Aawww, wish I could have been there, Angela! When I was a kid in Arnhem in the 50s we were “summoned” to the market place on Koninginnedag, all several 1000 of us, to sing patriotic songs. It was fantastic (“Aubade op de Markt”) – I wonder if they still do it… Liked the explanation of “gezellig” – it really is untranslatable.

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  2. susancarey says:

    Thanks, Jany! We were so lucky with the weather. It’s pouring today! Don’t know about Arnhem, I imagine those kind of traditions probably still go on. Glad it brought back happy memories!

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    • Jany says:

      I don`t think it still happens. Can`t be very PC for thousands of children to warble about Admiral Piet Heijn having beat the living daylights out of the Spanish Fleet….

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  3. Jo Lamb says:

    Lovely Angela, we have Labour day here too. but a big storm approaching and just finished a long leisurely lunch al fresco, so time to retreat!

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  4. susancarey says:

    Thanks Jo. We had our storm here this morning. Great you got the site issues sorted out so hunker down and relax now.

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  5. Sally says:

    Hi Angela
    Yes, as I say … I once lost a daughter on Queen’s Day. Found her fortunately. I’ve joined the heaving masses in the past in the Jordaan, rokin etc. Then moved to quieter, higher things in the Apollobuurt where I bought a wonderful hat that I still have. Now I stick around here and enjoy performing my patriotic duty with an orange Tom Poes. And potter in the garden. Everyone is Very Jolly!

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  6. susancarey says:

    Thanks, Sally! Thanks goodness you found your daughter again. It’s easy to lose friends and family while browsing. At least we have phones now. I always used to think the safest place to celebrate Queen’s Day in A’dam was behind a market stall!

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  7. Jany says:

    Oooh, Sally, an orange Tom Poes…. Memories…

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