A sea of orange flooded the streets of Amsterdam on April 30th as all of the Netherlands took to the streets in celebration of the abdication of their new king – King Willem-Alexander. For the first time in 123 years, the Netherlands will be welcoming a male monarch to the throne. Koninginnenacht (Queensnight) and Koninginnedag (Queensday) is known as one of the biggest street parties in the world, and I was there proudly wearing orange and celebrating the peaceful transition of power.
The university organized a trip to Amsterdam for Queensday. Usually, I try to avoid these massive group outings and the subsequent easy identification as a tourist – but with Queensday, I could not be more thankful to step onto the tour bus. About 800,000 people flocked into Amsterdam for the celebration, and hotels capitalized on this increased traffic. The school organized trip was a hassle free and cheaper option to get to Amsterdam and stay overnight – without this organized outing I probably wouldn’t have battled the crowds, chaos and expenses to make it to Amsteram. Which would’ve been a real bummer, because experiencing Queensday was a fantastic insight into Holland and two purely fun days in Amsterdam.
The atmosphere on the bus as we pulled away from Maastricht enroute to Amsterdam was rowdy anticipation. We arrived midday on April 29th and had a few hours before Koninginnenacht festivities started. Having already visited most the museums in Amsterdam, my friends and I enjoyed cappuccino’s outside, soaked up some sun in the large Museumplein square then spontaneously walked by a tourist office and bought reduced priced tickets to the House of Bols museum.
Our night started in Leidsplein at a massive outdoor concert. All the bars had their doors open and people opening went from the bars to the concert back to another bar down the street back to the concert danced with their friends danced with surrounding strangers sang loud and off key then again back to the bar – the night was chaos.
After hours outside at the concert, my friend Sarah and I decided we wanted to see other parties around Amsterdam. The city has a valid reputation for being a party town, but I don’t think Amsterdam gets enough credit for the great community that lives there. The night was safe. It was chaos, but controlled chaos. Not once did Sarah and I feel uncomfortable while exploring Amsterdam. It was around 3 in the morning when we set off on our adventure, and in America I would NEVER wander around Chicago at 3am with just another female friend as a companion. Given, it did feel more like three in the afternoon because the streets, even at the late hour, were packed with people celebrating.
We walked around a bit then landed on a fancy looking club with a long line queuing to enter. People were dressed up, looking Amsterdam sharp with trendy haircuts, dark jackets, studs and embodying every aspect of the word “hipster.” Without tickets and without paying, Sarah and I managed to enter the club. We found a group of people from Vice Magazine who were on the list, and they somehow talked us in as +1’s and we entered the club.
It was three stories, packed, and probably one of the coolest party venues I’ve ever been inside. Later that night, when looking for the bathroom, I realized that I had walked from the club to the Chicago Comedy Club – where Seth Meyers started his career. It turns out the club Sarah and I entered was actually the Chicago Social Club, one of the trendiest and most sought after party venues in the city. SUCCESS!!!
Inside the club and feeling like rockstars for managing to get in!
We finally arrived back to our hotel around 5am, managed to get around 4 hours of sleep before it was time for Queensday.
On the way back to the hotel I was surprised to see people in sleeping bags lining the street, but I didn’t think too much of it. Early on April 30th I awoke to what seemed like an unnatural amount of people outside for so early in the morning and so far away from actual Queensday activities. When I opened the window, sunlight filled the room. After my eyes adjusted, I was surprised to see hundreds of people and vendors lining the room. Instantly it clicked that the people I had seen sleeping on the road just hours before were actually there to reserve their sideway space to set up shop.
Queensday is the only day of the year that street sales are legal. The holiday brings people to the city to celebrate the Queens Birthday, but also to shop at some of the hundred flea market type stands all across the city. I left breakfast early to walk through the vendors – it was the typical junky “garage sale” type products for sale. Still, the number of vendors added a fun element to the holiday. I especially enjoyed occasionally seeing part-goers holding bizarre purchases like a massive gittering owl in Museumplein.
The day started off slow as our group recovered from the night before. We headed back to the Museumplein where a giant stage and massive screens stood tall with crowds filling the grass and enjoying the sun. We watched the Inauguration on the big screens and danced to the live stage performances at the Museumplein. Food vendors and other merchants walked around the crowds and added to the upbeat atmosphere.
I am Amsterdam sign in Museumplein
After the Inauguration some of us headed out to explore. Walking through Amsterdam was like flowing with a sea of orange. Orange balloons created a new facade of Amsterdam buildings. Everyone was wearing orange – shirts, crazy hats, face paint. The canals were packed with people partying and holding orange flags. It was the craziest, largest, most festive street and water party I have ever been a part of and exceeded all my expectations of Queensday.
Party exhaustion hit and a few of us broke away from the street party scene to head to the other side of the canal to watch the Royal Boat Parade. We basically just followed the crowd and a few signs, and ended up with some of the best seats in all of Amsterdam! The King’s boat stopped directly in front of us, and I swear we had eye contact and waved! The boat was stopped for a good 15 minutes directly in front of us and we had the same view of the water stage as the king did. It was fantastically lucky how we ended up with such good seats!
The small group of us then headed back to Museumplein to end the day with a live performance by Andre Rieu accompanied by a full orchestra. Maastricht is very proud of Andre Rieu – he is from our small town in Limburg! It was a real treat hearing him perform and watching couples gleefully dance to the music across the lawn.