Queen’s Day (aka Koninginnedag) is the biggest party day of the year and I, thankfully, changed my flight home to allow me to participate in this amazing event. I was initially supposed to depart the Netherlands for the USA on April 26th. Once I arrived in NL people kept saying “oh that is such a pity” because Queen’s Day is “the best day of the year”. I had no idea what that meant, but I was certain I wanted to find out, so I changed my ticket, left Schengen when my visa expired, and came back to party like the Dutch.
So What is Queen’s Day?
Technically, it is a celebration of the Queen of NL, Queen Beatrix. The date of April 30th was actually the birthday her mother, Queen Juliana. Queen Beatrix’s birthday is in January and no one wants to celebrate Queen’s Day in January since it is essentially an outdoor drinking bonanza and the weather in January in NL is pure crap. Thus, Queen’s Day has been celebrated in April for years.
Queen’s Day is actually a HUGE drinking, music, and booze bonanza in the streets of the cities. Everyone and I do mean everyone dons orange and takes to the streets with open containers of booze to party in drunken debauchery for their monarch. It actually is pretty fabulous especially because the Dutch are known for rules. Well on Queen’s Day, there are no rules!
Queen’s Day actually begins the night before on what is dubbed Queen’s Night where stages are set up all over town, the outdoor beer and cocktail venues open, and people take to the streets. So, how did I spend my Queen’s Night and Day? Well here is part 1 of my tale.
First, I mistakenly decided to sell my extra Museumkaarts on Queen’s night so I made plans to meet up with 2 people at the foot of the ‘weird rabbit statue‘ for the exchange of money for goods. Upon departure in my calm neighborhood, I had absolutely no idea the level of craziness and the sheer amount of people that take to the streets for this auspicious event of Queen’s Night. By the time I was about 3 blocks into my ride, I couldn’t even ride my bike through the throngs of people. Part of the reason my bike riding was thwarted was that one of the main components of Queen’s Night and Day is the vrijmarkt or the “free market” where anyone and everyone can set up a stand on the street to sell their secondhand goods. It is essentially a giant flea market and this giant flea market was set up all along the canal between me and the weird rabbit statue.
I navigated as best I could through side streets, but my level of competency at navigating Utrecht is slim at best. I needed to get across the crowded canal via a bridge and I needed to do it quickly. I kept riding as far as I could until the people were just too much then I walked my bike through the masses. The weather turned out to be sunny and lovely so the people were out in full force. I actually made it to the foot of the statue and my problem became identifying the people who were going to buy the cards from me. I stared awkwardly at a few people, but then the 2 girls who wanted my cards showed up, paid me, and I was ready to party in honor of the Queen.
My night began at dinner at a friend’s house. We started as 3 and grew to a party of 6 people. After dark we took to the streets armed with 4 bottles of rum in coke and a party spirit. We walked to the city centre of Utrecht and I got to experience my first Queen’s Night and, boy, was it fun! Everywhere you looked people in orange were stumbling happily through the streets popping in and out of bars and just having a great time. All over the city centre drum circles, stages, and DJs had set up shop. Our group just began at Ledig Erf and walked north along the canal stopping when the music was good and departing when it began to suck.
We drank tons of rum and coke, bought more booze, and danced by stages on the streets of Utrecht. It really was “the best time” I had had partying in NL other than a dancing night where I was up till 5 am, but that is another story!
The only downside was that when you drink a lot, you have to pee a lot. For the men, public urinals were set up all over the place, but for the women we had to find bathrooms to go in and we often had to pay for them. At one point, we were on a small street and a private home had offered up their bathroom for a small fee, so we used it. Desperate times call for desperate measures and I’ll pee in someone’s private home if need be. I am not proud but I have peed in weirder places including an alley during SXSW, port-o-potties at numerous music festivals, and a backyard or two. Sometimes a girl has to not be shy when her bladder is full.
Another downside is sometimes the crowds are super dense, which is a good reason to consume lots of alcohol because if you are slightly buzzed dealing with the crowds is less annoying and can actually be kinda fun. At one point our group of 6 was trying to pass through a square with a stage playing awful music and we got stuck. We actually couldn’t physically move forward because the crowd of people was so dense. At this point, we were stuck listening to the wretched pop music, so I medicated myself with more swigs from the rum and coke bottle. Eventually we pushed hard enough and our group emerged on the other side of the crowd so we could find a stage with non-shitty music being played.
The night went on and on until the stages stopped playing music in the wee hours of the morning. We ambled home in the cold Dutch spring weather and proceeded to gorge ourselves on frozen pizzas, tea, and water. Riding my bike home at the hour of 3 am seemed unwise, so I crashed in a bed at my friend’s house. Besides going home seemed silly when in a few hours we all had to get up and start partying again for Queen’s Day!