Celebrating King’s Day in Utrecht

One of the great things about going on exchange to the Netherlands for a full year is that I get to experience most of the country’s annual events. This past weekend I got to experience what is arguably the biggest national holiday in the Netherlands: Koningsdag (“King’s Day”). It’s a celebration of King Willem-Alexander’s birthday, although strangely, most of the Dutch people I know aren’t very interested in the Dutch royal family. If anything, the Dutch seem proud of their “normal” royals, as you can see in the video below.

I don’t party, but it was still really fun to walk through the streets of Utrecht in the early evening of Koningsnacht (the night before King’s Day, when the party starts) and experience the atmosphere. Residents had opened their doors and windows, music was blaring from almost every house, and people of all ages were laughing and dancing through the crowded streets.

Even the Dom Tower was decked out in orange

Before moving to the Netherlands I had seen pictures of King’s Day, but didn’t realize that there’s more to it than partying and wearing orange. This is the one time in the year that people can sell things on the streets without a permit, so the city basically turned into one giant flea market. I am 100% certain you could find anything if you looked long enough… I myself went for books, cards, and an orange mug.

On King’s Day itself my housemates and I started the day with tompouce (usually the icing on top is pink) and played sjoelen (a Dutch family game), and went to the children’s flea market in Park Lepelenburg. It was one of the most adorable things I have ever seen. Children had stalls set up throughout the park and were selling everything from toys to puzzles to homemade baking. Some of my housemates told me that they also sold things as children, and could make up to 200 euros in a day!

Being in the Netherlands during King’s Day is an experience I won’t forget. With only a few months of left of my exchange, it makes me want to stay in the Netherlands so I can celebrate it every year!

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