Start your day King’s Day off right by belting out the Dutch national anthem. The Royal Concertgebouw concert hall in Amsterdam will be live-streaming a singalong at 10:00 (CEST) in the morning. The Concertgebouw website has the details and some resources to help you prepare (like the song and its lyrics). On every other day of the year, you need to be a dyed-in-the-wool, fifth-generation Jordanese to fully appreciate the joy and intricacies of traditional Dutch music, but on King’s Day, this can be everyone’s soundtrack. From dweilorkest (‘mop orchestra’) to meezinger (‘sing-alonger’), our playlist has it all, with a few international all-time party faves thrown in the mix for good measure.
As you probably know, the Dutch truly excel at fried bar snacks and the national favourite is bitterballen. Try your hand at frying up these crispy and savoury bites at home with this recipe by Holland.com. Or, if you would rather not honour the House of Orange by inadvertently burning down your own house, squares of young gouda dipped in grainy mustard will do. Those in Amsterdam can go all-out and order Bar Bouche’s King’s Day snack platter, available in meat, fish and vegetarian versions and featuring homemade snacks, charcuterie, cheese, a bottle of crémant and a bunch of old-fashioned Dutch games. When it comes to the sweet stuff, you will need tompouce – a sort of mille-feuille that is normally covered in pink icing, but switches to bright orange once a year. Find a recipe online and get baking. Lekker!
If you have a balcony, we recommend you festoon it in every orange scrap your home has on offer and then place yourself, also dressed in orange (read below for further instructions), music playing and drink in hand, on it for the remainder of the day. See it as your duty as an honorary Amsterdammer. And if you can’t find enough orange to blanket your whole balcony, don’t despair; the flag colours of red, white and blue are also fair play.
On a standard King’s Day, all the parks in Amsterdam turn into a mix between a flea market and a carnival, with kids setting up stalls to sell their old toys and challenging passersby to participate in goofy games and challenges. You can give your living room the same county fair feeling by setting up these easy, though likely messy, traditional King’s Day games.
Koekhappen: Hang a cookie at head-height from the ceiling and try to eat it while blindfolded.
Spijkerpoepen: Tie a nail to the bottom of a rope, then tie the rope around your pants so the nail hangs behind you like a tail. Place a (probably beer) bottle beneath you and try to get the nail into the bottle using only highly (hilarious) coordinated hip motions.
Spijkerbroek hangen: Throw a pair of jeans over something that can support your body weight, grab onto the legs of the jeans and lift yourself off the ground. See how long you can hold on.
There will be a national toast to the King at 16:00, which you can join online or, if you are in Amsterdam, by cheering out of your window. This year, the celebratory moment has the additional function of serving as a toast to life and against loneliness. So make sure you have your drinks ready – warm beer, of course (you could water it down a bit for the true event experience) but for a real King’s Day, you also need Oranjebitter. Chances are that your house bar does not feature this particular spirit, or maybe it did but you have used it up in your quarantini on day three of staying at home, but the good news is that you can make it yourself with orange and lemon peel, spices and brandy or vodka. The bad news is that this takes several weeks. So we hereby give you permission to have a less patriotic, but potentially nicer Aperol Spritz. Just grab a wine glass and pour in Aperol, Prosecco, club soda and a slice of orange. Proost!
What’s a party without some community spirit? For this, you need to join one of the many virtual parties springing up all over the internet, many of which are for charity. Familiar Music, normally throwing a Ketelhuis knees-up, and Atelier Schinkel host the Virtual Kingsday Party on Zoom, which will feature DJs, a music-themed pub quiz, a social-distance drinking game and much more from 13:00 to 23:00. Balkoningsdag will bring together some of the country’s most popular musicians in one blowout live-stream event. The virtual NMLK bash is all about meeting new people, with live DJs and various video group chats (dancing encouraged). And the Kingsday VR Festival really lets you dive into the action (and you can join without a VR headset, too).
An orange outfit is, of course, in order, but to make sure you really get into the King’s Day mood, we recommend some extra accessories. Wrap yourself in orange bunting and fashion some masks (no, not the medical ones) with the faces of Willem-Alexander and Maxima on them. Use pictures you find online to print and cut out, or, if you don’t have a printer but you do have kids, this could be a great art project for them… and another day of home-schooling sorted for you. And finish off the ensemble with a King’s Day crown — we've created a printable I amsterdam option that's sure to help you stand out. Take a photo and tag it on Instagram with #iamsterdam so we can see your finished look! Looking foolish in front of a crowd is a very authentic King’s Day activity.
Ready for more ways to soak in Dutch culture from home? Check out our list of virtual museum tours.