Amsterdam’s Queen’s Day festival: what to see and where to go

The Queen’s Day festival is one of Amsterdam’s biggest events and it’s a great opportunity to mingle with the locals, who all come out in force to celebrate this national holiday.

It’s held on April 30th each year and, as its name suggests, it’s in honour of the queen and marks her birthday. Just to confuse you, though, this date doesn’t actually apply to the current monarch – Queen Beatrix – it is, in fact, her mother’s birthday. She decided not to move the festival when she acceded to the throne in 1980.

Anyway, back to the important business of getting to Amsterdam and making the most of this extravaganza. Even if you’re on a tight budget, you’ll still be able to enjoy the celebrations – here’s how.

Book early

If you’re hoping to stay in one of Amsterdam’s cheap hotels, you’ll need to make sure you book a bed well in advance. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to the city every year for Queen’s Day, so if you leave it too late you’ll either end up paying a fortune or sleeping on the street!

Seek out the free parties

The celebrations begin the evening before Queen’s Day – not surprisingly called Queen’s Night – when revellers take to the streets and dance until the early hours of the morning.

Of course, all the big clubs will be hosting lavish parties and entry can cost as much as €25 (£21), but if you’re aiming to spend as little money as possible, check out one of the free parties.

Listings for this year haven’t been announced yet, but make sure you check out what Sounds From The Loft are doing – in 2011 they organised a free open-air concert with musicians and DJs in Amstelveld.

Another top tip is to see what the Bredeweg Festival has planned. This annual fiesta is organised to coincide with Queen’s Day by the community in the city’s Oost district.

In previous years they’ve had musical performances from opera singers, Brazilian bands and rock ‘n’ roll groups, as well as hosting a fair and free market.

Line the canals on Queen’s Day

A quintessential Queen’s Day experience is to pick a spot on one of the many bridges over Amsterdam’s canals and watch as the lively procession of decorated boats float along the waterways.

Everyone onboard will be getting into the spirit of things, some will be wearing outrageous costumes and most will be playing loud music – have a dance, watch the spectacle and enjoy; best of all, it’s totally free!

Go bargain hunting

Ok, so this could set you back a bit of cash – but only if you find a bargain that’s too good to refuse! One of the highlights of Queen’s Day is the massive free market that springs up around Amsterdam’s streets.

Anyone can have a stall, so you’ll find an eclectic mix of items on sale. Browsing is great fun, even if you have no intention of buying anything.

Make sure you visit Vondelpark, where a huge free market dedicated to children is set up. Kids here can sell their old toys and clothes, try busking or just enjoy the host of activities on offer for youngsters. It’s a great atmosphere and certainly worth a visit.

Chill out to some tunes

If you’re still in the party mood after a spot of bargain hunting, you’ll find lots of open-air concerts going on all over the city – and most of them won’t cost a penny to attend.

Smederijplein, Rembrandtplein, Wertheimpark and Heinekenplein were among the hotspots last year, so make sure you see what’s going on at these places.

For something totally different, head to the Q-Park on Marnixstraat. Last year, this multi-storey car park was transformed into a huge party venue where you could dance the day away. Here’s hoping they repeat the event in 2012!