Queen’s Day flea market

They say the business-minded Dutch, inventors of the multinational corporation and stock exchange, are Europe’s shrewdest when it comes to money. And they say Queen’s Day, when the streets turn into a free-for-all flea market, is when Dutchies first learn to make money.

Queen's Day kiddie bakery

That said, to join the Queen’s Day flea market with the goal of making money is to miss the point entirely. The point is to have a good time! The Dutch sense of fun and humor comes out in blazing orange on Queen’s Day, and there are as many silly gimmicks to enjoy as there are bargains to be found.

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Queen’s Day 101

April 30 is Queen’s Day in the Netherlands, the biggest holiday of the year. This year’s Queen’s Day was extra special: it’s the last one in this generation, as Queen Beatrix abdicated in favor of her son Willem-Alexander, who was crowned King in Amsterdam yesterday.

Starting next year, Queen’s Day becomes King’s Day, and will move from the 30th to the 26th of April. Though the dates might change, the festivities never will. If you ever find yourself in Amsterdam on Queen’s—er, King’s Day, here’s how to celebrate it like a local.

1) Score a bargain.

Love pawing through strangers’ rubbish? You’ll love Queen’s Day. Amsterdam becomes one big flea market, with residents cleaning out attics and staking out places on the pavement days in advance. Find the biggest square or most central thoroughfare in your neighborhood—for us, it was Haarlemmerdijk, which was mobbed—and pack a shopping bag.

Queen's Day Haarlemmerdijk

Most of the sellers are little kids, so be warned: they will use the cute factor to their advantage. But don’t be afraid to haggle! Even if you don’t score any deals, walking around and exploring the city-wide flea market is the best way to soak up the party atmosphere.

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Orange fever

Here in the Netherlands, the biggest holiday of the year is Queen’s Day on April 30 (I can’t believe that was nearly a month ago! I have so much blogging to catch up on!). Marlon and I were so excited to be getting back from the Algarve just in time for our very first Queen’s Day. 
On Queen’s Day, Amsterdam turns into one huge flea market. Anyone and everyone can set up a stall on the sidewalk to sell… well, pretty much anything and everything. Around a week before Queen’s Day, people start staking out their spots on the sidewalk with chalk. 
Our Dutch friends from our beginner’s running group told us that our neighborhood is one of the best places to start exploring the flea market. “Wake up early, all the good stuff is usually gone before 8am,” they warned. So that’s just what we did. I’m not an early riser, but few words can rouse me to life the way “flea market” can. 
Sure enough, at 5am, people were setting up their wares along the sidewalks. 

By 7am, the flea market in the Oud Zuid was in full swing and there was a bright-eyed, cheerful party atmosphere everywhere.

There was definitely a lot of junk. Mostly old clothes, which I didn’t care for.

But we managed to score quite a few bargains later in the morning, such as this virtually unused wicker picnic hamper with a four-piece set of plates, cutlery and cups for €5 (Php 300)…

a large green glass jar for €2 (Php120)…

and a set of vintage crystal champagne glasses for €8.

We carted our purchases home and caught up on our sleep. After lunch, we decided to head out towards the city center on foot. On the way we saw the public library selling books…

Some little boys hooked up to a mic singing Katy Perry’s “Firework”…

And bars overflowing with orange-clad revelers.
To start getting into the swig, er swing of things, we got some beers to drink while walking.
As we walked, I realized that dolling up for Queen’s Day entails more than just wearing orange, the national color (after the House of Orange, the Netherlands’ ruling family). My cutesy splash of orange just didn’t cut it. Head-to-toe and nutty is the way to go. 
 
What a tragedy. Cute pa naman sana siya.
Ridiculous head gear is also a must.
This conehead gets plus points for improvisation.
So we picked up some orange headgear along the way…
 
 and decided to be king and queen for a day.

Heading into the canal belt past Museumplein, the general patronage atmosphere of the South gave way to party central. Police presence was noticeable, but there was nothing much going on apart from serious drinking, dancing, and yes, most probably drugging.
Okay pa ba kayo diyan?
Something like 800,000 tourists come to Amsterdam every year for Queen’s Day, and most of them don’t make it past the canals. So to say that the canals were packed is an understatement. Both on land…

… and in the water.

Partying on a boat is another great Queen’s Day tradition. I had been thinking about renting a boat with some friends, but when I saw this mad crush of orange, I was glad I didn’t. It was way more fun to watch.

After boatwatching for a good hour or so, we headed to a friend’s apartment right on the Prinsengracht, overlooking the canal. Outside, some dude had marked off part of the street with some “crime scene” tape and started his own street party, which had been well under way for a good six hours by the time we arrived. “The only crime here is white people dancing,” I observed.

At nine the police came, all Miami Vice-like, to break up the party. 

I think the party people tried to invite the police to stay for some booze and Eurotrashtronica. Alas, this is not Manila and the Amsterdam police appear to have some dignity. So after about half an hour of begging and bargaining, the party began to die a natural death as people flitted off in search of a new and un-policed dance floor.

I guess even orange fever has to cool off at some point. Same time next year, Amsterdam.

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