Despite being rather difficult to pronounce, Koninginnendag (or Queen’s Day) is an Amsterdam tradition that is incredibly simple at its core. Every year on April 30th, in celebration of the country’s rather meager history of monarchy, the city of Amsterdam puts on what is the world’s largest garage sale. This tradition was begun in 1885 and has since grown to become unbelievably popular. Over a half-million people come every year on this single day to partake of the gigantic flea market.
The people of Amsterdam (and anyone else who happens into the city) set up shop in the streets. They take all the old junk they don’t want anymore, lay it out and attempt to sell it to tourists and other locals. It’s not all junk, of course. Many people make things specifically to sell on this day and vendors selling food and drink are also a mainstay of the event. Young and old both take part in trying to get rid of what they can and make a few extra bucks.
There are also all manner of other services to be found during the festival. Need a hair cut? No problem. How about a massage? There’s more than one person doing that as well. Fortune tellers, street musicians and, oddly enough, a plethora of kids with signs just trying to get a free buck without providing any service whatsoever. The hectic market atmosphere also includes a variety of street performers making their way around the city.
The event actually starts the day before Queen’s Day on what is referred to by the locals as Queen’s Night. This night features no selling, but the clubs and other social spots of the city come alive with activity as people both local and from abroad party their way through the night and into the next day.
Koninginnendag is a strange and unique Dutch tradition that gives a visitor a chance to either get a great bargain or just party with the locals. If you want to see a cultural event like no other, make sure to arrive on August 29th and stay for a few days. And make sure to take some empty bags along with you as well, since you never know what you might end up buying when it’s dirt cheap.