Queensday Amsterdam - April 2006

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From the moment you step off the train station into Central Square, the colour of Orange and smell of Cannabis is evident; yes it’s Amsterdam. There are 2 great times to visit this amazing city:

  • Amsterdam Gay Pride the first weekend of August
  • Oueensday (Koninginedag in Dutch) on the 30th April, unless it’s a Sunday, when it’s moved to the 29th

Queensday is officially the national celebration of the birthday of the Queen Mother, but this in reality is only an excuse to party hard. The celebrations take place all over the Netherlands, but have a special atmosphere in the big cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam or The Hague. Nearly everyone dress’s in orange which is the colour of the Dutch royal family.
In Amsterdam, Queensday is by far the largest open-air festivity, with an estimated 750,000 people coming into the city from all over Europe. Queensday is a national holiday and all over Holland is a “free market” day which means all street trade can be done without paying taxes (no VAT).

Festivities begin in Amsterdam the night before, and while street parties are no longer allowed that night, the bars are always packed. Friday night was until now known for its big Salvation party at Escape nightclub. However Salvation has stopped its monthly parties in Amsterdam and now just has special occasion parties (the next one is its 5th birthday spectacular on Friday 5th June). The biggest party on the Friday night was the opening night of Fresh www.ClubRapido.com, a new bi-monthly party from the producers of Rapido. It was held at the Sugar Factory nightclub, a fantastic little venue, only holding around 400 people but was sold out well in advance with Amsterdam’s finest shirt lifters.

Saturday was the official Queensday and so partying began as soon as you got up and ventured outside. After dancing in the sunshine and drinking far to much alcohol it was time to freshen up and get ready for the big evening party: the Orange Ball. It was a fantastic set up run by promoter Robert Riedijek, www.RiedijkProductions.com. He is the same guy who run’s  Amsterdam’s White Party (on the evening of Gay Pride Day) and White Party in London (May 27th).

The following day, Sunday, was the biggest and most spectacular party of the weekend, the T-dance called Rapido www.ClubRapido.com. It’s a fairly new event at the multi levelled (converted Church) Paradiso nightclub, holding well over 1,600 sweaty, beautiful muscle boys (think Salvation in London on a bigger, grander scale). People have started calling it “the best gay party in Europe” and to be honest I think it was. DJ’s included Davis Knapp, Giangi Cappai, Fabio White and Doug Gray. The next date for Rapido is Sunday August 6th (Amsterdam Pride Weekend).

It’s an Orange thing!

The prevalent color, symbolizing national and royal pride, stems from the royal family name - The Family Nassau, House of Orange. This inheritance dates back to the 16th century and it is this title that allowed Stadhouder Willam I - Prince of Orange to declare war on Spain, making the Dutch 80 year war of Independence an official war rather than just a rebel uprising. During and after that war The Netherlands was lead by three generations of Willam’s descendants, not as Kings but rather as Stadhouders (State Keepers) in the world’s first democracy.  After a brief occupation by France with Louis Napoleon serving as King of The Netherlands, the Dutch decided a Monarchy was not such a bad idea after all.  Serving more as a watch-dog over the Parliament rather than a divine sovereign, King Willam I became Holland’s first King in 1815, and the House of Orange has ruled ever since.    

In the spirit of the day, you’ll find most people wear something orange, while others are decked head to foot in orange drag.  Don’t have any orange in your closet?  Not to worry, hats, t-shirts, make up, and most things imaginable will be for sale on many corners. 

Officially - Koninginedag in Dutch, is the national celebration of the Queen’s birthday.  Originally celebrated in September, the holiday began in honor of Queen Wilhelmina and was moved to April 30th when her daughter, Juliana, ascended to the throne. The current ruling Monarch, Queen Beatrix, declared in 1986 that Queensday would remain on April 30th in honor of her mother (and probably because Beatrix’s birthday is in January when it’s too cold for an outdoor festival).

On the day of Queensday, cars and trams are banned within the entire canal belt of the city. Locals begin spreading their goods on the sidewalks, bridges, and curbs around 7:00 in the morning, and the streets begin filling with people between 8:00 and 10:00.  Between 10:00 and 20:00, most of the city is a sea of people shopping, drinking, dancing, and just wandering around to gawk at the spectacle. Every street, canal and square in the city can surprise, amuse, delight, and occasionally shock you with its street activities. 

While you’ll no doubt see many gay men and women all over town, you’ll find extra special parties in the 3 main areas where the gay bars are concentrated. 


The Homomonument resembles a gay pride festival on Queensday, and is the place to be for dancing and entertainment from 14:00 until fairly late at night. Community-orientated performers are interspersed with top dance sets allowing you to enjoy the festivities in the surroundings of the Westerkerk and gay monument. Community organizations have booths set up and food and beer are plentiful.


The Amstel area is the place to be to experience some real Dutch shmaltz. Without knowing a word of Dutch, you’ll find yourself singing along to Dutch carnival and middle-of-the-road classics that the gay boys and girls have been singing since childhood.  With Dutch drag numbers mixed in for entertainment and a few good dance tunes as well, this is a must for anyone wishing to get a taste of high Dutch camp. Just down the street from this stage is the Paardenstraat geared towards the women, though the lesbians of Amsterdam are out in full force everywhere, especially at the Homomonument.


The Reguliersdwaarstraat, normally a two minute walk from the Amstel, was so congested that it took us almost 40 minutes to reach the stage area. The best dance music in town echoes between the buildings of this narrow street and the high energy attracts a good many straight people who were just passing though, but the trendy go-go boys and affectionate same-sex couples maintain a definitive gay tone to the area.


Here are some good web links for Gay Amsterdam:


Riedijk Productions


Amsterdam Gay Pride

Thermos Sauna

Night Tours



Betty Ford Clinic


Stable Master



Fatal Music


Salvation Amsterdam

Radio GFM

Black Tulip