Today we have a guest post from Keith Jenkins, a writer living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
The birthday of the Netherlands’ Queen Beatrix is celebrated each year on the 30th of April. It’s not Queen Beatrix’s actual date of birth but her grandmother’s. Queen’s Day is characterized by a multitude of outdoor activities. Recognizing this, two queens in succession decreed that Queen’s Day should continue to be celebrated on 30th April due to the warmer weather in April.
This is the only day of the year that anyone is allowed to open a street stall and sell anything they want (usually old junk but a lucky gentleman once picked up a small painting for several Euros, got it examined by experts and it turned out to be an original Rembrandt!). The streets of Amsterdam turn into a massive open-air flea market just for this special day.
Amsterdam is also famous for its many Queen’s Day street parties and concerts (in photo right). The parties begin the night before (Queen’s Night) and continue the next day. These are centered around the Leidse-, Rembrandt- and Museum Squares and attract thousands of visitors. This years’ Queen’s Day celebrations in Amsterdam attracted 600,000 people! For the foreign tourist, it really is an amazing, exhilarating experience to see the Dutch doused in orange (the royal color) and partying it up.
This is the perfect opportunity to get a peek inside Amsterdam’s historic canal-side mansions. These mansions were built during Amsterdam’s Golden Era in the 17th century and most are currently privately-owned national monuments. However, for several days in June, visitors are given a chance to step inside these stately houses and admire the interior as well as walk around the secluded, immaculate gardens (in photo left).
Each year in June, cultural organizations from throughout the world descend upon Amsterdam to showcase their productions. For culture-lovers, the Holland Festival is a dream. Everything and anything one can think of: music, theatre, dance, opera and visual arts; the offerings are so diverse that visitors often have a tough time deciding what to see and do!
Gay Pride is held during the first week of August but the highlight is undoubtedly the Canal Parade on the first Saturday of the month. The celebrations burst into life on Friday when the major gay areas in Amsterdam (around the Leidse- and Rembrandt Squares, the Reguliersdwars street and the Warmoes street) organize hugely popular street parties. Everyone, gay or straight, young and elderly, from all over the world joins in the fun. Later in the evenings, more parties are held in various bars and discos in Amsterdam.
The Canal Parade starts at about 2pm the next day (Saturday) and follows the entire length of the Prinsengracht (Prinsencanal) and the Amstel River. As many as 80 boats participated in the previous edition while about a half million visitors joined in the party along the canals and bridges.
Grachtenfest/Prinsengracht (Prinsencanal) concert
The Grachtenfest made its debut in 1997 and has since become a much loved Amsterdam event. Held during the warm summer evenings, the Grachtenfest offers classical music enthusiasts a unique opportunity to appreciate classical music in some of the most stunning locations in Amsterdam such as in the private chambers or gardens of canal-side mansions, the Westerchurch or in the Anne Frank House. This week-long event features world renowned musicians and ensembles as well as up-and-coming talent who perform opera classics and chamber music. The Grachtenfest culminates with the world-famous Prinsengracht concert. It is a free concert held on barges anchored in the Prinsengracht (Prinsencanal). It’s a great idea to pack a basket with some food and wine and get there early for the best spots. Set against the flood-lit façades of historic canal houses, the concert is an unforgettable, not to mention highly romantic, experience for every visitor.
Keith Jenkins is a 30-something based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Travel and writing are his biggest passions, and he has traveled extensively across 60-plus countries on six continents. The experience he’s gained from traveling are priceless. You can read more about his adventures on his blog, Velvet Escapes.