Yesterday the Netherlands celebrated koninginnedag or Queen’s Day and there were a lot of people out and about, participating in the festivities.  Up to a million people descend on Amsterdam for the party and a few years ago I was one of those million.  But after being surrounded by throngs of people as far as the eye could see and suffering a panic attack triggered by Queen’s Day claustrophobia, I decided to spend Queen’s Day in a less crowded neighborhood in The Hague this year.

Throughout the country Queen’s Day is celebrated with concerts, parties and the famous vrijmarkt (free market). The Queen’s Day vrijmarkt is the only time when you don’t need a trading license or have to pay taxes on sales, so people take advantage of this time to de-clutter their homes and sell unwanted books, toys, clothing and general nick-nacks.


Some of the great buys at the vrijmarkt.

Looking at most of the stuff out there, I think for most people it’s more about sport and tradition then for any financial gain.  However, in 2007, ING bank estimated that sellers made an average of 111 euros, proving that one man’s trash could be another’s treasure.

There are also a number of carnivals set up in most cities.  The carnival in my neighborhood takes up half a block and is small enough so that older kids can navigate it on their own, has a few rides and a hand full of games, including that grab-me-if-you-can game with the claw that almost never grabs anything.
The money pit
After sinking a small fortune into the game, however, we did manage to grab a couple of stuffed animals
for our daughters and in the process secure his status as “super parent” in their eyes.  Carnivals also mean carnival food and all the Dutch specialties were there: oliebollen (literally oil balls), stroopwafels,
poffertjes and fries.
Waiting for poffertjes
At the end of the day, we meandered our way through the dwindling vrijmarkt on our way home, stuffed with carnival food and tired, having enjoyed celebrating a cherished national holiday with our Dutch neighbors.
“Orange” you glad it’s Queen’s Day?
For more on Queen’s Day see Netherlands Travel & Lifestyle.