If you call yourself a party animal, you won’t let yourself die before visiting Amsterdam, a city that prides itself on its reputation as Europe’s Sodom and Gomorrah. To get totally f*cked-up, leave the tulips, windmills and museums for more straight-laced tourists. Visit on Koninginnedag, April 29–30, when Dutchies honor their queen by parading down the canals in festooned boats, dancing in the streets and getting smashed to techno-tunes blasting from makeshift disco stages.
The action kicks off around 19:00 on April 29, Koninginnenacht (Queensnight). Start on Warmoesstraat, on the edge of the Red Light District, where party-goers gyrate to pulsating street bands. Belly up to the bar at Stone’s and admire the attractive barristers over pints of Heineken. In nearby de Wallen, a standard “f*ck ‘n suck” (20 minutes with a prostitute) runs €50. If boys are your thing, carry on in Zeedijk, a hub for leather-clad studs and dressed-to-the-nines drag queens.
Don’t get too f*cked up on Koninginnenacht if you want to get a jump start at the next morning’s vrijmarkt (free market), when Amsterdam turns into a giant garage sale. Would you part with €1 to guess a fat lady’s weight? Or hear a child serenade you on a violin in Vondelpark? Or throw an egg in a stranger’s face? Have a go on Queensday, when wannabe entrepreneurs of all ages trade old treasures and interesting talents for cash.
Jostle through crowds for a spot on Prinsengracht to watch the parade, featuring buff gays in skimpy attire and beer-swilling locals on decorated boats. On Rokin, breathe in the heady aroma of grilled meat, ethnic spices and marijuana smoke. Hold on to your tummy as you spin high above the crowds on an aerial swing at the Dam Square carnival. For tamer amusement, ride the Ferris wheel, win a goldfish or compete for a stuffed teddy at a fun booth.
Prizes in hand, wash down a smoke with a tropical Looza at one of our renowned coffeeshops. Join the tourists at Barney’s or check out De Dampkring, where Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Matt Damon cavorted in Ocean’s Twelve. Stunning décor, a chill vibe and excellent weed menu that includes “Ocean’s 12 Haze” make this one of Amsterdam’s finest.
However you spend the rest of Koninginnedag, you’ll make plenty of friends wandering the streets, poking into bars and chilling in coffeeshops until the wee hours. Just remember these guidelines for a happy, safe holiday:
- If you craze a haze, DO purchase soft drugs, e.g. marijuana + hash, at licensed coffeeshops. DON’T buy drugs from street dealers, who are likely to sell you crushed aspirin for a wad of euros.
- DO avoid hard drugs, e.g., cocaine, heroin, ecstasy. As in all other countries, these are illegal in the Netherlands. DON’T spend your holiday in a Dutch jail!
- DO do what the Dutchies do on Koninginnedag: smoke, drink and make merry in the streets. DON’T get rowdy, as violence is a no-no. As it is every other day of the year.
- DO party on Koninginnenacht, the night before the big day. DON’T get so f*cked up that a hangover prevents you from finding bargains at the next morning’s free market.
- DO wear orange, color of the Dutch Royal Family, accented with red, white and blue, colors of the Dutch flag, on Koninginnedag. DON’T pre-purchase any special apparel. You can buy anything orange—weird hats, goofy sunglasses and crazy boas—from street vendors on the day of the event.
F*CKED UP FIRSTHAND: After the parade on Prinsengracht, I made my way to Zeedijk to mingle with the gays. Decked with orange flags and packed with happy people, this is Party Central on Koninginnedag. I found myself sandwiched between boys decked out in strange hats, tight leather and orange wigs. A little queen spotted me, looking like a tourist with a camera around my neck.
Before I knew it, he’d grabbed my Olympus. He stuck it up his little tutu. Then he embraced me, held out his arm and snapped a pic of the two of us. “Don’t worry,” he assured me. “I didn’t take the other one.” Guess what I found when I uploaded my shots?
INGESTIBLES: Savor Dutch specialties, e.g. marijuana, hash, Heineken on tap, raw herring, sugary waffles and fries smothered in mayo, plus street vendor fare like Vietnamese spring rolls, chicken satế, falafel, kebabs, bratwurst and other international delicacies. Eet smakelijk!