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Word of the Day: vrijmarkt

Today everyone in the Netherlands can be Queen and King for one full day. We are all free to do and act as we like. We can sing on street corners, expose our artistic selves in public and sell what we like in the street. Especially kids love this national holiday. And all because of the VRIJMARKT. 


We can say what we like and nobody will mind. Except for the odd policeman in Amsterdam who had to apologize after he had unlawfully removed two young republicans from Dam Square this morning…

A VRIJMARKT is not what many people outside the Netherlands think it is (VRIJ: ‘free’ & MARKT: market) – a ‘free market’. No, it is not an economic term for a market that is uncontrolled or unregulated.

Dutch VRIJMARKT is unparallelled in that it does not have exact equivalents in any other language, as far as I know. In French the words that come closest are ‘braderie’ (street market) or ‘marché aux puces’. The latter itchy word was exported into English as ‘flea market’, into German as ‘Flohmarkt’, and into Dutch as VLOOIENMARKT.

In a VLOOIENMARKT or ROMMELMARKT the goods (very often second hand clothes) used to be cheap, old, ragged and riddled with fleas and lice. Even if these market vendors look as if they are free as the wind, this does not mean their market is a VRIJMARKT.

A Dutch VRIJMARKT is an unregulated street market. It is held every year on our national feast day KONINGINNEDAG (Queen’s day) and from next year on it will be on KONINGSDAG (King’s day).

In Juliana’s and Beatrix’ reigns KONINGINNEDAG used to be on April 30. Now that we are in the reign of Willem-Alexander and Máxima it will be on his birthday: April 27th. But note! Because 27th April 2014 is a sacred Sunday the first KONINGSDAG will be on Saturday April 26th.

Back to VRIJMARKT. The key words are MARKT, market, trade and VRIJ, meaning ‘free’ as in ‘freedom’. All the stuff that you sell on the VRIJMARKT is free of taxes. All the money you collect is your own and you can do with it what you like. It is a kind of massive chaotic jumble for children of all ages.

But the main characteristic of the VRIJMARKT is joy, fun and a sense of togetherness. Typically Dutch!

photo by Heleen Hisgen (today at Frederik Hendriklaan), thanks sister!