By Toby Sterling and Piroschka van de Wouw
MAASTRICHT (Reuters) - The city streets around the Netherlands streamed with festival-goers wearing orange on Wednesday in celebration of the national holiday King's Day in traditional fashion -- with music and open-air markets -- for the first time since 2019, without COVID-19 restrictions.
King Willem-Alexander, who turns 55 on Wednesday and whom the holiday celebrates, was visiting the southern city of Maastricht with his family, keeping a promise that had been postponed for two years due to the pandemic.
In Amsterdam, where Kings' Eve is a party comparable to New Year's Eve, the streets of the historic centre have been mobbed with tens of thousands of celebrants since late Tuesday.
On King's Day itself, "free markets" are set up in most towns, and people build makeshift stalls or lay out carpets to sell possessions they no longer want or need for a few cents or euros. Bargains are abundant and haggling is expected.
People wear orange in honour of the ruling House of Orange.
Amsterdam's canals were filled with "party boats" of dancing people and pumping music, while in the large Vondelpark, barkers sold pancakes and children with musical instruments showed off their varying skills.
DJ Martin Garrix, among others, was expected to perform later in Amsterdam.
In Maastricht, national broadcaster NOS showed Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and their three daughters shaking hands or boxing fists with fans who had lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the royals.
The festivities traditionally last late into the evening, but as the 27th fell on a Wednesday this year, most revellers were expected to return to work on Thursday.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Bernadette Baum)