Dutch Queen Beatrix has ruled the nation for more than three decades and will be succeeded by her eldest son, Prince Willem-Alexander.

The Hague - The Dutch spoke fondly of Queen Beatrix on Tuesday, a day after she announced her abdication, while voicing reservations over her son becoming monarch.

“It's the end of an era after more than 30 years. She has been a good queen,” Paul Hofstra, 62, told AFP as he walked past the queen's “working palace” at Noordeinde in The Hague's city centre.

“She is and was a Dutch icon, representing Oranje (the House of Orange) wherever she went,” added Irene Kruyer, 54, who travelled from Rotterdam with her cousin Sabine, 21, to get a glimpse of the palace.

Almost half of the Netherlands 16.5 million residents watched or listened in on Monday night as Beatrix unexpectedly announced her abdication after 33 years on the throne in favour of her son Willem Alexander.

The queen, who is to turn 75 on Thursday, said her birthday and the 200-year anniversary of the monarchy in 2013 were her motivations for stepping down.

But it was business as usual early Tuesday, with local and foreign television news crews far outnumbering wellwishers at the gates to the queen's official residence just outside The Hague.

“I'm not a queen-minded person at all, but yes, she was a wonderful queen, a good queen for the people,” pensioner Leo van der Horst, 65, said as he jogged past the row of television crews.

“She deserves a rest now, handing over to Willem Alexander,” he added, referring to the Prince of Orange who on April 30 is to become king, the Netherlands' first male monarch in more than a century.

“She commands a huge amount of respect,” added Cora van der Loos, 61. “She was a hard-working queen. Usually one retires at 66, she's 75, so that's nine years of extra work,” she said

Dutch popular broadsheet De Telegraaf reported Tuesday that according to a snap poll 52 percent of readers liked the idea of having a king back on the throne after 123 years of female rule, while 19 percent did not like the prospect.

Willem Alexander will become the first Dutch king since Willem III, who reigned until his death in 1890.

“Fantastic! We're getting a king,” one reader told the paper.

“And for those who don't like it, there's another queen to follow,” the unnamed reader said in a letter, referring to Catharina-Amalia, 9, Willem Alexander's eldest daughter and heir apparent to the throne

But in a country known for its pragmatic views, many Dutch still have reservations about whether Willem Alexander will be able to fill his mother's regal shoes.

Now 45, Willem Alexander has worked hard over the last 15 years to shake his image as a beer-guzzling party animal and transform himself into a family man seen as a worthy heir to the throne.

Dutch royal expert Reinildis van Ditzhuyzen said some were apprehensive because they did not know what to expect from the new king.

“Until now he (Willem Alexander) always had to do what his mother wanted. It was the same with Beatrix when she became queen in 1980.”

“But look at Beatrix. She became an excellent queen,” she said.

His vivacious Argentinian wife, Princess Maxima, who will become queen, has also won many Dutch hearts and minds with her efforts to learn the language and her keen interest in the country's people.

“He's a nice guy, I hope he will be as wonderful as his mother,” said Van der Horst about Willem Alexander. “But I don't know.”

“He's got a wonderful wife though. Everybody loves her,” he added. - Sapa-AFP