Living outside of the Randstad brings with it many advantages. Lower housing prices, less noise, less light pollution and air pollution, and in general, a more peaceful life.
When people talk about awesome places to live in the Netherlands, they often focus only on the big four: Utrecht, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. No shade to any of these places, they’re great — but they’re not for everyone. That’s why we wanted to broaden the discussion and bring you seven amazing places to live that are not in the Randstad.
First of all, let’s clarify: what is the Randstad, and why do Dutchies have such strong feelings about it? The Randstad is basically the big four cities of the Netherlands- Rotterdam, Utrecht, Amsterdam and The Hague — and the areas and smaller cities that surround them.
Often, cities and areas outside of the Randstad are ignored in national discussions, in the media, and in government policy. Within the Randstad, there’s the perception that the rest of the country is filled with conservative, cow-loving bumpkins — which just ‘aint true.
Now that term has been explained, let’s move on to what you’re really here for: the seven places we’d recommend to live outside of the Randstad.
Groningen: a student city well beyond the Randstad
Groningen is a beautiful small city in the north of the Netherlands. It’s a student city, which means it feels young, vibrant, and full of life. Farmers markets and traditional Dutch architecture abound. Housing isn’t super cheap here, mostly because of the demand students put on the market, but it’s still reasonable compared with Amsterdam. You can expect to pay around €200,000 for an apartment, and €230,000 for a family home.
Because it’s quite a popular city, Groningen has excellent transport links to the rest of the country, and in particular to the Randstad. You can get to Amsterdam within two hours, and a train departs at least every half hour in that direction, so if you need to commute, or you just want to check out the rest of the country, rest assured that doing so via public transport will be no problem.
And the cost of living? According to Numbeo, it’s 6.95% cheaper than Amsterdam: a meal at an inexpensive restaurant will cost you €14 or so, a cappuccino €3, and one kilogram of potatoes (the most important purchase if you’re hoping to integrate) €1.40.
Amersfoort: outside the Randstad, but close to Amsterdam
If you’re looking for a city outside of the Randstad that still has a short commute to Amsterdam, then Amersfoort is your city. Taking the train to Amsterdam from Amersfoort takes just over half an hour, and the trains are every thirty minutes if not more often.
Amersfoort is also a really beautiful city: it has the famous Koppelpoort, there since medieval times, which attracts lots of tourists every year.
Now, because of its proximity to Amsterdam, Amersfoort is not the cheapest when it comes to housing: €357,000 was the average house price in summer 2019. But that could well be worth it if you work in the Randstad but are craving that quieter vibe.
It’s also slightly more expensive than Groningen in terms of cost of living: that kilo of potatoes will cost you an extra €0.20, and an inexpensive restaurant dinner an extra euro.
Eindhoven: your modern city outside the Randstad
If you’re craving a more modern, artistic city, then Eindhoven is your best bet. It’s home to the world-famous Eindhoven Design Academy and hosts Dutch Design Week each year. Not to mention that it has an airport, so if you need to travel internationally frequently, then it’s the perfect place.
In terms of housing, an apartment will cost you €210,000; a family home €330,000. When you consider how close Eindhoven is to the Randstad (you can get to Amsterdam in an hour and fifteen minutes, and The Hague in an hour and a half), this price could be absolutely worth it.
The cost of living is pretty much exactly the same as Amersfoort, but cappuccinos are a whole cent cheaper. So, the answer to all your financial problems is obvious.
Tilburg: a city of art outside the Randstad
Tilburg is an often-forgotten city of the Netherlands, but that’s an injustice we’re working hard to correct at DutchReview. With beginnings as the wool capital of the Netherlands, Tilburg has recently become home to lots of tech and chemical companies, so if those are your industries, Tilburg could be the place for you.
It also has its own liqueur, Schrobbelèr, and has made a name for itself as a city filled with modern art and festivals. We’re not the only ones obsessed with Tilburg: housing prices have been steadily increasing there each year as more and more people realise that its simple commute to the Randstad (only an hour to The Hague) makes it the perfect city to settle down in.
The average house price is now just under €300,000. However, the cost of living in Tilburg is quite low: only €12 for an inexpensive dinner and the all-important sack of potatoes is down to €1.42. Thank goodness.
Maastricht: a cosy city centre outside the Randstad
If you want to experience Germany without living in Germany, then Maastricht is the place for you. Just kidding: but if you do work in Germany or Belgium, or often need to travel to either, Maastricht could be a great option. It’s also a really beautiful city, with a cosy city centre filled with small shops and restaurants.
Housing prices are reasonable: an apartment will cost you about €180,000, and a family home around €250,000. Maastricht is the city that’s furthest away from the Randstad on this list: it’s almost three hours on the train to The Hague. So, commuting from there to the Randstad would be a bit difficult every day.
However, the cosiness of the city centre and its closeness to Germany and Belgium could well be worth the trek for you. And the potatoes are not that expensive: €1.50 a kilo.
Leeuwarden: traditional Dutch architecture outside the Randstad
Leeuwarden is also quite a hike to the Randstad: you’re looking at two hours and 40 minutes to The Hague and just over two hours to Amsterdam. But this city has a lot to offer for you Randstad-fleeing people: primarily, it has beautiful, traditional Dutch architecture: canals, tall houses, church spires. You’ll find cosy cafes with outdoor seating along the canals in summer.
In terms of the cost of living, it’s equivalent to Amersfoort or Eindhoven: dinner at an inexpensive restaurant for €15, and potatoes for €1.40. But we’re all wondering about the big question: housing.
Well, in Leeuwarden and its immediate vicinity, you can get an apartment for €140,000 and a family home for €230,000.
Zwolle: the star of the cities outside the Randstad
Only an hour away from Amsterdam, Zwolle is perfect for someone wanting to live in a peaceful place but work in the bustling metropolis. Regular trains make this an easy commute. The city is typically Dutch: canals, beautiful red-brick houses and church spires abound. But what’s really spectacular about Zwolle is the view from the air: from there you can see the star-shaped outline of the city, which is surrounded by a moat — historically, for protection.
It’s expensive in terms of housing: the average house price has risen this year to 273,000 euro. The cost of living is again, much the same as Leeuwarden or Eindhoven. But, given its closeness to the Randstad (and, ok, the star-shape: we’re obsessed) Zwolle seems like the perfect place to live.
What do you think of our selection? Did we miss anywhere important? Let us know in the comments below!
Feature Image: Laura Corrigan/Supplied
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November 2019, but was fully updated in February 2021 for your reading pleasure.