The Hague vs. Rotterdam: which is the best Dutch city for expats?

Rotterdam or the Hague (or even neither)?

Two DutchReviewers and expats (Emma Brown and Veronika Licheva) decided to battle it out at which was the best Dutch city for expats. Who did you think will win? 😉 

Why The Hague is better than Rotterdam

Other than the fact that The Hague is a beautiful and picturesque city, here are some more reasons why it is one of the best Dutch city for expats.

The beach

One of the best things about living in The Hague is how close by Scheveningen beach is.

In the summer you can go every evening to the beach if you wanted to. Not to mention all the exquisite fish restaurants and bars that give you the perfect summer vibe.

ferris-wheel-at-scheveningen-beach-pier-the-hague
If you’re a beach bum, The Hague could be the city for you. Image: Zaijacobs/Depositphotos

It really feels like you are at a resort! So if you’re skipping out on an exotic vacation this summer, but still want to feel like you’re getting the most out of those hot months, just head on to Scheveningen.

The beach really makes The Hague one of the best places to live in the Netherlands.

The city center

The city center in The Hague also has a lot to offer. It has a big shopping street, where you can shop — from major global clothing brands to small local boutiques.

Various restaurants that offer food from all over the world, including countries like Mexico, Japan, Argentina, Italy, Korea, Cuba, China, and many more.

There are a number of bars that are always full of people enjoying their free time after work. Not to mention the multiple movie theatres, tattoo shops, food markets, museums and historical monuments that are situated right in the centre of The Hague.

You really don’t need to go far to find whatever it is you are looking for. It is very easy to have fun in The Hague without spending too much money (looking at you, Amsterdam!).

It’s a big city with a small town vibe

Even though The Hague is one of the biggest cities in the Netherlands, it’s not as overcrowded as Amsterdam.

You can actually walk down the streets freely, without bumping into people or getting hit by a bicycle. Another big plus to The Hague is that everything is a tram ride away.

Commuting within The Hague is very easy and the distances aren’t that big. So even though you live in a big city, you do not feel the burden as much.

In fact, there are some neighbourhoods that can also give you that sweet, small-town vibe. There are also many parks in The Hague that are so serene and peaceful that if you do get stressed, you can also go there to get some quiet and fresh air.

photo-of-man-in-hague-riding-bike-after-moving-to-netherlands
The Hague is filled with dazzling side streets just waiting for you to explore. Image: gioiak2/Depositphotos

Speaking English is totally fine

Unlike some Dutch cities where speaking English is not always acceptable, The Hague doesn’t seem to have a big problem with that.

You can easily shop, order food, and get around the city without knowing that much Dutch.

People in The Hague seem to be very accepting of foreigners, so you rarely get attitude for speaking English.

It may not be as easy to find a job in The Hague if you only speak English, but the possibility is still higher than in other cities like Utrecht.

You can impress your friends from back home

Telling your friends back home that you live in The Hague just sounds pretty cool. All of them get pretty impressed!

“Isn’t that where the International Court of Justice is?” “I have studied about The Hague!” “Oh my God, The Hague is very popular, isn’t it?” Yes, yes, and yes!

Everyone knows what The Hague is about. Just saying you live there almost makes you feel like a stuck up intellectual…almost.

Why Rotterdam is better than The Hague

Apart from Rotterdam clearly being any architects wet dream, there is so much more that Rotterdam has to offer. Here is why it’s the BEST place for expats to live.

Cool architecture

Okay, despite me saying that Rotterdam has a lot more to offer than just architecture, I’m going to start with just that. Basically, if you go to Rotterdam Centraal and walk in basically any direction, you’ll find some cool asf buildings.

I mean, I’ve never been a massive building lover myself, but this city definitely converted me to falling in love with them (but not quite as much as those people who marry buildings and bridges, like wtf).

Rooftop bars

a-picture-of-a-girl-in-front-of-cube-houses-of-Rotterdam
Quirky architecture is Rotterdam’s middle name. Image: zakharovaleksey/Depositphotos

Rotterdam has some of the best rooftop bars around! And it’s no surprise when you consider the amazing view that you can get from a lot of them (being the Dutch sky-scraper city and all).

Rooftop bars such as: Suicide Club, Stroom and the Euromast, not to mention Rotterdam Rooftop Days, means that you have no shortage of a drink with a view.

Why would this appeal to expats? Well, most people in general like a bit of a wine and dine every now and then, not to mention that it makes friends visiting seem even more ace.

Plus, if bar-work is your thing, then there is no shortage of cool places to work your magic.

Young-at-heart vibe

As Rotterdam is one of the most modern cities in the Netherlands, it naturally has a young-at-heart feel to it.

When Rotterdam was destroyed in the war, Rotterdam was essentially a blank canvas to make something amazing. And that it is.

Offering something for anyone, no matter what your age is, Rotterdam is a great place for expats to lay down their roots. Although naturally, the younger generations (me included) may be more inclined to pick Rotterdam, it’s still as diverse as ever.

Don’t be fooled by its hustle and bustle either. There are plenty of nice neighbourhoods that aren’t chaotic, which makes it the go-to place.

Photo-of-Rotterdam-skyline-Dutch-city
The only city with a real skyscraper skyline in the Netherlands. Image: haveseen/Depositphotos

Lots of business

Okay, so DutchReview in the past has spoken about the issues with the dreaded job search, and I’ll admit, it’s not always an easy task.

As Rotterdam is such an innovative city, with plenty of business, then there are more jobs around than some other main Dutch cities.

If you’re specifically into business, innovation or finance, then you’re laughing. But no, it’s still not easy for everyone, but it’s still a great place to try your luck in the job market by how much Rotterdam is continuously thriving!

Everyone speaks English

Rotterdam is also a place that sports its amazing English skills. When I first arrived in Rotterdam I found it easy to get around (because not only is transportation brilliant, hello underground metro), but things are usually translated in English.

A lot of buses, metros and trams also offer information in English. Everyone seems to be able to speak amazing English, which is helped from how diverse the city is, so you can meet internationals from anywhere (who nearly always speak English and aren’t afraid to show it off).

So if you’re struggling in the early years, then there is no need to worry!

What do you think is the best Dutch city for expats? Share with us in the comments and don’t forget to join our Facebook group while you’re there!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in July 2018, and was fully updated in December 2021 for your reading pleasure.
Feature Image: DutchReview/Canva

Veronika Licheva
Veronika Licheva
Living the short girl life in the land of giants. Veronika is a content creator who takes great interest in video, photography, and journalism. Her mission in The Netherlands is to build a vibrant and exciting career, while simultaneously petting as many dogs as possible.

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What do you think?

3 COMMENTS

  1. For student that want to party and have sex with random strangers – I’d say go for Amsterdam, Rotterdam or Den Haag, basically a place where there are a lot of students.
    For a working professional – stick to place where you have a job. Which is absurdly hard to find.

  2. On top of the ICJ (International Court of Justice) together with the Peace Palace, there is also the (ICC) International Criminal Court, and other international institutions. In The Hague you find wonderful museums such as the Escher museum, Mauritshuis etc. The Hague is home to the famous Madurodam, which gets a lot of visitors each year!
    Furthermore, you can take a lovely stroll around the consulates (and embassies) from other countries.

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