Studying in Amsterdam: everything you need to know

It's as easy as riding a bike

Ever thought about studying in Amsterdam? 

Your student years are supposed to be the best years of your life and choosing where you want to study can truly make or break your experience. 

With a total of 33 higher education institutions, the Dutch capital has loads to offer! 🎓

From the best Amsterdam universities to the costs of living, to the best places to party (uh, I mean, study) — this guide to studying in Amsterdam has everything you need to know. 🧑‍🎓

Amsterdam might be small, but the academic offer is truly spectacular. The city hosts two world-class universities and 29 other higher education schools. Check ‘em out! 👇🏻

🏆 Top universities in Amsterdam

Your first question when it comes to studying in Amsterdam is probably: where? You know the Amsterdam part, but now you need to find, apply for, and go to a school.

Here are the top picks — but first, a quick lesson on the types of higher education in Amsterdam and the Netherlands.

Types of higher education in Amsterdam 

In the Netherlands, bachelor studies come in two different forms: HBO (hoger beroepsonderwijs) and WO (wetenschappelijk onderwijs). 

HBO degrees are offered at so-called universities of applied sciences (hogescholen). Here, students study for four years with an emphasis on hands-on learning.  

WO degrees, on the other hand, are offered by universities. Generally, a WO degree is about three years long. The intensity of education is a little higher and, in general, more ‘academic’ than professionally-oriented. 

You can obtain a master’s or PhD with both HBO and WO degrees. 

University of Amsterdam (UvA)

The Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA) enjoys place #53 on the QS World University Ranking 2024. Not only that, but the UvA can pride itself on being amongst the 15 most prestigious universities in all of Europe. Impressive!

For students of the UvA, the city is (literally) their campus. University faculties, libraries, and other facilities are scattered all over Amsterdam. 

Don’t speak Dutch? No problem! The academic offer is widespread and diverse. There are over 20 English-taught bachelor programmes and a whopping 150 English-taught master’s degrees

That’s a whole world of possibilities opening up from neuroscience to politics to law. 🧑‍🎓 Lekker, zeg! (Nice, right?)

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

One of the main buildings of the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. Image: Depositphotos

Next up as one of the best universities to study in Amsterdam, is the second most popular choice: the Vrije Universiteit (VU).

VU might rank a little lower in the 2024 QS University ranking — #207 out of #1500 —  but the university is known for its broad offering of English-taught programmes and diverse, international atmosphere.

The VU has a more centralised campus in the south of Amsterdam, which has the added benefit that you don’t have to push (or kick) tourists out of the way when you’re running from one university building to the next. 😅

As of 2023, 18 English-taught bachelor’s and 67 English-taught master’s are on offer for all of you out there who haven’t yet mastered the Dutch language. 😉

Fun fact: The VU was founded in 1880 to create a university free from the influence of state and church! To this day, the university does not accept money from the Dutch government. Radical! 

Hogeschool van Amsterdam

Want to work next to your studies and develop yourself professionally? Maybe a degree at the HvA is just right for you! Image: Depositphotos

The Hogeschool van Amsterdam (HvA) is not a university but one of the hogescholen (universities of applied sciences) in the Netherlands. 

At a hogeschool, students are educated according to the skills they will need later in their professional life

For example, some of HvA’s dual-bachelor programs mean that you alternate between studying in the classroom and working in the field.

HvA also offers additional training and diplomas for already working professionals. 

Let op: The HvA was founded in 1993 (30 years ago, whoop! 🎉) and has since made efforts to expand on their international programmes. However, most of them are still exclusively in Dutch, so check their English-taught courses carefully before applying! 

Amsterdam University College

Take your pick of world-class universities in Amsterdam. Image: Freepik

Good news for internationals — the Amsterdam University College (AUC) offers education entirely in English! Despite the ‘university’ in the name, AUC is also a hogeschool specialising in the liberal arts and sciences.

At AUC, you can acquire only one type of degree: a bachelor’s in the liberal arts and sciences. To tailor your programme to your academic interests, you can choose between three different majors — humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

The AUC is special because they only admit 300 students each academic year; that’s 100 available spots for each major. You’re also required to live on their premises until your degree is complete!

You should know: the AUC has higher tuition fees than other universities on this list. If you wish to study here, expect to pay about twice the cost of other Amsterdam universities. 😬

Other universities in Amsterdam

While the four universities and hogeschool listed above represent the most popular choices for students, studying in Amsterdam has a lot more to offer

There are heaps of choices when studying in Amsterdam. Image: Unsplash

Are you interested in studying fashion, for example? Or art? Or film? Amsterdam is a hub for budding artists and creatives. 🎨

Or do you want to become a businessperson — all suit and tie? There’s an Amsterdam school for that, from hotel management to economics to business! 👇🏻

  • Gerrit Rietveld Academie, this edgy art school has everything from fine arts to fashion and architecture.
  • AMFI is the largest fashion institute in the Netherlands.
  • Amsterdamse Hogeschool for the Kunsten gives true Juilliard-vibes. Here, students can study the arts at six different academies: theatre, dance, film, music, architecture and art.
  • Nyenrode Business School is the only private university in the Netherlands and is very prestigious. Future CEOs, bankers, and entrepreneurs come to study here. 
  • Abbey Road Institute Amsterdam is the address for future sound engineers and music producers.
  • Hotel School The Hague’s Amsterdam campus sends its students to local hotels to learn the secret art of good hospitality.

These are just some of the most prominent higher education opportunities in Amsterdam. But there are many more!

💰 Cost of studying in Amsterdam

Student life is infamous for being a time of financial insecurity. 

Pair that with living and studying in Amsterdam, one of the most expensive cities in Europe, and you’ve discovered the main downside of studying in the Dutch capital: it ain’t cheap. 👋💸

Tuition fees in Amsterdam

Let’s start with the good news: tuition fees are not all that high in the Netherlands, particularly when compared to the UK or the US. 

Of course, in comparison to other Northern European countries like Germany, Denmark, or Sweden, you’ll need to be ready to pay up.

Tuition fees to study in Amsterdam can be surprisingly affordable — or expensive — depending on your home country. Image: Freepik

Keep in mind that tuition is subsidised for students from EU countries and Switzerland, which makes tuition costs cheaper. If you don’t have a passport for one of these countries, you’ll need to pay the non-EU rate. 

To give you a rough idea, here is what you’re looking at for a bachelor’s degree beginning in 2023:

UniversityTuition fee (per academic year) EU students 🇪🇺Tuition fee (per academic year) non-EU students 🌎
University of Amsterdam (UvA)€2,314 €9,460 to €23,430 
Vrije Universiteit (VU)€2,314 €9,150 to €23,430 
Hogeschool van Amsterdam (HvA)€2,314€9,146
Amsterdam University College (AUC)€4,700€12,850

Generally, high-profile programmes such as medicine or dentistry come with a higher price tag. 🧑‍⚕️But these are often only taught in Dutch anyways. 

To do a master’s in Amsterdam, expect to pay an average tuition fee of around €2,000 per year as an EU student. As a non-EU student tuition fees can range from anywhere between €10,000 to or up to €50,000 per year. 

Good to know: a second bachelor’s degree in the Netherlands as an EU student will cost you significantly more than your first one. Only your first degree is subsidised by the government. If you’re considering a second degree, you can expect to pay about four times as much — so, choose wisely! 

Cost of living in Amsterdam

Look, it’s you wistfully staring at the Amsterdam houses you’d love to live in, but can’t afford. 😅 Image: Depositphotos

From groceries to housing to eating out — the Dutch capital ranks among the top 50 most expensive cities in the world, so you can expect to spend a good amount of cash on day-to-day expenses when studying in Amsterdam.

READ MORE | Student housing in the Netherlands: your guide to finding a room in 2023

The Amsterdam housing market, in particular, is (in)famous for its impossible prices. Sky-high demand, cartelisation, and privatisation of property have escalated into an ongoing housing crisis for Amsterdammers. 

Especially Amsterdam students looking to find an affordable room (don’t even think about an apartment unless daddy is paying for it) are vulnerable to the drastic price hikes. 

For a single room in a shared flat, you’re looking to pay anything from €400 (very unlikely) to €1200. Most student rooms range between €600 to €800 per month and up. 📈

Student rooms in the Netherlands are pretty basic and very expensive. Image: Pexels

What about eating out? Let’s say, you want to treat yourselves to some deliciously brothy ramen with your study friends. You also want to cheers with some sake and share a starter. 

If you’re generous and give your waiter a small tip, you’ll realistically end up paying anywhere between €25 to €30 for a good night of eating out.

Lastly, maybe most importantly, what about beer? Well, here’s the good news! Beer isn’t all that expensive in the Netherlands. 🍻 

You shouldn’t be paying more than €3 for a good, ol’ Amsterdam brew (think: Heineken) or €6 for a craft beer. If it’s any more than that, say “doei”. You’ve stumbled into a tourist trap — get outta there! 🏃‍♂️

Here’s a rough estimate of the costs you can expect when studying in Amsterdam:

ExpensePrice in €
Student room in Amsterdam (including gas, water, electricity)€550-800
Dutch sim card with 10 GB of data€15-40
Secondhand bike (basic)€70-120
30-minute+ intercity train ride€6-8
Week of groceries€45-70
Cappuccino (regular)€3.50-4.50
Cheap restaurant meal€16-25
Crate of beer €13-18
Loaf of bread (half to whole)€0.70-3
Pasta (500 gr)€0.90-1.50
Chicken fillets (300 gr, not organic)€2.99-4.50
Cheese (10 to 14 slices)€2.50-4.50
Forming life-long friendships over beer and bitterballen. The Dutch way! Image: Depositphotos

Financing your study in Amsterdam

We’ve hammered the point home that the cost of living in Amsterdam is high — so what are some options to pay your tuition, and still, you know, eat?

There are three main ways to finance your study at an Amsterdam university

  • Self-funding
  • Scholarships
  • Governmental aid 

Assuming your parents, let alone you, don’t have that extra cash to fund all of your housing and living expenses in the big city, let’s talk governmental aid and scholarships

Governmental aid

The financial support for students in Amsterdam supplied by the Dutch government is called Studiefinanciering (student financing). 

This four-component financial aid package for students includes a regular loan, a student travel product, a supplementary grant, and a tuition fee loan.

Naturally, governmental aid is a popular option. However, you can only access government study aid if you are a student with an EU, EEA, or Swiss passport. 

Good to know: Wondering whether or not this applies to you? Check out our complete guide to student loans, financing, and scholarships in the Netherlands

Scholarships to study in Amsterdam

Looking to lighten the load of your study costs? Scholarships are always an option when studying in Amsterdam! 

A scholarship can work wonders to alleviate the costs of studying in Amsterdam. Image: Freepik

And don’t stress: you don’t have to be an intellectual prodigy to receive one. There are loads of different options out there.

Most universities provide detailed information for available financial aid on their respective websites:

For more of an overview, there is this useful tool that lets you see what scholarships are on offer to support you through your respective study programme. 

Financial support for merit, minority groups, non-European partner countries, crisis regions, or specific disciplines is also available. 

Below are a few examples of scholarships offered by Dutch institutions — but there are plenty more once you really start searching. 👇🏻

Holland ScholarshipThis scholarship is for international students from outside the EEA (European Economic Area). Successful applicants will receive €5,000 during the first year of study.  
The Orange Knowledge Programme (OKP) The OKP supports citizens of a select number of ‘third world’ countries to follow courses in the broader field of development studies in the Netherlands. 
Orange Tulip Scholarship Programme (OTS)The OTS is offered by many universities in the Netherlands. It’s aimed at aspiring students from the following countries: China, India, Indonesia, South Africa, Korea, Russia and Vietnam. The offer varies depending on the university of your choice.

How to save money when studying in Amsterdam

You’ll soon notice that the minute you step foot to study in Amsterdam, money is magically and irreversibly flowing out of your bank account. 

Luckily, there are some tips and tricks to save money when studying in Amsterdam:

✅ Get yourself an OV chip card. This magic public transport pass can get you anywhere and everywhere in the Netherlands. As an Amsterdam student, there are special deals you can take advantage of. 

✅ Consider living in adjacent cities or towns. This is much more common than you might think. Diemen and Amstelveen are especially close by. They may not be as pretty as Amsterdam, but they are much cheaper! If you’re willing to commute, you can also have a look at Haarlem, Almere, or Hilversum. 

✅ Choose your Dutch grocery store wisely. You’ll find that some chains are significantly more expensive than others. On the cheaper end of the spectrum, there is Deen, Lidl, Vormaar, and Dirk. On the more expensive end, you can find Jumbo, Albert Heijn, Ekoplaza, and Marqt. 

Explore some of Amsterdam’s many markets! You can find affordable local fruits, vegetables, cheeses and meats here. An added plus: it’s the perfect moment to practice your budding Nederlands. 🇳🇱😉

✅ Get to know Tikkie etiquette as fast as possible. Tikkie is a Dutch app that allows you to send payment links to your friends. In the Netherlands, it’s completely normal if you send Tikkies for the most minuscule amounts. Charming? Not so much. Good for people with tight student budgets? Absolutely! 

Get a museum card! With this magical card, you can visit about 45 museums all over the country for a year. If you’re over 18 you can buy a card for €64.90. This might seem expensive but if you want to visit the Van Gogh, Stedelijk, and the Rijksmuseum, you’ve already earned it all back. 

🪴 How to find student housing in Amsterdam

Studying in Amsterdam often means living with a variety of housemates. Image: Pexels

Housing is a major issue for people studying in Amsterdam. Especially internationals who believe they’ll be staring dreamily out of the window of their grachtenhuis (canal house) will face a rude awakening. 

The only way you’ll get that picturesque canal house is if you have a strong network built up around the city. (Or, if you have really rich parents. 💸)

But luckily, there are some tips and tricks when taking on the relentless Amsterdam housing market that might give you just the tiniest head start. 

University accommodation in Amsterdam

Depending on which university in Amsterdam you’ll be attending, you’ll be provided with different types of university accommodation. 🎓

Incoming first-year international students 

Good news! Most universities in Amsterdam provide international students with affordable housing for their first year of study. 

And the bad news? (Come on, you knew there’d be a catch. 🎣) Spaces in these programs are super limited. If you’re too late with your application, you’re left to look for housing on your own.

Believe it or not, these containers are a way of fighting the housing issues in Amsterdam. Image: Depositphotos

For these designated first-year rooms, Dutch universities typically work together with social housing agencies. In Amsterdam, you’ve got De Key and DUWO as the two main players distributing a pre-allocated number of affordable apartments, rooms, and studios to students.

This process happens automatically. If you’ve enrolled early enough, your university in Amsterdam will provide you with a couple of options and you can take your pick! 

Student housing websites in Amsterdam

If you’re not among these lucky first-years, an international or you want to find affordable housing in Amsterdam for your second year at university, don’t fret! You can still access De Key or DUWO housing.

READ MORE | 11 creative solutions to the Dutch student housing crisis that makes us say “Why didn’t we think of that?”

There are special websites where you can sign up to access their service. The most important one for Amsterdam is

The second most popular option is, which provides social and student housing in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities. We recommend signing up for both websites to double your chances. 

How does it work?

To start, there is a registration fee of roughly €20, but your registration is subsequently valid for 10 years. Your place on the waiting list is determined by how long you’ve been registered on the website. So, sign up as early as possible. 

Now, here comes the discouraging bit: it is very unlikely that you will score any housing through unless you’ve been signed up for three to four years at the very minimum. Many Dutch parents will sign up their children as soon as they turn 16 when you can first enrol. 

Private accommodation in Amsterdam

Didn’t manage to secure university accommodation? Don’t worry! Most internationals will have to fend off the Amsterdam housing market on their own sooner or later, especially after their first year of study. 

There are three main ways to find private accommodation when studying in Amsterdam: Facebook groups, housing websites and student hotels. Here are the top ports of call for either category.

Warning: With the extreme shortage of housing in Amsterdam, there are a lot of housing scams. Protect your hard-earned cash and check out our ultimate red-flag guide for housing scams in the Netherlands.

Facebook groups

Finding housing through a Facebook group is probably the most common option if you’re new in Amsterdam and looking for housing on your own. These are some good (and mostly spam-free) groups to get you started:

With Facebook, you’ll notice that many posts will lead with ‘NO INTERNATIONALS’ or ‘DUTCH ONLY’, immediately singling you out as the least attractive applicant in all of the world wide web. 😭 

READ MORE | ‘No internationals’: A tale of exclusion in the Dutch housing market

Our advice? Don’t apply: they’re not the kind of people you want to live with anyway. Of course, what better reason to learn Dutch than to increase your chances on the Amsterdam housing market (just ever so slightly). 

Got an invite for a viewing? You might just stumble into what the Dutch call a hospiteeravond. (Or ‘hospi’, for short.) This cultural phenomenon is a reflection of the high demand placed on the Amsterdam housing market.

Basically, you’ll be invited to a house/room viewing with three to 25 (yup) other successful applicants. There might be snacks, drinks and a casual introduction — but don’t be fooled! A hospiteeravond is essentially a casting in disguise for the perfect roommate. 

So, be on your best behaviour and bring the most delicious snacks. You might just be meeting your future huisgenoten (roommates) that you’ll study with in Amsterdam. 👯

Housing agencies in Amsterdam 

If you’re tired of applying for one room after another through Facebook, you can also try searching for a rental through these housing websites: 

  • is a website where students in Amsterdam and the Netherlands can find or list their available rooms, apartments or studios. A small application fee is required to respond and apply to offers. 
  • is the largest rental property website in the Netherlands, where you can find empty apartments and houses. Have a friend you’d like to move in with? Maybe you’ll get lucky here!
  • also lists an extensive range of long-term and short-term properties. Their multiple settings make finding something in your desired price and size range especially easy. 

Student hotels in Amsterdam

These hybrid concepts combine student housing, hotels and independent rentals all in one. 

The rooms and studios you can find here are on the pricier side, but they often come with fun facilities such as gyms, laundry services or office spaces.

  • The Student Hotel is somewhat of a mix between student and private accommodation. If you’re well off, you can book yourself into one of their luxurious apartment complexes in the centre and west of Amsterdam — gym, laundry service, and security guards included!
  • Hotel Janssen operates on a similar premise and offers long-term rooms for students in an industrial, up-and-coming hotel complex. Rooms are in the upper price range, between €800 to €900 a month. 
  • Student Experience has four different buildings in Amsterdam, where you can rent independent studios on a long-term or short-term contract. 

Hopefully, these options will give you a good starting point that will end with your own set of keys to a room in Amsterdam. 🔑

What to do if you can’t find a place to live in Amsterdam 

Here comes the absolute worst-case scenario: you arrive in Amsterdam, but you can’t find an adequate place to live before the beginning of your studies. This can be incredibly stressful and it happens more often than you might think. 

Of course, if you follow the tips above, your chances of ending up in this situation are greatly reduced! But, just in case, here are some tips on what to do if you’re about to start your studies in Amsterdam but don’t have a place to live yet

  • Rent an Airbnb for a month so you can search on the ground. It’s not ideal, but long-term Airbnb’s are available in Amsterdam and they give you some space to breathe before running head-first into another housing search. 
  • Book a hotel room. Similar to renting an Airbnb, but more costly, is the option to book yourself into a hotel room in Amsterdam for the time being.
  • Consider studying remotely while continuing your search. Especially after the coronavirus pandemic, universities in the Netherlands have made online teaching a routine practice. Reach out to your professors and programme coordinators to explain your situation and ask if you can study online until you find housing in Amsterdam. 
  • Look for housesitting opportunities in Amsterdam. This might be a good opportunity if your budget is a bit tighter — and if you like pets! Often, housesitting opportunities present themselves when their owners are away for a few weeks and are looking for someone who can take care of their furry friends. We’d love it! 
  • Ask your university for help. Universities in Amsterdam are well aware of the housing problem students face. And while they are a lot of times ill-equipped to deal with it, remember that your university in Amsterdam is responsible for you. So, don’t hesitate to contact the housing office or study advisor and ask for the help you deserve! 

Best areas for students to live in Amsterdam

Do we see you already strolling across the Albert Cuyp market in De Pijp? Image: Depositphotos

In Amsterdam, some areas are more popular with students than others. Mostly because of affordability, you’ll find us youngsters clumping together in some Amsterdam neighbourhoods more than others.

De Pijp is certainly one of the most sought-after neighbourhoods for students in Amsterdam. The former workers’ quarter is now bustling with life, bars, cafés, and independent shops. However, gentrification is steadily creeping up the prices! 

Amsterdam-Noord is definitely up-and-coming. Formerly a port and industrial area, the neighbourhood has a unique, rustic charm. To get to the city centre, you have to take the free ferry across the IJ, which is a must anyway to get a full taste of the Amsterdam experience. 

Amsterdam-Noord has turned industrial zoning into some of the coolest areas in the city. Image: Depositphotos

Amsterdam-West, especially Nieuw-West, has some of the cheapest housing options in the city. The more you go westwards, the more you’ll find that brutalist, modern architecture replaces the Amsterdam canal houses. Not very pretty, but it brings down housing prices. 

Some of these neighbourhoods are a little further away from the centre. For example, Diemen is technically an independent municipality. But hop on a bike, and you’re at Dam Square in no more than 30 minutes. 🚲

Tips for finding student housing in Amsterdam

To wrap it up nicely, we have compiled the ultimate list of top tips to find student housing in Amsterdam and ease your journey as much as possible:

Start your housing search early. Thinking of starting your studies in Amsterdam next year or any year? Sign up for international student housing now. 

Be aware of registration rules in Amsterdam. Generally, only two tenants can legally register on one property. Found a room in an apartment with six others? Make sure you can legally register, otherwise your living situation isn’t valid and you might want to look for another place.

Don’t fall for scammers in Facebook groups! If a room seems too good to be true (think: ridiculously spacious, less than €600, utilities included), it probably is. 

Move quickly. Did you get invited to a viewing and have an opportunity to move in? Dig your nails in as soon as you can! There are probably 30 people waiting in line behind you. 

Build a strong network. To be honest, your best shot for a nice room is getting it through someone you know. The best deals circulate secretly in the tightly-knit Amsterdam community. So, be nice to everyone you meet! You never know whose roommate is moving out next. 😉

👨🏻‍🍳 Student jobs in Amsterdam

Well, you’ve got a place to stay, and now you’ll somehow have to pay for it. Luckily, getting a student job in Amsterdam is far less difficult than finding a place to stay

Even if you’ve never worked a day in your life, the hustle and bustle of the capital city ensures that people are always needed in the service, retail and tourism sectors

Working in the hospitality sector is very common for Amsterdam students. Image: Freepik

An added plus is that most employers are absolutely fine with you speaking English. The city is so international that no one will bat an eye. 

READ MORE | ‘Dutch not required’: are English-speaking jobs for students a dream or reality?

So, to start you off, we’ve compiled a list of popular employment choices for students in Amsterdam. Let’s go!

HORECA (Hospitality)

HORECA in the Netherlands stands for hotel, restaurant and café. Here, you have tons of options.

Just take a stroll through the city and peek into the next bar window. Are they looking for people? Or maybe your favourite café has posted a job opening on Instagram. 😉

Bike courier

From food to grocery delivery, the demand for bicycle couriers is huge — and it’s the perfect flexible job when studying in Amsterdam.

This student is cycling your groceries across town to finance her studies. Image: Depositphotos

Don’t mind cycling for a couple of hours a day and delivering food you can’t eat? From Uber to Thuisbezorgd to Flink ⁠— one of these is surely looking to hook you up with a contract before you can say fiets

Call centres

Another student-job classic: call centres. We’ve got them too here in Amsterdam, and they’re always looking for internationals that speak more than one language. Spanish, French, and German are in particularly high demand to serve customers worldwide. 


There are thousands of stores in Amsterdam willing to offer flexible student jobs. From Rituals to Zara to H&M and Hunkemöller, there are so many shops you can just take your pick — even if you don’t speak Dutch!

Of course, there are many more options for student jobs. To find exactly what you’re looking for, you can browse these websites that list available job openings in Amsterdam:

Most employers will offer students zero-hour contracts. This way, you’re not required to work any amount of hours per week. On the flip side, your employer is not required to schedule any work time for you either.

These contracts ensure that you can remain flexible and plan your work around your dedicated study time or exams. 

🍺 Student life in Amsterdam

Now, let’s get to the good stuff. Why does a post-study beer just taste so absolutely delicious sitting at an Amsterdam canal-side? 🍻

As a student, Amsterdam has all you could wish for. There is always something to do, see, and people to meet. 

At the same time, Amsterdam is not your typical, inconceivably large capital city. They call it the ‘global village’ for a reason. 🏡 

Amsterdam is highly diverse and exciting, but also small and cosy at the same time. You can feel at home without feeling lost. 

This is a university building of the UvA. You could study here! Image: Depositphotos 

Best study spots in Amsterdam

Let’s talk study spots in Amsterdam. Depending on the school you’ll attend, you’ll have access to university buildings and libraries

READ MORE | 12 best places to study or work in Amsterdam

Another option is to study in cafés or public spaces with a stable wifi connection. You’ll soon find out which sort of environment you prefer. Do you like the chatty background noise of a full café? Or the silent rustling of student-packed libraries? 📚

Cafes are a great place to soak up that Amsterdam atmosphere while #GettingStuffDone. Image: Freepik

University libraries in Amsterdam

If you’re studying in Amsterdam, these are some places you’ll spend a lot of time at: 

While these are UvA and VU buildings, students of the different hogescholen in Amsterdam generally have access to these buildings too. All you need is a student card — prima (perfect)!

Not a university library but a stunning spot to catch up on some studying in Amsterdam nonetheless: The Rijksmuseum Research Library. Image: Depositphotos 

Nice cafés to study at in Amsterdam

If you have a little extra money on your hands, you can also buy yourself a couple of hours in a nice café. Order a fresh mint tea or cappuccino, and you can sit undisturbed to do your readings. 

These are just some (of many) cafés with good desk space, plugs and music choices when studying in Amsterdam:

  • The Volkshotel has a dedicated working place (werkplaats) that is spacious, plant-filled and a hub during exam times when university libraries are full to the brim. 
  • The Rijksmuseum Research Library has a dedicated study room and you can reserve a spot for free on their website. The place is absolutely stunning and really has that old-academia feel to it. 
  • Espresso Yourself is a Muslim woman-owned business in the West of Amsterdam. There are dedicated places for you to work which you can ‘rent’ for a small fee. Added plus: the coffees taste amazing!
  • Coffee Company, a chain cafe, is a popular choice for Amsterdam students. Yes, the coffee and beverages are expensive, but plugs are everywhere, and no one bothers you to give up your seat. 
  • Café de Jaren is famous for having authors writing their books in the spacious salon. So, you might as well join in and brood over your paper. It’s a beautiful place with a lot of natural light. 

Looking for more caffeinated study spots in Amsterdam? Don’t fret; there are quite literally hundreds of them. Just pop into any café you might fancy and ask if it’s okay for you to work there. 🧑‍💻

Best places to eat and drink on a student budget in Amsterdam

Want to enjoy student life in Amsterdam to the fullest and watch your budget at the same time? Don’t worry at all! There are plenty of places with student-friendly spaces where you can grab a snack and have a biertje all day round:

One of the most difficult Dutch decisions to take at 1 AM at a FEBO— kaaskroket or bitterballen? Image: Depositphotos
  • ‘Skek is a funky, student-run place right in the centre of Amsterdam. The bar-slash-restaurant has a creative, seasonal menu with prices staying below the €10 mark. And you always meet fun people here too!
  • Kriterion is a cinema and eetcafé (eatery). You should definitely go for Taco Tuesdays or tune in for one of their arthouse films! 
  • De Engelbewaarder is a popular Amsterdam student bar with a really nice terrace next to the canalside. It’s always full, especially when it’s sunny out, and is a focal point of student life. 
  • Taste before you waste is a foundation that aims to prevent food waste in Amsterdam. Each Wednesday, there is a 100% free dinner cooked with foodstuffs that would have otherwise been wasted. Donations are very welcome, of course. 
  • FEBO is a snackbar chain that has a special place in most Dutchies’ hearts. Chances are, you’ll end up in a FEBO at some point during your Amsterdam study career. Most likely slightly intoxicated and at an unreasonably early hour. 😉

Good to know: The Dutch go about studying in a classic “work hard, play hard” fashion. There is even an expression for that: the 6.5-culture. 

Remember, the Dutch grade on a scale from 1-10 and a 6.5 is just about a pass. To the Dutch, that’s all that matters! Not only does this mindset get rid of unnecessary stress, but it also leaves a lot of room for partying and grabbing drinks with friends. 💃

🗺 Going on student exchange in Amsterdam

If you’re not quite willing to take the step and move to Amsterdam full-time, you can always study in Amsterdam for a semester or two on exchange. There are different ways to do that. 

Erasmus+ exchange

If you’re a student based in the EU or EEA, you can participate in an Erasmus+ exchange. Every European citizen can spend up to 12 months abroad at another Erasmus+ university, which means you can benefit from the programme multiple times! 🇪🇺

Global Exchange Programmes

There are also global exchange programmes, whereby your home university creates individual learning agreements with other universities outside of Europe. Generally, you will continue to pay the tuition fee of your home university whilst spending your semester abroad.

A study exchange in Amsterdam means friends, beer, sightseeing, biking, and maybe a bit of studying. Image: Freepik

Check with your study advisor to see whether they have any existing agreements with an Amsterdam university. Sometimes, exchanges like this can also be organised independently, as long as you can justify why the courses you could take in Amsterdam suit your particular degree programme. 

Joint-degree or double-degree programmes

Another option concerns so-called joint-degree programmes or double-degree programmes. Usually, these are master’s programmes, where you’ll spend one year each at one or several different universities

You’ll study a single subject at two different universities with a joint-degree programme. On the other hand, a double-degree programme allows you to obtain two degrees at once in the same time of studying. 

Summer school

If you just want to get a small and condensed taste of Amsterdam student life (and you like to study a lot), summer school might be a good option for you. 

Universities across the city offer week-long academic programmes over the summer period. The price tag tends to be in the higher range, but usually, accommodation is provided for you (which is a huge plus, as we have learned.)

Use this tool to see which summer courses are offered this year. ☀️

Amsterdam in the summer means hanging out in the park and dangling your feet in (gross) canal waters. Image: Depositphotos 

❗️ Important things to know and do before studying in Amsterdam

Okay, ready for the ultimate checklist you should tick off before coming to study in Amsterdam? Here it goes:

✅ Make sure to apply to student housing as early as possible. Otherwise, you might just miss out on university housing!

✅ If you’re from outside the EU/EEA, ensure you have the appropriate visa and resident permit. (More on this below. 👇🏻)

✅ You’ll need to register with the municipality of Amsterdam within five days of arriving in the Netherlands. To avoid missing this in the chaos of your arrival, we advise you to make an appointment in advance. 

Open a Dutch bank account to avoid the extra costs of international money transfers. Added benefit? You can use the Tikkie app

✅ If you want to work alongside your studies, you’ll have to get Dutch health insurance

Check if your university has welcoming days for international students. Usually, there are systems in place to organise your pick up from the airport, hand over the keys to your student accommodation and just generally ensure your arrival is as comfortable as possible. 🤗

⚖️ Pros and cons of studying in Amsterdam

Phew, if you’ve made it this far, your head is probably spinning with all the information we’ve thrown at you above. 😵💫

Here is a short and sweet overview of all the benefits and disadvantages of studying in Amsterdam that we’ve discussed thus far. 👇🏻

Pros of studying in Amsterdam

  • The Dutch capital combines the feel of a vibrant metropolis with cosy small-town vibes. What’s not to love!
  • From art to fashion to business to the sciences — the vast number of universities and hogescholen in Amsterdam will ensure that everybody can follow their interests.
  • Amsterdam is great for internationals. You’ll study with people coming in from everywhere and Dutchies are officially known as the best non-native English speakers in the world!
  • We’ve got coffeeshops. 👀

Cons of studying in Amsterdam

  • It’s expensive! We’ve hammered this point home already, but you can expect to spend more than in other cities due to the overall high costs of living. (Although, at least the beer is cheap!)
  • The housing market is an absolute nightmare. Finding good, adequate and legal housing requires energy, money and quite a bit of luck.   
  • It takes a while to get to know the Dutch. Amsterdammers are so used to having internationals come and go that they can be a hard social circle to break into.
The nightlife in Amsterdam is also amazing! This is Club Melkweg. Image: Depositphotos

📆 The Dutch academic calendar

In the Netherlands, the academic year is divided into two semesters

  • Winter semester: starts on the first Monday of September.
  • Summer semester: starts on the first Monday of February.

Most degrees start in the winter semester, but some programmes also offer students to start in the summer. 

Regarding holidays and breaks, there are slight variations between different institutions. Generally, you can expect to have a free week over the Christmas period and sometime around Easter.

There are also various Dutch national holidays scattered over the year that might get you a day off your study desk every now and then. 

🛂 Student visas to study in Amsterdam

Coming in from outside the EU to study in the lovely city of Amsterdam? You’ll need a visa! 👇🏻

EU/EEA citizens

If you’re an EU, EEA, or Swiss citizen and want to study in Amsterdam, you don’t have to worry about getting a visa. The only important thing is to register at a Dutch address. Otherwise, you won’t be able to study here legally.

Non-EU citizens:

If you’re not from the EU, EEA, or Switzerland and want to stay in the Netherlands for longer than 90 days, you’ll have to get a visa. 

There are two possible types of visas required: an MVV and a VVR.

Entry visa (MVV)

Only some nationalities will have to apply for the MVV to enter the Netherlands. This is the case if you are NOT from any of the following countries: EU/EEA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Monaco, Vatican City, USA, and South Korea. 

If your country is not on this list, you’ll have to apply for the MVV at the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). To do so, you’ll have to be enrolled in your study programme first. 

Luckily, most Dutch higher education institutions have systems in place that will apply to the MVV (if you need it) and the resident permit on your behalf. 

Yes, there will be paperwork — but it will be worth it. Image: Depositphotos

Residence permit (VVR) 

The second, and more important, one is a residence permit (VVR). This will allow you to stay in the country for the entirety of your studies.

Generally, this application process takes place online through your university. Most likely, you’ll have to submit several documents such as:

  • A copy of your passport,
  • An antecedents statement (e.g. a document stating whether or not you have a criminal record),
  • Proof of financial means,
  • A tuberculosis statement.

Your university will then send over the documents to the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND).

Here are a couple of other important details to keep in mind when applying for a student visa:

You need to be conditionally enrolled in a study programme at an Amsterdam university to start the process of applying for your visas

Getting your visa approved may take months, so it’s important to apply early to your desired university. Generally, you should aim to apply about four months in advance. 

There is a fee of between €200 to €300 for your visa application.

You’ll need to obtain at least 50% of your required credits (study points) per semester to keep your visa. Your university will keep track of that. If you don’t study hard enough, you might just lose your right to live in the Netherlands. (How about that for motivation. 😉)

Are you still intimidated by the whole process? Watch this short, digestible video by the VU, and you’ll see it’s not that complicated after all. 👇🏻

Wow, you’ve made it all the way to the end! Whether you’re considering, applying, or dreaming of studying at a university in Amsterdam — you’ve already got all the info you need to pursue higher education in the Netherlands. 

Do you have any other questions about studying in Amsterdam, or would you like to add any details that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in April 2022, and was fully updated in August 2023 for your reading pleasure.

🙋‍♂️ Studying in Amsterdam: frequently asked questions

👌 Is Amsterdam a good place to study?

💸 How much does it cost to study in Amsterdam?

🌎 Is Amsterdam a good place for international students?

💶 Is it free to study in Amsterdam?

💯 Is it hard to get into an Amsterdam university?

🤑 Is Amsterdam expensive for students?

Feature Image:Freepik
Cara Räker 🇩🇪
Cara Räker 🇩🇪
Cara moved to the Netherlands at fifteen and she is here to stay! After all, there is so much to love about it, except maybe the bread (as every German will tell you). Next to finishing up her bachelor's degree in European politics (dry), Cara loves to do yoga, swim, and cook delicious veggie food.

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