Moving to the Netherlands? Great! But where to live in the Netherlands?

As an expat moving to The Netherlands, where you end up living will largely depend on why you are here. Are you here for a job? Then you will most likely want to live within comfortable distance of your new place of employment. If you’re going to live in the Netherlands for love, then either your partner will already have a house, or he or she will most likely want to live close to the place they come from. Here is all you need to know on where to live in the Netherlands.

Our starters guide on where to live in the Netherlands

If you are as yet undecided on where to live in the Netherlands then you have come to the right place! We at DutchReview hope to provide you with an overview of the pros and cons of the four big cities to at least partly help you on your way. This of course comes at the price of having our own personal opinions unabashedly shoved down your throat at every opportunity.

First of all a little geography lesson:

Good old stereotyping ? #netherlands #cliche #dutch #holland #map #bias #funny #flatlands

Een foto die is geplaatst door DutchReview (@dutchreview) op

 

As most of you will know, The Netherlands is basically divided in two: the Randstad and the rest. For simplicity’s sake and because ‘the rest’ is pretty much the great unknown for anyone from the Randstad (like me) I will focus only on the Randstad.

The Randstad

The Randstad is divided up into a few cities of importance, namely, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, The Hague and a few smaller towns like Leiden, Haarlem and Delft. In between are various small towns and villages. These lie within easy travelling distance of one of the bigger cities.  For the most part, excellent public transport connections mean that even if you live in Amsterdam, you would have no trouble commuting to your job in for example The Hague.

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Various clichés exist about these towns or regions and the people that live in them and every city has its own folklore about what part of town is best, worst, ugly, beautiful, socially preferable or hot and happening. This can make navigating your way through the maze of accommodations tricky at best and downright impossible at worst. Does an apartment you are interested in seem remarkably cheap? There’s probably a reason why, but figuring out what that is and whether it would put you off is not always easy. I would advise finding a colleague or acquaintance who is either Dutch or has knowledge of that particular area to help you out.

If you already picked your city when it comes to the question of where to in the Netherlands than lucky you. because Luckily we the good people at DutchReview wrote these neighborhood guides to the bigger and better Dutch cities such as these: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague.

One of the many beautiful 'grachten' in Amsterdam.
One of the many beautiful ‘grachten’ in Amsterdam.

Where to live in the Netherlands? Amsterdam surely (?)

The capital city. Do they call it that because of the immense amount of capital it costs you to actually live there? With its beautiful architecture, canals, parks and overwhelming amount of cultural and social events it is a very sought-after city to live in. The last couple of decades have seen a massive shift in the popularity of certain neighbourhoods. De Jordaan used to be the home of working-class Amsterdammers. These days you have to beat the Yuppies away with a stick and complete a cross-country obstacle course past all the Bakfietsen just to walk down one of its streets.

The waitinglist for social housing in Amsterdam has you hanging on in there for around fifteen years before you even get a look in, and rental prices everywhere bar a few unfashionable areas are through the roof in comparison with other cities. For the person willing to wait however, there are still opportunities; you just need to wait it out till the right place comes along. Still, expect less for your money than elsewhere. The same applies if you are looking to buy a house in the Netherlands.

Another option is to do what half of Amsterdam has done already – move to Amstelveen! Close to the city, a more rural style of living without losing any of the amenities the big city has to offer. Although living there isn’t cheap – its still cheaper than what you would pay for a similar property in Amsterdam. Oh and fellow shopaholics – have you been to the shopping centre there yet??

 

The skyline of Rotterdam at night.
The skyline of Rotterdam at night.

ROTTERDAM

Home of cutting-edge Dutch Architecture, Europe’s biggest harbor and a bustling cultural hotspot Rotterdam is truly a unique city in The Netherlands. Vastly more affordable than Amsterdam (and a hell of a lot less annoying, camera-toting tourists) this typically working-class city prides itself on being culturally diverse. As a foodie I go wild for the vast array of restaurants in Rotterdam with something to suit every palate.

So I guess you’re asking yourself what is the downside? Well – if you are looking for traditional Dutch architecture then cross this city off your list. Bombed completely by the Germans in WWII the city centre is a work in progress even 70 years later. But areas like Kralingen and if you are willing to look slightly beyond the city itself, Schiebroek and the more expensive Hilligersberg are well worth a look.

 

where to life in the Netherlands
A square in Den Haag.

THE HAGUE

The seat of government and truly an expat Walhalla. With all of the embassies and international companies like Shell and EPO stationed here, Den Haag has a lot to offer internationally minded people. Reasonably affordable and close to the beach this city is very popular with expats from all walks of life. I would say though that it is very easy to stay within the confines of the expat community here and never broaden your horizons. There are plenty of bars and restaurants and a number of museums as well as a pretty good shopping district in the centre of town. For a family I would say Loosduinen is a nice, family oriented area. Housing is affordable as well as being close to schools, the beach and public transport. Leidschendam, a stones-throw away is also a very affordable and attractive place to live.

Where to live in the Netherlands? Consider Utrecht!

Where to live in the Netherlands? UTRECHT

The Dom Stad, named for its Cathedral which was partly destroyed by a tornado – yes a freakin’ tornado – in 1674. This city has a comparatively large number of under 30’s and is a dynamic and developing city because of it. It has a beautiful centre, an excellent university and much green in the surrounding countryside. An area to avoid would be Leidsche Rijn, whereas Voordorp is considered to be the best big city neighbourhood to live in by the Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau. As is the case in many Dutch cities, living in the often small city centre however is expensive. Those willing to look further afield might consider Woerden, an attractive town not far from Utrecht. It’s considered to be the most average town in The Netherlands!

As I previously mentioned, the Randstad is a place that like its name suggest really is one big metropolis. So when it comes to ‘where to live in the Netherlands’ don’t limit yourself to just the big cities. Check out Leiden, Haarlem, Delft, Dordrecht, Alkmaar or Gouda.

In my humble opinion avoid like the plague: Zoetermeer and Hoofddorp. Generic and lacking character, unless living in “wijk 52” was your lifelong dream. My only guilty admission is that I enjoy their shopping centres.

If you're moving to the Netherlands and have no idea where to live, this guide will help you get started!

14 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve lived in Leiden for almost 5 years. Then left the Netherlands for 3 years. Since a couple months I live in the NL again, this time in The Hague. I don’t like The Hague. I can’t wait to move back to Leiden soon – an intelligent, academic, young and old, small and cozy city!

  2. Hi, I am an expat thinking of moving to Holland, and I wonder: Why nothing about Eindhoven, Maastricht, Groningen (I don’t know if there are any other major cities in the Netherlands)?

    • Those cities (Maastricht and Groningen at least) are kind of far from any other big cities. So if you work there, you either live in that city, or in the countryside.

  3. I am considering a job in the Hague. The salary is good but I want to save a lot of money while there and some people are saying it’s impossible. Isn’t there some low cost option of some kind? Like having roommates, or renting a room in somebody’s house or something? I’m also a very experienced tutor, what about finding some well off family to tutor their kids? Or air BNB? Could a Dutch person give me some insight maybe?

  4. Near Amsterdam, cheaper than Amstelveen, lots of green and water and wildlife, young population (lots of children means lots of schools, activities, etc.), contemporary and experimental architecture: Almere.

  5. You mention to avoid leidsche rijn in Utrecht. I was just wondering why you have said this and what criteria you used to make this statement? I live here and it is very family friendly nice housing and only a 15 minutes cycle to the city centre. I think it is a great place for expat families to settle. I understand everyone has their own opinions but would be great if you could expand on why it is the place to avoid in Utrecht.
    Thank you

  6. Hi,
    We would like to move to Netherlands. My son should go to kindergarden , Which city is the best ? I mean highly educated people and originally British or Dutch?
    Warm regards

  7. My husband and I will be moving to Amsterdam in two months. He works inAmsterdam and My job is in Hague. I was wondering where is the best place in between these two cities to live. Easy for both of us to commute to work. Any suggestions?

  8. I lived in Wassenaar for almost 7 years. We chose it becasue it was a nice, friendly place and with two school age children, the bus to the American school was convenient and a plentiful supply of American playmates.. My youngest went to both the peuterschul and the kleuterschul before moving on to the American school of the Hague. My husband’s job was close to Wassenaar- in Nordwijk. Both my children became fluent in Dutch as did I. We’ve often thought it would be nice to go back, but its not in the cards. The shopping street were close to the house and the shopkeepers and I helped each other with language.

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