7 underrated places to live outside of the Randstad

Non-Ranstad cities deserve some love. ❤️

Living outside of the Randstad brings with it many advantages. Lower housing prices, less noise, less light- 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.

What exactly is the Randstad?

First, let’s clarify what the Randstad actually is and why Dutchies have such strong feelings about it. 🤔

The Randstad is basically the four largest cities in the Netherlands: Rotterdam, Utrecht, Amsterdam, The Hague, and the smaller areas and cities that surround them.

utrecht-st-martin-cathedral-areal-view
The Randstad is the most densely populated area of the Netherlands. Image: Depositphotos

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 ain’t true.

READ MORE | 5 reasons the Netherlands is the best place to live for expat families

Now that the 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.

1. 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. Farmer’s markets and traditional Dutch architecture abound.

view-of-groningen
A beautiful view of Groningen and the Martini church tower. Image: Depositphotos

Housing isn’t super cheap here, mostly because of the demand students put on the market, but it’s still reasonable compared to Amsterdam.

You can expect to pay around €200,000 to buy an apartment and between €300,000 to €500,000 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.

READ MORE | Where to live as an international in the Netherlands: the complete guide

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.

photograph-of-the-countryside-in-groningen-with-a-windmill-in-the-background
Groningen is one of the hidden gems of the North. Image: Depositphotos

And the cost of living? According to Numbeo, it’s a whole lot cheaper than in Amsterdam: a meal at an inexpensive restaurant will cost you €15 or so, a cappuccino €3, and one kilogram of potatoes (the most important purchase if you’re hoping to integrate) about €1.

2. 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 go every 30 minutes, if not more often.

Amersfoort-waterside-view
Doesn’t this beautiful city just scream ‘medieval’? Yup, that’s Amersfoort! Image: Depositphotos

Amersfoort is also a really beautiful city. It has the famous Koppelpoort that has been around since medieval times and attracts lots of tourists every year.

Now, because of its proximity to Amsterdam, Amersfoort is not the cheapest when it comes to housing.

Buying a traditional Dutch home can cost anywhere from €350,000 to €650,000 — but that could well be worth it if you work in the Randstad and are craving that quieter vibe.

It’s also slightly more expensive than Groningen in terms of the cost of living. That kilo of potatoes will cost you an extra €0.20, and a refreshing domestic biertje an extra euro.

3. 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 abroad frequently, then it’s the perfect place.

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Eindhoven’s futuristic city centre. Image: Depositphotos

In terms of housing, an apartment in the centre will cost you anywhere from €240,000 to €445,000, and family homes are usually priced at around €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.

READ MORE | 7 Dutch cities to move to right now (recommended by mortgage experts)

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. 🤩

4. 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.

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Here’s a good view of what a regular day in Tilburg looks like. Echt mooi! Image: Depositphotos

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 €1.07. Thank goodness. 😌

5. 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.

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A cosy and beautiful river-side view of Maastricht. Image: Depositphotos

Housing pries are reasonable: an apartment will cost you about €160,000, and a family home around €300,000.

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: €0.96 a kilo.

6. 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.

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The bustling city of Leeuwarden on a sunny day. Image: Depositphotos

However, this city has a lot to offer for you Randstad-fleeing people.

It has beautiful and traditional Dutch architecture: canals, tall houses, and church spires. You’ll find cosy cafes with outdoor seating along the canals in summer.

In terms of the cost of living, it’s similar to Amersfoort or Eindhoven: dinner at an inexpensive restaurant for €15 and potatoes for €0.97 —but of course, we’re all wondering about the big question: housing.

READ MORE | 7 reasons why living in the Netherlands will change your life

Well, in Leeuwarden and its immediate vicinity, you can get an apartment for €140,000 and a family home for €230,000.

7. Zwolle: the star of the cities outside the Randstad

Only an hour away from Amsterdam, Zwolle is perfect for someone who wants to live in a peaceful place yet work in a 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.

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Zwolle is truly a city that’ll leave you starstruck! Image: Depositphotos

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 price for an apartment in the centre can be anywhere from €330,000 to a baffling €550,000.

The cost of living is, again, much the same as Leeuwarden or Eindhoven.

However, given its closeness to the Randstad (and, ok, the star shape we’re obsessed with), Zwolle seems like the perfect place to live.

What do you think of our selection? Tell us in the comments below! 👇

Ailish Lalor
Ailish Lalor
Ailish was born in Sydney, Australia, but grew up by a forest in south-east Ireland, which she has attempted to replace with a living room filled with plants in The Hague. Besides catering to her army of pannenkoekenplantjes, Ailish spends her days convincing her friends that all food is better slightly burnt, plotting ways to hang out with dogs and cats, and of course, writing for DutchReview.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. As a resident of Amersfoort for thirty years I would have agreed thirty years ago but, helaas, Amersfoort is just as much a part of the Randstad as any town or village sitting between or around the big four. Have you been on the A1 by Amersfoort lately?
    However I totally agree with your Groniging and Zwolle suggestions! Both amazing cities.

  2. I have family in Middleburg, in the Zeeland province. I visited a few years ago and loved the city and surrounding area. (I am of Dutch decent, born and living in the US…I grew up in Holland, Michigan…’nuff said) I would be eager to hear your view of that area of the Netherlands.

  3. You missed Hoorn with it’s 30 min train commute to Amsterdam Centraal, fantastic beach, historical old centre and beautiful marina and a harbour. But it is OK, let’s keep this jewel hidden for the locals 🙂

  4. Thanks for the list! I have to say It’s a bit strange to start off with calling Groningen a “small city” while it’s in fact the biggest on the list (together with Eindhoven). Not that it is big per se but in this list I would say it’s not a defining factor, on the contrary actually as it’s also quite busy. If someone is looking for a typical small town they’re better off going to Leeuwarden or Zwolle, Groningen is considered ‘big’ by the Dutch outside of the Randstad.

  5. Tilburg, my true love, the only city that I have felt home at. I miss it so much and hope to be back asap. It is a lovely town to live in, especially since its revamping since 2015. It has it all, art, nature, education, libraries, rock gigs, sport venues. The only issue may be that is still not that well connected on the rail as the Randstad cities are (NS, hear hear).

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