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Moving to Amsterdam

Amsterdam has long been one of the world's top travel spots, but the capital of the Netherlands is fast becoming a preferred expat destination too. A culturally diverse city, rich in history and tradition, Amsterdam boasts pretty canals, jaw-dropping architecture and a phenomenal artistic heritage.

The city started out around a dam on the Amstel River, and the canals of the old city, which flare out in concentric rows, have led to it being called ‘the Venice of the North’. The canals were originally constructed to serve as water highways, keeping all parts of the inner city accessible. While still used for transport, the canals are now increasingly used for exquisite leisure tours and memorable walks along the water's edge.

Amsterdam’s well-developed public transport network also consists of buses, trains and trams, but given Amsterdam’s bicycle culture, most people prefer cycling to work or school.

Of course, visitors are drawn to Amsterdam for more than just its Insta-worthy canals; tourists rarely leave before experiencing the illicit thrills of its Red Light District and coffee shops.

That said, those who choose to make the city their long-term home may have come for the edginess of this famously liberal city, but they tend to stay because of the laid-back lifestyle and the abundance of things to see and do. Along with a vibrant nightlife, the Dutch capital offers family-friendly activities, from museums and art galleries to scenic walks and excellent eateries.

A great way to get to know the city is simply wandering around the quaint areas and suburbs, taking in the architecture consisting of narrow houses with gabled facades. Speaking of housing, prospective expats should note several things. The downside to the property market in Amsterdam is that accommodation is limited. Demand is high and finding the perfect and most affordable home may be one of the biggest challenges for expats moving to Amsterdam. City centre apartments may also be smaller than some expats are used to. As a result, many choose to live in the surrounding villages, rather than in the city itself.

The upside is that Amsterdam’s residents generally agree that every neighbourhood has something unique to offer, accommodation is usually in great condition, the quality of life is high, and with such a buzzing, cosmopolitan and open-minded environment, expats are sure to settle in well.

Weather in Amsterdam

With a mild and damp climate, expats should invest in a sturdy umbrella as Amsterdam sees lots of rain throughout the year, particularly in the winter months from October or November to February. The weather in Amsterdam can be highly changeable, so expats can expect sudden drops in temperature even in summer.

Summers are mild and warm with temperatures averaging between 68°F (20°C) and 71°F (22°C), while winters can be bitterly cold and frosty, with temperatures dropping to freezing.

 

Pros and Cons of Moving to Amsterdam

For those looking to move to Europe, there are few destinations as exciting as Amsterdam. The city is diverse and international, and its unique culture and high quality of life make it one Europe's most popular cities. Naturally, there are also some downsides to living in Amsterdam, like the fast-moving (and pricey) housing market and the high cost of living. As with anywhere else, expats will need to weigh up the pros and cons of moving to Amsterdam before setting plans into motion.

We list a few of those below.


Lifestyle in Amsterdam

+ PRO: Rich in culture and history

Tourists flock to Amsterdam from all over to enjoy the city’s wide range of cultural and historical attractions, and expats living in Amsterdam will be lucky enough to have all this right on their doorstep. There will be plenty of time to explore the city and surrounding countryside, stroll through world-famous art galleries and unwind in one of the city's many parks. 

+ PRO: Shopping, eating out and nightlife

The lifestyle in Amsterdam is second to none. The quirky shops, world-class restaurants and legendary nightlife make the free-spirited Dutch capital one of the great cities of Europe. 


Accommodation in Amsterdam

- CON: Demand outstrips supply

As a city with a high population density, it can be hard to find accommodation in Amsterdam. There’s a lot of competition and rentals are often snatched off the market just as quickly as they're listed. This drives prices up.

Once expats do find a suitable new home, they shouldn’t expect much space as apartments in Amsterdam are often smaller than what many expats from abroad (certainly from the US) are used to.


Getting around in Amsterdam

+ PRO: One of the world’s most cycle-friendly cities

Amsterdam’s reputation as a city of cyclists is well earned. Around 60 percent of the city’s population uses bicycles for their daily commute. The government has invested in extensive cycling infrastructure, making it easy to get around on two wheels. 

+ PRO: Good transport network

Getting around in Amsterdam is easy with many public transport options to choose from, including the metro, buses, trams and trains.

+ PRO: Easy to travel to neighbouring countries

Expats with a bit of wanderlust will be well positioned in Amsterdam. Trains are a popular and easy way of travelling to neighbouring countries such as France, Belgium and Germany. Even London is only five hours away by train, and even quicker by air.


Cost of living in Amsterdam

- CON: Expensive city

As a major European capital, Amsterdam has a high cost of living comparable to other large capital cities in Europe such as Rome and Vienna. The main expense for expats will undoubtedly be accommodation, but expenses such as international school fees can also take a large chunk off an expat's budget.

+ PRO: Good quality of life

In Amsterdam, the old adage that a person gets what they pay for rings true. Pricey as it may be, expats in Amsterdam will be able to live well. In fact, Amsterdam has been rated one of the world’s top cities when it comes to quality of life.


Education and schools in Amsterdam

+ PRO: Free high-quality local schooling

With public schooling being government-funded up to age 16, expat parents won’t need to worry about school fees for most of their child’s school career. Public schools in Amsterdam generally perform well on international measures, so parents can rest assured that they aren’t compromising on quality.

- CON: Most public schools teach in Dutch

For expats with older children or who are only in Amsterdam for the short term, the language barrier at public schools can be an issue. Young children pick up additional languages more easily, so the earlier they start speaking Dutch, the better. It’s also worth mentioning that there are a few public schools who teach bilingually in both English and Dutch. For many families, this is an ideal middle ground.

+ PRO: Wide range of international schools

As the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is a hub for international schools. Parents looking to take this option will find that curricula offered range from Japanese to French to British and beyond. The International Baccalaureate is also popularly taught.


Healthcare in Amsterdam

+ PRO: High-quality healthcare

Expats in Amsterdam will find themselves in a country with one of the world's best-rated healthcare systems. Everyone working in the Netherlands is required to have health insurance so that services can be easily accessed. Doctors are highly skilled and facilities are top-notch.

Cost of Living in Amsterdam

Expats moving to Amsterdam will need to consider its relatively high cost of living on a global scale, as well as compared to other Dutch cities. Although cheaper than cities such as London and Paris, Amsterdam is just as costly as other European capitals like Rome and Vienna. Ranking 64th out of 209 cities in the 2020 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Amsterdam is undeniably expensive for locals and expats alike.


Cost of accommodation

Accommodation will likely be expats' biggest expense in Amsterdam. That said, where in the city expats choose to live will have a vast impact on costs, as rent in the city centre can be double or triple that of outlying suburbs, and the same applies to buying property. Properties outside of the centre will most likely be more spacious but, while expats may be losing the benefit of size in the centre, they will be close to attractions, and the city centre also exudes much more character and charm.

Utilities are also exorbitant in Amsterdam and are not often included in rent. As electricity in Amsterdam is among the most expensive in the world, expats should expect to pay a large sum towards utilities at the end of each month.


Cost of eating out in Amsterdam

While groceries are rather affordable compared to other expenses in Amsterdam, eating out can be costly. Restaurant prices are similar to those of other major European capitals, but expats will be able to find spots that serve delicious food at a rate that’s more budget friendly.


Cost of transport

The least expensive and often the quickest way to get around the Dutch capital is by bicycle. The city gets plenty of rain throughout the year though, so this may not always be an option. In that case, there are trams, buses, trains and taxis.

While taxis will be the most expensive transport option, rideshare apps such as Uber can be cheaper than traditional metered taxis. Public transport is a lot less costly but is still not cheap. Getting an OV Chipkaart, on which expats can load travel credit, will more than halve the price of a trip and this is therefore highly recommended for anyone living in Amsterdam.


Cost of education and schools

Local public Dutch schools are subsidised by the government and are mostly free, apart from small yearly contributions towards school trips or activities. While most of these schools teach in Dutch, expats may be able to find a government subsidised bilingual school that teaches an international curriculum in Amsterdam.

The fees for private and international schools in Amsterdam can be excessive, and expats wanting to send their children to one of these schools should attempt to negotiate this into their employment contract.


Cost of living in Amsterdam Chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Amsterdam in May 2021.

Accommodation (monthly)

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

EUR 1,500 - 1,700

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

EUR 1,000 - 1,300

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

EUR 2,500 - 3,000 

Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

EUR 1,800 - 2,200

Groceries

Milk (1 litre)

EUR 1.10

Loaf of white bread

EUR 1.80

Rice (1kg)

EUR 2

Dozen eggs

EUR 2.75

Chicken breasts (1kg)

EUR 8

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

EUR 8

Household

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

EUR 0.15

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

EUR 45

Utilities (monthly for average-sized home)

EUR 170

Eating out

Three-course meal at mid-range restaurant for two

EUR 75

Big Mac Meal

EUR 9

Cappuccino

EUR 3.40

Local beer (500ml)

EUR 5

Coca-Cola (330ml)

EUR 2.60

Transport

Taxi rate (per km)

EUR 2.35

City-centre public transport fair

EUR 3.20

Petrol/gasoline

EUR 1.65

Accommodation in Amsterdam

Accommodation in Amsterdam can be difficult to find, especially at a good price. There is a constant demand for property – even low-quality rentals are highly sought after. Because of this competitive housing market, most expats will find themselves renting, rather than buying.

The cost of accommodation in Amsterdam continues to rise and this is especially the case the closer one moves to the city centre. For this reason, many expats choose to look for property in smaller villages outside the city.


Types of accommodation in Amsterdam

An array of housing options can be found in Amsterdam, but most properties are in the form of small apartments, especially in the inner city. While the standard of these varies, prices can be considered high regardless.

To save money, many expats, especially young working professionals and international students, opt for a flat share in Amsterdam. Tenants will have a room to themselves while sharing kitchen and living room spaces with flatmates.

Serviced apartments are a popular option among business travellers in Amsterdam. These are fully equipped properties with attractive amenities including spas and gyms.

Expats wanting more space and a home with a garden may need to look outside the city limits.

Both furnished and unfurnished apartments are available, as well as semi-furnished properties with kitchen appliances and some basic furniture. However, typical rental contacts and costs may vary according to the level of furnishings, so keep a look out for this when signing a lease.


Finding accommodation in Amsterdam

Finding suitable accommodation in Amsterdam can be a challenge as demand often exceeds supply.

There are various online property portals which can be used to search for accommodation, including IamExpat Media, Engel & Völkers and Pararius. Word of mouth and networking with local contacts through social media platforms may also prove successful routes when house hunting.

We also advise expats to consider using a rental agency or relocation firm. Real estate professionals have a better idea of the areas in the city and can help navigate the rental process. Most agencies advertise on large online property portals. They're quite competitive, so expats should compare prices.


Renting accommodation in Amsterdam

We recommend prospective tenants carefully read their tenancy agreements and understand the necessary processes of renting property in Amsterdam.

All expats must provide their citizen service number known as a BSN (burgerservicenummer). Bank statements may also be requested as a guarantee of credit, while those working in the Netherlands may need to provide their employment contract.

Leases

Once expats have found suitable accommodation, they will need to sign a rental agreement. These may set a fixed period of stay, often six months or one year, or may be valid for an indefinite period.

The rental agreement must include the rental amount, the length of the contract, the rules of the house, the date on which the rent will be increased and any stipulations regarding the maintenance of the property.

Expats should note that, verbal contracts are legally viable in the Netherlands, however, it is best that the rental contract is a written agreement.

Deposits

A deposit of one to three months’ rent is common to secure a property. To avoid any disputes with the return of the deposit, it's recommended to detail a full inventory of any furniture in the property and the standard of the accommodation.

Utilities

Utilities and municipal taxes are not always included in the rental agreement and the tenant may be responsible for paying these. This should be clearly stated in the rental agreement.

Areas and suburbs in Amsterdam

The best places to live in Amsterdam

Countless expats have been pulled in and swept up by Amsterdam's balance of old-world charm and cutting-edge modernity. The ’Venice of the North’ is a true melting pot of cultures and each area has something unique to offer.

Here are some of the top areas and suburbs in Amsterdam offering prime expat-friendly accommodation.


Family-friendly areas of Amsterdam

Photo by Michal B. on Unsplash

Amsterdam Oud-West – Where city meets nature

Oud-West is a highly sought-after area for expat housing. It claims all the fantastic leisure-based perks of the city centre and combines them with a touch of nature. Cafes, restaurants, museums and shopping streets – such as the Overtoom – are plentiful, and the famous Vondelpark is a beloved hangout for locals and tourists.

The residents are mainly students, educated locals and expats. Houses in the area are larger and more expensive than in the city centre, and expats shouldn't be surprised to find lush gardens hidden away here and there.

Amsterdam-Zuid – Amsterdam’s posh residential area

Amsterdam-Zuid is recognised as the upmarket side of Amsterdam. It's popular with Western expats thanks to the British School of Amsterdam and Vondelpark being close by, as well as its great infrastructure. With a peaceful atmosphere and plenty of playgrounds and parks, Amsterdam-Zuid is a prime location for families. Though densely populated, this is a high-income area.

In terms of leisure and recreation, the area has much to offer. Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art are located here, and there are plenty of shopping opportunities.

Watergraafsmeer – Lush, green living

Watergraafsmeer is one of Amsterdam's greenest residential areas. Whether expats prefer spending time outdoors in the garden, public parks or sports fields, plenty of space is devoted to each.

This neighbourhood is a relatively quiet area of town with a fairly large, cosmopolitan population. Many are working-class residents who aren't too focused on the nightlife, but there are several good restaurants and bars in the vicinity. Watergraafsmeer also has a large ice-skating rink, the Jaap Edenbaan.

Westerpark – Family-oriented neighbourhood

Westerpark is home to a large number of expat residents and is especially recommended for young families. It has several good schools as well as a few choice attractions, including the famous Westergasfabriek cultural district, the Het Ketelhuis art house cinema, cafes and designer boutiques. While some neighbourhoods within Westerpark are fairly quiet, others boast a lively nightlife. Be sure to look out for the markets and festivals that pop up in the area.


Areas for young and single expats in Amsterdam

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash_De Wallen

Centrum – The heart of Amsterdam

Centrum is the heart of Amsterdam, and a metropolitan favourite. Despite being the most populated area of the city, many prefer to live in its small, pricey apartments for easy proximity to world-renowned attractions and great restaurants, as well as the ease of getting around.

One of the most loved destinations is the Grachtengordel, or Canal Belt, where expats will find the famous tree-lined canals associated with Amsterdam. The Singel Canal is widely visited because of the Anne Frank House and other museums. Perhaps equally famous, but for very different reasons, is De Wallen – the Red Light District.

De Baarsjes – Up-and-coming neighbourhood

This area is located within the city’s centre ring, which makes all the modern conveniences of Centrum easily accessible without the hefty price tag. Known for its good location and low crime rate, De Baarsjes is perfect for expats who prefer a quieter lifestyle. Outdoorsy expats will enjoy Rembrandtpark, popular for jogging and dog walking. Another highlight is the open-air market on Vespuccistraat.

Indische Buurt – Diverse historical area

Situated in eastern Amsterdam, Indische Buurt has a long history of being home to expats. More than half of the population in this area is foreign-born with over 100 foreign languages being spoken by residents. Housing in Indische Buurt is more affordable than the city centre and consists mostly of apartments.

Healthcare in Amsterdam

With a healthcare system credited as one of the best in the world, expats will find excellent healthcare facilities and highly skilled medical professionals in Amsterdam.

All residents in the Netherlands, including expats, are required to have medical insurance from a private health insurance company. Dutch medical insurers are compelled to offer a full set of basic benefits to all residents. Not all areas of healthcare are funded by these basic services packages, but expats moving to Amsterdam have an option of taking out additional health insurance to cover the costs of such treatment.

EU citizens can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access state healthcare here during a short-term visit. UK citizens can make use of their Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaced the EHIC for UK citizens post-Brexit.

Pharmacies (apotheken) are widely available in Amsterdam and are usually open from Monday to Friday. Some are open on Saturdays and after hours. There's usually a notice on the pharmacy door with details of the nearest all-night and Sunday pharmacies.

Here are some of the most prominent hospitals in Amsterdam.


Hospitals in Amsterdam

ACIBADEM International Medical Center

Website: www.acibademimc.com
Address: Arlandaweg 100, 1043 HP Amsterdam

Amsterdam Tourist Doctors

Website: www.amsterdamtouristdoctors.nl
Address: Nieuwe Passeerdersstraat 8, 1016 XP Amsterdam

Amsterdam UMC

Website: www.amc.nl
Address: De Boelelaan 1117, 1081 HV Amsterdam

OLVG

Website: www.olvg.nl
Address: Oosterpark 9, 1091 AC Amsterdam

Education and Schools in Amsterdam

There are numerous schools in Amsterdam for expats to choose from, and they generally offer high standards of education. There are a small number of private schools, but the majority of children attend public schools.

Both public and private schools are regulated by the Dutch Inspectorate of Education to ensure quality across the board.


Public schools in Amsterdam

Public schooling in the Netherlands is free for all children, including expats, until age 16. After the age of 16, parents are expected to pay annual fees.

Language is important for expat families to consider. If a child speaks no Dutch and is at least six years old, some schools run a special newcomer's class in which the focus is on learning the language in order to continue their studies in Dutch.

If the child is 12 years old or older when moving to Amsterdam, they may be placed in an international bridging class, where they study school subjects as well as Dutch. These classes are typically one year long, after which children will usually be integrated into the rest of the school.

Most high school classes are taught in Dutch, but some secondary schools in Amsterdam follow a dual-language curriculum where subjects are taught in English and Dutch.

High school or secondary education in the Netherlands is typically chosen based on aptitude or future aspirations. The education system is arranged into streams offering practical and vocational programmes or academic programmes which prepare students for university.


Private and international schools in Amsterdam

There are various private and international schools in Amsterdam. Most of the city's international schools follow the American or British curriculum, while a number of them (including some local private schools) also offer the International Baccalaureate programme.

As children in Amsterdam may be able to continue the same or similar curriculum as their home country, international schools are often the best option for expats living in the city for the short term.

Parents should note that fees at these schools can be extremely high while space is limited. It's best that parents begin the application process well in advance.


Nurseries in Amsterdam

While education is only compulsory from age five, preschools abound in Amsterdam. Daycare centres, kindergartens and preschools are available, while childcare services, including playgroups, babysitters and au pairs, can also be found.

Toddlers from as young as three months can attend daycare, while kids aged two to four attend preschool. In Amsterdam, the fees for 16 hours a week of preschool may depend on parental income.


Special needs education in Amsterdam

Expat families will find inclusive education is valued in both public and private schools. Newly arrived expat families in Amsterdam are advised to enquire with the local municipality on the best fit. Parents can also find support groups online or through schools and local organisations.

Many schools in Amsterdam offer specialised services to integrate students with disabilities or disorders into mainstream classes.

Additionally, two types of schools cater specifically to special education needs: speciaal basisonderwijs (SBO) and speciaal onderwijs schools. SBO programmes are similar to mainstream curricula but provide specific support services. Speciaal onderwijs schools are split into distinct clusters, based on the type of care: visual impairments, hearing or speech impediments, physical or cognitive disabilities, and behavioural or social problems.


Homeschooling in Amsterdam

Children must attend school in the Netherlands from ages five to 16. Homeschooling is not legal in the country, other than under specific exceptions. We recommend parents address their concerns about distance learning and homeschooling with the local municipality. Reaching out via social media to the expat community in Amsterdam can also be helpful when looking for resources on homeschooling.


Tutors in Amsterdam

Finding a tutor in Amsterdam should not be too hard. Online platforms make the search easy, while expats can also go through private tutoring companies.

Foreigners, both children and adults, may benefit from the services of a tutor. While English is widely spoken in Amsterdam, expats may be interested in learning Dutch, and a private tutor can help new arrivals overcome any culture shock of language barriers.

International Schools in Amsterdam

Expats will have access to a good selection of international schools in Amsterdam. These schools offer the curriculum of a particular country or organisation, either in English or in the language of the school's country of origin. International schools give expat children the possibility of continuing with a familiar curriculum taught in their home language. This can go a long way to smoothing the adjustment period after moving to the Netherlands. Studying at an international school can also ease future transfers to other schools with the same curriculum, should the child return home or move to another country.

See below for some of Amsterdam's most reputable international schools.


International schools in Amsterdam

Amsterdam International Community School 

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Primary Curriculum and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 4 to 18
Website: www.aics.espritscholen.nl

British School of Amsterdam 

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.britams.nl

Lycée Français Vincent van Gogh

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French
Ages: 3 to 13
Website: www.lyceevangogh.nl

International School Almere

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 11 to 18
Website: www.hetbaken.nl

The International School of Amsterdam

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 2 to 18
Website: www.isa.nl

The Japanese School of Amsterdam

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Japanese
Ages: 6 to 15
Website: www.jsa.nl

Lifestyle in Amsterdam

Amsterdam offers a wonderfully diverse selection of leisure and lifestyle activities. With world-class restaurants and fabulous shopping, renowned entertainment options and annual events, expats will have no problem settling into their new lives. 

Numerous nationalities make up the city’s cosmopolitan atmosphere, but English is spoken almost everywhere, making communication a lot easier. There is plenty of entertainment in Amsterdam for single expats as well as those who move with their families.

Active expats and sports fans won't have trouble finding the right gym or perfect area for jogging. Sport and fitness is a big part of Amsterdam's lifestyle, and expats will find everything from dance lessons, yoga and Pilates centres to team sports such as football, volleyball and rowing.


Shopping in Amsterdam

When it comes to shopping in Amsterdam, the city has everything expats could want, including international brand outlets, antique stores, exclusive boutiques, contemporary Dutch design and street markets.

Although the concept of shopping malls is not very popular in the Netherlands, there are a few compact shopping areas in Amsterdam. Many roads in the city centre are closed to cars, making the shopping experience even better.

Kalverstraat and Leidsestraat feature familiar high-street brands; The 9 Streets (De Negen Straatjes) are packed with vintage shops and boutiques; trendy Haarlemmerstraat and Haarlemmerdijk have a mixture of shops and restaurants; Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat, in the museum district, has luxury shopping; and Spiegelkwartier is good for art and antiques.

Those looking for an authentic experience can also explore independent designer shops dotted all over the city.


Eating out in Amsterdam

Although Dutch cuisine isn’t as famous as French or Italian food, a mixture of international restaurants in Amsterdam reflects its diverse population. There is a great variety to choose from, with everything from Indonesian, Surinamese, Indian and Japanese to North African, Turkish and Eastern European cuisine.

The prices fit any kind of pocket, from affordable fast-food chains and streetside herring shops to Michelin-starred restaurants. Expats may want to avoid the tourist areas when choosing a restaurant, since many have inflated prices without the quality to match, but there are a few gems among them.

Some of the best areas to search for food include Haarlemmerstraat, Nieuwmarkt, Utrechtsestraat, The 9 Streets area and Reguliersdwarsstraat.

The only downside to eating in Amsterdam is the famously poor service, which can be quite jarring for anyone used to more polite treatment. With a few notable exceptions, most establishments provide good food but not much in the way of staff friendliness. As always, a smile and a nice word can go a long way towards warming up the atmosphere, but expats shouldn’t take it personally if it isn’t reciprocated.


Nightlife in Amsterdam

Amsterdam's nightlife is anything but boring, and expats can spend a night as quietly or as wildly as they wish.

There are many bars and traditional Dutch pubs known as 'brown cafes' which have a good selection of beers. Numerous clubs await dance lovers wanting to party until morning. The main spots to spend a night out include Leidseplein, Rembrandtplein, the Jordaan and the Red Light District, although this last one can be overcrowded by tourists. These areas are packed with bars, live music venues and nightclubs.

Sport and fitness in Amsterdam

The Dutch value a healthy lifestyle, especially in the nation's capital. Fitness in Amsterdam is closely intertwined with the simple act of living. For instance, most people ride their bike to work to start the day off with a boost of energy.

For expat fitness fanatics that need more, there are many options. Expats in Amsterdam can join a gym, take up a team sport, take dance, yoga or pilates classes, or enjoy what nature has to offer in terms of outdoor sports.

No matter their preferences, expats will find more than enough to keep themselves in tip-top shape.


Gyms in Amsterdam

There are many gyms in Amsterdam that cater to different clientele at different price ranges.

High-end gyms offer group lessons, state-of-the-art equipment, swimming pools, saunas and even babysitting areas where members can drop the kids while they work out. They usually have several different membership options which give variable access to their facilities.

On the other end of the scale, there are numerous smaller, more affordable gyms that only give access to equipment such as machines and weights.

Expats can find all the gyms in their area with a quick Google search.


Team sports in Amsterdam

The prospect of joining a team sport may be more appealing to expats who don't fancy joining a gym. Volleyball, football, field hockey and rowing are all highly popular in Amsterdam, but finding the right club may be difficult because information is generally in Dutch.

The official 'I Amsterdam' website is a good point of reference, as it lists clubs that specifically cater to expats. Team sports are fun and can also be a good way to meet new people.


Dance lessons in Amsterdam

Places such as the Amsterdam Dance Center offer classes in various styles from classical ballet and jazz to hip hop and break dancing. There are many levels to choose from, and lessons are open, meaning that expats won't need to sign up for an entire year. Salsa and Zumba lessons are also popular.


Pilates and yoga in Amsterdam

Pilates and yoga are great options for expats who would prefer a relaxed, full-body toning and strengthening exercise method that develops muscular coordination and better posture.

Expats can find Pilates and yoga lessons in most gyms that offer group lessons, but there are also numerous private schools. There are many good instructors in Amsterdam, although expats should make sure they have proper certification. When choosing a Pilates teacher, going for a trial lesson is suggested before paying for a longer-term plan.


Outdoor sports in Amsterdam

Amsterdam offers many options for outdoor sports, mainly in the warmer months of the year. The Vondelpark and Westerpark are great for jogging, power walking or even in-line skating. 

When expats settle into their life in Amsterdam, they may choose to buy or rent a bike. This is not only one of the best and most popular ways of getting around in Amsterdam but is also a way to keep fit.

Kids and Family in Amsterdam

Expat families will be pleased to know that there is more for kids to see and do in Amsterdam than one might think. Outdoor activities abound and this bicycle-friendly city is a great place for families to get out and stretch their legs.

New arrivals soon realise that the Netherlands is a small country, and getting around from one city or town to the next is fairly easy. While Amsterdam itself hosts a fair number of child-friendly activities, a drive or bus trip out of the city is also recommended for families, whether for a weekend break or a simple day trip.


Family-friendly activities in Amsterdam

In Amsterdam, it's easy to pack a picnic and head to one of the city's fabulous parks or stroll along the canal walkways. Residents also regularly take the kids rollerblading in Vondelpark as a popular outdoor activity.

Animal-loving expats will enjoy a trip to ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo, which is home to an aquarium, planetarium and an arboretum.

Expat parents with smaller children can take their toddlers to TunFun Speelpark, an indoor playground in the heart of the city where kids can run around and let off some steam. Older children can learn from educational attractions such as the Anne Frank House near the Westerkerk.


Family-friendly activities outside of Amsterdam

Families with children needing a little more excitement should set a weekend aside to enjoy the Efteling theme park's exciting rides and activities. This fantasy-themed amusement park is located in Kaatsheuvel, just over an hour's drive from central Amsterdam.

A great way for children to come to grips with their new home is a trip to Madurodam, which features miniature Dutch-styled buildings, factories and streets. This interactive park is located in The Hague and is less than an hour's drive from Amsterdam.

See and Do in Amsterdam

With so much to see and do in Amsterdam, expats will have a great time finding their way around the city's canal-lined streets. Cycling is one great way for expats to get their bearings and take in the city’s sights, or they can take a more leisurely canal tour.

Culture vultures will enjoy artistic attractions such as the Van Gogh Museum and Rembrandt House Museum, while history buffs will love the famed Anne Frank House. Edgier expats will surely head to the Red Light District, even if only out of curiosity, as well as the coffee shops that serve marijuana-infused treats which would be considered illegal back home.


Recommended attractions in Amsterdam

Amsterdam coffee shops

An iconic part of the city. A trip to one of Amsterdam’s coffee shops, where marijuana-based products are available, is an essential part of living in this city, even for expats who don’t partake in any of the ‘activities’.

Amsterdam Museum

Learn about the city’s past as this museum covers Amsterdam's development from a small medieval settlement on the river to the modern thriving metropolis it is today.

Anne Frank House

Step inside the home of Anne Frank, view the original diary she wrote over two years, and learn more about the horrors of World War II in Amsterdam, where anti-Semitism and Nazi persecution were part of daily life.

The Dutch Resistance Museum (Verzetsmuseum)

This museum provides fascinating insights into the Dutch Resistance Movement during World War II, displaying false documents, weaponry and other equipment providing testimony to its members’ innovation.

National Maritime Museum

The Netherlands is known for its famous explorers and the National Maritime Museum covers five centuries of Dutch naval history, allowing visitors a glimpse into the adventurous seafaring past of the Dutch.

Our Dear Lord in the Attic

A concealed Catholic church (the combined top floors of a 17th-century canal house) bears a stark reminder of the Alteration period in the Netherlands where Protestantism was declared the official religion and other churches had to operate in secret.

Red Light District (De Wallen)

Most residents have visited the Red Light District at least once, even if just to say they’ve seen it. It offers more than just bright lights, scantily-clad ladies in the windows, throngs of tourists and canals. Expats and tourists are also recommended to pay a visit to the area's breweries and museums.

Rembrandt House Museum

Expats can catch a glimpse into the life and times of one of the world’s most renowned artists at the Rembrandt House Museum, where the man himself lived between 1639 and 1656, during the height of his career. Be sure to ask about the discounts on offer.

Van Gogh Museum

Housing several hundred paintings and drawings by Van Gogh, all new residents of Amsterdam should see the iconic artist’s work in person.

Vondelpark

The 47-hectare Vondelpark offers a relaxing break in nature. Not only can expat families and friends enjoy a good picnic in this green space, but the park is often buzzing with activity from food services, the playground and even an open-air theatre.

What's On in Amsterdam

There are many great festivals and celebrations that have put the Dutch capital on the map. Here are just a few of the most popular annual events in Amsterdam.


Annual events in Amsterdam

Keukenhof (March to May)

Each year during the spring months, the world's largest garden and tulip flower park explodes with colour and its beautiful tulips attract more than a million visitors. The themed gardens, sculptures and children’s exhibitions provide a great day out for the whole family.

King's Day (April)

Expats shouldn't be alarmed when they see people wearing orange crowns in the streets; it’s just the annual celebration of the King's birthday. Don a crown, dress in orange and enjoy the street party, jumble sales and festivities.

Holland Festival (June)

Each year the country’s most exciting dancers, artists and shows can be found at the Holland Festival. Expats who book a ticket will be supporting local artists while taking in some Dutch culture and artistic innovation.

Amsterdam Gay Pride (August)

Amsterdam is known for hosting one of the best Pride parties in the world. Celebrations take place over two weeks, with street parties, concerts, the Drag Queen Olympics and the Canal Parade.

Grachtenfestival (August)

Grachtenfestival (Canal Festival) is a classical music festival that takes place in numerous interesting venues around Amsterdam’s canals.

Amsterdam Marathon (October)

This annual running event is known for its scenic course along the Amstel River and passing famous Dutch landmarks before finishing at the Olympic Stadium.

Frequently Asked Questions about Amsterdam

Expats moving to Amsterdam often have various questions about their new home. New arrivals to the city are sometimes caught off guard by the liberal atmosphere, and learning the language can also be a concern. Read on for answers to the most frequently asked questions about living in Amsterdam. 

Is a car necessary in Amsterdam?

There is a plethora of public transport options in Amsterdam, including buses, trams and a metro system, so expats won't need a car. It's a cyclist-friendly city with numerous dedicated bicycle paths, and expats will find that cycling is often the easiest and cheapest way to get around in Amsterdam.

Do expats need to speak Dutch in Amsterdam?

For expats staying for the long term who want to become friends with locals, learning the language is important. While most of the Dutch are able to speak English, speaking to them in their home language will go a long way to earning their trust. It's also important for people doing business to speak the local language, unless they're based in an English-speaking office.

Is Amsterdam safe?

Amsterdam is generally safe but expats should beware of people who brush against others in crowds – it’s possible that they're pickpockets searching for valuables. Bicycle theft is also a big issue and cyclists should make sure their bikes are securely locked when they park them. It's best to be sensible and take the same safety precautions as in any other large city.

What are Amsterdam's best neighbourhoods to stay in?

Most expats agree that most areas and suburbs of the city have something unique and special to offer. However, an expat's choice of accommodation may depend on budget, lifestyle and whether they moved as a family or on their own. Those who are keen for the hustle and bustle – and can afford it – may find an apartment in Amsterdam Centrum, while Indische Buurt presents more affordable options. Oud-West and Amsterdam-Zuid are popular among expat families.

Getting Around in Amsterdam

Getting around in Amsterdam is easy thanks to its extensive public transport system consisting of buses, trams, trains and a metro.

The road signage is clear, abundant and helpful in traffic for pedestrians, drivers and cyclists alike. All bus and tram stations have maps, schedules and lists of stops to help expats when they aren’t sure which way to go. If they get lost, expats can always ask the locals, as most speak English fluently and are generally happy to help.


Public transport in Amsterdam

Amsterdam's public transport is based on zones, and costs get higher with distance, especially when crossing zones. There is an equal base price for any trip, and additional costs are added to that.

The OV-chipkaart smart card system can be used for payment on all kinds of public transport in Amsterdam. There are different types of subscriptions available, ranging from daily to yearly options.

It’s important that expats remember to check in and out with their cards when getting on and off public transport. This is done by holding their OV card up to the card readers when they board and get off.

With the help of an app such as Google Maps, navigating Amsterdam's public transport is made easy.

Trams and buses

An extensive tram network covers central Amsterdam, with trams arriving frequently and reliably. However, during peak traffic times, this can be a slow way to travel.

The bus network in Amsterdam mostly covers the city’s periphery and extends beyond it to other cities. Some streets are only covered by buses.

Day buses and trams stop running around midnight, after which night buses take over on some routes. Night bus tickets are pricier and waiting times are longer than for daytime transport.

Metro

The metro system in Amsterdam is well maintained but isn’t as extensive as trams or buses and doesn't cover the whole city. It is, however, the fastest way to get around.

Train

Trains in Amsterdam are useful for regional and international travellers, with the line connecting central Amsterdam to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol being especially popular. There are also trains linking Amsterdam to surrounding Dutch towns as well as international destinations such as Belgium, France and Germany.


Taxis in Amsterdam

Taxis can be found at taxi ranks or ordered by telephone. It’s quite difficult to hail a taxi on the street, which carries the risk of getting an unofficial taxi at an exorbitant price. All licensed taxis have a blue number plate.

Ride-hailing applications such as Uber are available in Amsterdam and are in some cases the quickest and easiest way to catch a taxi.


Driving in Amsterdam 

It’s not necessary to own a car in Amsterdam unless expats want to travel outside the city regularly. Driving to work isn’t necessarily advised because parking is expensive and difficult to find. The streets are narrow and the authorities do their best to discourage usage of cars – between parking permits, road taxes, insurance and fuel, it gets expensive.

When a car is absolutely needed, there are various car-sharing and rental services for quick transport or longer trips.


Cycling in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a bicycle-friendly city and cycling is one of the best ways to get around. The so-called bakfiets are popular – these cargo bicycles have an open or enclosed box that’s used to carry children, pets and shopping bags.

While bikes are available for rent, expats who choose to buy a bicycle usually agree it's a good investment. Both first and second-hand bikes can be found for sale.


Walking in Amsterdam

Walking around Amsterdam is easy. It isn’t a big city, and most of the time the distance between places can be covered on foot.

When they’re walking, expats should make sure they don’t confuse cycle paths with the sidewalk or pavement. This is a common mistake newcomers make. The difference between the two is always the colour used for the pavement. Cycle paths are usually crimson or marked with a bicycle sign. Expats should look out for these signs as cyclists are generally in a hurry and don't stop for anyone, which leads to collisions.