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Moving to Utrecht

Expats moving to Utrecht will find themselves in the heart of the Netherlands in an exciting hive of commercial activity. This city retains a medieval history while embracing its development as a cosmopolitan centre for education, business and culture. 

As the Netherlands’ fourth most populated city, Utrecht boasts a reputation as a centre of academia, research and innovation. A selection of key educational institutions, including Utrecht University, draws local and international students to the city, as well as expats working in the education sector.

Job opportunities in other sectors are also constantly growing, from banking and finance to ICT, engineering and transport. Utrecht manages an efficient transport hub, which not only adds to the great quality of life here, but is also an industry that employs plenty of expats. 

Thanks to the extensive public transport network, getting around is easy. Driving a car is not essential – though owning or renting a bike may be. Like elsewhere in the country, the cycling culture holds strong in Utrecht. It’s the norm to cycle around Utrecht’s areas and suburbs, whether residents are going shopping, to work or school.

To add to this healthy lifestyle, there are plenty of things to see and do to occupy an expat's free time. Students and young expats enjoy the lively atmosphere and upbeat nightlife with everything from live music venues to jazz cafes. A calendar full of exciting annual events guarantees something for everyone, whether an expat is a music lover, sports enthusiast or culture vulture. 

Families and expats of all ages can also explore all sorts of attractions, including medieval castles, forts and citadels, as well as art galleries and quirky museums.

In fact, while Utrecht is largely known as a university town, the city is also family friendly, and accommodation options are available to suit a range of new arrivals.

Additionally, parents with children moving to Utrecht for the long haul can rest assured that quality public schooling is available, and at little or no cost. However, parents who intend to send their child to an international school will have limited options, so they’ll need to act fast to secure a spot.

Expats relocating to Utrecht shouldn’t struggle to find their feet in a city that embraces diversity and is equipped with all the modern amenities. Utrecht offers an expat experience full of culture and history while simultaneously providing new arrivals with a comfortable standard of living.

Working in Utrecht

Expats moving to Utrecht in search of work will find job openings in a range of sectors provided they have the right skill set. From financial services and banking to ICT and engineering, there are plenty of opportunities for career advancement in this city.  


Job market in Utrecht

Thanks to the presence of Utrecht University, one of the most established tertiary education institutions in the Netherlands, the city produces a large number of highly-qualified graduates each year. This academia and research presence has also served to attract a large number of businesses in a variety of sectors to the city and, as a result, Utrecht’s job market is strong.

Banking and financial services play a prominent role in Utrecht’s economy, while ICT companies have also seen value in setting up operations here. As Utrecht continues to build its reputation as a hub for technology, it has experienced an influx of developers which in turn has made the city a popular base for digital start-ups and game-development companies.

Health sciences are also a major employer in Utrecht with the city being home to one of the Netherlands’ largest medical research institutions.

Given the city’s central location within the Netherlands, Utrecht is a major transport hub. This has attracted large transport and engineering companies. ProRail, the governmental organisation which oversees the country’s rail network, is based in Utrecht.


Finding a job in Utrecht

Many expats relocating to Utrecht will come with a job offer in hand or on an intercompany transfer, having worked at the office of an international company back in their home country.

For those in search of employment, the internet is probably the best starting point. Job portals provide insight into the types of jobs available in Utrecht and the salary an expat could hope to get. Job agencies can also assist job seekers.

Often, one of the best ways to find a job is through networking. It's helpful to make connections with people – online or in person at a job fair, for example – working in a relevant industry who can alert expats to an opening before it is advertised publicly. 

Although Utrecht’s job market is certainly growing rapidly, it still does not have the international presence that expats would find in the Dutch capital, Amsterdam. So, while it may not be a formal requirement for expats to speak Dutch, it will definitely set them apart from the competition and help them get a foot in the door.  

Non-EU citizens will require a work permit to take up a job offer in the Netherlands. In many cases, this involves their employer having to prove that the position has been advertised locally but wasn't filled by either a Dutch or EU citizen.


Work culture in Utrecht

The work culture in Utrecht, like elsewhere in the Netherlands, is known to be disciplined. When doing business, expats should also note that the Dutch may address colleagues in a direct tone. This is not to be blunt, but rather deliver clear communication. The office culture may also vary across institutions and whether an expat works for a local Utrecht-based company or an international one.

While hard work is valued, expats are likely to find a healthy work-life balance, enjoying their free time to relax, unwind and explore all the things to see and do in the city.

Cost of Living in Utrecht

The cost of living in Utrecht is similar to what one would expect in other major Dutch cities such as Eindhoven and Rotterdam. Expats will find that accommodation – as is often the case in a major city – is their biggest expense. As some types of housing are in short supply, landlords are able to charge more rent. Another similarity to other big cities is that living further away from the city centre of Utrecht will save expats quite a bit on rental costs.


Cost of accommodation in Utrecht

Accommodation is likely to take up a substantial amount of an expat’s budget. Utrecht is a rapidly expanding city and the supply of housing has not been able to keep up with demand. As a result, competition for certain types of housing, especially in sought-after locations in the city, is high and rental costs can also be pretty pricey as a result.


Cost of transport in Utrecht

True to Dutch culture, cycling is probably the most popular mode of transport among locals in Utrecht. Expats who decide to follow this lead and invest in a bike will find that their transport costs are significantly reduced.

If cycling isn’t a viable option, then Utrecht’s public transport network (buses and trams) connects commuters to most parts of the city at reasonable prices. Single tickets can be expensive, but paying for longer-term options will save money.

Owning a car in Utrecht, as in much of the Netherlands, is expensive. Local authorities have taken steps to discourage people from driving into the city centre and, as such, parking is very expensive. Taxi fares in the city are also on the pricey side.


Cost of education in Utrecht

The cost of education in Utrecht is fairly affordable, especially if expats choose to send their children to a local school. Public education in the Netherlands is available at little or no cost. Some public schools even offer bilingual classes to accommodate expat students.

However, many expats still prefer to send their children to international schools. Fees at these schools are high and additional expenses such as the cost of uniforms, books and excursions can mount up. Expats working in Utrecht who intend to send their children to an international school should try to negotiate an allowance into their relocation package.


Cost of healthcare in Utrecht

Expats moving to Utrecht can rest assured that they’ll have access to good quality healthcare. However, healthcare costs in the Netherlands are much higher than those in other European countries. Once an expat starts working in the Netherlands and registers at their local municipality, they will be obliged to take out a Dutch health insurance policy. The cost of medical insurance varies according to how extensive the policy is.


Cost of living chart for Utrecht 

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

Accommodation (monthly)

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

EUR 1,100 - 1,400

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

EUR 800 - 1,100

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

EUR 1,800 - 2,200 

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

EUR 1,200 - 1,600

Groceries

Milk (1 litre)

EUR 1

Loaf of white bread

EUR 1.75

Rice (1kg)

EUR 2

Dozen eggs

EUR 2.30

Chicken breasts (1kg)

EUR 7.90

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 35

Utilities (monthly for average size home)

EUR 200

Eating out

Three-course meal at mid-range restaurant for two

EUR 70

Big Mac meal

EUR 8

Cappuccino

EUR 3.20

Local beer (500ml)

EUR 5

Coca-Cola (330ml)

EUR 2.80

Transport

Taxi rate (per km)

EUR 2.35

City-centre bus fare

EUR 2.80

Petrol/gasoline

EUR 1.70

Accommodation in Utrecht

As well as historically being a popular student city, Utrecht is fast becoming one of the most attractive places to live in the Netherlands. Not only does it offer the amenities found in most big cities, but it's also full of character and retains a small-town feel. Plus, the cost of living in Utrecht is a fraction of the cost that one would pay in Amsterdam, for instance.

These drawcards have brought an influx of highly-qualified professionals to Utrecht to take up jobs at companies that have chosen to base their operations there. Unfortunately, the housing market has not kept pace with the rapid population growth of the city and, as a result, finding suitable accommodation can be a bit of a battle.   


Types of accommodation in Utrecht

The type of housing a person would opt for depends on a number of factors, including their demographic, whether they are moving to Utrecht with a family, and their lifestyle priorities.

Furnished and unfurnished housing options are both available in Utrecht. There are plenty of shops to purchase inexpensive furniture so there should be little need to ship furniture unless expats are looking to settle in the Netherlands.

Apartments

Apartments are probably the most common accommodation option available in Utrecht. There is a range of different apartment living options available in both modern and older complexes. One thing to be aware of when looking for apartments is that Utrecht has a huge student population which means some apartment buildings can get quite loud at times. However, this shouldn’t pose too much of an issue when looking at places further away from the areas surrounding the university.

Terraced houses

Most family homes in Utrecht’s suburbs are terraced houses which are two or three storeys high, with a front and back garden. They are typically grouped in small blocks of three or more identical homes which are adjoined. Terraced houses tend to be a good option for those with small families that require more space than can be found in a regular apartment.

Semi-detached and detached houses

Those with a bigger budget might be interested in looking at semi-detached and detached housing options which are more likely to be found in outlying suburbs or the countryside that surrounds Utrecht. These properties tend to have more spacious rooms and ample garden space.


Finding accommodation in Utrecht

Expats who’ve been hired to work for a large international company based in Utrecht are likely to find that their employer will provide some assistance when it comes to house hunting. Often, this includes support from an external relocation company in the Netherlands.

For those going it alone, the best place to start the house search would be online property portals. Anyone planning on relocating to Utrecht can use online resources to get an idea of the type of property options available to them and the price of rentals.

However, considering the competition for property in Utrecht, combined with the language barrier that might be encountered by those that don’t speak Dutch, using a real estate agent is the best option for most new arrivals. Rental agents in Utrecht will have in-depth knowledge about the local property market and are best placed to help expats find a house or apartment that meets their requirements.


Renting accommodation in Utrecht

When renting a property in Utrecht, expats should look out for a lease agreement that suits them and their expected duration of stay in the city. Expats who know when they plan on leaving Utrecht may opt for a lease with a fixed period and set end date, while others may prefer an open-ended lease, valid for an indefinite period.

Leases

The format of lease agreements in Utrecht may vary slightly depending on the landlord or agency, but it must include the cost of the rental and what is included in that price, the length of the contract, any stipulations regarding the maintenance of the property, the date on which the rent will be increased and the notice period required to terminate the contract.

Deposits

Usually, a deposit equivalent to one or two (and sometimes three) months’ rent will be required to secure a rental contract. 

Utilities

It's important to note that utilities and municipal taxes are not always included so the tenant may be required to make additional payments on top of their monthly rental.

Areas and suburbs in Utrecht

The best places to live in Utrecth

While Utrecht is smaller than Amsterdam or Rotterdam, it sure does hold its own in terms of the neighbourhoods on offer. Given the presence of large academic and research institutions such as Utrecht University, the city is often seen as a university town, but it's also home to plenty of expat families and working professionals.

Rental prices and an expat’s budget are often the biggest determining factors when looking for housing in Utrecht. We also recommend expats consider living in a suburb close to work, schools and transport links, while lifestyle preferences will also play a major role.

Here is a list of some of the most popular areas and suburbs in Utrecht.


City centre in Utrecht

Jonne Mäkikyrö, Utrecht

Living in Utrecht’s historic city centre will certainly be poetic with its narrow streets, beautiful townhouses, markets, canals and quaint cafes. Expats living in the centre of town will have their pick when it comes to restaurants, bars and quirky fashion boutiques.

As the city centre is a touristy area and housing is in high demand, accommodation here tends to be pricier and less spacious compared to what can be found further out in the suburbs. 

A major advantage of living so centrally is the accessibility of public transport networks that connect the city centre to surrounding areas. Those who need to travel further afield will be close to Utrecht Central railway station and can easily catch a train to Rotterdam, The Hague or Amsterdam within an hour – a plus for those who need to travel regularly for business.


Areas for students and young working professionals in Utrecht

Martin Suarez, Utrecht

Oost

The presence of Utrecht University sees a new influx of young students from all over the world each year, which accounts for much of the liveliness felt in the city and surrounding areas. 

Oost, which translates to east, is home to the university and Utrecht Science Park, so students typically look for housing here. Given the high demand and central location, accommodation in Oost can be expensive.

Zuid

More affordable accommodation for students and young working professionals can be found in Zuid, south of the city centre. Expats students and young families often secure a budget-friendly rental property in a neighbourhood such as Hoograven or Tolsteeg.


Family-friendly areas in Utrecht

Margot Polinder, Utrecht

Nieuwegein

Nieuwegein is a relatively new town which was established in the 1970s to cater to Utrecht’s expanding population. It lies around 6 miles (10km) south of Utrecht’s city centre and is connected to the city by three main nearby motorways as well as the sneltram (light rail and tram) network.

There is a variety of housing options available in Nieuwegein, including classic Dutch brick homes and modern high-rise apartment complexes. Many homes are located close to green spaces, parks and lakes, so this is a great suburb for expats moving with children.

De Vechtstreek

This is a picturesque suburb located to the northwest of Utrecht and close to Loodsrechtse Plassen lakes. Local rail and bus services connect the area to the centre of Utrecht. Properties tend to be spacious, with most being located within new housing estates. The area is popular with young families and home to a number of good schools.

Leidsche Rijn

Leidsche Rijn is considered to be one of the largest new development in the Netherlands. It consists of a smaller area of the same name (Leidsche Rijn) and Vleuten-De Meern, which covers two urbanised neighbourhoods. 

This up-and-coming area has seen its population grow and, along with it, homes and a business space have been constructed – appealing to families and expats working in Utrecht. Accommodation in Leidsche Rij is modern with much of it being designed and built with environmental concerns in mind. There are also plans for a new hospital, shopping facilities, a train station and a bus system to be implemented here.

Healthcare in Utrecht

Expats moving to Utrecht can rest assured that the Netherlands is credited with having one of the best healthcare systems in Europe. So, expats can be sure that they will have access to excellent facilities and highly qualified medical professionals. However, it is important to do some research and invest in the right health insurance policy when moving to Utrecht. 

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.

Generally, most medical staff at hospitals in Utrecht speak English well, so expats should not have too much of an issue when it comes to communication. 

Here is a list of some of the major hospitals and healthcare facilities in Utrecht.


Hospitals in Utrecht

Diakonessenhuis

Website: www.diakonessenhuis.nl
Address: Bosboomstraat 1, 3582 KE Utrecht

St Antonius Ziekenhuis

Website: www.antoniusziekenhuis.nl
Address: Soestwetering 1, 3543 AZ Utrecht

UMC Utrecht

Website: www.umcutrecht.nl
Address: Heidelberglaan 100, 3584 CX Utrecht

Wilhelmina Kinderziekenhuis

Website: www.hetwkz.nl
Address: Lundlaan 6, 3584 EA Utrecht

Education and Schools in Utrecht

School is compulsory in the Netherlands between the ages of five and 16. All schools in the country, including private ones, are overseen by the Dutch Inspectorate of Education, and the standards are closely monitored.

Expats moving to Utrecht will be pleased by the schooling options on offer and find that the education system in the Netherlands is of a high standard.


Public schools in Utrecht

Expat children can attend public schools in the Netherlands along with Dutch children. While the teaching style may differ from what expat students are accustomed to, the quality and reputation of public schools across the Netherlands are good.

However, the language of instruction is Dutch. So, public schools in Utrecht are only really a viable option for very young children whose parents plan on settling down in the Netherlands. Expat parents can also contact the municipality and schools directly to find out if any bilingual programmes are offered.

Attendance is optional in the first year of primary school and only becomes compulsory on a child’s fifth birthday.

Government-funded schools are free to all children aged between four and 16, with subsidised fees being applicable for the last two years of school.

There are three types of public secondary education and recommendations made by primary school teachers aim to ensure each child is matched with the option that best suits their character and abilities. Each of these schools starts with a generic curriculum and then specialise in different areas. VMBO (voorbereidend middelbaar beroepsonderwijs) schools offer a practical and vocational programme, while HAVO (hoger algemeen voortgezet onderwijs) and VWO (voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs) are more academically focused. 


Private and international schools in Utrecht

Private and international schools in the Netherlands have a little more flexibility when it comes to teaching methods, language and curricula. Expats may therefore find that these are a better option for their children.

That said, there is only one international school in Utrecht and it follows the International Baccalaureate curriculum. Naturally, it is oversubscribed so expats who want to pursue this option should be sure to apply well ahead of time.

Additionally, fees are high and add to the cost of living in Utrecht. Parents are also advised to budget for expenses such as the cost of uniforms, textbooks and school excursions.


Nurseries in Utrecht

Families moving to Utrecht with young children will find no shortage of preschools and nurseries. Daycares in Utrecht care for children as young as three months old, while infants aged two to four attend preschools.

Partou is the country's biggest childcare organisation and offers centres in Utrecht.


Special-needs education in Utrecht

The Netherlands values inclusive education and both public and private schools in Utrecht offer services to support students with disabilities, impairments and disorders. We recommend that new arrivals in Utrecht enquire at their local municipality about the exact services available.

Aside from mainstream classes, expats will also find speciaal basisonderwijs (SBO) and speciaal onderwijs schools. These centres are dedicated to special education needs. Speciaal onderwijs schools are divided into clusters depending on the type of impairment or disorder, including visual impairments, hearing or speech impediments, physical or cognitive disabilities, and behavioural or social problems.


Homeschooling in Utrecht

The Dutch legal system only recognises homeschooling in highly specific situations. Expat parents typically send their children to a public or private school, and few see the need to homeschool their kids. That said, distance learning is fast becoming a new reality. Parents are encouraged to ask at the local municipality and the schools themselves for information on programmes and resources available.


Tutors in Utrecht

Expat children may need some additional support integrating into the new education system while the whole family can benefit from Dutch language lessons. Hiring a tutor can be the answer to this. New arrivals will encounter a host of tutoring companies in Utrecht. Tutors can also be found via online platforms, and sessions can be conducted in person or online.

Lifestyle in Utrecht

While the lifestyle options in Utrecht may not be on the same level as larger European cities, expats living here are often surprised to find that there is quite a lot on offer in terms of shopping, eating out and nightlife. Expats who enjoy the outdoors will be in their element when it comes to exploring the countryside that surrounds Utrecht.


Shopping in Utrecht

While Utrecht may not compare on scale to the shopping experience in the country’s capital, Amsterdam, expats moving here won’t be disappointed when it comes to getting their fix of retail therapy.

In the city’s charming old centre, shoppers will have a grand selection, from the leading Dutch department stores to small boutiques, trendy retail concepts and bustling markets. Head to the antique stores located along the Oudegracht or in the Museumkwartier to find unique second-hand gems. The best places for bespoke fashion can be found in Voorstraat and Schoutenstraat where many young fashion designers are based. Expats looking for home decor should check out the stores on Zadelstraat.

Most shops in Utrecht are open seven days a week. When the bad weather strikes, shoppers can head indoors to Hoog Catharijne, one of the largest indoor shopping malls in the Netherlands which is connected to Utrecht’s Centraal Station.


Eating out in Utrecht

Expats moving to Utrecht won’t be disappointed when it comes to dining out. The city offers an array of international restaurant options and eateries to suit a spectrum of palates. From French, Italian, Chinese, Thai and Indian cuisines to restaurants serving experimental dishes and vegan delights, expats in Utrecht won’t struggle when it comes to finding a place to eat.

Being a student town, many restaurants have weekly specials which allow diners to eat out on a budget. Utrecht is famous for its pubs where expats can mingle with locals while enjoying a good quality steak and a beer.


Nightlife in Utrecht

As you’d expect from a city that is home to a massive student population, the nightlife in Utrecht is buzzing. That said, it’s not all about students' bars and raging nightclubs. Expats will also find live music venues, jazz cafes and intimate theatre performances.

A popular place for nightlife in Utrecht is the area known as Neude Janskerkhof en Domplein. This area is teeming with young crowds enjoying drinks and live music every weekend. Ledig Erf is also popular with locals in Utrecht thanks to its outdoor terraces which provide a great spot for sundowners, especially in the summer months.


Sports and outdoor activities in Utrecht

Active expats who enjoy being outdoors will enjoy living in Utrecht. The city is small and the city centre can easily be navigated on foot or, of course, by bike. The locals love to cycle and besides the daily commute, recreational cycle routes abound.

Runners will also enjoy being out and about in Utrecht – each year the city plays host to the Singelloop Utrecht, or Canal Run, which is described as one of the world's fastest 10km races.

See and Do in Utrecht

Expats moving to Utrecht will find that there is plenty to see and do in the city. Simply taking a stroll on the docks or through the city centre provides a great opportunity to marvel at national monuments and take in the city’s heritage. Cycling is a fun way for visitors to explore attractions that are further afield. From castles, forts and citadels to informative museums, galleries and the stunning botanical gardens, the city has expats spoilt for choice when it comes to must-see attractions.


Recommended attractions in Utrecht

Centraal Museum

Utrecht’s main museum was founded in 1838 and gives visitors an insight into the city’s history and culture through a range of exhibits.

De Haar Castle

A visit to the Netherlands' largest castle and its landscaped garden is the highlight of anyone’s stay in Utrecht. Its history dates back to the 13th century but largely fell to ruins before its restoration in the 19th century. Located near Haarzuilens, this castle plays host to regular fairs and events throughout the year.

Dom Church

Dom Church, also known as St Martin’s Cathedral, is a Gothic church dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours. The architecture is impressive and the view from the top is well worth the 465-step climb to get there.

Museum Catharijneconvent

This is a museum dedicated to religious art in the Netherlands. It was opened in 1978 and houses the country’s largest collection of medieval art treasures. The tours are illuminating and provide great insights into a part of the country’s culture.

Museum Speelklok

A museum dedicated to music boxes and barrel organs, this is possibly one of Utrecht’s more unusual tourist attractions. Exhibits display instruments from the 18th century as well as music boxes and fair organs which are still in working order today.

Oudegracht

Oudegracht, or 'old canal', is a canal that runs through the centre of Utrecht. On a sunny day, it’s well worth taking a stroll along the canal and admiring the historic buildings that have now been turned into restaurants, bars, galleries and boutique shops.

Rietveld Schröder House

This UNESCO-listed 1920s building was designed by the Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld for Mrs Truus Schröder-Schräder and her family. The house was commissioned to be designed without walls and its design occupies a prominent position in the development of modern architecture.

Utrecht Botanical Gardens

Located on the eastern edge of the city on Utrecht University’s campus, the famous Botanical Gardens are well worth a visit. Filled with an array of plants, trees and a beautiful collection of butterflies, visitors will certainly have plenty to keep them occupied.

What's On in Utrecht

Utrecht may not be quite as large as Amsterdam or Rotterdam, but the city holds its own when it comes to entertainment. Expats moving to Utrecht will find that its packed calendar of annual events has something to interest everyone. From live music festivals to sporting events and cultural parades, Utrecht plays host to a diverse range of events.


Annual events in Utrecht

King’s Day (April)

King Willem-Alexander’s birthday is celebrated on 27 April and Utrecht goes all out in celebration. Watch as the town squares transform into dancefloors and everybody dresses in orange for the day. The festivities often begin the night before the king’s birthday with the traditional vrijmarkt (free market) jumble sale kicking off in the early evening. Here locals come together for 24 hours to sell secondhand goods and various homemade treats.

Liberation Day (May)

On the 5 May, the Netherlands celebrates the end of the German occupation during WWII. Utrecht, like all the other main cities, puts together a programme of festivities packed with musical performances and vibrant street fairs as well as events for children.

SPRING Performing Arts Festival Utrecht (May)

An international festival where audiences are treated to stunning theatre, dance and visual art performances. The main events take place at theatre venues around Utrecht and there are also plenty of spontaneous street performances.

Singelloop Utrecht (September/October)

Every September or October, runners from across the world head to Utrecht to take part in what is considered one of the world’s fastest 10km runs, the Singelloop Utrecht or Canal Run. It’s a scenic run through the streets of Utrecht and the city’s residents come out in force to support the runners. The atmosphere is electric whether an expat chooses to take part or spectate.

International Chamber Music Festival (December)

A gathering of the world’s best classical musicians who come together to perform traditional pieces as well newer works. The festival is extremely popular and tickets sell out fast so be sure not to miss out.

Saint Nicholas Festivities (December)

Expats in Utrecht should be sure to not miss the annual Saint Nicholas Festivities that take place in late November and early December. The celebrations begin with the arrival of Saint Nicholas and culminate with an evening of gift giving (pakjesavond). Don't forget to try the freshly baked ginger nuts and the traditional Dutch speculaas spiced biscuits.

Getting Around in Utrecht

Utrecht’s central location within the Netherlands makes it an ideal transport hub for the rest of the country. Expats moving to the city will also find that it's home to an efficient transport network and getting around Utrecht is fairly straightforward.


Public transport in Utrecht

While Utrecht Centraal Station is a hub for intercity trains throughout the Netherlands, public transport within the city mainly consists of an extensive bus network and a small tram system. Most locals get around using their bikes and on foot, especially within the city centre.

OV-chipkaart

Utrecht has an integrated public transport system which makes getting around the city easy. The OV-chipkaart is a smart card which can be used to pay for public transport throughout the city as well as the rest of the country. The OV-chipkaart can be loaded with credit and commuters swipe at the start and end of each bus or tram journey.

Buses

The main mode of public transport in Utrecht is buses. Utrecht’s bus network is extensive and takes commuters almost anywhere. Utrecht Centraal station is the main hub for the bus system as well as the national train network. For those travelling outside daytime hours, Utrecht’s bus service has a select number of ‘nightlines’ which operate on a limited schedule. 

Trams

Utrecht’s 'sneltram' system is made up of three light-rail lines. While the tram system is not quite as comprehensive as Utrecht’s bus network, it’s certainly a faster mode of transport for those who live along the routes.


Taxis in Utrecht

Taxis are available in Utrecht but fares are high, so most people only use them occasionally. Expats will find that Utrecht taxis are safe, clean and generally reliable. Taxis can be found at a few designated ranks in the city and at Utrecht Centraal. It's often best to call ahead and pre-book a service.

All licensed taxis in the Netherlands have special plates which are blue with black lettering on them.


Driving in Utrecht

Having a car is not essential in Utrecht. The city is fairly small and easy to navigate using public transport. In fact, the city authorities actively discourage people from driving, especially within the city centre. Driving can become frustrating in Utrecht as a result of having to manoeuvre around bus lanes and one-way streets.

In addition, parking is extremely expensive. Park and Ride services are available where residents can park outside the city limits and catch a shuttle into the centre of town.

While many people don’t use a car in Utrecht, it can come in handy for those with children or people who want to explore the surrounding countryside at weekends.


Cycling in Utrecht

One thing expats moving to Utrecht won’t be able to avoid are bicycles; locals like to cycle everywhere. Utrecht is a bicycle-friendly city, so expats would do well to follow their lead. Those who choose to cycle will find that it's by far the easiest and most convenient way to get around the city. There are dedicated cycle routes and facilities where bicycles can be stored securely.

Those who don’t have a bike of their own can rent one at the city’s many bicycle shops. There are lots of outlets close to the train station. Bike-sharing schemes are also popular, such as OV-fiets or the USP Campusbike for staff and students at Utrecht Science Park.

Those who choose to cycle should ensure that they invest in solid bike locks. Although Utrecht is generally safe, bike theft is quite common in parts of the city. Alternatively, use the secure bike parking areas provided by the council.


Walking in Utrecht

Utrecht is an exceptionally safe city and walking is a great way to get around. The city centre is compact so exploring on foot is a viable option. Expats who stay in an area or suburb close to their office may find themselves walking to work. Be sure to only walk on the sidewalks, and stay clear of the designated cycle paths when walking.