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Moving to Utrecht

Expats moving to Utrecht will find a city that retains a medieval past while rapidly developing into a cosmopolitan centre for business, education and culture. Utrecht is the fourth most populated city in the Netherlands, with over a fifth of the city’s population being made up of students.

The majority of expats moving to Utrecht relocate with a job in hand. However, those with relevant skills in sectors such as banking and finance, life sciences, ICT and engineering are sure to find many good job opportunities as these sectors are constantly growing in the city.  

As is the case throughout the Netherlands, the standard of housing in Utrecht is very good. However, as a result of a rapidly growing population, housing supply often fails to meet the demand, thus landlords are able to inflate rental prices in sought-after areas. Expats moving to Utrecht would therefore benefit from enlisting the services of a good real estate agent.

Expats living in Utrecht enjoy a good lifestyle, although it doesn’t come cheap. Whether expats prefer to spend the day indulging in luxury shopping and enjoying fine wine and good food in one of Utrecht’s Michelin-starred restaurants or prefer to scour the local markets for a second-hand bargain and join the locals for a steak and beer, there really is something for everyone.

When they aren’t working, expats will find plenty things to occupy their free time. From medieval castles, forts and citadels to art galleries and quirky museums there are all sorts of attractions on offer in Utrecht. Furthermore, the city has a calendar full of exciting annual events and there is guaranteed to be something for everyone whether one is a music lover, sports enthusiast or culture vulture.

Despite its ongoing expansion, Utrecht is still a relatively small city. Navigating Utrecht isn’t too difficult thanks to its efficient public transport network which is made up of buses and trams. For the majority of people, a car is not a necessity. By far the most popular way to get around Utrecht is by bike and the city is well equipped to support cyclists with dedicated cycle lanes and secure facilities for bike parking.

The standard of healthcare in the Netherlands is excellent and expats in Utrecht can rest assured that their medical needs will be well taken care of. The lines between the public and private health sectors are however somewhat blurred so expats should take the time to familiarise themselves with the system. They should also invest in a good health insurance policy that will cover any necessary medical treatment during their time in Utrecht.

Those moving to Utrecht with children will be pleased to know that the city has a number of good primary and secondary schools. Expats who are looking to settle down in the Netherlands in the long term can opt to take advantage of the country’s great public schooling system which offers residents good quality education at little or no cost. However, those intending to send their child to an international school in Utrecht should note that there is only one such option available, so they’ll need to act fast in order to secure a spot for their child.

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, those from a variety of backgrounds will find lots 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 thousands of highly qualified graduates each year. This has served to attract a large number of businesses from a variety of sectors to the city and as a result, Utrecht’s economy is rapidly expanding.

Banking and financial services play a prominent role in Utrecht’s economy, and ICT companies have also seen value in setting up operations in the city. 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.

As a result of the city’s central location within the Netherlands, Utrecht is a major transport hub and 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

The majority of expats relocating to Amsterdam 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 a good insight into the types of jobs available in the city and the salary an expat could hope to get. There are a number of job agencies that can assist job seekers. However, often the best way to find a job is through networking and making connections with those working in a relevant industry who can alert expats to an opening before it is advertised publically.   

Although Utrecht’s job market is certainly growing rapidly, it still does not have the international presence that one 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, which is many cases would involve their employer having to prove that the position has been advertised locally but has not been able to be filled by either a Dutch or EU citizen.

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 investing in 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 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 health 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 May 2020.

Accommodation (monthly)

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

EUR 1,200 - 1,400

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

EUR 800 - 1,000

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

EUR 1,700 - 2,100 

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

EUR 1,300 - 1,600


Milk (1 litre)


Loaf of white bread

EUR 1.20

Rice (1kg)


Dozen eggs

EUR 2.70

Chicken breasts (1kg)

EUR 8.50

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)



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 180

Eating out

Three-course meal at mid-range restaurant for two

EUR 70

Big Mac meal



EUR 3.20

Local beer (500ml)


Coca-Cola (330ml)



Taxi rate (per km)

EUR 2.30

City-centre bus fare

EUR 2.70


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 thanks as a well-maintained medieval centre and its close proximity to the Dutch countryside. All of this is offered at a fraction of the cost that one would pay to live in Amsterdam.

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 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, especially 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 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.

For those going it alone, the best place to start the housing 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

The format of lease agreements in Utrecht may vary slightly depending on the landlord or agency one is using, 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.

Usually, a deposit equivalent to one or two months’ rent will be required to secure a rental contract. 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

While it may not be quite as large as Amsterdam or Rotterdam, expats moving to Utrecht will find there is a range of neighbourhoods to choose from. The decision on which area or suburb of Utrecht in which to live in depends on a number of factors, such as proximity to an expat’s place of work, proximity to good schools, the availability of transport options, lifestyle choices, housing options available and rental prices.

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

City centre

Living in Utrecht’s historic city centre will certainly be poetic with its narrow streets, beautiful townhouses, markets, canals and quaint cafés. The presence of Utrecht University sees a new influx of young students each year, which accounts for much of the liveliness felt in the area. Expats living in the centre of town will have their pick when it comes to restaurants, bars and quirky fashion boutiques.

Accommodation here tends to be less spacious and pricier 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 other areas. Those who need to travel further afield will be close to Utrecht Central Station from where one can catch a train to Rotterdam, The Hague and Amsterdam within an hour – a plus for those who need to travel regularly for business.


Nieuwegein is a relatively new town which was established in the 1970s to cater to Utrecht’s expanding population. It lies just 4 miles (7km) south of Utrecht and is connected to the city by a number of nearby motorways. 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 parks and lakes so this is a great suburb for expats moving to Utrecht with a young family.

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 the largest new development in the Netherlands and consists of two small villages, Vleuten and Meern. In addition to the 30,000 homes, Leidsche Rij has newly constructed business space. With a population of around 100,000 people, this is essentially a medium-sized town. Accommodation in Leidsche Rij is modern with much of it being constructed with environmental concerns in mind.

There are also plans for a new hospital, shopping facilities, a train station and a rapid transit bus system to be implemented in the area.

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 before moving to Utrecht. 

Generally, most medical staff at hospitals in Utrecht speak good English 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


Address: Bosboomstraat 1, 3582 KE Utrecht

St Antonius Ziekenhuis

Address: Soestwetering 1, 3543 AZ Utrecht

UMC Utrecht

Address: Heidelberglaan 100, 3584 CX Utrecht

Wilhelmina Kinderziekenhuis

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 Ministry of Education so the standards are closely monitored.

Public schools in Utrecht

Expats can attend public schools in the Netherlands. While the teaching style may differ from what expat students are accustomed to, the standards of Dutch public schools are good. However, because the language of instruction is Dutch, public schools in Utrecht are only really a viable option for very young children whose parents plan on settling down in the Netherlands.

For the first year of primary school, attendance is optional 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. All of these schools start with a generic curriculum for the first few years 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 and curricula, and therefore expats may 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.  As one would expect fees are high and parents are advised to budget for additional expenses such as the cost of uniforms, textbooks and school excursions.

Lifestyle in Utrecht

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

Shopping in Utrecht

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

In the city’s charming old centre shoppers will everything 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 Museumwartier to find unique second-hand gems. The best places for bespoke fashion can be found in Voorstraat and Schoutenstraat where a lot of the young fashion designers are based. Expats looking for home décor should check out the stores on Zadelstraat.

Most shops in Utrecht 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 range 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, there are lot of the restaurants have weekly specials which allow one to eat out on a budget. Furthermore, Utrecht is famous for its pubs where expats will be able to 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. However, it’s not all about students' bars and raging nightclubs. Expats will also find more mature live music venues, jazz cafés 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 another area that is popular with locals in Utrecht thanks to its outdoor terraces which provide a great spot for sundowners, especially in the summer months.

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. The locals love to cycle and in addition the daily commute, there are also a lot of recreational cycle routes to explore. Runners will also enjoy being out and about in Utrecht – each year the city plays host to the Canal Run which is dubbed as the world's fastest 10km race.

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, expats will be spoilt for choice in terms of must-see attractions.

Sightseeing in Utrecht

De Haar Castle

A visit to this 19th-century castle and its landscaped garden is the highlight of anyone’s stay in Utrecht. 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.

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.

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.

Museum Spelkok

A museum dedicated to music boxes and barrel organs, this is probably 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.

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.


Oudegracht 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.

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 keep everyone interested. 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 falls 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 on 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 Festival (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.

Utrecht Canal Run (October)

Each October, runners from across the world head to Utrecht to take part in what is dubbed as the world’s fastest 10k 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 one 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 not to 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). Be sure 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, the city’s public transport just 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.

The 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. It looks very much like a bank card and contains an invisible chip. The OV-Chipkaart can be loaded with credit and commuters swipe each time one starts or ends a bus or tram journey.


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. 


Utrecht’s 'sneltram' system is made up of two 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 Station. However, 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.

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 that 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.

While Utrecht does not yet have a bike sharing system, those who don’t have a bike of their own can hire one at the city’s many bicycle shops. There are lots of outlets close to the train station.

Those that choose to cycle should just ensure that they invest in solid bike locks because although Utrecht is generally very 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 a very safe destination and walking is a great way to get around. The city centre is very compact so exploring on foot is a viable option.

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 whereby 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.