World Cities: Your Guide to Living in Amsterdam

There is no city in the world quite like Amsterdam. A cosmopolitan metropolis that manages to combine 17th century architecture with an urban vibe, the capital of the Netherlands is vibrant, eclectic, and undoubtedly, the most liberal city in Europe, which is perhaps why thousands of expats move here each year.

Often referred to as the ‘City of Canals’ Amsterdam balances precariously on a latticework of waterways that make it one of the most picturesque cities in the world. The Canal Ring was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010, it celebrated its 400th Birthday in 2013, and it remains the backdrop for many cultural and sporting events throughout the year.

Getting Around Amsterdam

While many residents use the canal systems to navigate the city, Amsterdam’s tram network is still as popular today as it was when it was established back in 1875, and you only have to spend 5 minutes in the city to see that bicycles are still the number #1 choice of transport. It is estimated that there are over 850,000 bicycles in Amsterdam, which represents around 1.9 bicycles per household!

Due to the layout of the city, Amsterdam is not the most car-friendly destination in Europe, but there are plenty options available to residents, and you don’t need to spend a fortune getting to and from work, especially if choose to commute the healthy way…on your bike!

The public transport network in Amsterdam is first class and relatively inexpensive. The Public Transport Chip Card (OV-Chipkaart) allows you to travel freely on buses, metros, trains and trams, and most residents in Amsterdam have their own personal cards. A ‘pay as you go’ type system, you simply recharge your card at one of the many machines located throughout the city, and you can combine multiple modes of transport into one trip.

More information can be found here: GVB Public Transport

Taxis are also readily available in Amsterdam, as are Uber drivers, and so the transport possibilities are endless. If you live and work in the centre of the city, you’ll probably find that you do not need a car, but if you work on the outskirts, it may be beneficial to have your own vehicle.

History, Arts, and Museums

Museums such as the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum, the Rembrandt House Museum, and the Rijksmuseum, which was recently voted the best museum in the country, and one of the Top 10 museums in the world, are well worth a visit, and great places to learn about the history of your new home.

The history of Amsterdam stretches back some 800 years to the 13th century when it was first established as a fishing village by herring fishermen around a dam on the Amstel River. Over the years, these ‘Aemstelledammers’ became expert boat builders and beer brewers, and after being granted freedom of toll by Floris V the Count of Holland, they could operate cheaply, make a profit, and develop the iconic city that we have become to know and love today.

Setting Up Home in Amsterdam

Like most cities in the world, Amsterdam offers accommodations to suit every taste and every budget, and so whether you are looking to rent a small apartment to share with a work colleague, or buy a large family home, you’ll find endless options here in Holland’s most popular hub.

As with most major cities in the world, renting an apartment in Amsterdam doesn’t come cheap. At the time of writing, the average cost of a furnished one-bedroom apartment will set you back anywhere between €1300 and €1600 per calendar month. The closer you are to the city centre, the higher the prices, and so you’ll have to head out to the outskirts if you are working with a more conservative budget.

According to Statistic Netherlands CBS, house prices in Amsterdam rose by a staggering 14.7% in 2016, with the average apartment costing around €196,566, and a semi-detached house averaging at €267.352. That said, houses here are still significantly cheaper than other world cities such as London and New York, so it is easier for expats to get their feet on the home owner ladder.

Where to Live in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is made up of a whole network of neighbourhoods, and so it is a good idea to do some research before renting or buying accommodations. Here is a brief overview of some of Amsterdam’s most popular neighbourhoods:

The Old Centre

The Old Centre is a tourist hotspot, and so if you are looking for peace and quiet, this may not be the best neighbourhood for you. The benefits are that it is just a short walk to all the major attractions and nightlife, so if you are working within the tourism industry, you won’t have far to commute. But you’ll have the Red-Light District on your doorstep, which is not for everyone.

Grachtenordel South

Home of the popular Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein, Grachtenordel South remains one of the most popular neighbourhoods of Amsterdam. Ideally positioned for those who work in the city centre, it is close enough to commute by bicycle, or even on foot, but it’s quieter and calmer than the Old Centre, and relatively easy to find an apartment to rent, although prices are higher here than in other parts of the city.

The Jordaan

One of Amsterdam’s most desirable neighbourhoods, the Jordaan combines pretty canals with quirky narrow streets to create the perfect landscape for locals and expats alike. It’s a good 15-minute walk from the bright lights of the city, but you’ll find plenty of supermarkets, shops, bars and restaurants here, and there’s a huge park nearby in neighbouring Westerpark, which is perfect for dog owners. As it’s a popular area, house prices are high in the Jordaan, and availability is limited. But if you do find your perfect home in this part of the city, you’ll never want to leave!

De Pijp

De Pijp, also referred to as the Latin Quarter, was recently boosted with private home ownership opportunities by the government, which has proved to be hugely beneficial to the expats who live here. A vibrant multicultural neighbourhood, it attracts people from all walks of life, from students and artists to business professionals. Accommodations are still affordable here, and you’ll find a fantastic selection of shops, restaurants and open-air markets right on your doorstep.

South, East and West of the City

If the abovementioned neighbourhoods are a little too ‘central’ for your liking, you should take a look at the South (Oud-Zuid), East (Oost), and West (Oud-West) areas of Amsterdam. Hugely popular with expats, accommodations are cheaper here, there are several international schools, and life is generally more laidback and relaxed, so they are perfect for families.

Free Time in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is one of those cities where you can spend all day just wandering around, trying local snacks such as Krokets and Stroopwafels, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the tulip markets and the bustling promenades, and sampling some of the many beers that are made right here in the Netherlands capital city.

You’ll probably spend your first weekends here doing exactly that, but once you’ve set up home and become accustomed to the way of life in Amsterdam, you’ll most likely be looking for something different.

Dutch people are very ‘outdoorsy’ and they love nothing more than riding their bikes, taking their dogs for walks in the many local parks, and staying active. There are plenty of gyms, fitness centres, dance schools, and expats sports clubs that you can join in the city, and they are a great way to meet new people with similar interests.

Eating Your Way Around Amsterdam

If you consider yourself to be a ‘foodie’, you are going to love the diversity of Dutch delights available in Amsterdam. Like most capital cities, you can eat food from all over the world here, and there is a strong Indonesian influence, but the traditional dishes should not be missed.

Amsterdam was built by herring fishermen, and so it is perhaps no surprise that Raw Herring remains one of the most iconic dishes in the Netherlands. While not for everyone, this Dutch speciality is available to purchase on every street corner from ‘Haringhandels’ or Herring Carts, and is usually served with sweet onions and pickles.

If raw fish doesn’t tickle your taste buds, a bag of hot Poffertjes from one of the many market vendors or pancake houses might just hit the mark. Indulgent fluffy clouds sprinkled with powdered sugar, they are simply delicious.

If you prefer to cook at home, you’ll be pleased to know that there are endless supermarkets and fresh food markets in the city, where you can buy groceries at very reasonable prices. The Noordermarkt Farmer’s Market takes place in the Jordaan every Saturday, and it’s a great place to pick up organic produce, local cheese, and honey. If you cannot wait until the weekend, head on over to the Ten Katemarket, which is open Monday to Saturday. There are over 50 stalls here, selling everything from exotic fruits to freshly caught fish.

The Climate in Amsterdam

Like most European cities, Amsterdam experiences all four seasons, but the climate is relatively moderate here and both summers and winters are considered mild. There is always the possibility of rain in Amsterdam (it rains over 210 days per year), with November being the rainiest month of all.

August is the hottest month of the year, with temperatures averaging around 22°C, and February is the coldest month with temperatures of around 2°C, but minus temperatures are rare, and you’ll be lucky to see more than just a sprinkling of snow.

The Best Time to Move to Amsterdam

While you can move to Amsterdam at any time of the year, some months are considered better than others. During the spring and summer months, European Moving Companies are at their busiest, and so prices are generally higher and waiting times are longer. If possible, schedule your move for autumn, or even winter when removal companies are in low demand, and you may just get a great deal on your move to Amsterdam.

If you are moving to the centre of Amsterdam, avoid weekends and festival days at all costs. The city is bustling, traffic is slow, and trying to get a removals van down one of the narrow streets will prove challenging. Mid-week removals are best.

If you are relocating to Amsterdam from another European City, you may find it easier and more affordable to drive to your new home, rather than flying. With a vehicle at your disposal, you can carry all your valuables with you, without worrying about the weight of your suitcases, and you’ll save money on renting a car when you arrive. There are great connections from the UK to mainland Europe with Eurostar, and tickets are very reasonable. If you are arriving from elsewhere on the continent, you can simply drive across the borders, although if you don’t hold an EU Passport, you’ll need to make sure you have all the relevant paperwork.

You may find that you do not need a car in Amsterdam, the local transport network really is exceptional, but it may make your move to the city a little bit easier, and you can always sell it on once you’ve settled in the city… and perhaps invest in a bike or two instead!