Moving to Amsterdam? Here’s a guided tour through the best parts of the Dutch capital, which remains one of Europe’s best cities to live in.
With some 100km of canals and more bicycles than residents, Amsterdam’s scenic and quirky centre offers a diverse living experience for its dynamic population. 180 different nationalities make up around 50 percent of the city’s residents. There are many distinct neighbourhoods densely packed together and competition for housing is fierce. An estimated average range of rental prices in 2018 is EUR 18-EUR 23 per sqm.
According to Patrick Daas from Expats Amsterdam, a company that provides a range of expat-related services from visas to mortgages, Amsterdam is expected to have a population of 850,000 by 2025. This growth will be made possible by new residential developments: IJburg and Zeeburgereiland in Oost, and Bongerd and Overhoeks in Noord; these neighbourhoods offered some of the most modern, spacious deals in 2018.
Here’s a quick guide to Amsterdam’s neighbourhoods, with some tips from Patrick on the best places to live.
Expats Amsterdam helps expats during their stay in the Netherlands with a wide range of financial services, from arranging mortgages to tax returns - and plenty more. Their website is also a treasure trove of useful information on expat housing, Dutch taxes, how to find a job, and many other aspects of the Amsterdam expat life.
Centre and canals
In the centre, apartments veer towards snug rather than spacious and stairs are steep. Prices on the canal ring (grachtengordel) lined with 17th- and 18th-century houses are vertiginous, although many expats enjoy the ‘typically Dutch’ experience in grandeur surrounds.
“…an Amsterdam canal in the summer is paradise.’’ – Elyssa Downs, British, Amsterdam
“This district just west of the grachtengordel and north of Amsterdam’s shopping district is an exceptionally desirable neighbourhood”, says Daas. Its beautiful canals and quirky, narrow streets are occupied by a bohemian mixture of yuppies and expats, with a core of young families and business-owning locals. Prices have exploded in recent years and in terms of price per square metre, it offers poor value and accommodation is often cramped. In the bordering district of Westerpark, housing development on former industrial sites have filled the need for affordable three to four bedroom houses, with the benefit of a huge park nearby.
Directly south of the centre lies the regenerated ‘De Pijp’, or so-called Latin Quarter, which is a vibrant, funky neighbourhood that has benefited from government regeneration and initiatives to increase private-home ownership opportunities, to the benefit of many expats. Rising prices reflect its newfound status as a desired neighbourhood among Dutch college students, creative professionals and artists.
Oud-Zuid is a popular upmarket location for expats with easy access to international schools, the Vondelpark and spacious, privately-owned housing. This is a wealthy part of the city, and its demographics have supported its uptown spirit for decades. There’s a leafy, gracious-living feel with cafes and shopping streets to match. Duivelseiland is one desirable part with apartment accommodation, numerous cafes and market shops.
Past De Pijp on the other side of the Amstel river lie Oost and the Indische Buurt. “Things were cheaper here until a gentrification movement of young professionals and creative experts introduced trendy cafes and shops and spiked rental and housing prices” says Daas, but still, the bonus of the river, newly-renovated Oosterpark, and the area’s proximity to nature reserves and rivers make this zone very appealing to a wide variety of Amsterdam dwellers. From students to internationals, young families to retirees, expats to long-time residents, Oost side is a melting pot of culture.
“My husband and I moved to Amsterdam with high expectations about living in a vibrant, international, liberal and tolerant place. So far I haven’t been disappointed.” – Aliye Kurt-Suedhoff, Turkish-Canadian, Amsterdam
West of the Vondelpark is Oud West, similar to Oost in demographics, where housing is cheaper (and smaller) yet very popular with expats, particularly districts such as Helmersbuurt, which is a little more urban and edgy than Oud-Zuid and not as expensive for buyers. As an up-and-coming area of the city, it’s an exciting place to be, and prices are rising as bars and shops make way for renovations and new neighbours. With the recent creation of De Hallen, a shopping/cultural centre which is home to popular gourmet food court Food Hallen, the neighbourhood has also seen a slew of new residential developments crop up, attracting young families and internationals.
There are many quaint, green areas of Noord with curving streets of small English-country-inspired houses; and these are highly coveted now that the district is going through a tremendous cultural revival. But Noord covers a lot of land (all the way to the charming country villages of Broek in Waterland and Uitdam), and the formerly industrial areas are being reclaimed by creative developers who are entirely reshaping the area’s skyline. New housing is sprouting up like flowers in Spring, not only along the IJ River but also in the more rural areas as well. “Noord is the new hot spot to settle down” says Daas, who explains that amenities, transportation, infrastructures, and especially entertainment and culture are following suit.
Zeeburg, KNSM and Docklands
Behind Centraal Station lies a very different Amsterdam. Zeeburg (which comprises Oostelijk Havengebeid, the Indische Buurt and the new islands of Ijburg) offers architecturally interesting surroundings in one of Amsterdam’s hottest development areas. It’s a little less family friendly, but a growing area. Further west and growing in popularity are KNSM Island and the Eastern Docklands. This former working port established on four artificial island peninsulas is becoming home to locals and expats who enjoy their modern accommodation options with a twist of traditional Dutch streetscapes and buildings. According to Daas, “the area is a good bet, as it offers more space for your housing budget, while remaining easily accessible to central Amsterdam.”
“Cycling along the water to work is a daily joy. What a difference from the misery of London commuting!” – C.F., British, Amsterdam
Living on a boat
Of course, you can always consider living on a Dutch barge.
Amsterdam facts and links:
- Population: 844,952 as of January 2017 (www.os.amsterdam.nl)
- International residents: 50.6 percent
- International schools:
- Links: Expats Amsterdam, www.amsterdam.nl, www.iamsterdam.com (English site)