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.
►For info about annual events in the city, see What's On in Amsterdam
►Find out what there is to see and do in Amsterdam
"I love the fact that, even though it's a very cosmopolitan city, Amsterdam manages to keep its Dutch charm, sometimes creating the feeling you live in a small town, where everyone knows each other, even if that is not the case. It is not unusual to be approached on the tram by an old lady who just wants to discuss the weather or the last movie she saw." Romanian expat Dana shares some experiences and thoughts on the quality of life in Amsterdam in this interview.
"Amsterdam is a very easy city to live in, with walking and biking the primary modes of transportation. It combines big city attractions like museums, concerts, etc. with a small town community vibe. The city generally feels very active, energetic and embracing. And, of course it is very scenic with the beautiful century-old houses along canals." Get insights into Amsterdam's lifestyle in our interview with Harini and Eric.
Are you an expat living in Amsterdam?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Amsterdam. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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