Amsterdam has long been one of the world's top travel spots, but the capital of the Netherlands is fast becoming a preferred expat destination too. A culturally diverse city, rich in history and tradition, Amsterdam boasts pretty canals, jaw-dropping architecture and a phenomenal artistic heritage.
The city started out around a dam on the Amstel River, and the canals of the old city, which flare out in concentric rows, have led to it being called ‘the Venice of the North’. The canals were originally constructed to serve as water highways, keeping all parts of the inner city accessible. While still used for transport, the canals are now increasingly used for exquisite leisure tours and memorable walks along the water's edge.
Amsterdam’s well-developed public transport network also consists of buses, trains and trams, but given Amsterdam’s bicycle culture, most people prefer cycling to work or school.
Of course, visitors are drawn to Amsterdam for more than just its Insta-worthy canals; tourists rarely leave before experiencing the illicit thrills of its Red Light District and coffee shops.
That said, those who choose to make the city their long-term home may have come for the edginess of this famously liberal city, but they tend to stay because of the laid-back lifestyle and the abundance of things to see and do. Along with a vibrant nightlife, the Dutch capital offers family-friendly activities, from museums and art galleries to scenic walks and excellent eateries.
A great way to get to know the city is simply wandering around the quaint areas and suburbs, taking in the architecture consisting of narrow houses with gabled facades. Speaking of housing, prospective expats should note several things. The downside to the property market in Amsterdam is that accommodation is limited. Demand is high and finding the perfect and most affordable home may be one of the biggest challenges for expats moving to Amsterdam. City centre apartments may also be smaller than some expats are used to. As a result, many choose to live in the surrounding villages, rather than in the city itself.
The upside is that Amsterdam’s residents generally agree that every neighbourhood has something unique to offer, accommodation is usually in great condition, the quality of life is high, and with such a buzzing, cosmopolitan and open-minded environment, expats are sure to settle in well.
►Read our list of pros and cons of moving to Amsterdam for a balanced overview
"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. I love how the locals know how to celebrate their holidays or to enjoy each ray of sun by sitting outside with a glass of good wine and surrounded by friends." Read more in our interview with Dana.
"The city generally feels very active, energetic and embracing. And, of course it is very scenic with the beautiful century-old houses along canals." Harini and Eric share their thoughts on all the things they enjoy about living in Amsterdam in this expat interview.
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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