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Best Expat Neighbourhoods in the Netherlands

22 December 2013 Rhys Maddocks

Out of the top-six expat cities in the Netherlands, we’ve culled the most sought-after neighbourhoods from each.


De Pijp

De Pijp is Amsterdam’s international 19th-century Latin Quarter, an ideal neighbourhood for the cosmopolitan expat. Colourfully diverse, it’s what the Dutch would call a hutspot of people from all around the globe. At the core of this cultural crossroads is the famous Albert Cuypstraat, home to the Netherlands’ most popular outdoor market, the Albert Cuypmarkt, where droves of locals and tourists can be found trolling the 260 eccentric stalls daily. The vibrant church-turned-restaurant Bazar, which serves up the flavours and atmosphere of North Africa and the Middle East, is also located on this long, lively street. Running from Albert Cuypstraat to the intimate Sarphatipark is the leafy side-street Eerste van der Helststraat, dotted with eateries ranging from organic and trendy to authentic and ethnic. O’Donnell’s Pub on Ferdinand Bolstraat is a stomping ground for many expats, as are the slew of attractions nearby: Heineken Experience, Museum Quarter, De Taart van m’n Tante (best cakes in the Dam), Mellow Yellow (one of Amsterdam’s very-first coffee shops), Ostade Theatre, and neighbourhood art-house Rialto. Properties in “The Pipe” were built during the controversial Amsterdam School movement. The bold, elaborate brickwork and offbeat designs complement the funky character of present-day De Pijp.


Oud-Zuid is a fashionable, upscale district of Amsterdam. For expats looking to continue a cushy lifestyle abroad, “Old South” is a fine choice. For those with families, Oud-Zuid is a convenient neighbourhood to settle down in, as international schools are aplenty. The British School of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam International Community School (AICS), and Lycée Vincent Van Gogh are among the numerous educational options in the area. The most desirable feature of all, however, may be the close proximity to Vondel Park, Amsterdam’s “Central Park,” with playgrounds worthy of being deemed works of art, as well as the artsy Spiegelkwartier of galleries, antique stores, and the tiniest creperie in Amsterdam, Crepes au Grand Marnier. The tony shops and chic cafés of Oud-Zuid should evince a sense of exclusiveness, since most establishments in this area cater to sophisticates with expensive taste; but, instead, they exude a refreshing dose of Dutch insouciance, making people from all walks of life feel welcome. The majority of architecture in Oud-Zuid reflects the elegant style of the 1920s and 1930s.


A warren of picturesque canals, cosy bruin cafés and hip boutiques makes up the charming Jordaan. Quintessential Dutch homes with narrow frames and precariously crooked facades add to the character of this fairy-tale quarter. Once a working-class neighbourhood, the Jordaan is now a classic district inhabited by young and edgy students, artists and expats. Prices in this area are steep, but the nearby sites are top-notch: Amsterdam Central Station, Dam Square, and the Anne Frank House, to name a few. Amsterdam’s raved-about vintage market, Noordermarkt, is also located within the cobbled quarter of the Jordaan, and the stirring streets, Haarlemmerstraat and –dijk, can be easily reached by foot. At the very end of Haarlemmerdijk lies art-deco art-house The Movies, the oldest movie theatre in Amsterdam. Life in the Jordaan is, well, simply gezellig.

Den Haag

Oude Centrum

The Hague is the hub of the Dutch government and home to one of the largest expat communities in the Netherlands. The oude centrum, “old centre,” of The Hague bears the august medieval Dutch parliament (Binnenhof) that doubly serves as a beautiful public passageway, the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, and the Noordeinde Palace of the Dutch royal family, where King Willem-Alexander tends to his duties. Posh Noordeinde extends to the Hofkwartier, a quaint neighbourhood of specialty shops, salons, art galleries and high-end boutiques. Coveted streets Frederikstraat and Denneweg lead to The Plein, the social square of The Hague; the Buitenhof and Grote Markt are the other two happening pleins. Oude Centrum brushes shoulders with the main shopping district of The Hague, creating a fascinating skyline of urban and old. The Hague boasts an impressive cultural, arts and culinary scene and first-rate properties to match.


The Statenkwartier is located in the Scheveningen beach district of The Hague. Palatial-like homes in the style of Art Nouveau are prominent, and being a short tram ride away from the centre and North Sea makes the Statenkwartier twice as desirable. The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, Museon, GEM-Foto Museum, swank shopping street “The Fred,” grand embassies, and the IND office for expats can be found in this long-established suburb of The Hague. The wondrous Panorama Mesdag, presumably located in Scheveningen, is actually situated within the vicinities of the Zeeheldenkwartier, Willemspark and Voorhout, as is the mind-bending museum Escher in Het Paleis.

Other Potential Areas

Rijswijk, Voorburg and Wassenaar are additional neighbourhoods preferred by expats due to their favourable locations and international schools. Properties in the nearby Haagse Hout district (Benoordenhout, Mariahoeve, Marlot and Bezuidenhout) may be more attractive in terms of price and continue to remain popular among expats.



Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands (after Amsterdam, before Den Haag) and, due to WWII, undoubtedly the most modern. Its cutting-edge architecture and bustling nabes make it a prime choice for the urbanite expat. However, typical Dutch neighbourhoods do still exist among the skyscrapers and chain store shopping streets, making Rotterdam an attractive option for those seeking a mix of big-city living and traditional. Oude Binnenweg, a preserved street in Rotterdam’s centrum, boasts characterful bistros, bars and takeaway joints, like the Surinamese Broodje Akong, a local favourite. This refreshingly old block is minutes away from the Cool district and Witte de Withstraat, a funky avenue flanked with endless cafés, creative hotels, concept stores and everything in between. Sleek high-rises and cube-shaped residences intermingle with buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries in central Rotterdam.


Yet another area of opposites is the beautiful Kralingen-Crooswijk where the affluent and less fortunate live side by side. With seven distinct districts, a lush park, neighbourhood lake and golf course, it’s a mini metropolis of its own. All sorts of accommodation can be found in this eastern part of Rotterdam, from cringingly expensive homes to government and student housing.

Other Potential Areas

Try Kop van Zuid, “Head of South,” for trendy housing nearby the city centre, Erasmus Bridge and port of Rotterdam, one of Europe’s main ports. Expats with a penchant for the outdoors should head up north to Hillegersberg for green, suburban living. The American International School of Rotterdam (AISR) is also in this region. Ommoord appeals to those looking for reasonably priced family accommodation.



Utrecht is a city of superlatives: the fourth largest city in the Netherlands, the most highly educated and the busiest in terms of train travel. Plus, it has the tallest church tower in the country. With its stained-glass-roofed multi-level public library, top-quality institutions, a museum quarter rich in history and character, and charming streets lined with swish vintage shops, yoga centres, sushi restaurants and boats, Utrecht’s medieval city centre is highly desirable. The canals of Utrecht may be the most impressive feature of all, as they dabble in both horeca and retail. Their unusually deep, two-tiered canal banks run through the top and bottom levels of eateries and boutiques, creating cellar cafés and unique shopping experiences for residents. Idle walks and waterfront dining are other felicities of these delightfully rare canals. Because of Utrecht University’s central campus and enormous student population, housing in the city centre is difficult to come by. Fortunately, there are countless alternatives as many new neighbourhoods are being built.


Nieuwegein is a fairly new residential town to the south of Utrecht that was built as a result of Utrecht’s booming population. Its convenient location and transportation routes, along with its growing industrial park, provide for a wealth of job opportunities for expats. Housing is abundant, with styles ranging from classic to modern, and quite popular among families wanting to rent or buy. As you move more east to the young town of Houten, meaning “wooden,” surroundings become more green and rustic, just as the name suggests. Ten minutes by car to the west of Nieuwegein lies the medieval suburb of Ijsselstein, which possesses a castle-turned-museum and a pedestrian-only city centre. Zenderpark is where housing is ample.

Other Potential Areas

The up-and-coming Leidsche Rijn is a rapidly growing town with ambitious plans. Vleuten and De Meern are the go-to neighbourhoods while Leidsche Rijn undergoes major development. For more serene environments, consider the surrounding lake area of Loosdrechtse Plassen.



A city of design firms and state-of-the-art institutions and companies, Eindhoven is the place to be for expats with a bent for innovation and culture. The Design Academy Eindhoven, MU visual arts centre, Frits Philips Music Building, Philips Stadium, Park Theatre and Van Abbemuseum, one of Europe’s leading international contemporary art museums, are among the plenitude of cultural locales situated in and around the city centre. Eindhoven’s lively social scene, well known throughout Europe, comprises Market Square and the boisterous Stratumseind, as well as Dommelstraat, Kleine Berg and Wilhelminaplein for more intimate, low-key outings. To the north of the centre lies the leafy neighbourhood of Woensel, home to Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), Fontys University of Applied Sciences, and the diverse Kruisstraat Saturday market. Properties in the industrial city centre consist mainly of upmarket, new-fashioned apartments; more budget housing can be found in Woensel-South. Eindhoven is the Netherlands’ fifth major city and is equipped with a central airport and train station.

Genneper Parken

Straddling the multifaceted Genneper Parken and Tongelreep River are the neighbourhoods of Gestel, to the west, and Stratum, to the east. Residents take pride in their recreational area’s rich selection of activities: A cycle through the nature preserve, a wander through the Genneper Hoeve organic farm, a day at the Eindhoven Museum, or even a splash inside the Pieter van den Hoogenband Swim Stadium (Tongelreep National Swimming Centre) are all local pastimes. Gestel is rife with job and educational opportunities, as it’s home to the Netherlands’ famous High Tech Campus and the International School Eindhoven Primary School (ISE), while homely Stratum offers a generous selection of modestly priced and upper-class accommodation.

Other Potential Areas

The amenity-rich countryside town of Neunen is an excellent area for expat families, as it has a strong sense of community and a small neighbourhood lake perfect for outdoor activities. Tongelre is a neighbourhood of many ethnicities and offers a broad range of housing options. Strijp-S is the up-and-coming creative quarter of Eindhoven with an expected completion date of 2030. Smaller towns such as Veldhoven, Waalre, Son and Breugel are also worth considering.



At the southern tip of the Netherlands lies majestic Maastricht whose lovely French nuances and rolling hills are a result of shared borders with Belgium and Germany. This atypical Dutch city is the capital of the Limburg province, the birthplace of the European Union, and the subject of deep-rooted history dating back to the Roman era. Despite the dearth of windmills and coffee shops in its 17th-century binnenstad, full of creaky cafés and locals with a Limburgish twang, Maastricht remains one of the most beloved cities in the Netherlands. Popular sites in the historic “inner city” are the revered Vrijthof events square, Monseigneur Nolens Park on the fringe of the convivial Jekerkwartier, Maastricht University, Onze Lieve Vrouwebasiliek and the ruin-rich church grounds, and the monument-clad sartorial streets Stokstraat, Rechstraat and Hoogbrugstraat. Rents in the Maastricht region are slightly lower than those in the Randstad (Utrecht, Amsterdam, Den Haag and Rotterdam), enhancing expat appeal.

River Maas East

Located on the right bank of the River Maas between the antique neighbourhood Wyck and the business and residential area Randwyck is the interesting industrial-turned-architectural quarter Céramique. The major Avenue Céramique bears the striking Bonnefanten Museum and its zinc-coated tower “cupola” that’s secured a spot in the Maastricht skyline. Also situated in this former ceramic-manufacturing area is Derlon Theatre, a former plate factory; Plein 1992, a square whose ground is marked with copper tiles, symbolising the birth of the euro in Maastricht; and Centre Céramique, a versatile building that masquerades as the city hall, the city library, an exhibition centre, and the European Journalism Centre. The myriad of apartment complexes designed by Swiss, Spanish, Dutch and Belgian architects makes the district of Céramique highly suitable for expats seeking conveniently located modern housing.

Other Potential Areas

The revamped inner harbour ‘t Bassin to the northwest is a historical gem, and Beatrix Port to the northeast may offer more budget-friendly rental prices. The picturesque region of Sint-Pietersberg located to the southwest caters to the adventurous expat. Fort St. Pieter, St. Pietersberg Hill and marl caves can be explored, as well as nearby vineyards and orchards leading into Belgium.