As one of the top 20 countries in the world for relocating British expats, The Netherlands offers a lifestyle and culture that appeals to professionals, retirees and families.
So, if you’re thinking about moving to The Netherlands, where are the best places to live, and what do they offer?
Here we’ll explore some of the most popular destinations for British expats.
Table of contents
- The Netherlands
- The Hague
- FAQ’s Best Places to Live in the Netherlands
- Related Articles, Guides and Insights
- Questions or Comments?
With around 44,000 UK nationals living in the Netherlands, there are many reasons The Netherlands ranks so highly as a global expat destination:
- Welcoming, friendly communities and multicultural cities.
- Outstanding educational opportunities with over 100,000 international students enrolling in Dutch universities every year.
- Accessibility, with most people in The Netherlands speaking English, particularly in businesses and workplaces.
- Healthy living, with bikes and public transport throughout the nation.
- Excellent infrastructure, amenities and public services.
While we might associate the Netherlands with clockwork organisation and transport systems that constantly run on time, it’s also a peaceful and friendly country.
The work/life balance concentrates on maintaining time for personal hobbies just as much as putting in the hours in the office.
Around 75% of Dutch businesses offer part-time roles or flexible working, with the working day often ending early to ensure employees don’t burn out.
The Netherlands is also well known for being safe, with crime rates among the lowest in the world and with a ‘live and let live’ attitude that welcomes people from a vast number of cultures, countries and religions.
Rotterdam is an excellent choice for expats looking for an authentic Dutch experience, but at a more affordable living cost than Amsterdam.
The city is contemporary and offers incredible architecture as well as the largest harbour in Europe. It’s also less touristy, so the population doesn’t swell anywhere near as much as Amsterdam in the summer and is a culturally diverse city home to expats from around the world.
Another point favouring Rotterdam is that it has an excellent restaurant scene, with just about every type of cuisine available on your doorstep.
After the extensive bombing in World War II, much of the city’s traditional architecture has gone. Many of the properties are modern and sleek glass and steel structures.
However, you can venture slightly outside of the cities to areas such as Kralingen and Schiebroek for heritage lifestyle properties within a commute.
High-rise urban developments dominate downtown in this port city. Still, there is a drive to build more residential housing and child-friendly spaces throughout the city centre. You’ll find entertainment, shopping malls and plenty to do around Market Hall, Grote Kerkplein and Coolsingel.
Kralingen is popular with young expats and families, just 15 minutes from the centre over to the east. There are multi-million Euro houses next to student apartments and social housing, and it is very affordable.
In a leafy suburb in the northeast of Rotterdam, much of which escaped the bombing. Property in this elegant district can be expensive, but it is also home to several international schools and is about 10 minutes from the centre by bus or tram.
Home to many iconic minimalist buildings in the city, with views over the river. Parking is tricky, but the public transport system is sound, and you can reach the Rotterdam International School, restaurants, museums and shops easily.
Compared to other cities in The Netherlands, the cost of living in Rotterdam is lower than elsewhere, but as the developments continue, the costs are rising.
Rotterdam is around 29% cheaper than London and 14% less expensive than Paris, but about 8% more expensive than Berlin.
Rotterdam in Figures:
- Population: 623,650
- Location: In South Holland towards the west coast of the country.
- Best For: International expats and professionals and those looking for contemporary living and modern architecture in their home from home.
- Average Net Monthly Salary: €2,746 (£2,372).
- Cost of Living Compared to London: 43% cheaper for rent, 7% lower cost for groceries and 11% lower for consumer prices.
Utrecht is another location close to Amsterdam, with excellent transport links, popular with students. Many younger travellers and expats choose Utrecht for the beautiful city centre, outstanding university and the calming countryside.
The centre is medieval and is bursting with culture. There are also many international employers, with the city having the highest educated workforce in The Netherlands.
Utrecht is the headquarters for Dutch National Railways, and therefore you can travel almost anywhere in the country from Utrecht Centraal – the largest train station in the country. Amsterdam is about 25 minutes by train, with five trains running per hour.
20 minutes away down the motorway and a suburb with a car-free medieval centre and castle. While not in Utrecht proper, you can be in the city via fast train connections, and there are scenic bike trails and countryside along the River Lek.
The heart of Utrecht and made up of two small villages called Vleuten and Meern. The area includes the farming land between the towns and houses the most extensive new development in The Netherlands with around 30,000 new homes and commercial spaces. Leidsche Rijn is environmentally conscious and has an underground motorway development to ensure the region remains peaceful and pedestrian-friendly.
Popular with young families, close to Loosdrechtse Plassen lakes to the northwest of Utrecht. You can reach the city through the local rail and bus networks.
Amenities are good, with around 32% of Utrecht residents being international expats. The International School Utrecht is also based here.
Utrecht in Figures:
- Population: 1.3 million
- Location: In the centre of The Netherlands, south of Amsterdam and to the east of The Hague.
- Best For: Expat families with children of any age, students, and young professionals.
- Average Net Monthly Salary: €2,375 (£2,052).
- Cost of Living Compared to London: 39% cheaper for rent, 2% lower cost for groceries and 5% lower for consumer prices.
Perhaps best known as the seat of the International Court of Justice, The Hague is the base for multiple NGOs and embassies. The accommodation costs are high in some places, but you can also find excellent living standards, international schools, and Michelin starred restaurants.
Expats often choose The Hague for professional opportunities, with Shell and EPO among the many employers in the city.
The relative affordability and proximity to the beach make The Hague an excellent choice for family living, too, and there are lots of bars and nightlife along with museums and a good shopping district in the centre.
Wassenaar offers gated villas, where most diplomats and wealthy expats choose to live. Known as the Beverly Hills of The Netherlands, the properties here are spacious and luxurious, close to some of the best international schools.
Quiet and green but still easily accessible with nearby transport links and the motorway. The woodlands to the north and east bracket traditional 1930s villas, and it is a favourite spot for retirees. You can also find The British Primary School here.
Archipelbuurt and Willemspark
These are the city centre districts, with 19th-century properties and charming apartments. The broad streets and large properties house many of the embassies, and the prices here are steep with minimal parking.
The Hague is a great spot for British nationals looking for a relaxed pace of life, employment, family-friendly living and culture, with multiple social events running throughout the year.
The Hague in Figures:
- Population: 514,860
- Location: A city on the North Sea coast to the west of The Netherlands.
- Best For: Families wanting to live somewhere a little quieter and more affordable than Amsterdam and professionals working in various sectors.
- Average Net Monthly Salary: €2,608 (£2,254).
- Cost of Living Compared to London: 50% cheaper for rent, 8% lower cost for groceries and 19% lower for consumer prices.
We can’t visit The Netherlands without talking about Amsterdam – and while it’s expensive, it remains one of the best places to live in the country.
There is so much to see and do here, with canals, parks, incredible architecture and an unparalleled social scene that is undoubtedly the best in The Netherlands.
However, it’s worth being conscious that this is a trendy tourist destination and can become hectically busy during the warmer summer months.
There has also been a significant shift, with previously working-class neighbourhoods like De Jordaan now becoming gentrified and home to thousands of amenities for travellers and holidaymakers.
Social housing is available in Amsterdam, but you need to join a 15-year waiting list to be in with a shout of finding affordable rent. The housing costs here are incredibly high and far above the prices you’d pay anywhere else in The Netherlands.
The eastern district and offers a range of living options from chic apartments on the waterfront by the Eastern Docklands to the vibrant Indische Buurt neighbourhood. Nearby University of Amsterdam campuses make the district popular with students, along with the arthouse cinemas and the quiet residential Ijburg Island with its own beach.
Amsterdam Nieuw West
Another residential district with many modern properties made up of high-rise apartment blocks. The area is close to Rotterdam and Schiphol and offers waterfront living and lower rental prices.
Right in the middle of the hustle and bustle and fans out from Amsterdam Centraal train station. The canals run through the tree-lined streets, and it is a beautiful place to explore.
Costs of living here can be high, and parking is challenging with narrow streets and parking charges as the authorities attempt to make the centre as car-free as possible.
However, you can’t beat the range of bars, wineries, shopping boutiques, and theatres on every corner of the centre.
Many permanent expats choose to live somewhere close to the city, yet more affordable and with rural backdrops that nod to the traditional Dutch culture. Amstelveen is one such choice and means lower housing costs and a short commute into Amsterdam for work.
Amsterdam in Figures:
- Population: 821,750
- Location: The capital of The Netherlands in North Holland towards the southeast of the country.
- Best For: Professionals or business owners and expats wanting to experience life in the capital city with all that has to offer.
- Average Net Monthly Salary: €2,999 (£2,592).
- Cost of Living Compared to London: 22% cheaper for rent, 5% lower cost for groceries and 5% lower for consumer prices.
Maastricht is the capital of the southern Limburg province, in the very south of The Netherlands, across the border from Germany and Belgium.
The city has an international community, high living standards and a focus on the technology sector. You can also visit some of the best historic sites here, with the second-largest number of heritage attractions after Amsterdam.
Expats working for international business or multinationals often select Maastricht for the ease of travel – you can reach Paris, Luxemburg, Brussels, Antwerp, Frankfurt, Cologne and Aachen easily from this European travel hub.
The Right Bank
Across the river from the city centre, home to the traditional Wyck neighbourhood. Here you’ll find antique stores and a ceramic manufacturing district, with modern residential properties and all the amenities you’d expect.
Packed with historic 17th-century buildings and weekly markets. Vrijthof Square hosts open-air concerts and events and is a lovely place to sit back and relax. You can also visit luxury stores in Stokstraatkwartier or spend time in the municipal parklands at Stadspark.
Sint Pieter and the surrounding area is green and residential, within walking distance of Maastricht city centre or across the border into Belgium. The quarried marlstone tunnels and St Pieter’s Fortare are popular tourist destinations.
Bassin and Belvedere
Bassin and Belvedere are to the northwest of Maastricht, alongside the inner-city harbour. There is a commercial global village and plenty of residential housing and family amenities.
There is an airport in Maastricht just 10 kilometres north of the centre. The Maastricht University is the busiest international higher education establishment in The Netherlands, with around 45% of students from overseas.
You can find employment in the booming sectors of technologies, chemicals, life sciences and intelligent sciences, with many innovations and research projects conducted at the three Brightlands campuses in the area.
Maastricht in Figures:
- Population: 122,400
- Location: To the south of The Netherlands on the border.
- Best For: University students, younger expats and professionals looking for a lively place to live.
- Average Net Monthly Salary: €2,316 (£2,002).
- Cost of Living Compared to London: 51% cheaper for rent, 7.5% lower cost for groceries and 13% lower for consumer prices.
The city of Haarlem is less well known than some of the other regions in The Netherlands but is a top contender for quality of living. The quaint cobblestone streets, gabled houses and cultural attractions make the city a draw for expats seeking a quiet, elegant pace of life, along with outstanding shopping facilities.
As the capital of North Holland, Haarlem is also a prime location, 10 minutes from Zandvoort Beach and a 15-minute train journey from Amsterdam.
Haarlem city centre
The most expensive part of the city and usually preferred by professional expats without children given the limited accommodation sizes. A three-bedroom apartment in the centre will cost around €1,450 a month (£1,250).
On the east of the city and primarily residential. Here you’ll find the Amsterdamse Poort city gate and quiet streets with some cafes and more generous homes. This district is popular with young expats and families, just 10 minutes walk from the centre.
An excellent option if you want to be close to the city for work or school but prefer natural landscapes and greenery. The woodlands of Frederikspark and Haarlemmerhout include walking trails, picnic lawns and even a children’s petting farm.
Although Haarlem remains affordable compared to average Amsterdam prices, it has also grown significantly in popularity, which has caused rent to increase. However, the city’s charm is easily accessible from several quieter surrounding neighbourhoods that offer the best of both worlds.
Haarlem in Figures:
- Population: 235,140
- Location: Outside of Amsterdam in the northwest of The Netherlands.
- Best For: Expats looking to live in a lively, smaller community with traditional homes and families searching for a quieter city with lots of events and activities.
- Average Net Monthly Salary: €2,693 (£2,326).
- Cost of Living Compared to London: 26% cheaper for rent, 7.5% lower cost for groceries and 9% lower for consumer prices:
FAQ’s Best Places to Live in the Netherlands
It’s not a country known for balmy weather, but still, the unpredictable rainfall is something you’ll quickly become accustomed to. The great thing about The Netherlands climate is that you get all four seasons.
That means ice-skating on frozen lakes in the winter, beautiful tulips in the spring, canal boating in the summer, and stunning natural colours in the autumn.
The best weather is usually between May and September when temperatures warm up. This time is also ideal for hiking through the National Park or visiting the beach at Zandvoort.
Annual average temperatures in The Netherlands range between around 14.5 °C and five °C, with the hottest weather in July and the coldest in January. The wettest month of the year is November when you’ll experience an average of 90 mm rainfall.
The Netherlands is regarded as relatively expensive. Average salaries are around €36,500 a year (£31,458) instead of £38,600 as an average for full-time workers in the UK.
Income tax works on a system like the UK, with the basic rate around 37%.
Generally, household budgets are:
• €4,114 (£3,550) per month for a family of four.
• €2,223 (£1,916) for a single person.
Compared to the UK nationwide averages, consumer prices are around 11% higher, rent is 18.5% more expensive, and groceries cost just over 6% more.
However, you can find cheaper accommodation even in some prominent cities, such as Rotterdam or The Hague. Both cities rank among the top 30 in the world for local costs of living.
Finding a job is relatively easy, and there are multiple business opportunities.
Businesses often also choose the country given that there are tax regimes intended to attract profitable companies, such as taxation applying only to 70% of earnings.
There are lots of large multinationals and international employers, including:
• ING Group
• Royal Dutch Shell Group
You can also use recruitment agencies that specialise in advertising roles for foreign nationals. With around 24% of the population having emigrated from abroad, this isn’t a tiny proportion of the workforce.
Starting salaries for in-demand roles such as dentists and pharmacists are on average €48,000 (£41,400) and €39,600 (£34,150) respectively.
Much of the cost of living depends on where you live. As in most countries, the capital Amsterdam is the most expensive.
Average one-bedroom apartments range from around €900 to €1,700 (£775 to £1,465) per month. In The Hague, you can rent a similar sized property on a much smaller budget.
Other popular cities with lower costs include Haarlem, Amstelveen, Utrecht and Rotterdam.
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