Ex-pats, digital nomads, remote workers, and travelers alike love the Netherlands and choose to make it the next stop on their journey. Beyond the tulips, weed, and canals there is a very well-organized European country, that offers a very high quality of life, a lot of fun, and a good amount of opportunities. The Netherlands is one of the most international countries in Europe, and everyone speaks English, so integration should be quick and painless for digital nomads that want to make it their home. Down below I will give you my favorite cities in the country, all of which I have lived in for at least a few months, and try to guide you towards choosing the best city in the Netherlands for you!
Amsterdam is one of the most visited cities in the world and, as every visitor will tell you, one of the most beautiful. The famous canals, the colorful and often crooked houses that line the streets, and the countless stores, restaurants, and bars make it a great and fun city with a lot to do and see. For lovers of art, there are countless museums here, from some of the greatest European painters such as Vermeer, van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Hieronymus Bosch. On top of that, the city has a vibrant and diverse nightlife and music scene, with many of the top DJs in the world being Dutch and many more foreign bands visiting and doing shows. Just like in the other parts of the Netherlands, Amsterdam has a terrace culture, meaning that there are countless cafes with outdoor sitting where you can enjoy a fancy beer or coffee with a friend or loved one. All in all, if you get bored in Amsterdam, it’s your own fault.
When it comes to living in Amsterdam as a digital nomad and ex-pat, the only thing that can be considered a minus is the cost of living. Many remote workers start off with a lower income and affording to live here can be a challenge, especially if you do not want to live with roommates. As opposed to Spain, where 1000 to 1500 euros should be enough for a decent life, you need to budget 1700-2000 euros per month in Amsterdam. Housing is the biggest issue, with anything under 750 euros a month being homeless shelter tier and studios with no roommates starting at 1200 euros. However, if you can afford that, the city is very fun and welcoming to foreigners and has a lot to offer in terms of networking and career development. There is a large and active ex-pat community, as well as many students, so there is also an amazing nightlife. If you want to travel while in Amsterdam, the Schiphol airport is one of the largest in Europe and is located 30 minutes away from the city center of the city. For moving within the city there are the famous Dutch bikes or the efficient, but expensive, public transportation system.
Sadly, for a lot of people the Netherlands begins and ends with Amsterdam and less attention is paid to the other cities in the country, which offer just as many beautiful sights, places to visit, and beers to drink. Utrecht is often preferred by locals to Amsterdam, as it is much less touristy, it is better connected to the rest of the country by train, and is just as close to the Schiphol airport which can take you anywhere in the world. There are canals here, there are charming houses, windmills, and parks so you are getting a more Dutch and distilled version of the capital city. It is worth pointing out that Utrecht and Amsterdam are only 25 minutes away from one another, so the choice of one above the other is not too important. Here you can have a more calm and relaxed life, while still being in a major Dutch city, and the housing prices are slightly more bearable, but not by a lot. Utrecht also has a University, so you can expect very active nightlife and young people all over the place.
As I already mentioned, Utrecht is right outside of Amsterdam and the two cities have more similarities than differences. It’s a good idea to visit both first and get an idea of what you prefer. Amsterdam can be crazy hectic, filled with tourists, and too large for many people’s liking. Utrecht is by no means quiet and rustic, it is a city of about 300 000, but the atmosphere is much calmer and there are fewer tourists walking around. On top of that, it is much easier to get around with just a bike or even on foot, and public transport within Utrecht is rarely a necessity. One of the potential downsides here is that the international community in Utrecht is smaller, there aren’t nearly as many digital nomads here, as in Amsterdam. The bright side is that the two cities are close to each other and there is constantly public transport going between the cities, day and night. If you are willing to commute to Amsterdam every now and again, you can have your cake and eat it too.
The charming city of Maastricht might seem like it’s off the beaten path in the Netherlands, but on a second look, it is very well connected. Located all the way at the bottom of the country here different cultures, nations, and languages intersect in order to produce something different than the typical Dutch experience. Maastrict is 2,5 hours away from Amsterdam, but it is only 1 hour away from Cologne, Dusseldorf, and 40 minutes away from Achen, in Germany. On the other frontier, you have Brussels, Leuven, and Liege all within a 1.5-hour drive. You can also pay a visit to Luxembourg, which is less than 2 hours away by car. Maastricht might seem like it’s the last stop in the Netherlands, but in a broader European context, the city is very well connected and with some of the wealthiest areas in the whole continent. This mixture of different nations is also present in the city, which is the capital of the Limburg province. While Dutch, Maastricht has its own cuisine, traditions, and dialect that makes it an interesting mixture of French, Dutch, and German. If you want to experience something different and diverse, this is a great city for that.
Maastricht is not as large as the other two cities on the list, with around 130 000 people living here, but it is by no means a quiet town. The University is very dominant here and you can safely call it a student town. While that means that the older ex-pat population is not too represented, if you are on the younger side, Maastricht has more than enough people to offer. The University is the most international one in the Netherlands, so Dutch is not a necessity here, like in Utrecht and Amsterdam. The city is surprisingly expensive for its size, but still noticeably cheaper than Amsterdam, however finding good housing is just as challenging. Beyond city trips and Belgian beer, there is some art and culture to be seen and experienced here, but it does not compare to the capital. However, Maastricht has the most relaxed and laid-back vibe of all of the cities on this list.