Countless expats have been pulled in and swept up by Amsterdam's balance of old-world charm and cutting-edge modernity. The ’Venice of the North’ is a true melting pot of cultures and each area has something unique to offer.
Here are some of the top areas and suburbs in Amsterdam offering prime expat-friendly accommodation.
Family-friendly areas of Amsterdam
Amsterdam Oud-West – Where city meets nature
Oud-West is a highly sought-after area for expat housing. It claims all the fantastic leisure-based perks of the city centre and combines them with a touch of nature. Cafes, restaurants, museums and shopping streets – such as the Overtoom – are plentiful, and the famous Vondelpark is a beloved hangout for locals and tourists.
The residents are mainly students, educated locals and expats. Houses in the area are larger and more expensive than in the city centre, and expats shouldn't be surprised to find lush gardens hidden away here and there.
Amsterdam-Zuid – Amsterdam’s posh residential area
Amsterdam-Zuid is recognised as the upmarket side of Amsterdam. It's popular with Western expats thanks to the British School of Amsterdam and Vondelpark being close by, as well as its great infrastructure. With a peaceful atmosphere and plenty of playgrounds and parks, Amsterdam-Zuid is a prime location for families. Though densely populated, this is a high-income area.
In terms of leisure and recreation, the area has much to offer. Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art are located here, and there are plenty of shopping opportunities.
Watergraafsmeer – Lush, green living
Watergraafsmeer is one of Amsterdam's greenest residential areas. Whether expats prefer spending time outdoors in the garden, public parks or sports fields, plenty of space is devoted to each.
This neighbourhood is a relatively quiet area of town with a fairly large, cosmopolitan population. Many are working-class residents who aren't too focused on the nightlife, but there are several good restaurants and bars in the vicinity. Watergraafsmeer also has a large ice-skating rink, the Jaap Edenbaan.
Westerpark – Family-oriented neighbourhood
Westerpark is home to a large number of expat residents and is especially recommended for young families. It has several good schools as well as a few choice attractions, including the famous Westergasfabriek cultural district, the Het Ketelhuis art house cinema, cafes and designer boutiques. While some neighbourhoods within Westerpark are fairly quiet, others boast a lively nightlife. Be sure to look out for the markets and festivals that pop up in the area.
Areas for young and single expats in Amsterdam
Centrum – The heart of Amsterdam
Centrum is the heart of Amsterdam, and a metropolitan favourite. Despite being the most populated area of the city, many prefer to live in its small, pricey apartments for easy proximity to world-renowned attractions and great restaurants, as well as the ease of getting around.
One of the most loved destinations is the Grachtengordel, or Canal Belt, where expats will find the famous tree-lined canals associated with Amsterdam. The Singel Canal is widely visited because of the Anne Frank House and other museums. Perhaps equally famous, but for very different reasons, is De Wallen – the Red Light District.
De Baarsjes – Up-and-coming neighbourhood
This area is located within the city’s centre ring, which makes all the modern conveniences of Centrum easily accessible without the hefty price tag. Known for its good location and low crime rate, De Baarsjes is perfect for expats who prefer a quieter lifestyle. Outdoorsy expats will enjoy Rembrandtpark, popular for jogging and dog walking. Another highlight is the open-air market on Vespuccistraat.
Indische Buurt – Diverse historical area
Situated in eastern Amsterdam, Indische Buurt has a long history of being home to expats. More than half of the population in this area is foreign-born with over 100 foreign languages being spoken by residents. Housing in Indische Buurt is more affordable than the city centre and consists mostly of apartments.
►For more on finding the perfect home, see Accommodation in the Netherlands
"My favourite neighbourhoods are the Jordaan, the Pijp and Oud-Zuid, and of course, Watergraafsmeer. The Centre is beautiful and a great place to spend time outside – but I wouldn’t want to live there because it is crowded, too noisy and last but not least, quite expensive." Read our interview with Dana for an expat's take on the best areas for an expat to live.
"I think all of Amsterdam is fun. But the centre is very expensive and if you want to save on money try to pick the outskirts. Just be aware that the further out the less action you will see." Read about Monique's expat experience in Amsterdam.
"We are pretty happy in the centre of the city where we are now, although we do realise that this is not for everybody. Many of our expat friends and colleagues reside in Oud-Zuid, one of the more fashionable areas nowadays, or went to one of the surrounding cities like Almere." Edward gives some suggestions on popular neighbourhoods in this interview.
Photo credits: Amsterdam by Michal B; De Wallen by Zoltan Tasi. All sourced from Unsplash.
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