living in amsterdam

Living In Amsterdam: Costs, Info + What To Expect 2023

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Everything you need to know about living in Amsterdam and more!

Are you considering a move to the charming canals and cultural wonders of Amsterdam? Curious about the costs, essential information, and what to expect from life in this beautiful city? Look no further!

Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is a city renowned for its picturesque canals, historic architecture, and vibrant cultural scene.

With a rich history dating back to the 12th century, Amsterdam blends the old and the new. It’s a city of diverse neighborhoods, world-class museums, iconic tulip markets, and a young, electric atmosphere.

As a Canadian expat turned Amsterdam local I know the ins and outs of life in Amsterdam and everything this huge change entails! It has been the best decision of my life for many reasons and I have learned a lot from living in Amsterdam.

Keep reading for my complete rundown of living in Amsterdam and how you can do it too.

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(Disclaimer: Some links in this post may be affiliate links, meaning if you click on the link and make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This is at no extra cost; you may even receive a small discount. See disclosure for more information.

Canal in Amsterdam
Amsterdam street full of people

💡 In a hurry? Discover everything you need for your trip to Amsterdam in one place
🚂 Book your trains here.
🏨 Best Hotels in Amsterdam here.
❤️ Get Health Insurance for Amsterdam HERE.

The best hotels in Amsterdam:
➡️ The Conservatorium Amsterdam
➡️ Park Plaza Vondelpark Amsterdam
➡️ Huygens Place Amsterdam

🚗 Best way to get around Amsterdam: IAmsterdam city card
🌟 Join Tours with Get Your Guide and Viator

🚂 Secure Trains, Busses, and Flights via Omio

Living In Amsterdam: Everything You Need To Know

Living in Amsterdam offers a unique blend of cultural richness, a strong work-life balance, and a distinctly Dutch way of living. Whether you’re considering a move for work, study, or simply a change of scenery, life in Amsterdam presents a wealth of opportunities and experiences.

One of the most striking features of life in Amsterdam is the city’s multilingual environment. Dutch citizens are typically fluent in English, making it considerably easier for expats to communicate and integrate into Dutch society.

Work-life balance is highly valued, with reasonable working hours and generous vacation time. The “rat race” you see in most big cities is not really a thing in Amsterdam where people enjoy and value their time away from work.

Furthermore, Amsterdam is a city that truly encourages a green and healthy lifestyle. Biking culture is deeply ingrained in the city’s identity, with an extensive network of dedicated bike lanes. This not only makes transportation easy and affordable but also promotes a sense of fitness and well-being.

In a city known for its cultural diversity, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of international cuisine and experience a rich tapestry of traditions and customs.

💡 INSIDER TIP: My favorite thing about living in Amsterdam is that the city has a youthful feel to it, despite anyone’s actual age. Everyone is truly LIVING! All year you will find people enjoying drinks along the canal, having picnics in the park, and hosting celebrations on boats – there is always something going on.

However, it’s not all a picturesque Dutch dream. Amsterdam’s high cost of living, unpredictable weather, and housing challenges are among the aspects that can present hurdles for residents. Navigating the city’s bustling tourist crowds and Dutch bureaucracy can also be taxing.

It’s essential to weigh these factors when considering living in Amsterdam and plan accordingly to make the most of this enchanting city’s many advantages.

📖 More details on the top hotels in Amsterdam here.

Pros + Cons Of Living In Amsterdam

Choosing to live in Amsterdam, like any city, has its own advantages and disadvantages. This dynamic and culturally diverse city in the Netherlands offers a unique blend of history, modernity, and a distinctive way of life.

Below I will expand on the various aspects of daily life, work, culture, and more to help you gain a better understanding of what to expect if you’re considering Amsterdam as your new home. It’s worth noting that individual experiences may vary, and what might be a pro for one person could be a con for another, depending on personal preferences and circumstances.

Pros of Living in Amsterdam

🏛️ Cultural Richness: Amsterdam boasts a rich cultural heritage with world-renowned museums like the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and Anne Frank House. Whether you’re an art lover or simply a curious explorer, Amsterdam’s cultural richness never ceases to inspire and educate its residents, making it an exceptional place to call home.

🗣️ Multilingual Environment: Amsterdam is a city where language barriers are virtually non-existent. The majority of residents are not only proficient in Dutch but also fluent in English, making it SUPER easy for expats to communicate, work, and socialize. This multilingual environment fosters a sense of inclusivity and helps newcomers integrate seamlessly into Dutch society.

💡 INSIDER TIP: English is so widespread in Amsterdam that many expats never learn Dutch. However, for a more seamless integration and out of respect it is a good idea to take Dutch lessons to learn ATLEAST some of the language.

🏥 Healthcare: Everyone living in Amsterdam is required to have health insurance, ensuring access to medical services. The cost of health insurance is around €130/month which is considerably lower than some other countries in Europe. I wouldn’t say the healthcare in Amsterdam is AMAZING, but if you find a good Doctor then it can be!

⚖️ Work-Life Balance: The Dutch value work-life balance, with reasonable working hours and generous vacation time. Expect 25+ paid vacation days per year!

🚲 Biking Culture: Amsterdam’s commitment to sustainability and health is most prominent in its extensive biking culture. The city has one of the most bike-friendly infrastructures in the WORLD, with dedicated bike lanes all around the city. This not only makes commuting efficient, low-cost, and eco-friendly but also promotes an active lifestyle.

☕️ Food & Coffee Culture: Amsterdam has an AMAZING coffee and restaurant scene with endless options to satisfy you.

💡 INSIDER TIP: Bike theft is a big problem in Amsterdam so most people use SwapFiets. This is a monthly bike subscription where you “rent” a bike for ~17/month and if something breaks they come and fix it within a few hours, and if it is stolen it is replaced free of charge. *rules and conditions apply for this*

📚 Education: Amsterdam has excellent international schools and universities, perfect for those who want to further their education or families. I studied at the University of Amsterdam for my master’s degree and loved it.

🌍 Cultural Diversity: The city is a melting pot of cultures, offering a wide range of international cuisine and cultural experiences.

🍁 Seasons: The different seasons in Amsterdam are stunning! Autumn in Amsterdam offers burnt orange trees and cozy cafes, summer in Amsterdam is full of bikes and a vibrant buzz, while spring is lush with endless tulip fields!

🚆 Public Transportation: Even though most people use bikes to get around, Amsterdam has an efficient public transportation system that connects the city and the rest of the Netherlands. It is super easy to get around the city and to other places in the Netherlands via public transportation.

Amsterdam cafe
Women biking in Amsterdam

Cons of Living in Amsterdam

🌦️ Weather: Amsterdam’s weather is known to be cloudy and gray with overcast skies and frequent rain for most of the year. The city experiences long, gloomy winters with shorter daylight hours, which can be a challenge for those who thrive in sunnier and more temperate climates.

💡 INSIDER TIP: Honestly the weather in Amsterdam is pretty bad, but when it is a sunny day in Amsterdam after endless rain, it is all the more AMAZING! A beautiful day in Amsterdam is the most beautiful day anywhere on earth. Plus, with Amsterdam Schipol Airport nearby you can easily escape to some winter sun destinations for a weekend trip if the weather becomes too much.

💰 Cost of Living: Amsterdam consistently ranks as one of the most expensive cities in Europe. The high cost of living includes steep housing prices, premium dining out expenses, and costly entertainment.

While salaries are relatively competitive (however can be low for starting positions), residents may find themselves navigating the challenges of budgeting and financial management, particularly if they are not prepared for the elevated costs associated with life in the city.

🏡 Housing Shortages: Finding suitable and affordable housing in Amsterdam can be a demanding task due to a combination of factors. High demand, limited availability, and strict regulations contribute to the challenges of securing a place to live.

Rental prices, especially in central areas, are steep, which can place a considerable financial burden on residents. Prospective residents should be prepared for the competitive and sometimes time-consuming nature of the housing market.

💡 INSIDER TIP: Be quick when applying for apartments. Spaces for viewings fill up quickly and you have to act FAST. My favorite places to look for apartments and arrange to view are Pararius and Funda.

📷 Tourist Crowds: While Amsterdam’s popularity as a tourist destination brings economic benefits, it also means that certain parts of the city can become extremely crowded during peak travel seasons. Residents may find that navigating through these tourist-heavy areas can be less convenient and affect their daily routines.

📋 Bureaucracy: Dealing with Dutch bureaucracy can be a time-consuming and occasionally challenging process, especially for expats trying to obtain visas, and permits, or navigating administrative procedures. This can be particularly frustrating for newcomers who may not be familiar with the intricacies of Dutch bureaucracy.

🚴 Cycling Hazards: Cycling is a beloved mode of transportation in Amsterdam, but it comes with its own set of hazards. The city’s busy bike lanes and crowded streets can lead to accidents, and bike theft is a common concern. It’s important for residents to be cautious and take measures to protect their bicycles.

💸 Taxes: The Dutch tax system is known for its high taxation, particularly on income. Expats, especially those with substantial incomes, may find that a significant portion of their earnings goes toward various taxes. Understanding the Dutch tax system and planning finances accordingly is important for residents.

Canal in Amsterdam

Cost Of Life in Amsterdam

The cost of living in Amsterdam will vary greatly depending on what you need/want in the city. Below I will cover the aspects of daily expenses and what you can expect in general while living here. I have also added some approximate costs that you can expect for each category.

🏡 Housing: ~€1500 – €10,000 / month

  • Housing in Amsterdam is notably expensive, and rental prices are high, especially in the city center.
  • Popular neighborhoods like the Jordaan, De Pijp, and Oud-Zuid tend to have even higher rental costs.
  • Consider living in the suburbs or less central areas for more affordable housing options.

💡 Utilities: €100- €400 / month

  • Utility costs, including electricity, water, and heating, can be relatively high, but it depends on your consumption and the size of your accommodation.

🍇 Food Costs: €100 – €900 / month

  • Groceries in Amsterdam are reasonably priced, but dining out at restaurants can be expensive, particularly in tourist-heavy areas.
  • Traditional Dutch food is relatively affordable, while international cuisine may be pricier.

🚋 Transportation: €20 – €300 / month

  • Public transportation, including trams, buses, and trains, is efficient but can be expensive. Consider purchasing a transportation pass for savings.
  • Owning a bicycle is a cost-effective and popular means of getting around the city.

❤️ Healthcare: €100 – €200 / month

  • The cost of healthcare in the Netherlands is generally high due to the mandatory health insurance system.
  • Expats are required to have Dutch health insurance, which can be costly, although it ensures access to quality healthcare services.

💡 INSIDER TIP: If you are on a low income, you may be eligible for zorgtoeslag (healthcare benefit). Check the requirements and see if you are eligible here.

📺 Entertainment: €0 – €300 / month

  • Amsterdam offers a wide range of entertainment options, from cultural attractions to nightlife.
  • Concerts, theater, and entry fees to museums can be expensive, but there are also affordable or free cultural events available.

💰 Taxes:

  • The Dutch tax system is progressive and can result in high-income taxes, particularly for expats with substantial incomes. In the Netherlands, income tax rates increase as your income rises, with higher-income individuals paying a larger percentage of their income in taxes.

💡 INSIDER TIP: Look into the 30% ruling for the Netherlands. The 30% ruling in the Netherlands is a tax advantage for highly skilled migrants moving to the country for work. It allows them to receive a tax-free reimbursement of 30% of their gross salary, which is intended to cover the additional expenses associated with moving to the Netherlands

🏫 Education: €0 – €5000 / month

  • International schools can be expensive, so consider your budget when moving with children. Some employers may offer educational allowances as part of expat packages.

💴 Personal Expenses: Endless

  • Personal items, clothing, and consumer goods are moderately priced, with some variation based on the store and brand.

Monthly Expenses Overview
*note this is based on my personal experiences of living in Amsterdam in 2023*
💶 Rent: €2,100 (one bedroom in the center of Amsterdam)
💶 Utilities: €200 (set rate per month)
💶 Groceries: €400 (for two people)
💶 Transportation: €20 (only biking with a Swapfiets subscription)
💶 Health Insurance: €130
💶 Personal: €200 (going out, shopping, etc)
MONTHLY EXPENSES: €3050 (two-person home)

Boat on a canal in Amsterdam

Best Places To Live In Amsterdam

Amsterdam is divided into several neighborhoods, each with its own unique character and lifestyle. While choosing the best area to live in Amsterdam depends on personal preferences, here are some popular neighborhoods, along with a few areas that may have their own drawbacks.

Best Areas to Live:

  1. Jordaan: Located in the city center, Jordaan is a charming and picturesque neighborhood with historic buildings, trendy boutiques, and a lively atmosphere. It’s known for its artistic community and is highly sought after.
  2. De Pijp: De Pijp is a diverse and trendy neighborhood with a mix of cultures and a vibrant food scene. It’s known for the Albert Cuyp Market and the Heineken Experience.
  3. Oud-Zuid (Old South): This area includes neighborhoods like Museumplein and De Pijp, offering a mix of upscale living, cultural attractions, and green spaces.
  4. Amsterdam Oud-West: A vibrant and diverse neighborhood with a mix of cultures and plenty of bars, restaurants, and shops.
  5. Amsterdam Noord (North): Across the IJ River, this area is becoming increasingly popular, offering a mix of modern architecture, art installations, and a more relaxed pace of life.
  6. Amsterdam Zuid (South): Known for its spacious streets, green spaces, and beautiful villas. It’s an excellent choice for families.

Worst Areas to Live:

  1. Red Light District (De Wallen): While it’s a significant tourist attraction, living in the Red Light District may not be suitable for families due to the noise, crowds, and certain activities associated with the area.
  2. Bijlmer: Historically known for social issues, this area has improved over the years but may still have a reputation for crime and less favorable living conditions.
  3. Nieuw-West: This area is diverse, but some parts have struggled with crime and social issues.
  4. Osdorp: While there are nice areas within Osdorp, it has a reputation for being less accessible and less vibrant compared to other neighborhoods.

Amsterdam Neighborhood Map

Here is a simplified map of Amsterdam with some of the mentioned neighborhoods and areas

Worst Things About Life in Amsterdam

Living in Amsterdam has its many advantages, but like any city, it also has its drawbacks. Let’s delve into some of the top drawbacks of living in this Dutch capital.

High Cost of Living

One of the most significant drawbacks of life in Amsterdam is its high cost of living. The city consistently ranks among the most expensive in Europe. Housing, in particular, can be exorbitantly expensive, with limited availability in the city center.

Additionally, daily expenses like dining out, entertainment, and transportation can quickly add up. Expats and locals alike often find themselves navigating the challenges of budgeting and financial management.

More posts about Amsterdam

Weather and Lack of Sunshine

The Dutch weather is known for being grey, rainy, and often chilly, which can be a major drawback for those who thrive in sunnier climates. Amsterdam experiences long, gloomy winters with shorter daylight hours, which can impact one’s mood and outdoor activities.

Crowded and Congested Roads

Amsterdam faces significant traffic congestion and a lack of parking space, which can be frustrating for those who rely on cars. If you choose to drive, navigating the city’s narrow streets and dealing with traffic jams can be a daily hassle.

💡 INSIDER TIP: Biking is by far the best way to get around Amsterdam. It is cost effective and great for your health.

Housing Challenges

Securing suitable housing can be a daunting task in Amsterdam. There is a considerable demand for rental properties, especially in central areas, which has driven up rental prices and competition. It can take time and effort to find affordable and suitable accommodation, and expats should be prepared for this challenge when moving to the city.

Amsterdam house
Amsterdam house


Is it expensive to live in Amsterdam?

Yes, Amsterdam is considered one of the most expensive cities in Europe. The cost of living, especially housing and entertainment, is high. Be prepared to budget and financially plan as costs for health insurance, rent, groceries, and taxes add up very quickly!

Do people speak English in Amsterdam?

Yes, the majority of people in Amsterdam, especially in urban areas and among the younger population, are proficient in English. You’ll find that English is widely spoken and understood, making it relatively easy for English-speaking expats to communicate and adapt.

What is a good salary in Amsterdam?

A good salary in Amsterdam depends on various factors, including your profession and the lifestyle you wish to maintain. On average, a gross monthly salary of around €2,000 to €4,000 or higher is considered reasonable for a comfortable living, but it varies significantly based on individual circumstances.

Given the housing prices that are increasing year by year, you will need a very good salary to afford to live in the center or have a two-person income.

Is it easy to get a job in Amsterdam?

Amsterdam has a competitive job market, and the ease of finding a job depends on your qualifications, industry, and demand for your skills. While it can be challenging, many expats do find opportunities, particularly in fields like IT, finance, and engineering. Networking and proficiency in English are often assets when job hunting.

Conclusion: Life in Amsterdam

In conclusion, living in Amsterdam is a unique and dynamic experience that offers a blend of cultural richness, a strong work-life balance, and access to high-quality healthcare and education. However, it comes with its share of challenges, including a high cost of living, unpredictable weather, and housing shortages.

Amsterdam’s charm lies in its picturesque canals, historic architecture, and diverse communities. It’s a city that embraces cultural diversity and promotes an eco-friendly, bike-centric lifestyle. The thriving arts scene, world-class museums, and a bustling food culture add to its allure.

While the city may not be for everyone, for those who can adapt to its quirks and have the financial means to manage the higher expenses, Amsterdam offers an enriching and fulfilling life experience.

It’s essential to carefully consider your priorities, budget, and personal preferences when contemplating a move to this vibrant Dutch capital. Amsterdam has its ups and downs, but I have been happy to call it home.

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Living in Amsterdam
Living in Amsterdam