Moving to Holland? Put Utrecht on your expat bucket list

For some, moving from the USA to Europe is a dream come true. Here’s a blog post from one of them. Born and bred Californian girl Hannah upped sticks from sunny LA to Utrecht in Holland. For anyone else considering moving to Utrecht in the Netherlands, read on to discover Hannah’s journey from west side city life to ‘Utca’…

American expat blogger in Holland

About Hannah

Hey there! My name is Hannah and I was born and raised in sunny Los Angeles, California. I’ve been living abroad in Europe for the past fours years due to work and studies. Now I am now living in Utrecht, Netherlands.

After four years of living abroad and having a long distance relationship with my boyfriend, I relocated to Utrecht so we could be together. While it’s only been seven months that I’ve resided in this beautiful city, I’m no stranger to the Netherlands and have been here for over a year.

Last spring I moved from Paris to Amsterdam for an internship and simultaneously tested out the waters in the Netherlands. Moving to Utrecht has been the best decision thus far. I have not looked back!

utrecht

Is Holland a good place to live? 

My main reason for moving to the Netherlands was because of the high quality of life and work life balance the Dutch have implemented. I thought this was all talk until I moved here and experienced it for myself.

In fact, the Netherlands was ranked as number six by the UN World Happiness Report in 2020. So yes, the Netherlands is a great place to live and actually my first pick out of the three other countries I’ve resided in.

Can you move to the Netherlands without a job?  

Utrecht is part of the Randstad (Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Utrecht and The Hague) which is a megalopolis. Within the Randstad area there are many jobs and international companies that bring forth opportunity.

Personally, I would not consider moving to Utrecht without finding work beforehand. However I have met many other individuals who have succeeded very well doing so. The hospitality industry is a good idea because bars, restaurants and hotels are always on the lookout for new employees. 

In terms of job hunting in Utrecht, like I said there are international companies that reside here so that is a good base if you are not a native Dutch speaker. However, many companies prefer Dutch native speakers so it can be challenging to find an opportunity that is just English speaking or requires one language. 

Whatever the case, I suggest signing up for Dutch classes as soon as possible and start studying the language before you get here. Realistically, Dutch is needed for many jobs here. 

working as an expat

Is Utrecht better than Amsterdam? 

Having lived in both cities makes it a bit difficult to choose because they are different!

Amsterdam is a beautiful city and there is always something to do. Nevertheless, tourists and visitors have the tendency to think it’s the only hotspot in the Netherlands. Consequently, Amsterdam is subject to mass tourism, so this can sometimes take away from attractions and the feeling of being settled at home.  

If I had to choose between moving to Utrecht or to Amsterdam, I would go for Utrecht because it has such a great mix of everything. It’s one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands and you can still see that exemplified in the historic city centre.

At the same time it is a very metropolitan city with many shops, cafes and tourist destinations. It also holds a big university, making Utrecht an important student town.

It’s also a central destination to get anywhere in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe. Schiphol airport is a short distance away. Public transportation is so convenient that you can go to places like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague in a matter of 30-40 minutes.

It’s also cheaper to live in Utrecht than it is Amsterdam. Whether it’s rent or groceries, I can tell you from my own experience that my wallet is much happier living in Utrecht!

housing

Where is the best place to live in Utrecht?

You can divide Utrecht into two official parts: the city centre and Utrecht Area.

Finding affordable housing in the centre is difficult since it’s a much desired place to live. However, many students reside here because this is the heart of all events, activities and student life.

Outside the city centre there are just as many places to pick which are still just a cycle away. If you are willing to commute a bit longer then you should consider the suburb of Leidsche Rijn, which is popular amongst families. Although it’s separated from Utrecht by the highway running through it, you can easily find a large house containing a garden.

Additionally, further outside the suburbs are smaller cities which are within commuting distance (30-60 minutes) if you prefer a bit more countryside.

American blogger in Netherlands

What are the main pros and cons of living in Utrecht? 

I love how international Utrecht is. You have so many nationalities coming from all over the world.

It’s extremely convenient that you don’t need a car to get around since everything is so close by. Public transportation is widely available and Utrecht is very cycle friendly. Cycle paths are well maintained and you can literally cycle anywhere within and outside the city.

Utrecht is a big student city so everything is very vibrant and lively. There are many events taking place.

Frankly, I don’t have much cons about living in Utrecht. The only aspects are the close living quarters and weather, but this can be said for the whole of the Netherlands.

Additionally, since more people are moving to Utrecht there is an increasing demand for housing, finding a great place to live can get competitive. This is especially true for the city centre. 

Utrecht trains

Is Utrecht a safe city?

Of all the cities and countries I’ve visited Utrecht is hands down where I feel the safest. I’ve even witnessed cashiers and random strangers return lost cell phones or wallets to the store and the police station! I can freely go anywhere on my own, anytime throughout the day and night.

That being said, in comparison to Amsterdam, Utrecht has a much lower crime rate. No matter where I go I make sure to be conscious of my surroundings. However in Utrecht specifically, I feel a sense of comfort and security. 

Tell me about the cost of living in Utrecht

if you’re moving to Utrecht, you’ll find that accommodation is the biggest expense, ranging anywhere from €600-1600 EUR, depending on what you’re looking for. If the room or house comes furnished you will pay more, and evidently less if unfurnished.

A one-bedroom apartment within the city centre will cost between €1200-1600 EUR and outside the city centre it would be €800-1200 EUR.

Groceries and food shopping can be quite cheap, depending on where you purchase from. You can spend €40-100 EUR on weekly groceries, depending if you prefer the markets or only the big name brand grocery stores.

Any travel recommendations for friends and family visiting? 

Whether it’s your first time to Utrecht or you’re taking on the role of tour guide for friends, the first stop on the list is to stroll through the lovely city centre.

There is so much to see and take in like the charming canals, Dom Tower and museums. Afterwards I recommend checking out the stores between the Oudegracht (Old Canal), Museum Quarter and the Steenweg. You will come across a number of boutique and thrift shops and large department stores in the Hoog Catharijne mall (the biggest indoor shopping mall in the Netherlands). 

Utrecht canal

All that shopping will give you an appetite so it would be time to enjoy lunch at one of the many restaurants that sit canal side. A personal favorite is Beers and Barrels because of their amazing BBQ! Afterwards, a visit to the bustling Utrecht market would be great to taste some of the Netherland’s delicacies: such as fresh made cheese, herring and stroopwafel.

To exercise off the lunch and tasty snacks it would be great to go on a bike ride along the Vecht river. You will enjoy the scenery and pass by houseboats, cute villages and a castle on the water.

To end the day I suggest going to Soia which is a ‘beach club’ by the river. Bring a picnic blanket, grab a cocktail and enjoy the views.  

I also recommend squeezing in Kasteel de Haar. It’s a castle that dates back to 1391 and looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale. You will spend a few hours exploring the interiors, paintings, reading about its history and checking out the beautiful castle gardens.

Lastly, if you can stay a bit longer head back to the city and check out the Utrecht Centraal Museum to admire the exhibitions and diverse collections of art.

things to do in Utrecht

Living and working in Utrecht as an expat… and just stopping by

There is more to this beautiful country than Amsterdam! Utrecht is only a 30-minute train ride away and so are many other lovely destinations like Leiden, Gouda or Groningen. Be sure to check them out, whether you’re moving to Utrecht, or just vacationing in Amsterdam. 

All in all, is Utrecht a good place to live?

Utrecht is a wonderful place to live!

As the fourth largest city in the Netherlands there is never a shortage of things to do. There is a buzzing restaurant and bar scene, with new things popping up frequently to try out. The nightlife is great, with many music events and concerts which are located conveniently in the city centre.

There are plenty of green spaces, lakes and canals to enjoy, too. Spring and summer are my favorite seasons because you really get to see the city come to life in a distinctive way. Everyone is out on the canals and terraces socializing, enjoying the sun and swimming in any lake or canal that is accessible.

Overall, Utrecht is the best city I’ve lived in so far.  

For more about living in Utrecht as an expat, check out Hannah’s blog, Charming Marie

Moving to Utrecht Guide

2 Comments

  1. LAURA A Meehan Agasian
    October 27, 2020 / 4:05 pm

    what a wonderful post! Thanks for sharing.

    • Nina
      Author
      October 27, 2020 / 5:14 pm

      Thank you Laura! Yes, Hannah has made me want to move to Utrecht so badly!

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