Even though Amsterdam is the largest city in the Netherlands, it’s considerably smaller than other major, European capitals like London or Paris, and has a cosy, friendly atmosphere that’s pretty difficult to find elsewhere in the world. There are hundreds of reasons to move to the city, including the following factors which contribute towards Amsterdam’s distinctive, laid-back ambience.
The language barrier is quite low (for English speakers)
As Dutch and English both developed from West Germanic, they share many similarities and it is surprisingly easy for native speakers of either languages to learn their foreign counterparts. Even non-native speakers will likely notice Dutch’s similarities to English and start picking up the native language in Amsterdam soon after arriving.
Although many other cities around the world have developed bike transit systems, Amsterdam was among the first major hubs to adapt its infrastructure around cycling and has remained ahead of the curve ever since. In fact, there’s over 400 kilometres of bicycle paths laid around Amsterdam which makes moving around its many neighbourhoods a total breeze.
There are still neighbourhood markets
Markets are still part of daily life in many neighbourhoods around Amsterdam. Albert Cuyp Market for example, has taken place in de Pijp for well over 100 years and always features a wide array of products ranging from Dutch flowers to freshly baked stroopwafels.
Dutch food is surprisingly good
Due to its focus on dense, warming meals, Dutch cuisine tends to get a bad rap abroad (and at home). Nonetheless there are some seriously awesome recipes hidden within Dutch cookbooks, including many delicious, hearty dishes like stamppot and erwtensoep and mouthwatering, cream-filled cakes such as tompouce or bossche bol. Not to mention, the mountains of glorious, creamy, golden cheese available at every supermarket.
The coffee is great in Amsterdam
Amsterdam has more than its fair share of excellent espresso bars and many of these hangouts double up as artisanal coffee roasteries. The city also hosts an annual coffee festival in March, which takes place in the massive cultural centre, Westergasfabriek.
It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world
Amsterdam has the largest concentration of monuments in the entire Netherlands and many of these sites are located within its historic city centre. The canal belt, for example, contains over 1,0000 protected national monuments and is itself an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Though the city is largely known for its incredible 17th-century architecture, there are many older and newer buildings in Amsterdam that equal, or may even surpass, its main sites in terms of historical and cultural significance.
There’s loads of awesome craft breweries
Aside from big names like Amstel and Heineken, Amsterdam also accommodates several, smaller independent breweries. These local brewsters include older, well-established companies like Brouwerij ’t IJ or de Prael, as well as newer, innovative ventures such as Gebrouwen door Vrouwen or the Butcher’s Tears.
The many stunning cinemas
In the Netherlands it is exceptionally rare for cinemas to screen films with dubbing and most foreign language films appear with their original audio tracks. Furthermore there are over 10 cinemas in Amsterdam, including many spectacular arthouse theatres, such as architectural masterpiece the Eye or student-run hangout Kriterion.
The clubs, festivals and venues
Due to the large number of clubs, venues and festivals in the city, basically every genre of music is well represented in Amsterdam. Looking for live rock or indie? Check out underground joints like de Nieuwe Anita or OCCIII. Want to discover the city’s electronic scene? Head over to clubs like Shelter, Radion and de School, or wait around till October for ADE – one of the largest EDM events in the world.
It is becoming increasingly common in the Netherlands for universities to offer Undergraduate, Masters and PhD programs in English. Both of Amsterdam’s universities (UvA and VU) have several tracts in English and attract thousands of foreign students every year.
It has some amazing museums
Amsterdam’s many museums host a wide range of important exhibitions every year and collectively house some of the most celebrated artworks ever created. For instance, the Rijksmuseum has displayed Rembrandt’s The Night Watch for over a century and the Van Gogh Museum currently owns the largest collection of original Van Gogh’s in the world.