Finding your way in Amsterdam
This page is designed to help you find your way around Amsterdam. Here we help you with everything you need to know about living and studying in the capital of the Netherlands. Sometimes we provide the information ourselves, but mostly we provide many useful links to where you can find all the details. For instance, you can find information on housing, a starting guide on moving to the Netherlands, language, student discounts and a beginner's guide to the city.
First steps upon arrival in the Netherlands
Register with your local municipality – BSN
If you stay in the Netherlands for more than 4 months, you must visit your local municipality and register as a resident in the Basic Registration of Persons (BRP) database. This will give you your Burgerservicenummer (BSN). You need a BSN to open a bank account, to take out health insurance or to get a job or internship in the Netherlands. Read more about the BSN at www.government.nl.
Get your DigiD
After you have received your BSN, you can apply for a DigiD. With this ID, you can arrange government-related matters online. With a DigiD, you can log in to government websites such as DUO (student grant), the Tax Office (taxes) or municipal services. Read more about DigiD for expats in the Netherlands here.
Opening a bank account
If you are staying in the Netherlands for a longer period of time, it is advisable to open a bank account. Most people use a Maestro debit card. Many supermarkets do not accept credit cards and some shops do not even accept cash. You must have a bank account if you are working or doing an internship. Read more about banking for expats in the Netherlands.
Apply for health insurance
Dutch health insurance is compulsory for all residents of the Netherlands. Things change if you also do an internship or have a side job. Read more about health insurance for international students in the Netherlands on the page of the Rijksoverheid or on the page of I Am Expat.
Dutch health insurance is compulsory for all residents of the Netherlands. Students often stay temporarily, so they may not be obliged to take out insurance. Things change if you do an internship or have a part-time job. Read more about this on: health insurance for international students in the Netherlands.
Insure your belongings
There are various things you can get insurance for. Personal liability, repatriation and travel insurance, for example, are common in the Netherlands. Another important one is contents insurance. This insurance covers the contents of your student room against damage from fire, water damage or burglary. Many insurance companies offer student discounts or competitively priced insurance packages. It may look expensive, but it is really worth to be well insured. Read more about insurance for expats in the Netherlands.
Are you planning to move to Amsterdam? Please bear in mind that the Dutch capital is a very popular place to live and study. We recommend that you start looking for suitable accommodation as soon as possible. The demand for student housing in Amsterdam is high. It won’t be easy to find accommodation, but not impossible. The organizations listed below may be able to help you:
- The municipality of Amsterdam has produced a housing guide for students. This guide explains how to find accommodation in Amsterdam, but also provides information on what to look for.
- WOON! gives residents information and advice on letting and buying, among other things. It is an independent non-profit foundation, partly subsidised by the municipality. They help people who are looking for housing through mediation with housing corporations in case of difficulties. However, this is not their core work.
- StudentenWoningWeb – Housing corporations (De Key, DUWO and Ymere) with rooms and flats for students publish their offers on this website. You pay a one-off registration fee of €38, after which you are allowed to respond to any of the offers.
- At ROOM, you can find student rooms in Amsterdam, Delft, The Hague, Deventer, Leiden, Haarlem or Wageningen. You can register if you are 16 years or older.
- The Student Hotel (TSH) has more than 700 rooms that can be let to both Dutch and international students. The length of stay can vary from 1 week to 10 months. Permanent accommodation is not possible.
- Housing Anywhere - housing portal of Amsterdam University of the Arts, for incoming international students
- Hicondo - independent apartments in a modern complex located in Amsterdam-Zuidoost
- Lieven de Key affordable furnished rooms in and around Amsterdam for international students
- Stichting DUWO specialist in student housing.
- Student Experience - student accommodation at great locations
- Facebook group - looking for a room, studio or apartment?
Rooms from private landlords
You can rent a room from a private landlord – for example through a letting agency, in a student house or with a family. This is called ‘house sharing’ and is subject to strict rules in Amsterdam. A landlord must have a permit for this. There are also laws for renting a room from a live-in landlord.
There are two important legal rules to bear in mind when it comes to ‘house sharing’:
- each resident must have their own rental contract with the landlord;
- you must be permitted to register your room address with the municipality. Not permitted? Then the landlord is probably letting the room illegally. The ASVA student union provides more information about this (see above).
Illegal landlords will ask you for ‘key money’: a payment demanded before you can enter the house. It is not permitted by law to ask for key money - and it's usually a scam. However, it is customary and legally permitted to ask a deposit from a new tenant; you will get this money back if you leave the house in good order at the end of your tenancy. More information from DAS, a legal service provider.
Lessons at the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture are taught in English. Therefore, every student at the Academy must have both a passive and active command of English - it's a requirement for admission. Should you have any difficulties with an English text during your studies, Deepl is a decent translation programme. For double-checking texts, Grammarly can be very useful.
Almost everyone in the Netherlands speaks a bit of English. You will find that the Dutch are very considerate towards non-Dutch speakers and will quickly switch to English to make things easier for them. But it can still be helpful to learn a bit of Dutch. Knowing the language will help you understand Dutch culture and society better. A Dutch course is taught at the Academy every year. The course is offered in cooperation with De Taalkamer. You can also go to the website of Volksuniversiteit Amsterdam. Here you can find language courses at different levels and for many languages.
Your student ID card gives you much more than just access to the Academy building. Showing your student card will get you a nice discount at almost all cultural locations. But you can also get discounts at many stores, hairdressers, restaurants and cafes by showing your student card. Make sure you always have your student ID with you. On studentenkorting.nl you’ll find a wide range of categories where you can get a discount by showing your student ID. Additionally, the Amsterdam University of the Arts has specific deals with certain companies to ensure a student discount.
At home in Amsterdam
When you study and live in Amsterdam, you will hopefully be able to make enough time to do sports, enjoy the cultural offerings, go shopping, enjoy the nightlife or spend time in nature. For newcomers to Amsterdam, it’s nice to be able to get a feel for where you can go - hence a few recommendations below!
Academy students can enjoy sports at the USC sports centre at a low cost. USC is a sports centre for students of the UvA and HvA. The rates at USC are affordable, but the quality is excellent, and they offer a wide range of sports. USC is affiliated with the branch association NL Actief and the Royal Dutch Strength & Fitness Association (KNKF).
Of course, there are many other possibilities for exercising in Amsterdam. Check with local gyms or fitness centres to see if they have student discounts. Often that’s the case!
The city of Amsterdam is big and very busy. Fortunately, it offers many opportunities for running and cycling. On the municipal website, you’ll find a number of marked jogging routes where you can go wild on your own or together. If you take running a little more seriously, you’ll find the running calendar for Amsterdam! Would you rather go cycling? Cycling route in and around Amsterdam, with the Central Station as your starting point. These cycling routes with Amsterdam as start and finish also show you a lot of Amsterdam and its surroundings. Additonally, there are no fewer than 33 parks in Amsterdam where you can do sports and relax.
Arts and culture
In Amsterdam, you can go to concerts and live music every day. From mega concerts and music events to international musicians on world-class stages. Or opt for one of the many intimate live performances on the smaller stages. On the website www.iamsterdam.com you’ll find all the upcoming events in Amsterdam. You can also find an overview of all the concert venues in Amsterdam and the surrounding area.
Additonally, Amsterdam provides the setting for hundreds of festivals each year. Don’t just think big dance festivals because they come in all shapes and sizes. Internationally renowned festivals such as the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam: IDFA, the Amsterdam Light Festival and Amsterdam Pride attract large audiences. The many culinary festivals offer delicious snacks and drinks. Culture lovers will enjoy film, dance, music and theatre at Amsterdam’s cultural festivals.
There are hundreds of clubs, theatres, museums, music venues and cinemas to be found in the city. An overview of Amsterdam’s cultural spots:
- All cultural venues
- Museums & Galleries (with a €65,- Museum Pass, you gain unlimited free access to (nearly) all Dutch museums)
- Cinemas (and current film schedule)
Nature and contemplation
Want to get away from the traffic and the hustle and bustle of the city? Then head off to one of Amsterdam’s nature reserves. From cosy hang-outs like the Vondelpark and the Westerpark to the spacious Amsterdamse Bos with a real goat farm.
- The best city beaches
- Swimming in nature
- The best picnic spots
- Pick-your-own gardens in and around Amsterdam
- Green and botanical hotspots
Many religions are represented in Amsterdam. The most important ones are listed below. Click on the map below to go to the interactive map where you can find addresses for religious gatherings in Amsterdam.