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Moving to Utrecht

Expats moving to Utrecht will find themselves in the heart of the Netherlands in an exciting hive of commercial activity. This city retains a medieval history while embracing its development as a cosmopolitan centre for education, business and culture. This comes together to create an excellent quality of life, allowing professionals and families alike to thrive.

Living in Utrecht as an expat

As the Netherlands’ fourth most populated city, Utrecht boasts a reputation as a centre of academia, research and innovation. A selection of key educational institutions, including Utrecht University, draws local and international students to the city, as well as expats working in the education sector.

Job opportunities in other sectors such as banking and finance, ICT, engineering and transport are also constantly growing. Utrecht manages an efficient transport hub, which not only adds to the fantastic quality of life here, but is also an industry that employs plenty of expats.

Thanks to the extensive public transport network, getting around is easy. Driving a car is not essential – though owning or renting a bike may be. Like elsewhere in the country, the cycling culture holds strong in Utrecht. Whether residents are going shopping or commuting to work or school, it is the norm to cycle around Utrecht’s areas and suburbs.

To add to this healthy lifestyle, there is plenty to occupy an expat's leisure time. Students and young expats enjoy the lively atmosphere and upbeat nightlife, with everything from live music venues to jazz cafés. A calendar full of exciting annual events guarantees something for everyone, whether an expat is a music lover, sports enthusiast or culture vulture.

In fact, while Utrecht is known as a university town, the city is also family-friendly, and accommodation options are available to suit a range of new arrivals.

Cost of living in Utrecht

The cost of living in Utrecht is relatively high, as is the case across the Netherlands. The low supply and high demand for housing in the city drive rental and purchase prices up, so expats will have to account for this cost or negotiate an allowance as part of their relocation package. Expats moving to Utrecht will also have to budget for the cost of healthcare, as they are required to take out a Dutch health insurance policy on arrival.

Expat families and children in Utrecht

Parents moving to Utrecht with children for the long haul can rest assured that quality public education is available and at little or no cost. Be that as it may, expat parents who intend to send their child to an international school will have limited options, so they will have to act fast to secure a spot.

Moreover, families and expats of all ages can also explore all sorts of attractions, including medieval castles, forts and citadels, as well as art galleries and quirky museums.

Climate in Utrecht

The climate in Utrecht is sub-oceanic, with warm and comfortable summers and long and cold winters. The city experiences rainfall throughout the year, with the wettest season occurring during the winter months (December to February).

Expats relocating to Utrecht shouldn’t struggle to find their feet in a city that embraces diversity while maintaining a small-town feel. Utrecht offers expats an experience full of culture and history, while simultaneously providing them with a comfortable standard of living.

Working in Utrecht

Expats looking to work in Utrecht will find job openings in multiple sectors, provided they have the requisite qualifications and skill set. From financial services and banking to ICT and engineering, there are plenty of opportunities for career advancement in this Dutch city.

Job market in Utrecht

Thanks to the presence of Utrecht University, one of the most established tertiary education institutions in the Netherlands, the city produces excellent graduates every year. This academia and research presence has also served to attract many businesses across different industries, as a result, Utrecht boasts a strong job market.

Banking and financial services play a prominent role in Utrecht’s economy, while ICT companies have also seen value in setting up operations here. As Utrecht continues to build its reputation as a tech hub, it has experienced an influx of developers, which in turn has made the city a popular base for digital and game-development start-ups.

Health sciences are also a major employer, as Utrecht is home to one of the Netherlands’ largest medical research institutions.

Given Utrecht's central location within the Netherlands, the city is a key transport hub that attracts large transport and engineering companies. ProRail, the governmental organisation which oversees the country’s rail network, is based in Utrecht.

Finding a job in Utrecht

Many expats relocating to Utrecht will come with a job offer or on an intra-company transfer.

For those seeking employment, the internet is probably the best starting point. Job portals provide insight into the types of jobs available in Utrecht and the salary range an expat should expect. Employment agencies can also assist job hunters.

Often, one of the best ways to find a job is through networking. It is helpful to connect with people online or in person. For example, expats can connect with individuals working in a relevant industry at job fairs to receive alerts about an opening before it's advertised publicly.

Although Utrecht’s job market is growing rapidly, it still does not have the international presence that expats would find in the Dutch capital, Amsterdam. So, while it may not be a formal requirement for expats to speak Dutch, it will definitely set them apart from the competition and help them get a foot in the door.

Non-EU citizens will require a work permit to take up a job offer in the Netherlands. This usually involves their employer proving a Dutch or EU citizen cannot adequately fill the position.

Work culture in Utrecht

The work culture in Utrecht, like elsewhere in the Netherlands, is known to be disciplined. When doing business, expats should also note that the Dutch may address colleagues in a direct tone. This is not to be blunt, but rather to deliver clear communication. The office culture may also vary across institutions and locally based and international companies. While hard work is valued, expats are likely to find a healthy work-life balance in Utrecht.

Accommodation in Utrecht

As well as historically being a popular student city, Utrecht is fast becoming one of the most attractive places to live in the Netherlands. The city not only offers the amenities found in most big cities, but it's also full of character and retains a small-town feel. Moreover, the cost of living in Utrecht is a fraction of what one would pay in Amsterdam, for instance.

These drawcards have brought an influx of qualified professionals to Utrecht to take up jobs at companies that have chosen to base their operations there. Unfortunately, the housing market has not kept pace with the rapid population growth, and, as a result, finding suitable accommodation can be a bit of an uphill battle.

Types of accommodation in Utrecht

The type of housing a person would opt for depends on several factors, including whether they are moving to Utrecht with a family, their budget and lifestyle priorities.

Furnished and unfurnished housing options are both available in Utrecht. There are plenty of shops to purchase inexpensive furniture from, so there should be little need to ship furniture unless expats are looking to settle in the Netherlands permanently.


Apartments are probably the most common accommodation option in Utrecht, and there is a wide variety available in both modern and older complexes. Something to be aware of when looking for apartments is that Utrecht has a huge student population, meaning some buildings can get quite loud. That said, this should not be too much of an issue when looking at places further away from the university.

Terraced houses

Most family homes in Utrecht’s suburbs are terraced two- to three-storey houses with front and back gardens. They are typically grouped in small blocks of three or more identical and adjoined homes. Terraced houses tend to be a good option for those with small families who require more space than is typical in a regular apartment.

Semi-detached and detached houses

Those with a bigger budget might be interested in semi-detached and detached houses, which are more likely to be found in outlying suburbs or the countryside. These properties tend to have more spacious rooms and ample garden space.

Finding accommodation in Utrecht

Expats who work for a large international company based in Utrecht will likely receive house hunting assistance from their employer. Often, this includes support from an external relocation company in the Netherlands.

For those going it alone, the best place to start the search would be online property portals. Anyone planning on relocating to Utrecht can use online resources to get an idea of the property options available at different price points.

But, considering the competition for property in Utrecht combined with the language barrier that might be encountered by those who don’t speak Dutch, using a real-estate agent is the best option for most new arrivals. Real-estate agents in Utrecht will have extensive knowledge about the local property market and can help expats find a home well suited to their needs.

Renting accommodation in Utrecht

When renting a property in Utrecht, expats should look for a lease agreement that suits them and the duration of their stay in the city. Expats who know when they are leaving Utrecht may opt for a fixed period lease, while others may prefer an open-ended lease, valid for an indefinite period.


The format of lease agreements in Utrecht may vary slightly depending on the landlord or agency. Be that as it may, it must include the basics such as rental costs, the services included in the rental price, the length of the contract, maintenance stipulations, the rental increase date and the notice period.


Usually, a deposit equivalent to one or two (and sometimes three) months’ rent will be required to secure a rental contract.


It's important to note that utilities and municipal taxes are not always included in the rental price, so the tenant may be required to make additional payments.

Areas and suburbs in Utrecht

The best places to live in Utrecht

While Utrecht is smaller than Amsterdam or Rotterdam, it holds its own in terms of the neighbourhoods on offer. Owing to the presence of big academic and research institutions such as Utrecht University, the city has earned its place as a university town. Still, it is also home to many expat families and working professionals.

Rental prices, an expat’s budget and lifestyle preferences are often the biggest determining factors when looking for housing. We also recommend expats consider living in a suburb close to work, schools and transport links.

Here is a list of some of the most popular areas and suburbs in Utrecht.

City centre in Utrecht

Jonne Mäkikyrö, Utrecht

Living in Utrecht’s historic city centre will be poetic with its narrow streets, beautiful townhouses, markets, canals and quaint cafés. Expats living in the centre of town will have their pick of restaurants, bars and quirky fashion boutiques.

As the city centre is a touristy area with high housing demand, accommodation here tends to be pricier and less spacious compared to homes in the suburbs.

A major advantage of living centrally is the accessibility of public transport networks that connect the city centre to surrounding areas. Those who regularly need to travel further afield for business will be close to Utrecht Central railway station and can easily catch a train to Rotterdam, The Hague or Amsterdam within an hour.

Areas for students and young professionals in Utrecht

Martin Suarez, Utrecht


Utrecht sees an influx of young students from all over the world annually, which accounts for much of the liveliness in the city and surrounding areas.

Oost, which translates to 'east', is home to the university and Utrecht Science Park, so students typically look for housing here. Given the high demand and central location, accommodation in Oost can be expensive.


More affordable accommodation for students and young working professionals is available in Zuid, south of the city centre. Expats students and young families often secure a budget-friendly rental property in a neighbourhood such as Hoograven or Tolsteeg.

Family-friendly areas in Utrecht

Margot Polinder, Utrecht


Established in the 1970s, Nieuwegein is a relatively new town that was developed to cater to Utrecht’s expanding population. It lies around 6 miles (10km) south of Utrecht’s city centre and is connected to the city by three main nearby motorways as well as the sneltram (light-rail and tram) network.

There is a variety of housing options available in Nieuwegein, including classic Dutch brick homes and modern high-rise apartment complexes. Many homes are located close to green spaces, parks and lakes, so this is a fantastic suburb for expats moving to Utrecht with children.

De Vechtstreek

This is a picturesque suburb located to the northwest of Utrecht and close to Loodsrechtse Plassen lakes. Local rail and bus services connect the area to the centre of Utrecht. Properties tend to be spacious, with most being located in new housing estates. The area is popular with young families and is home to several good schools.

Leidsche Rijn

Leidsche Rijn is considered to be one of the largest new developments in the Netherlands. It consists of a smaller area of the same name (Leidsche Rijn) and Vleuten-De Meern, which covers two urbanised neighbourhoods.

This up-and-coming area has seen population growth and, along with it, homes and a business space have been constructed – appealing to families and expats working in Utrecht. Accommodation in Leidsche Rij is modern, with much of the design and build being environmentally friendly. There are also plans for the establishment of a new hospital, shopping facilities, a train station and a bus system.

Healthcare in Utrecht

Expats moving to Utrecht can rest assured that the Netherlands has one of the best healthcare systems in Europe. So, expats can be sure they will have access to excellent facilities and highly qualified medical professionals. Be that as it may, it is important for expats to do some research and invest in the right insurance policy for their needs.

EU citizens can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access state healthcare in Utrecht during a short-term visit. UK citizens can use their Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaced the EHIC post-Brexit.

Generally, most medical staff at hospitals in Utrecht speak English well, so expats should not have too much of an issue with communication.

Here is a list of some major hospitals and healthcare facilities in Utrecht.

Hospitals in Utrecht


Address: Bosboomstraat 1, 3582 KE Utrecht

St Antonius Ziekenhuis

Address: Soestwetering 1, 3543 AZ Utrecht

UMC Utrecht

Address: Heidelberglaan 100, 3584 CX Utrecht

Wilhelmina Kinderziekenhuis

Address: Lundlaan 6, 3584 EA Utrecht

Education and Schools in Utrecht

School is compulsory in the Netherlands between the ages of five and 16. The Dutch Inspectorate of Education oversees all schools in the country, including private ones, and closely monitors the standards.

Expats moving to Utrecht will be pleased by the schooling options on offer and find that the education system in the Netherlands is of a high standard.

Public schools in Utrecht

Expat children can attend public schools in the Netherlands along with Dutch children. While the teaching style may differ from what expat students are accustomed to, the quality and reputation of public schools across the Netherlands are good.

That said, the language of instruction is Dutch. Still, public schools in Utrecht are only really a viable option for very young children whose parents plan to settle in the Netherlands. Expat parents can also contact the municipality and schools directly to find out if they offer bilingual programmes.

Attendance is optional in the first year of primary school and only becomes compulsory on a child’s fifth birthday.

Government-funded schools are free to all children between four and 16 years old, and subsidised fees are applicable for the last two years of school.

There are three types of public secondary education and recommendations made by primary school teachers. These aim to ensure that each child is matched with the option that best suits their character and abilities. Each of these schools starts with a generic curriculum and then specialises in different areas. VMBO (voorbereidend middelbaar beroepsonderwijs) schools offer a practical and vocational programme, while HAVO (hoger algemeen voortgezet onderwijs) and VWO (voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs) are more academically inclined.

Private and international schools in Utrecht

Private and international schools in the Netherlands have a little more flexibility regarding teaching methods, language and curricula. Expats may therefore find that these are a better option for their children.

That said, there is only one international school in Utrecht, and it follows the International Baccalaureate curriculum. Naturally, it is oversubscribed, so expats who want to pursue this option should be sure to apply in advance.

Additionally, the fees are high and add to the cost of living in Utrecht. Parents should also budget for expenses such as uniforms, textbooks and excursions.

Nurseries in Utrecht

Families moving to Utrecht with young children will find no shortage of preschools and nurseries. Daycares in Utrecht care for children as young as three months old, while infants aged two to four attend preschools.

Partou is the country's biggest childcare organisation and offers centres in Utrecht.

Special-needs education in Utrecht

The Netherlands values inclusive education, and both public and private schools in Utrecht offer services to support students with disabilities, impairments and disorders. We recommend that new arrivals in Utrecht enquire at their local municipality about the exact services available.

Apart from mainstream classes, expats will also find speciaal basisonderwijs (SBO) and speciaal onderwijs schools. These centres are dedicated to special education needs. Speciaal onderwijs schools are divided into clusters depending on a child's impairment, including visual, hearing or speech impediments, physical or cognitive disabilities, and behavioural or social problems.

Homeschooling in Utrecht

The Dutch legal system only recognises homeschooling in highly specific situations. Expat parents typically send their children to a public or private school, and few see the need for homeschooling. That said, distance learning is fast becoming a new reality. Parents are encouraged to ask the local municipality and schools for information on programmes and resources available.

Tutors in Utrecht

Expat children may need additional support integrating into the new education system, while the whole family can benefit from Dutch language lessons. Hiring a tutor can be the answer to this. New arrivals will encounter a host of tutoring companies in Utrecht. Tutors are also available for hire via online platforms, and sessions can be conducted in person or online.

Lifestyle in Utrecht

While the lifestyle options in Utrecht may not be on the same scale as in other European cities, expats living here will find that Utrecht has plenty to offer in terms of shopping, eating out and nightlife. Expats who enjoy the outdoors will love exploring the countryside that surrounds Utrecht.

Shopping in Utrecht

While Utrecht may not compare to the shopping experience in the country’s capital, Amsterdam, expats moving here won’t be disappointed when it comes to getting their fix of retail therapy.

In the city’s charming old centre, shoppers will have a grand selection, from the leading Dutch department stores to small boutiques, trendy retail concepts and bustling markets. Head to the antique stores located along the Oudegracht or in the Museumkwartier to find unique second-hand gems. The best places for bespoke fashion are in Voorstraat and Schoutenstraat, where many young fashion designers are based. Expats on the hunt for home decor should check out the stores on Zadelstraat.

Most shops in Utrecht are open seven days a week. When bad weather strikes, shoppers can head indoors to Hoog Catharijne, one of the largest indoor shopping malls in the Netherlands, which is connected to Utrecht’s Centraal Station.

Eating out in Utrecht

Expats moving to Utrecht won’t be disappointed when it comes to dining out. The city offers an array of international eateries to suit a spectrum of palates. From French, Italian, Chinese, Thai and Indian cuisines to restaurants serving experimental dishes and vegan delights, expats won’t struggle to find a place to eat.

Being a student town, Utrecht's many restaurants often have weekly specials, which allow diners to eat out on a budget. Expats can mingle with the locals while enjoying a good quality steak and beer at one of Utrecht's famous pubs.

Nightlife in Utrecht

As you’d expect from a city that is home to a massive student population, the nightlife in Utrecht is buzzing. That said, it’s not all about student bars and raging nightclubs. Expats will also find live music venues, jazz cafes and intimate theatre performances.

A popular place for nightlife in Utrecht is the area known as Neude Janskerkhof en Domplein. This area is teeming with young crowds enjoying drinks and live music every weekend. Ledig Erf is also popular with locals in Utrecht thanks to its outdoor terraces, which provide a great spot for sundowners, especially during the summer.

Sports and outdoor activities in Utrecht

Adventurists and nature lovers will enjoy living in Utrecht. The city is small, and the city centre is easily navigable on foot or, of course, by bike. The locals love to cycle and besides the daily commute, recreational cycle routes abound.

Runners will also enjoy being out and about in Utrecht – each year the city plays host to the Singelloop Utrecht, or Canal Run, which is described as one of the world's fastest 10km races.

See and do in Utrecht

Expats moving to Utrecht will find that there is plenty to see and do in the city. From castles, forts and citadels to informative museums, galleries and stunning botanical gardens, the city has expats spoilt for choice. Below is our list of the popular attractions in Utrecht.

Centraal Museum

Founded in 1838, Centraal Museum gives visitors an insight into Utrecht’s history and culture through a range of exhibits.

De Haar Castle

A visit to the Netherlands' largest castle and its landscaped garden is the highlight of anyone’s stay in Utrecht. De Haar Castle dates back to the 13th century and has played host to regular fairs and events following its restoration in the 19th century.

Dom Church

Dom Church, also known as St Martin’s Cathedral, is a Gothic church dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours. The architecture is impressive, but the real gem is the view visitors can take in after their 465-step climb to the top.

Museum Speelklok

Likely to be one of Utrecht’s most unusual tourist attractions, Museum Speelklok houses exhibits displaying music boxes and barrel organs from the 18th century.

Rietveld Schröder House

Rietveld Schröder House is a UNESCO-listed 1920s building and is the brainchild of Dutch architect, Gerrit Rietveld. It was commissioned by the Schröder-Schräder family to be built without walls and occupies a prominent position in the development of modern architecture.

Utrecht Botanical Gardens

Located on the eastern edge of the city on Utrecht University’s campus, the famous botanical gardens are well worth a visit. Filled with an array of plants, trees and a beautiful collection of butterflies, the botanical gardens make for a perfect family day out.

What’s on in Utrecht

Utrecht may not be quite as large as Amsterdam or Rotterdam, but the city holds its own when it comes to entertainment. Expats will find that the city has a jam-packed annual calendar with something for everyone. Below is our list of annual events in Utrecht.

King’s Day (April)

King Willem-Alexander’s birthday is celebrated on 27 April, and Utrecht goes all out in celebration. The festivities often begin the night before the king’s birthday, with the traditional vrijmarkt (free market) jumble sale of second-hand goods and homemade treats kicking off in the early evening.

Liberation Day (May)

On the 5th of May, the Netherlands celebrates the end of the German occupation during WWII. Utrecht, like all the other main cities, puts together a programme of festivities packed with musical performances and vibrant street fairs as well as events for children.

SPRING Performing Arts Festival Utrecht (May)

An international festival where audiences are treated to stunning theatre, dance and visual art performances. The main events take place at theatre venues around Utrecht, and there are also plenty of spontaneous street performances.

Singelloop Utrecht (September/October)

Every September or October, runners from across the world head to Utrecht to take part in what is considered one of the world’s fastest 10km runs, the Singelloop Utrecht or Canal Run. The atmosphere is electric whether an expat chooses to take part or spectate.

International Chamber Music Festival (December)

A gathering of the world’s best classical musicians who come together to perform traditional pieces as well newer works. The festival is extremely popular and tickets sell out fast, so don't miss out.

Getting Around in Utrecht

Utrecht’s central location within the Netherlands makes it an ideal transport hub for the rest of the country. Expats moving to the city will also find that it is home to an efficient transport network, and getting around Utrecht is fairly straightforward.

Public transport in Utrecht

While Utrecht Centraal Station is a hub for intercity trains throughout the Netherlands, public transport within the city mainly consists of an extensive bus network and a small tram system. Most locals commute using their bikes and on foot, especially within the pedestrianised city centre.


Utrecht has an integrated public transport system, which makes getting around the city easy. The OV-chipkaart is a smart card that can pay for public transport throughout the city as well as the rest of the country. The OV-chipkaart is rechargeable, and commuters swipe at the start and end of each bus or tram journey.


Buses are the main mode of public transport in Utrecht. Utrecht’s bus network is extensive and takes commuters almost anywhere. Utrecht Centraal station is the major hub for the bus system as well as the national railway network. For those travelling outside daytime hours, Utrecht’s bus service has a select number of ‘nightlines’ which operate on a limited schedule.


Utrecht’s 'sneltram' system consists of three light-rail lines. While the tram system is not quite as comprehensive as Utrecht’s bus network, it’s certainly a faster mode of transport for those who live along the routes.

Taxis in Utrecht

Taxis are available in Utrecht, but the fares are high, so most people only use them occasionally. Expats will find that Utrecht taxis are generally safe, clean and reliable. Taxis are available at a few designated ranks in the city and at Utrecht Centraal. It's often best to call and pre-book a service.

All licensed taxis in the Netherlands have special blue plates with black lettering.

Driving in Utrecht

Having a car is not essential in Utrecht. The city is relatively small and easy to navigate using public transport. In fact, the city authorities actively discourage people from driving, especially within the city centre. Driving in Utrecht can also be frustrating, thanks to the one-way streets and bus lanes. In addition, parking is exorbitantly priced. Park and Ride services are also available, which allow drivers to park outside the city limits and catch a shuttle into the city centre.

While many people don’t use a car in Utrecht, it can be convenient for those with children or people who want to explore the countryside during the weekend.

Cycling in Utrecht

One thing expats moving to Utrecht won’t be able to avoid are bicycles; locals like to cycle everywhere, and Utrecht is a bicycle-friendly city. Those who choose to cycle will find it the easiest and most convenient way to get around the city. There are dedicated cycle routes and facilities allowing bicycles to be stored securely.

Those who don’t have a bike can rent one at the city’s many bicycle shops located close to the railway station. Bike-sharing schemes are also popular, such as OV-fiets or the USP Campusbike for staff and students at Utrecht Science Park.

Those who decide to cycle should ensure that they invest in solid bike locks. Although Utrecht is generally safe, bike theft is quite common in parts of the city. Alternatively, use the secure bike parking areas provided by the council.

Walking in Utrecht

Utrecht is an exceptionally safe city, and walking is a great way to get around. The city centre is compact, so exploring it on foot is a viable option. Expats who stay in an area or suburb close to their office may find themselves walking to work. Be sure to only walk on the sidewalks, and stay clear of the designated cycle paths.