I'm a Romanian/Canadian currently living in Rotterdam. I spent my first two years in the Netherlands...
Student in the Netherlands: Now for some fun!26 February 2013, by Sonia M
So, you’ve taken a crash-course in the boring, yet practical, advice on how to survive as a student in the Netherlands and now you’re ready for the good stuff.
First things first: Get yourself a bike! As you’ll surely notice once you get off the plane / train / bus when you arrive, this country has a thriving bike culture. The lack of hills and the abundance of cars and people all packed into a tiny little country make getting around often a hassle.
But a bike will solve a lot of these issues and is probably the easiest and most practical mode of transportation available, alongside public transit. Many of the universities arrange bike sales at the beginning of each semester to provide students with the opportunity to get a bike during one of the first few days on campus.
You can also get a bike from a former student that is leaving (which is usually a much more affordable choice) but this might be difficult to do if you arrive right as the school year starts when most of the previous students have already left. A third option is to get a bike from a bike shop, but again, these tend to be quite pricey.
Avoid getting your bike from anyone on the street as these bikes tend to be stolen and then sold illegally which could cause you some problems.
Once you’ve got your bike, (and / or your OV-Chipkaart) you’re ready to start exploring and enjoying all that the Netherlands has to offer in terms of touristic sites, but also in terms of great activities for any age.
Besides the beautiful bike rides you can take alongside canals, rivers, cobblestone roads, and the countryside on the (few) nice, sunny days throughout the year, you can also visit the many cultural and educational venues throughout the country.
There are some amazing museums to visit in or close to every big city in the Netherlands. On a student budget, you might not be able to afford paying the entrance fee for each, but there’s an easy solution for that.
You can get yourself a museumkaart from many of the larger museums in the country. You just have to pay the cost of the card (which is 44,95 euros for 2013). The card is valid for a year and will allow you to visit the majority of museums in the country without paying for an entrance ticket.
And definitely check out at least one of the annual Museumnachts that take place in the bigger cities. Visitors are able to see a number of museums during the night as they are open until 2 am and host special events and exhibitions.
You have to get a separate ticket for this event (generally costing around 20 euros for the night), but make sure to keep an eye out when they go on sale as they tend to sell out quickly.
There are also a number of outdoor attractions to visit in the Netherlands. The Keukenhof is an immense outdoor flower garden that is open during the spring each year.
Photo credits: CollegeDegrees360
As well, the north of the country has some incredibly beautiful islands and scenery surrounded by water that really shows what the Netherlands has to offer in terms of nature and conquering the sea.
If you’re more into the music scene, you’re in luck. There are some amazing venues hosting a wide variety of music throughout the country. Paradiso and Melkweg in Amsterdam feature a smaller concert venue where attending a show is a much more intimate affair, as opposed to the bigger venues such as the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam or the Ahoy in Rotterdam.
Rotterdam also has a few small venues and festivals that host some great indie bands throughout the year. Rotown is one of these, as is the Metropolis (free!) festival held every year. The Hague has a cool, but small venue at the Paard van Troje. Groningen and Utrecht also have some great venues that showcase talented artists.
Be sure to keep up to date with what these places have to offer in terms of music, and make sure to get a year-long membership from the get-go (if required) as it tends to work out cheaper than buying a month-long membership every time you find something you’d love to go and see (which turns out to be pretty often if you’re like me).
And then there’s the numerous festivals throughout the summer months that are also great experiences to partake in while you’re here.
But don’t just stick to the mainstream touristic stuff! Make sure you check out local markets (most cities hold a few on a weekly basis in some of the bigger squares). Take the time to travel to different cities and witness the different architecture, culture, and feel for yourself.
And enjoy every moment of spare time you have here. There are so many things to do and to see that you should never be bored!
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