Charming student-friendly cities in the Netherlands

Charming student-friendly cities in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is one of the countries that has succeeded in preserving its traditional values whilst catching up with modern times. For instance, a curious tourist in Naarden will notice modern offices and shops in the middle of old-fashioned, Renaissance-style streets, right around the corner from one of the oldest churches in the Netherlands.

In fact, a lot of small Dutch towns are great for lovers of history. From ancient castles to the facades of historic houses, there is a lot to see. However, are any of these small, charming cities also suitable for (international) students?

Small student-friendly cities in the Netherlands

The following cities might be smaller than Amsterdam, but they certainly have a lot of that same old-world charm:


Despite being a relatively small town with a population of roughly 122.000 inhabitants, Leiden has many things to offer. The architecture of Leiden is as beautiful as that of Amsterdam, but unlike our capital, the sights and landmarks are located quite close together.

Can I study there?

Leiden is home to the oldest university in the Netherlands. Since 1575, the University of Leiden has allowed generations of students to get an education and sample the town’s rich history. Since the town’s population is not huge, you can always interact with your fellow students. It is perfect for students who enjoy small communities and a homely atmosphere.


Dordrecht is the quintessence of arts. The city has everything, from a number of galleries (Dordrecht Museum, which is actually a gallery), 18th and 19th century architecture to gothic churches (the Grote Kerk). The city was an important trading place in the past, despite its small population (110.000).

Can I study there?

The city is famous for its colleges (Da Vinci College, for instance) promoting mostly an education in the arts. If you are interested in studying art, then this is the place for you.


The student community in Groningen is very large, and due to the vast numbers of students coming from various countries, it has a thriving and active nightlife. One of the most popular sightseeing places in the city is the Groningen University. This is the second-oldest university in the country.

Just for studying?

Whilst the principal focus of the city is education, it has many aces up its sleeve when it comes to tourist attractions - for example, the Grote Markt, where you can find a neo-classic town hall. Also, the most famous church in the town is the Martinikerk (Martin's church), which combines gothic and renaissance architecture.

The true spirit of the Netherlands

To experience the true spirit of the Netherlands, you should visit some of the following small Dutch towns that are scattered all over the country when you are not studying:


You can start with Appingedam - a historic city that once served as an important trading place because it is close to the sea. Nowadays, it has become a beloved town amongst tourists. Make sure you visit the kitchens hanging from the walls of the medieval houses at the Damsterdiep canal.


If you are looking to visit some medieval mansions - the best choice is to go to Harlingen, a picturesque harbour town with many ancient houses. An interesting titbit is that many of these old houses feature gable stones to substitute house numbers.

Author’s tip: If you find a golden angel icon on such a stone - that building used to be a Masonic Lodge.

Fishing and farming towns

Back in the day, small fishing and farming towns were the backbone of the Netherlands. Places like Giethoorn, Thorn, Volendam and many others are a must-see for any tourist searching for the true spirit of the Netherlands.

Have you ever visited these cities? Let us know in the comments!

Nicole Clark


Nicole Clark

Nicole Clark is a freelance writer and deeply engaged in studying educational topics. She has experience writing for famous media and educational blogs and runs her own blog on,...

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