Amsterdam vs Rotterdam: Which city is best to live in?
Nestpick is a Berlin-based online housing platform founded in Rotterdam in 2014 that deals with mid- to long-term rental housing from more traditional landlords rather than short-term holiday rentals. Joe Lofts gives a detailed overview of the rental market in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
The famous rivalry between the two great Dutch cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam takes on many guises, and even stretches back to the 13th century when both cities were first granted city status.
Whilst there’s always been a competitive nature between the inhabitants of these two very different cities, nowadays it mostly takes on the form of light-hearted banter. In fact, many residents freely move between the two. There’s even a name for these people: "Amrodammers".
However, various outdated clichés about both cities continue to persist, including which parts of each city are the best / worst, which are most affordable and what the residents of each city are like.
This comparative guide will dismantle such stereotypes and give you all the necessary information to help you decide whether Amsterdam’s historic apartments or Rotterdam’s modern living spaces best suit your needs.
A tale of two cities: A brief overview
Amsterdam is the Dutch capital, and has the bigger international reputation of the two. Famous for its pretty belt of canals, beautiful centuries-old architecture, coffee-shops and liberal attitude to life, Amsterdam is wildly popular with tourists and home to a large international expat community. With a population of 851.373, it’s also the largest city in the Netherlands.
Rotterdam is known as the gateway to Europe, and the city’s bustling seaport at the mouth of the River Maas is the largest on the continent. Whilst many local jobs in this traditionally working-class, multicultural city are connected to the port, the last couple of decades have seen the economy diversify.
This has triggered an architecturally modern skyline, the growth of a sizeable expat community and an excellent nightlife scene. With a population of 633.741, Rotterdam is the second most populous city in the Netherlands.
The most affordable neighbourhoods for apartments: Amsterdam vs. Rotterdam
As the cheaper of the two cities, Rotterdam tends to have more affordable areas to choose from for apartments than Amsterdam. However, both cities are home to a number of unique, vibrant neighbourhoods that offer a range of housing options for all prospective new arrivals.
Whilst central Amsterdam and the surrounding Canal Belt are rather expensive to live in, there are still several neighbourhoods in Amsterdam which allow you to live nearby to these highly desirable areas without paying exorbitant rental prices.
Bos en Lommer
Bos en Lommer is a great option for those of a creative or artistic disposition, and this traditionally 'tough' neighbourhood has seen massive redevelopment projects turn it into a colourful area full of bars, shops, restaurants and trendy clubs.
De Pijp ("The Pipe") is a diverse, welcoming inner-city neighbourhood that possesses an eclectic range of shops and surprisingly modern apartments set within 19th-century apartment blocks.
Amstelveen is a leafy, family-orientated suburb nestled between Amsterdam and Schiphol Airport. The area is home to a large expat community (14 percent of its residents are international), and rents here are cheaper than the city centre.
Other affordable neighbourhoods in Amsterdam
Other affordable options in Amsterdam include the formerly industrial areas of Zeeburg, KNSM Island and the Eastern Docklands - areas which offer a bit more space for your housing budget and easy access to the city centre.
Rotterdam is a thriving city that’s undergoing a process of continual development. And there are plenty of affordable areas to choose from. The city centre is home to a range of different styles of apartment but is pricier than the rest of the city, and some rents here will rival those found in central Amsterdam.
Whilst Kralingen-Crooswijk may not seem like the most affordable choice with its multi-million-euro mansions, it’s also home to a number of reasonably priced student digs and council houses. This international area is only 15 minutes east of the centre and has a quaint village feel to it.
Multicultural and bohemian Oude Westen is another area favoured by expats due to its high number of cafes, eateries and shops. It’s also home to a varied number of reasonable apartment options.
Up-and-coming Prinsenland is more affordable than downtown areas and its cheap prices are increasingly drawing in a younger crowd, especially due to the widespread availability of modern apartments here.
Other affordable neighbourhoods in Rotterdam
Other great, affordable neighbourhoods in Rotterdam include the quieter northern areas of Hillegersberg-Schiebroek and Ommoord, and the lovely inner-city district of Blijdorp (where apartments range between 700 euros and 1.300 euros per month).
Average prices for furnished apartments: Amsterdam vs. Rotterdam
Rotterdam was almost entirely flattened by bombing during World War II, and large swathes of the city had to be rebuilt from scratch.
Many of the buildings here are more modern than their Amsterdam counterparts and tend to be more spacious too. The age and compact nature of buildings in Amsterdam (especially in central areas), as well as much higher demand for places, also ensures they are pricier.
Average rent prices for furnished apartments are 42,41 percent lower in Rotterdam than they are in Amsterdam, although this figure can be higher or lower depending on factors such as apartment size, age, style and location.
To take an example, the average monthly price for an 85 square-metre furnished apartment (or a reasonably sized 2-bed) in a normal area of Rotterdam is 1.031 euros.
In a normal area of Amsterdam, the figure stands at 1.464 euros - 30 percent more expensive than Rotterdam. Similarly, prices for household utilities are on average around 43 percent lower in Rotterdam than in Amsterdam.
For a furnished 1-bedroom apartment in Amsterdam city centre, you will be expected to pay anywhere between 900 euros and 1.700 euros per month, with a monthly average of 1.362,10 euros.
Conversely, a furnished 1-bedroom apartment in Rotterdam city centre costs roughly between 600 euros and 1.000 euros, with an average of 835 euros per month. This means that living in a 1-bedroom apartment in an expensive area of Rotterdam costs 38,70 percent less than it would in Amsterdam.
For those on a budget in Amsterdam, it’s much better to search for furnished 1-bedroom apartments in cheaper areas. Outside Amsterdam’s city centre, the average monthly rent stands at 1.036,11 euros, although realistically apartments can be found for anywhere between 700 euros and 1.300 euros.
For those looking for something similar in Rotterdam, the average monthly rental price for a 1-bed in a cheaper area is 610,29 euros, and decent options can even be found for as low as 400 euros. This means that the difference between affordable areas of the two cities is even greater than that of the city centres.
A furnished 2-bedroom apartment in Amsterdam’s more desirable areas such as the Canal Belt roughly costs between 2.000 euros and 2.500 euros, whilst a furnished 2-bedroom apartment in Rotterdam city centre costs between 1.000 euros and 2.000 euros.
In central Amsterdam, a typical 2-bed will be quite compact in size unless you are willing to pay a premium price, although you’re likely to be treated to an amazing view of the picturesque streets around you.
Apartments in Rotterdam’s city centre tend to be more contemporary in design, and often come in the form of modern, stylish apartment blocks complete with elevators and all the amenities.
Outside Amsterdam city centre, around 1.500 euros a month will get you a nice 2-bedroom place in a less expensive area such as Bos en Lommer.
However, apartment prices and styles can range can substantially across the city: 1.750 euros can get you a generously spaced, modern apartment in Westerpark, whilst 1.400 euros can land you a medium-sized furnished apartment in the De Baarsjes district on the inner-west of the city.
In Rotterdam, paying anywhere between 900 euros and 1.600 euros will land you a decent 2-bedroom apartment in various areas of the city, from the northern residential borough of Hillegersberg-Schiebroek to terraced inner-city areas such as Suze Groeneweglaan.
Increasing demand for the more commercial and gentrified areas of Rotterdam has seen rent prices skyrocket in recent years, meaning that more centrally located properties tend to get snapped up quite quickly.
For a furnished 3-bedroom apartment in Amsterdam city centre, you will be expected to pay around 2.300 euros per month - though the price range is fairly broad and stretches from 1.750 euros at the lower end to around 3.000 euros at the more affluent end of the spectrum.
Conversely, a furnished 3-bedroom apartment for rent in Rotterdam city centre will only set you back 1.325 euros. The price range for Rotterdam city centre is around 900 euros to 2.000 euros, which is almost 1.000 euros cheaper than Amsterdam!
The average rent for a furnished 3-bedroom place in a more affordable neighbourhood of Amsterdam such as Amstelveen or De Pijp stands at 1.556,59 euros, whilst renting a 3-bed in a similarly affordable area of Rotterdam such as Kralingen costs an average of 842,86 euros per month. Overall, 3-bedroom apartments in normal areas of Rotterdam are 45,85 percent cheaper than 3-bedroom apartments in similar areas of Amsterdam.
Although affordable 3-bedroom apartments in the city centres of both are in relatively short supply (especially in Amsterdam), the suburbs of both cities have quite a lot of options that vary in cost, size, style (from apartments in semi-detached houses to those in modern tower blocks) and location.
When it comes to choosing between Amsterdam and Rotterdam, both are fantastic cities for millennials, offering a plethora of opportunities for housing, work and leisure pursuits.
Amsterdam may be quite a bit more expensive to live in than Rotterdam, but it’s also an incredibly unique city that more than makes up for hefty rental costs with vibrancy and culture.
Likewise, Rotterdam may not be as popular or as busy as Amsterdam, but its futuristic architecture and forward-thinking attitude make it a great choice for expats.
Ultimately, the decision depends on your lifestyle, tastes and budget.
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