Canals? Check. Red light district? Check. "Special" coffee shops? Check. While these may be the things most tourists think of when Amsterdam comes up, there's a lot more to the city. This was, after all, the center of the Dutch empire, which reached from South Africa to India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. At one point in its history -- the so-called Golden Age of the 17th century -- it was the richest city in the world. The wealth from these colonies and other trading posts flowed back to Amsterdam, resulting in the magnificent architecture and art we enjoy today.
It's still a major business hub, home to giant companies like ABN AMRO, ING Group, Elsevier, KPMG, Philips, Heineken, and Akzo Nobel. In addition to these stalwarts, it's also a draw for the world's creative class. Dozens of fashion brands large and small are based here and entrepreneurs are making it the third biggest home for startups in Europe.
In recent years Amsterdam has enjoyed a rising profile and the spotlight has shown brighter since Brexit has generated speculation about which cities will replace London's role in the global order. This rising profile, however, has resulted in increasingly expensive housing, regardless of where you are renting or buying. This is pushing residents into neighborhoods previously considered rundown, though as they gentrify many are becoming desirable destinations.
A lot of different things have contributed to Amsterdam's rise. The Dutch rank second in the world in English proficiency; the Netherlands has a great education system; it's a multicultural society home to 180 different nationalities (only about half of the city's population are native Dutch); and it's a tolerant city, with a strong LGBTQ community.
The diversity has resulted in a rich culture. Music, theater, and art are in abundant supply. Food has become its own art form, and you'll find everything from humble Middle Eastern restaurants to fine dining. And of course, just walking the beautiful streets along the canals is a show unto itself.
It all adds up to a superbly livable city and it's no surprise that people from all over the world want to be here.
Read on to learn about the basics (housing, transportation, internet, and more!) in Amsterdam and to find the perfect neighborhood for you.
Amsterdam is ranked as one of the safest cities in the world, though it does have pockets of higher crime.
Amsterdam has excellent transit in most neighborhoods, though biking is the standard method of transportation in town.
Figure out which local bank is the right one for you and learn how to open an account.
Learn about the different education paths in the Netherlands, how to enroll your child in a school, and language requirements.