The Netherlands is commonly cited as a top destination for international students, both for what the country stands for and the holistic education it offers. A small country in between world giants Belgium and Germany, it is inevitable that the Netherlands becomes a political and economic hub as well. The country is a well-industrialized nation that is a founding member of NATO and the EU and is one of the largest exporters of food worldwide. With excellent government support and low crime rates, the Netherlands enjoys a safe and quality environment and low costs of living. The World Happiness Report ranks the country as part of the top five happiest countries worldwide. There are many nightlife spots to unwind, cheese to indulge in, and canals and windmills to get lost in.

This level of investment is evident in the realm of education as well. The Dutch take pride in their modern ways of learning, looking into experiential teaching methods and being the first to adopt new advancements in science and technology. Despite being a non-Anglophone country, the majority of Dutch residents can communicate in English, easing the adjustment for foreign students. The Dutch’s high level of tolerance also encourages students to speak up and get themselves heard, inside and outside of the classroom. University cities have been established in the Netherlands solely for the advancement of research and education. Find out the Dutch city that fits you best:

Top Cities in the Netherlands for International Students

1. Amsterdam

As the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam tops the list for studying. While the city is the center of finance in the Netherlands, its crowning glory is its culture. Nicknamed the “Venice of the North”, many are in awe of Amsterdam’s complex system of canals which are both picturesque and functional. Amsterdam is oozing with history – from its well-preserved architecture to its bustling arts scene. Students can spend their weekends cycling through the city or scouring flea markets and street art, indulge in the city’s growing cafe scene, and end the day listening to music concerts in their favorite night markets.

The city’s chill, laid-back vibe seeps into the personality of its people as well. Amsterdam citizens are known for their tolerance, hospitality, and laid-back vibe in the midst of it all. Their progressive mindset makes Amsterdam inclusive to minorities such as the LGBT community, making it a perfect destination for anyone. Check out top university options in Amsterdam such as:

  • University of Amsterdam
  • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

2. Rotterdam

Rotterdam is the second-largest city and a top location to study in the Netherlands but commands the title of the biggest maritime port in Europe. Rooted in its identity near the water, the city started as a humble fishing village that has now grown into a major port city. As a hub for maritime trade, Rotterdam makes for a lively city center. The city has also made deliberate strides in transforming its landscape to become a hub for modern architecture, making it a perfect destination for art and design students.

Make the most out of Rotterdam through its top destinations – a panoramic view while on the Euromast, and a tour of the best zoo in the Netherlands – Rotterdam Zoo. Shop til you drop in shopping districts in Lijnbaan, Coolsingel, or Alexandrium, or get your culture on with a variety of museums and theaters. Or catch the city’s special festivals such as the Summer Carnival or the Rotterdam Marathon if you’re lucky. There’s surely something for everyone in this city, including top business universities such as:

  • Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • Rotterdam Business School

3. Maastricht

Maastricht is the capital of Limburg province, located on the southern tip of the Netherlands. One of the city’s defining features is the Meuse River which cuts through the entire city, providing a balance between natural and man-made beauty. Maastricht is an excellent city to study in the Netherlands. This small town a little ways away from Germany may not look like much, but don’t let this fool you. The city boasts of 2000-year old landmarks all over the city – from the highs of the steps in St. John’s Church to the lows of the underground caves in Mount St. Peter.

The best time for a visit to Maastricht is during their huge events – the yearly carnival, the European Fine Art Fair, and the Maastrict Christmas market. But if you’re a student, you’ll practically live and breathe the Maastricht life in this university town’s top institutions:

  • Maastricht University
  • Maastricht School of Management

4. Utrecht

Utrecht is the fourth-largest city and among the best places to study in the Netherlands, and while other cities enjoy status as the political or economic centers of the country, Utrecht’s title is special as it has been the Netherlands’ religious center since the 8th century. Today, the Netherlands enjoys the freedom of religion, but evidence of the country’s Catholic past remains in the city’s vast number of well-preserved religious buildings. One fine example is the Dom Tower – a Church bell tower that is also the highest point in Utrecht, featuring spectacular views of the city.

Students can get lost in Utrecht’s canals and old-school landscapes, and get a meaningful immersion in the Dutch way of life. Utrecht is the city is the second-highest number of cultural events – from theaters and music concerts to religious festivals. Some of its higher institutions are:

  • Utrecht University
  • University of Applied Sciences Utrecht

5. Leiden

A proud university city since the 1500s, Leiden is a city that is built for the modern international student in the Netherlands. True to its motto “City of Discoveries”, the city makes education and science a key priority, building its city landscape around key educational institutions. This has resulted in a high influx of foreign students that fuels the city’s bustling energy.

However, Leiden keeps the charm of a small city through its rich and well-preserved historical sites. Its extensive network of canals and bridges rivals that of Amsterdam, coupled with key landmarks such as its gothic churches Hooglandse Kerk and the Pieterskerk, and the oldest botanical garden in the country, the Hortus Botanicus. Discover Leiden for yourself through the city’s top institutions:

  • Leiden University
  • Webster Leiden


I hope that this article on Best Cities to Study in the Netherlands was helpful. Make sure to also check out the Available Programs in Europe!