The Complete Guide to Utrecht's Neighborhoods


Updated on Oct 22 • 7 minute read

Considering moving to Utrecht? You’re going to love it! Situated in the center of the Netherlands, the city offers a rich history as well as a young, modern atmosphere. When thinking about moving to the Netherlands, many expats consider Rotterdam or Amsterdam, but Utrecht holds a unique beauty of its own.

But as with any city, before you go, it’s important to get a good idea of the best neighborhoods, as well as some practical information, such as learning the transportation system and the most popular places to study or party. Our Utrecht Neighborhood Guide will definitely give you a jumpstart on preparing for your big move, and have you feeling like a local before you even leave home. Let’s get to work!

Why moving to Utrecht

You can enjoy centenary landmarks like the Domtoren bell tower or the Cathedral of St. Martin. Plus, you’ll be close enough for weekend jaunts to thrilling capitals like Berlin and Brussels. Whether you come to Utrecht as an expat to study or work, you’ll surely have numerous things to do in your spare time.

In fact, the Netherlands is the perfect place for international students! Many residents speak English, so it makes it a little easier when you relocate abroad, whether you’re studying, taking on a great internship or searching for a permanent career. However, it never hurts to learn a little Dutch!

Registering in a Dutch city

Now, it’s important not to get ahead of yourself. Before you start making plans, it’s best to make sure that you have everything in order. In fact, if you will require documentation for any permits, visas or such, it will be much easier to gather those while you’re still at home. Therefore, you should understand the requirements for moving to the Netherlands. The first thing you will need to do is register at Gemeente for your Burger Service Number (BSN).

If you will be living in the Netherlands for four months or more, you’ll need to register in your municipality, whether you are there to study or work. Obtaining a BSN is absolutely mandatory, and it will make arranging day-to-day necessities in the Netherlands much easier.

To register, you’ll need to make your appointment several weeks in advance, either via phone or online. Once the date for your appointment approaches, you’ll need to bring the following documents:

  • Your original birth certificate;
  • If the certificate is not in English, Dutch, German or French, then you will also need to include a translation in one of those languages;
  • Proof of marital status containing the apostille stamp, regardless if you’re married or not;
  • Your valid passport or ID card;
  • Your admission acceptance verification if you will be studying at a university;
  • Your original 1e vestiging Buitenland form;
  • Make sure that your accommodation qualifies for a tenant’s registration, and then submit your signed housing rental agreement.

If you hail from a country outside of the EU, you may also need a residence permit. You may check here to see if you will need to obtain one.

You will receive your BSN once you have registered with the Municipal Personal Record Database. The BSN is essential should you want to work in the Netherlands, as well as open a bank account or go into a number of other agreements.

You’ll also be able to use DigiD, which is a digital verification that can be used for government requests. You can also track your income and tax information with it, along with getting health insurance.

Getting around Utrecht

As soon as you arrive in the Netherlands, be sure to understand Utrecht’s transportation options. The public transportation system in the Netherlands is reliable and fast, making it a favorite mode of getting from Point A to Point B.

First thing first, you should get a OV-chipkaart for payment, which can save you up to 40 percent on some methods of travel. This is a very simple system, as it can be preloaded with ride credits at a number of vending machines that can be found at every public transport hub.

The card can be used for the train, bus, tram or metro. Just remember that you’ll need to scan the card when you start your journey and when you’re at your final stop. Don’t forget to tap out, or you will be charged more!

Of course, you’re in the Netherlands, so you can expect to see plenty of people on bikes. You can easily rent one, or purchase one at a secondhand store, meaning you can sell it to another expat when you return home.

Studying or working in Utrecht

You’ve decided to move to Utrecht, wonderful! Have you already selected a university? Have you found a quality internship? Are you hoping to build a career? We’re here to help you make up your mind.


The Netherlands is a wonderful place to study, and it doesn’t hurt that it has one of the highest number of classes taught in English abroad, which makes it ideal for expats. Students from countries within the EU, the EEA or Switzerland pay what is called statutory fees, and those who apply and are approved may also receive government subsidies. These fees are much lower than the standard, and start at €2,060 per year.

Plus, if this is your first time studying in the Netherlands, you’ll only pay tuition for your first year, as long as you’re studying toward your Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees at public universities.

If your home country is not within the EU, EEA or Switzerland, the fees are called institutional fees. Tuition starts at €7,500.

Once you’ve made the leap and have decided to study in Utrecht, you will find a wonderful array of institutions from which to choose, including: 1. Utrecht University 2. The Marnix Academie 3. HU University of Applied Scientists Utrecht 4. University College Utrecht 5. University of Humanistic Studies

Internships and Startups

Many expats move to the Netherlands for an internship. Whether you’re hoping to transform it into a full-time career, or it is the obvious next step after you graduate, there’s an abundance of opportunities in Utrecht, such as WE Fashion, SnappCar, Eurail, Stork, and Artefact. Europe is also known as a breeding ground for successful startups and other employers, which makes it a perfect place for budding entrepreneurs to take up work, especially in the technology trade. Some popular startups that really attract young internationals include Energyworx, Proov, United Wardrobe, Friss and Blendle.

Coworking Spaces

Coworking spaces are more than a startup trend. In fact, they’re spreading like wildfire, with a variety of locations all across Utrecht. You’ll find everything from freelancers to digital nomads to entrepreneurs taking advantage of the strong Wi-Fi and opportunities to network. As of late, university students have also been hanging out at coworking spots. Some of the best in Utrecht are: 1. Social Impact Factory Utrecht 2. WERF5 3. Double Utrecht Coworking Space 4. HackerCafe 5. Mindspace

Getting to know Utrecht better

Now that you’ve decided what you’re going to do in the fourth-largest city in the Netherlands, it’s time to find accommodation. Utrecht’s neighborhoods are diverse and full of personality, and many of them are very popular with young internationals. The costs of living might vary, so you’ll need to look at each neighborhood and see if it suits your budget. Also, consider your commute and whether you mind taking public transportation. You might be able to find cheaper housing!

City Center

This area is both charming and energetic, and is the beating heart of Utrecht. There are five different districts, with their own personalities and vibes. The center also has a wonderful historic ambiance, and it’s also the area where most tourists gather to see the main landmarks. You can find restaurants, shops, bars and more, plus a beautiful square where you can people-watch in the summer.

Of course, this is one of Utrecht’s most popular neighborhoods, which explains why it’s incredibly difficult to find housing here. It can also be very expensive. However, if you have the budget and want to be in the center of it all, then the City Center is probably the ideal place for you!


It is near the City Center and may still be a bit pricey, but not quite as expensive. It also has its fair share of dining, bars and shopping, and is home to Utrecht Science Park, the largest in the Netherlands.

The most eastern neighborhood, Oost is a favorite amongst students. The universities are accessible, and it has a trendy, hip vibe.


This buzzy neighborhood is full of energy and a young population. This is where you’ll find inexpensive cafes, fun bars and Janskerkhof Square, complete with the Bloemenmarkt, a large flower market. There are also plenty of vintage shops on Voorstraat and Biltstraat.

Universiteitskwartier, as the name implies, is the university district. Therefore, it is teeming with students and offers affordable housing.


One of Utrecht’s best-kept secrets, it is filled with accommodation and shopping options. You can expect delightful cafes, interesting jewelry and shops filled with creative designs. It’s also a favorite hangout spot for young internationals, with its wine bars and outdoor terraces.

Housing is plentiful here, and you can find moderate pricing as long as you jump on it while it’s still available.

Utrecht Zuid

Just south of the City Center, you’ll find the areas of Tolsteeg, Hoograven and Rivierenwijk. There are a lot of hipster cafes and bars, as well as unique little shops. If you need to relax, you can also find green spaces.

This is an up-and-coming neighborhood, so it hasn’t gotten completely busy or too pricey yet, but expect that to change due to its popularity. It is filled with students, expats, immigrants and young families. Depending on the housing style, there can be really diverse housing prices, so be sure to experiment with different areas to find what fits your budget.

Leidsche Rijn

And if you really want to get out of the city and don’t mind using public transportation to get into the City Center or the university area, you can experience a quiet suburban life. It is a newer area, boasting affordable housing and a slower pace.

It’s also home to Leidsche Rijn, which is the biggest park in Utrecht. But if you want to go walking or jogging, or maybe even skating or cycling, then the Maxima Park is the spot for you!


If you really need to stay within a budget, Kanaleneiland might be a viable choice. Mostly comprised of older apartment blocks from the 60s and 70s, it may not be pretty and historic, but it does offer low-priced housing. It consists primarily of expats, young families and a younger population. You can also find inexpensive fruit markets and other shopping. There are also relaxing green spaces by the Park Transwijk and the Amsterdam-Rijnkanaal.

We hope our Utrecht Neighborhood Guide will help you feel prepared as you begin to go over your moving abroad checklist, look over a doable budget and begin to decide on the best neighborhoods to book a place in Utrecht. An unbelievable adventure awaits you, so don’t waste any time and plan well in advance. Enjoy every second!

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