Living in Leeuwarden, Netherlands: Expat Guide

Are you planning to move to Leeuwarden? What is it like to live in the Netherlands?

In this Expat Interview, Sabrina, an expat living in Leeuwarden, shares her experience and practical tips for newcomers.

You’ll learn useful information to prepare for your new life in the Netherlands, such as the cost of living, how to find apartments and jobs, etc.

What is it like to live in Leeuwarden?

I moved to Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, two years ago. Leeuwarden is Friesland’s capital city, located in the northern part of the Netherlands.

With about 130,000 inhabitants, this city is beautiful and basically a smaller version of Amsterdam, with canals everywhere and brown brick houses.

Moving to the city has been a big change for me since most places can not be easily reached by car anymore.

The inner city of Leeuwarden is extremely busy, and most people ride their bikes around.

Expat guide to living in Leeuwarden, Netherlands.

How do you prepare for moving to Leeuwarden?

I suggest to everyone coming here to buy a bicycle right away. This is the main source of transportation here, and you cannot go anywhere in your car.

Another thing you might wanna consider is waterproof clothing since it rains many days of the year.

Winters can get quite cold, and it is very windy, so warm clothes are a must!


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What salary do you need to live in Leeuwarden?

For a comfortable life (with going out sometimes, activities), you need at least 2,500 Euros for a person household or for a couple around 3000 Euros.

The cost of living in Leeuwarden

Here is a quick summary of the cost of living in Leeuwarden. The currency is Euro.

Rental price (one-bedroom flat)1100
Prepaid cell phone plan15
TransportationBicycle, no monthly costs
Average meal/ personAt home, roughly 5. At the restaurant, about 17.
1 beer5
Gym membership50
Others…Insurance, Municipality Tax, Trash 200
The cost of living in Leeuwarden, Netherlands.

Where to live in Leeuwarden? – The best areas to stay

For apartments, there are very beautiful ones all over the city. Try to avoid the outskirts of the city.

Houses are best in the south, in Zuiderburen or Goutum. If you move a bit outside the city center, things are a lot cheaper, and you can be reached by car.

The city center of Leeuwarden, Netherlands.

How to find apartments in Leeuwarden?

Apartments in the Netherlands are best found via (their real estate website).

Renting is not a big thing here. Most people buy and sell as they move around.

Practical information

Luckily, everyone in the Netherlands speaks English very well. Therefore you can easily get around, go to the normal hospital, etc., without worries.


Three major supermarket chains in the Netherlands are Poiesz, Jumbo, and Albert Hein. Albert Hein is the most expensive one, but they do have everything that you need.

The supermarkets are very international and have plenty of common things from all over the world.


In the inner city, there are plenty of shopping opportunities and squares with cafes. Outside the city center is a big Albert Hein supermarket with a butcher, an alcohol store, and a drugstore.

Hospital and healthcare

The Netherlands has a system for doctors called the Huisarts (your main personal doctor). You will always have to go to him, and then he can refer you!

Sadly, the healthcare system is bad here, and they will try to send you away with painkillers.

Make sure to be very insistent or fly back home for non-critical procedures (as I do). You will get appointed a Huisarts in your district via your health insurance.

Phone and internet

For phone and internet, I can recommend KPN. They have a great reputation and a good price!

Beautifil canals in Leeuwarden, Netherlands.

Transportation in Leeuwarden

In the city, you are best served with a bicycle since there is barely any parking space.

There are buses from the city center to villages outside the city and a train station connected with bigger cities like Amsterdam and Groningen.

Weather in Leeuwarden

It is foggy most of the time because of the North Sea. There are lots of rainy days and not many sunny days.

In winter, it is around freezing temperatures and sometimes snow. Spring is the most beautiful season here, with some sunshine.

Expat living in Leeuwarden, Netherlands.

Good and bad things about living in Leeuwarden

I definitely love all the cute little shops and restaurants. There are many really great restaurants in the city. Also, the parks are very nice and well taken care of.

I hate that it is so crowded. It can be hard walking on the sidewalk because so many people also drive around with scooters.

What are the best things to do in Leeuwarden?

See, the Oldehove is definitely cool – it is a leaning tower, just like in Pisa. You can also rent a boat and drive around the canals in the summer.

Make sure to visit the Aquazoo. There are very sweet animals.

Boat trip in Leeuwarden, Netherlands.
Dring around the city by boat is also an interesting activity in Leeuwarden.

Did you experience any difficulties when you first moved here? How did you deal with that?

My biggest difficulty was with the doctors. It is hard to be taken seriously when you do not have a huge concern (they treat these well).

Everything smaller is ignored, and you will be sent away. They also never do tests or anything preventative, and that can be pretty scary when you are used to this.

Is it easy to make new friends in Leeuwarden? Where to meet new people in Leeuwarden?

I met many new friends through my husband’s work, who are all very nice.

However, I struggle to make friends on my own in the Netherlands specifically because the people are not very welcoming or outgoing to expats, in my opinion. I would suggest joining a gym or a club for new friends.

Where are your favorite cafes in Leeuwarden?

Doppio, Stek, Fellini, Fire Café and Bagels and Beans are my favorites.

Where are your favorite restaurants and bars in Leeuwarden?

De Koperen Tuin, Hana, La Cubanita, Roast, and Sophias are great places.

Eating out can be pretty expensive here. I don’t really go to bars, but I know there are a couple of nice ones in the city center.

Tips for finding a job in Leeuwarden

I do not have a job here (I work remotely), but I suggest signing up with Randstad or other headhunter teams. They will send you updates with vacancies.

What have you learned from living in the Netherlands?

I have learned not to use cash anymore. Dutch people always use their Pinpas (bank cards).

Also, Dutch people will push you away when they need something in the supermarket and send you a request (called Tikkie) for only 1 euro if you owe them.

They are pretty straightforward, and that was very new to me.

I learned to make myself heard and seen because they do not automatically look out for you here when you are small like me.

What should people know before moving to the Netherlands?

I personally would not suggest it to anyone moving to the Netherlands who does not like crowds and noise.

There are many great things here, but my impression has not been so good overall.

I was lucky enough to meet many nice people here, but sadly, my impression was that people were loud, rude, and pushy.

The country is extremely dense, and many people live in a small space, so if you are not into that, this is not the country for you.

About Sabrina

My name is Sabrina, and I am a passionate travel blogger and content creator from Austria. I moved to the Netherlands two years ago to live with my husband, a Dutch citizen.

You can follow my adventures on Shades of Summr.

The opinions expressed here by Expatolife columnists are their own, not those of Expatolife.

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