Saunders 1865 | Moving to Rotterdam

Moving to Rotterdam

Are you moving to Rotterdam? Situated in South Holland, Rotterdam is the second-biggest city in The Netherlands. With its great choice for accommodation, Rotterdam is an excellent posting for expats.

Our free, in-depth Moving to Rotterdam report includes info on:

• The excellent transport links throughout the city
• The best areas for rental properties
• Average monthly rental prices
• Details of good international schools etc.

Putting Rotterdam on the Map

19 miles from the North Sea, the city lies on both banks of the Nieuwe Maas River, a distributary of the Rhine, and is linked to the ocean by the New Waterway canal. Since the majority of the city’s buildings were destroyed in WW2, Rotterdam has undergone radical modernisation. The styles of architecture here are unique with surprising and unexpected building styles. It is renowned for it rich culture, the riverside setting, its maritime heritage and the excellent Erasmus University.

Rotterdam has the highest percentage of foreigners from non-industrialised nations. Nearly 50% of the population are not native to the Netherlands or have at least one parent born outside the country.

Rotterdam boasts excellent transport links.

• Rotterdam The Hague Airport is 3.7 miles north of the city and can be reached by taking the RET Bus 33, a journey of around 25 minutes. Alternatively, Tinker private taxi bookings operate from the airport and throughout the city.
• Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is 36 miles north of Rotterdam, a much busier airport than the Rotterdam airport, with flights to and from destinations all over the world. NS Dutch Railways operate frequent Intercity Direct high-speed rail services every 15 minutes, taking 26 minutes from Rotterdam, while a cheaper intercity rail service is available, taking around 50 minutes.
• RET operates the bus, tram and metro services throughout the city. With five metro lines, 10 tram lines and 68 bus routes, they are complemented by Arriva’s 69 bus routes and Connexxion’s 70. RET is the largest operator within the city, while Connexxion and Arriva mainly operate outside of the metropolitan area. Trams will get you all over the Rotterdam area and are fantastic for short trips.
• RET operates a night bus service on Friday and Saturday nights.
• The metro is handy for trips out to the suburbs or cities nearby, including The Hague. The main stops are Centraal, Stadhuis, Beurs and Blaak. An Ov-chipkaart, or card, is required for using the metro.
• Waterbus connects between Dordrecht and Rotterdam and also reaches the Kinderkijk windmills.
• Aqualiner offers fast connects between the city and Lloydkwartier and Katendrecht. Single tickets are sold on board and are cash only.
• The Water Taxi is a fun way to travel with over 250 landing stages.
• It goes without saying that cycling is the ideal way to travel in this flat city. This is the fastest way to commute around this bicycle friendly area, with cycle lanes on most major roads with unique traffic lights for cyclists. Needless to say, chain and lock your bike to a fixed object when leaving it. Gobikes, which are electronic bikes, are available for rental, as is the modern oBike, a conventional cycle.
• Centraal Station operates an international rail link to Belgium and France. Book well in advance for the best deals.

The Areas

Consisting of six neighbourhoods, the central area includes Stadsdriehoek – the original city centre, the Maritime Quarter, and Oude Haven – the original harbour.


This relatively new suburb is situated along the south bank of the Nieuwe Maas river and is very popular with young professionals and expats.  Warehouse conversions and modern high-rise apartments are the order of the day.  The city business district is a mere 10 minutes by metro, as is the all-important football stadium.


One of the country’s more affluent areas, the Maritime Quarter is characterised by luxurious converted warehouses and magnificent modern apartment blocks.  The historic harbour is surrounded by excellent restaurants and museums and the spectacular views across the Maas River are a major drawcard to those looking for a central location.


Culturally diverse, lively and arty, Oude Westen is close to Centraal Station, up-market restaurants, trendy cafes, pubs, clubs and theatres.  The first Chinatown in Europe is located nearby, along with schools, a library, the local swimming pool and banks.


This family-centric neighbourhood is quiet and peaceful, dotted with playgrounds and is well connected to the city by public transport.  A quick 20-minute metro trip is the quickest and easiest way to get to work.  The Alexandrium Mall is nearby.


Located on a peninsula on Rotterdam’s south bank, Katendrecht is situated between Maashaven and Rijnhaven.  Once famous with sailors for its nightlife, it is home to Chinatown and has recently been developed with the construction of the Rijnhaven bridge connecting Wihleminapier with Katendrect.  Culinary hotspots line the streets, including the famous Fenixloodsen.  The steamship, SS Rotterdam, is here and is now used as a hotel.


This historic area is now emerging as a popular neighbourhood in northern Rotterdam, with its mix of architecture dating back to the early 1900s.  This festive suburb hosts events such as markets, carnivals, food and live music festivals, drawing in artists and young professionals.


Traditionally a more affluent area, this leafy, attractive suburb is the chic side of Rotterdam.  Elegant lanes, lined with romantic villas, dominate the cityscape.  Home to Erasmus University, the students keep the area lively and upbeat.  Reasonably priced restaurants and pubs, the Arboretum Trompenburg, the botanical gardens and the city’s largest park, the Kralingse Bos, offer a myriad of entertainment.  Visitors to the park enjoy cycling, jogging and rollerblading around the lake.


Originally part of Delft, a city famous for its blue and white ceramics, Delfshaven became part of Rotterdam in 1886.  With its art galleries, historic buildings and local pubs offering craft beer, people from all walks of life live here.  The Pilgrim Fathers Church attracts many Americans to visit the district.

Who lives and works in Rotterdam?

The city is home to around 601, 300 people, while the entire metropolitan area – which includes The Hague – amounts to 2.9 million inhabitants.  Rotterdam is the most diverse city in The Netherlands with 45% of residents being foreign born, 51% in the city centre.  The majority of residents in the city centre have a higher level of education and have higher incomes than those living in rural areas.

Rotterdam has a thriving economy.  The port of Rotterdam is one of the largest chemical and oil centres in the world with 5 refineries and in excess of 45 chemical companies. The basis of the city’s economy relies on the port.  Most of the products travelling through the port consist of petroleum and crude oil, as well as grain and general cargo.  Oil-processing is an important industry, dating back to the 1940s.  International companies operating in Rotterdam include Unilever, CGI, Eastman, EY, Jumbo and ING.

The combination of the city’s lifestyle perks and low cost of living attracts many expats to Rotterdam.

Dutch is obviously the official language, but English, French and German are widely spoken and understood.

The Dutch are hard-working and disciplined and tend to be quite formal and reserved in the business environment. Self-control is important in business dealings and showing emotions is rare.  Punctuality is the norm and small talk is usually skipped in favour of getting straight down to business.  It is also unusual for business colleagues to socialise outside of work.

The Best Bits

Rotterdam is a lively city with plenty of opportunities for fun things to do, with numerous events throughout the year. The shopping, nightlife and restaurant scenes in the city are thriving, providing plenty of entertainment for young singles and families.

  • There are many opportunities to shop until you drop in Rotterdam. Two main open-air shopping streets Lijnbaan and Hoogstraat. These are connected by a sunken passage known as the slang term, the koopgoot – which literally means the shopping gutter. In this passage, visitors can indulge in even more shopping as they cross from one street to the other.
  • The tallest windmill in the world, at 141 feet high, is actually a wind power station. Resembling a traditional Schiedam windmill, Noletmolen was built to power a brewing factory, producing the world-famous Ketel One vodka.
  • The Six Days cycling competition is held in January. In the middle of winter.
  • The North Sea jazz festival is held every July and showcases worldwide talent.
  • The Markthal is an indoor food market, held in a futuristic horseshoe shaped building.
  • There are only seven windmills left. Two, De Ster and De Lelie, are open for visitors.  The others are only open when the mill is turning.
  • Skydive Rotterdam, also known as the Flying Dutchman, offers a complete skydiving course and tandem skydives.
  • On the last Sunday of the month, in the summer, you can glide down the Euromast in 15 seconds on a thick cable.
  • Rotterdam has a number of Michelin-starred restaurants. International cuisine is a local favourite, with many Spanish, Indian, Italian, Chinese, Thai and French restaurants to choose from.
  • Heerlijk Rotterdam food festival allows you to sample dishes, at reduced prices, from the many Michelin-star restaurants. It is usually held in late August and January.
  • There are a number of museums and theatres in the city.
  • Rotterdam Zoo offers a tunnel through the aquarium with sharks, turtles and fish swimming over and around you.
  • The August Racesalon is a Grand Prix-like street race held in August.
  • Rotterdam’s nightlife is exemplary. From rooftop bars to dancing to house music in a disused underground metro tunnel.
Bringing the Kids

There are many good schools in the city, including a handful of international schools.

Compulsory education starts at the age of five, but many parents choose to begin their child’s schooling at age four as this non-compulsory year is funded by the government. Tuition at public schools is free for children between the ages of four and 16. However, some schools may ask for an additional parental contribution (ouderbijdrage). Teaching is in Dutch which means that public schools aren’t always a good choice for non-Dutch-speaking families or those on short-stay contracts.

Fees for private schools can be pricey, but the Dutch schooling system is considered to be of a high standard and is known for making provisions for foreign students, with some schools having international or bilingual (tweetalig onderwijs) sections. This can save a great deal of money and for some families, this is an ideal solution. Though not free, these programmes are subsidised by the government and are considerably cheaper than private international school fees. At present, the tweetalig onderwijs programme is in the testing phase and is currently offered by only one primary school and one secondary school in Rotterdam.

Private international schools are accredited to offer foreign curricula which generally provides a good standard of education with excellent facilities. However, fees can be extremely high.

Choices for private international schools are limited, with only one school offering the American and International Baccalaureate curricula. Because there are so few options, demand often exceeds available seats, so it’s best to start the application process as early as possible.

Relocating to Rotterdam

This fascinating city, with a thriving economy and excellent education system, has a character all of its own.  With great choices for accommodation, a low cost of living, low crime rate, fantastic public transport options and a highly educated workforce with a great work ethic, Rotterdam appears to be an excellent posting for expats.  However, negotiating leases, conquering the public transport system and enrolling the kids in the education system may all be slightly baffling.  Using the services of an expert relocation specialist will help allay your fears and smooth the transition.


City Centre
Good Schools
Great Transport
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Average Monthly Rent - Rotterdam
One-bedroom close to the city €707
Three-bedroom close to the city €1110
One-bedroom outside the city €535
Three-bedroom outside the city €840
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