Living in Rotterdam

With over 170 different cultures, finding diversity in Rotterdam is a given. New cultural and creative initiatives are welcomed with enthusiasm. From a reflective art depot open to the public to a festival held exclusively on the roofs of the city. Rotterdam is fertile ground for innovation but let us not forget Rotterdam’s heritage. After all, it’s Rotterdam’s unique history that has made the city the platform for progress that it is today. From museums to festivals and from heritage to street art: you shouldn’t miss these cultural giants in Rotterdam!

Rotterdam is a young, dynamic metropolis which keeps developing rapidly. Our city has it all: from glistening skyscrapers, to an impressive port, from trendy restaurants and food markets to renowned museums, special attractions and festivals. Discover Rotterdam!

Neighbourhoods in Rotterdam

Rotterdam-Noord (North)

Rotterdam North usually refers to the area above Rotterdam Central Station.  It is where the city’s zoo is located (Blijdorp) and is popular with young families. Areas in the north include Oude Noorden, Bergpolder, Liskwartier and Hillegersberg.  Like Blijdorp, these neighbourhoods are also popular with families because of the green spacious lifestyle, which is sometimes difficult to find in urban cities like Rotterdam. Depending on where you live in Rotterdam-Noord, and of course also depending on your fitness level, it may be a quite far to travel to school by bike than say the city centre, Kralingen or Rotterdam West.

Rotterdam Stad (City Centre)

A 10-minute walk from the Central Station (Rotterdam Centraal) towards the South-East will take you to the city’s main shopping area called Lijnbaan and the ‘Koopgoot’.

Rotterdam-Oost (East)

The most popular areas in the east of Rotterdam are the neighbourhoods of Kralingen and Crooswijk. Crooswijk is the adjoining neighbourhood with working-class families. Due to its relative proximity  to the city centre, Kralingen is very popular amongst international students.


Along with Rotterdam-South, the West of the city is described as a multicultural area. It is home to Chinatown and various shops and restaurants with Moroccan, Turkish, Indian and Surinamese cuisine. Proactive efforts by city developers have helped Rotterdam-west grow into a commercially hip and artistic area to live in. The area is not always to everyone’s liking, but for those who enjoy a multicultural lifestyle, this could be just the place for you. The area is also near to the campuses of Museumpark, Rochussenstraat and Academieplein.

Rotterdam-Zuid (South)

Like Rotterdam-West, South of Rotterdam is quite multicultural. Also thanks to urban development plans, certain parts of the city, like Kop van Zuid and Katendrecht, are very popular and hip places to live in. Rotterdam-zuid is also home to Feijenoord, the most popular football team in the city.

A small drawback for some students is the fact that the area is on the ‘other’ side of the Maas river, which divides Rotterdam into north and south. As most of the university campuses, including the city centre, are on the north side of the river, it may be quite far to travel to the city and school campus by bike. The area is home to the RDM campus, so particularly for students at that campus it is an ideal place.


The Netherlands is among the safest countries in the world, according to the 2020 Global Peace IndexOpens external.

Rotterdam, like other major cities in the Netherlands, is open to a diverse range of cultures and customers, also the LGBTQ community.

After arrival

After you have arrived in Rotterdam,  settled in your new house and explored your new city a bit, there are a couple of practical actions to take.

Register with municipality and get your BSN

If you are staying in the Netherlands for more than 4 months you will need to go to the municipality and register as a resident in the Personal Records Database (BRP). This will enable you to get your Citizen Service number (Burgerservicenummer or BSN).

You need a BSN to open a bank account, take out health insurance or get a job or internship position in the Netherlands.

Many universities and universities of applied science also facilitate municipal registration at special intake days for international students.

There are 3 ways to avoid delays in obtaining your BSN:

  1. Be prepared.
    Arrange important documents such as birth certificates and make sure your passport is valid. If possible, find accommodation in the Netherlands before you leave.
  2. Register at your municipality as soon as possible.
    Do not miss out on the special arrangements your institution has made. Ask your international office for more information.
  3. Know your rights.
    There are only three grounds on which the municipality can refuse your registration: ​​​​

    • ​​​​​​​you do not have a valid passport or European identity card;
    • you do not have lawful residence;
    • you have no intention to stay in the Netherlands for longer than 4 months.

Read more about the BSN on


Get your DIGID

After you receive your BSN, you can apply for a DigiD. This ID allows you to take care of government related issues online. You can use DigiD to log in to government websites like DUO (study finances), Belastingdienst (taxes) or municipality services.

Read more about DigiD on


Open a bankaccount

If you stay in the Netherlands for a long period, it is useful to open a bank account. Most people use a Maestro debit card (pinpas in Dutch). Many grocery stores do not accept credit cards and some stores have even stopped accepting cash.

You must have a bank account if you are working or doing an internship.

Read more about banking matters on


Getting around

Public transport in the Netherlands is well organised. But if you are new you might need some extra tips. There are many ways to get around in Rotterdam. You can go on foot or by bike, but public transport is an easy way to get from A to B.

If you have eligible for a DUO grant you can also apply for a student travelcard

More information about:

Dutch Trains NS

Metro, tram and bus in Rotterdam

Waterbus Rotterdam

Rent a bike (swapbike)

Bikes are everyhwhere

The bicycle is the cheapest and easiest way to get around, especially if you live in a city like Rotterdam. There are special cycling lanes on almost every road and other road users are used to cyclists.

Most Dutch people, regardless of their profession or status, have a bicycle. Buy a second-hand bike rather than a new one to save money. But also be sure to buy at least one strong lock!