Millennials & Amsterdam

Amsterdam scores high among millennials as a place to live, play and - even! - work. But what makes it so attractive to them? How do they socialise? Where do they go out? Crowd DNA exec Joey Zeelen shares a bit of first hand knowledge...

Living in Amsterdam

‘Venice of the west’ is what they call it, and everyone that visits Amsterdam agrees – it’s a city to fall in love with. Amsterdam – or A’dam for locals – the city of 17th century architecture, with canals that make your heart skip a beat, and as many bars and restaurants as there are places to park your bike. But what is it like to actually live in the tourist capital of the Netherlands?

The Dam’s stunning appearance and village feel give it a really pleasant combination of big city allure and small city comfort. ‘Gezelligheid,’ a word that only seems to exist in continental Europe is perfect for grasping the day-to-day city vibe of Amsterdam. Gezelligheid means a convivial, cosy, fun, quaint, or nice atmosphere, but can also connote time spent with loved ones; the act of seeing a friend after a long absence, or general togetherness that gives a warm feeling. All of which emphasises the vibe of living in Amsterdam and what makes it so attractive to millennials.


However, as Johan Cruyff, Amsterdam’s most famous citizen, would say ‘elk voordeel heb zn nadeel’ – for every up there is a down. Over the last seven years, since the economic crisis, the rent in the Netherlands has remained very stable, an average square meter in Holland costing €12.49 a month. In Amsterdam, though, rent prices have seen a massive increase since 2008, with the average square meter costing €20.18 a month in 2014. In the third quarter of 2014, a 100m2 apartment in Amsterdam cost on average €1,931 a month, while one quarter later this same apartment would cost €2,018. Everyone can imagine what this means for millennials that want to buy property… they don’t.

But houses that were impossible for us to buy are now also impossible to rent. Extraordinary rent prices attract fast moving millennials that don’t have children, people that are not interested in a long-term responsibility with the city. Take that together with a relatively high amount of expats and you see why Amsterdam can be an expensive place for most of generation Y.


Gentrification is rife and, though it normally gets criticised, in Amsterdam it gives birth to a lot of life in the city. In the last decade it’s turned into a heaven for hipsters, yups, and yucs (young urban creatives). A’dam’s characteristic centre is complemented with artesian coffee, smoked meat and barbershops. Amsterdam is turning into a city that satisfies every basic need of a self-respecting yup or hipster. But is that a bad thing? Not really. It’s found a way to make styled boutiques and food markets work particularly well with working class fundamentals. Amsterdam seems to have hit the spot in combining what young and old want into a pleasant yet sometimes dodgy environment. Dubious coffeeshops go hand in hand with craft beer popups and they operate next to each other without compromising the city’s integrity… and millennials love it. It is this new ‘dodgy hipster mix’ that makes the city so interesting to my generation. This is also what makes more and more young parents stay in the city instead of moving to child-friendly cities like Haarlem or Amstelveen. It is safe to say that Amsterdam has become a safe haven for middle/upper class generation Ys to do/buy/experience what they crave for the most.

Going out

The influx of wealthy generation Ys has made the city the most vibrant it’s been in years. Going out, eating and drinking have become more diverse than ever. Brooklynese-raw, Berlin-hip, and Copenhagen-clean rule the scene and bring style into the traditionally uniform hospitality establishments. Organic and fair-trade food is bigger than ever. Trendy wining and dining, gin-tonics… a lot of gin-tonics, is what makes the millennial clock tick.

In the last decade A’dam’s music scene has risen to an absolute height, with electronics as a front-runner. There probably isn’t a city in the world that has so many music festivals in and around its centre (many even speak of a festival overload). Fuelled by millennials, organisations like Dekmantel and Digital, clubs like Studio80 and Trouw, have given Amsterdam’s contemporary electronic music scene serious international allure. Not since the Roxy and iT in the early nineties has Amsterdam competed so decisively with the likes of London and Berlin.

A’dam’s gentrification has pushed some millennials to Holland’s IT city, Rotterdam, where the rent is cheap and where people ride a car instead of a ‘bakfiets’ (carrier cycle, the ultimate A’dam yup symbol). However, Rotterdam will never compete with the consistency of Amsterdam’s music and arts scene, and the cultural richness that most millennials live for. A’dam can be financially tough and seem like a hipster Valhalla, but at heart it’s a city shaped by generation Ys, where ‘gezelligheid’ rules the day and the night is more exciting than ever.