Finding the right place to study or work is key for my productivity and personal well-being. Amsterdam is one of the most international cities in the world, with thousands of students living in it. It is also a strong freelancing culture with great coworking spaces and alternatives for both professionals and students to feel what Dutch would describe as gezellig (cosy).
The best place to study in Amsterdam is cafes, such as Koffie Academie and STACH Overtoom. Some of the public libraries like the OBA of Central Station are free and also perfect to study. And my personal oasis for rainy days: the library and working space of the Stedelijk Museum.
Dutch people are great creating fun and relaxing environments. Every single place in this city has a particular charm and it is full of details, and coffee shops, libraries and cowering spaces are not an exception. If you want to get to know my favourite places to go with my laptop, keep reading this article!
Studying at Libraries
If you are not a fan of coffee or spending 3 euros on coffee every day, you are lucky! Amsterdam has a lot of libraries, more friendly budget. My favourites? The OBA of Central Station, the Library of the UvA at PC Hoofthuis and the VU Medical Building Library.
The OBA of Central Station
The OBA stands for Openbare Bibliotheek, the public library of the city. It has over 20 different libraries all over Amsterdam. Like any other library in the Netherlands, they count with big tables, quiet spaces and a lot of books. Being a member of the library costs around 30 euros per year, and you can get unlimited internet and free access to all of them and all they have. It is definitely a great investment, mostly for the Dutch winter.
My first experience was at the OBA Roelof Hartplein, but I would definitely recommend going to the OBA Oostendok (close to Central Station). This is a great new construction with amazing views to the water, comfortable individual sofas by the windows, great internet connection and an even amazing timetable: from 08:00 until 22:00 (except during the weekend, when they open at 10:00).
For those who are not familiar with Dutch libraries, let me tell you a couple of things I found surprising:
- They always think about the details, so you will see all your needs covered. OBA Oostendok counts with an indoor bar (with rather cheap drinks and quick meal solutions),
- It is close to an AH to go and several bars,
- You will be comfortable living your laptop there for a moment and going outside for some fresh air,
- You can bring your own drink and snacks (as long as you are discrete) and there are areas inside the building where you can use your phone, receive calls and take a break.
The Library of the UvA at PC Hoofthuis
The Library of the UvA at PC Hoofthuis is located in the heart of the city and it has free access. Even though this building belongs to the University of Amsterdam, anyone who wants to study is free to step in and use their facilities. Inside the building, you have several options: the library, the cafeteria, and the study room.
- The library of the PC Hoofthuis is like any other university library, the perfect place for those who really need silence and very little distractions to focus, whereas the cafeteria is for those who can handle a little bit of disturbance in exchange for snacking while studying and some amazing views to the canals from the big windows they have there.
- I would like to point out that the cafeteria is not like every other cafeteria: the constructors have thoughtful place many energy plugs all over it and tables are located on the periphery of the room, allowing you to have nice views while studying and eating. Moreover, they count with the most comfortable sofas with folding tables.
- My favourite place, however, is the study room. These are located on the ground floor and they count with super big desks with plug and individually lighted, ergonomic chairs and views to the canal. The later you go, or the earlier you go, the higher the chances you will have to get a nice spot.
- Since it is a university building, meals and drinks have a special price, being able to get yourself some coffee for less than a euro, or for free if you work there. If you are a student of the UvA you can get a discount. If you are like me and you are picky with coffee (as you will find down below), my tip would be to bring your reusable cup for a discount, and going for a break to the cafes around the corner: Traf Cafe or Cafe van Zuylen.
Even though the UvA is closed during the weekends, during weekdays you can go there from 8:00 until 22:00 (and even during the summer holidays between 08:00 and 18:00).
My third library recommendation is the VU Library. Even though it is quite far away from the center of Amsterdam (Zuidas), it is a lovely building that counts with free space for students to be productive there.
They offer students a list with the availability of rooms and timetables, for individual study or even group meetings. But I would personally recommend the Medical Library, where they count with awesome desks with high separations one from the other; proper workstations.
During non-exam periods anyone is allowed to go in and use their guests’ Wifi network for as long as needed. Moreover, if you are a student from any other Dutch university that counts with Eduroam, you are allowed to consult their catalogue as well as connect to their faster network.
As always, since we are talking about a university, you don’t have to pay to go in, food and drinks are relatively cheap since they count with their own coffee shops and even supermarkets, and there are a lot of different areas around the campus where you could take a break from studying.
Best Cafes to Study
There is a moment when newcomers discover that all cafes in Amsterdam should be recognised worldwide: most of them sell some of the best cups of coffee you will ever try. I wasn’t a fan of coffee until I moved to this city and started discovering how much I needed it to keep up with my studies and how good it was when made right.
It is also well known that most students can make it to finals and meet deadlines thanks to this awesome beverage, and why not motivate yourself studying with some of the best coffee, locally roasted and freshly grounded. This is a more expensive option than going to the library, but sometimes you have to treat yourself. My trick? I never buy coffee, so if I really need it and end up at a cafe, it has to be only to make the most out of it with my books.
Since these places offer a great quality coffee, they tend to be expensive (something around 3 euros for a cappuccino), but the good part is that you can just get yourself some and stay there as long as you want! Some of the requirements they have to meet for me to like them are:
- Good coffee (I mean, come on, if I am gonna pay 3 euros for it, it has to be awesome!)
- Relaxing atmosphere (I need to be able to be there as long as I want, no rush, if I am concentrated for 5 hours I need to be able to stay there)
- Toilets! (laugh at me, but if you have to stay there for 5 hours, you will thank me. Also being able to leave my stuff unattended is important for me)
- Plugs (my laptop has a life of 20 minutes approximately, so you can count on all of these places to have good electric receptacles)
- WiFi (of course! it is my number one priority and the first thing that I ask when entering a place, and it also has to unlimited and good enough to allow me to have several tabs opened)
- Music (my recommendations are for people who can study with music or background noise, so I don’t mind that from a cafe, I actually need it)
Here you have some of the best options you should try if you are in the hunt for your new favourite studying spot:
Have you ever had to make the hard decision of leaving your perfect studying spot to get some food? I believe I am not the only person who has had to make the decision of leaving after several hours of studying or working, after all, your brain needs a lot of fuel to keep working.
STACH Overstoom (close to Vondelpark) and Bilderdijkstraat (close to Jordaan) are two of my favourite locals: they offer a great and rather cheap menu. These locals have a great atmosphere: luminous and relaxing spaces where nobody is controlling you (bring your own bottle, and get some food, or bring your own snacks and only order a cup of coffee, it is up to you). Both locals have amazing seats facing their big windows, where you will be able to be in a bright and luminous room without engaging on all the noise and activity but getting the best out of it. For me, it is very important not to spend my whole day indoors or facing a wall, so these places are a great option for me to be productive yet not feel trapped inside a room.
The best part: STACH is one of the very few places that I have found open until 22 every single day of the week. One of the downsides of coffee shops in this country is their closing time. I come from a culture that goes out at 5, and Dutch have finished their days by then. If you don’t really care for local timing and need to keep your productivity up for longer, I highly recommend giving it a try: besides coffee, you have a lot of drinks (and great chocolate).
Black Gold is situated in a little local in the Amsterdam Red Light District. It is open every single day, so you won’t have any excuse not to study on the weekends. It offers a broad variety of roasts as well as a selection of vinyl.
I love this place, but be aware, it doesn’t have many tables and it definitely doesn’t look like a library, but if you are one of those persons who can study everywhere, it is a great place to disconnect from the world: not many people go there, you will have amazing background music and the atmosphere and lighting are definitely worth giving it a try. If you need to drastically change your setting, give it try, the place is definitely worth it.
I enjoy the little places in Amsterdam where out of a sudden, out of a very touristic place emerges a little Eden of peace only know by locals. And Black Gold is one of those places: they count with an indoor gallery where you can sit and enjoy from that peace and quiet while also being productive.
I have a soft spot for this place and since I discovered a couple of months ago, it has become my favourite coffee shop in the city. Not only the staff are really friendly, but somehow I can really focus when I am there and my productivity hits the roof.
Koffie Academie (close to Vondelpark) is open every day of the week and also has outdoor tables if you like studying in a more open space: personally, I love the big table they have at the bottom of the cafe, where they have a skylight and a garden access they keep open on sunny days for you to be working indoors yet get the feeling that you are working outside. Plus they have a cute little table outside.
Even though coffee is a little expensive for students budgets, you can sit there for hours without being disturbed, there you will find free infused water and a nice and chilled atmosphere.
Overtoom 95, 1054 HD Amsterdam
Where to study: Original options
Stedelijk Museum Library
My favourite discovery of last year, when I started studying Dutch and I was in the constant seek for a quiet and nice place to study was definitely the library of the Stedelijk Museum.
In case you want to know:
- you don’t have to be a member of the library (it’s basically free)
- you don’t need a museumcard to enter (even though I much recommend you to get one)
- nobody is going to ask you why you are there (I just say hi)
- you can stay there as long as you need (or as long as they are open, only from 12:00 until 17:00 from Tuesday to Saturday included)
- you can drink water but eating is not really allowed
Even though the Stedelijk library deposit is one of the biggest ones in Amsterdam, their studying space is a big room on the ground floor, right under the museum hall. I found this awesome place thanks to a book I read where the author, who lived in Amsterdam twenty years ago, was talking about working on her thesis at that place and loving the atmosphere.
Even though it is underground, it is very luminous. Everything is clean, white and there are many skylights. And the best part for me, an amazing acoustic that makes this place one of the very few spaces where I can actually study without music one. It is only a room and not many people know about it, so chances are you will enjoy it on your own or with very few individuals.
Wifi is free for visitors, and you can be connected there for as long as you need to. If you need a coffee break or a snack, you can just leave your stuff (don’t worry), and go for some coffee at the hall of the Museum or for a quick visit to the AH of Museumplein.
Not so long ago a friend of mine recommended me trying out the Volkshotel. The building is located close to the Amstel river, and while is not super close to the center, it is definitely worth giving it a try: at the reception area, they count with a modern working space, tables with incorporated plugs and comfortable chairs.
The whole hotel is ready for anyone to enjoy their working space: if the day is nice, go outside; if you like more chill environments, they have leather sofas and pillows; if you need silence, individual cabins. And all of this with free wifi.
The best part? You can just go and sit there, even if you are not a guest at the hotel. No need to get yourself a drink, no need to book a room, from 07:30 until 01:00.