When it comes to investing in the Netherlands, there are many cities that can be considered attractive options.
Located in north-western Europe with overseas territories in the Caribbean, it has a population of 17.7 million. Its ten largest cities are Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Eindhoven, Utrecht, Gronigen, Breda, Tilburg, Nijmegen and Almere.
Bordering fiscal powerhouses and engine room of the European economy, such as Germany to the east and Belgium to the south, these geographic and economic advantages provide the Netherlands with many investment strengths.
Industries that attract companies and individuals investing in the Netherlands include agriculture and food, haulage, innovative and high-tech products, propagation materials and horticulture, health and life science research and facilities, chemicals, gas and petroleum products and the creative industry.
Investing in the Netherlands is popular with global trading partners including Germany, Belgium, the UK, the US, France and Italy.
In the province of Brabant alone, Eindhoven, Tilburg and Breda are within the top ten Dutch cities by size and population, each with established and burgeoning economies. To understand the wealth of investment opportunities in Netherlands cities, a look at the overall top ten offers some perspicacity.
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Metro population: 2.4 million
As capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is the most populous city in the country, boasting a population of just over 1 million. Amsterdam is in North Holland, which also has large cities Haarlem and Zaanstad.
Amsterdam is situated in the heart of Randstad in the western Netherlands, a region that has a population of more than 8 million, making up about 50% of the entire Netherlands population.
Amsterdam is the financial and business capital of the country, where many investing in Netherlands-based companies see the most attractive opportunities.
According to the 2007 European Cities Monitor, Amsterdam is one of the top European cities in which to locate an international business, ranking fifth in the survey that identifies London, Paris, Frankfurt and Barcelona as the four European cities surpassing Amsterdam in this regard.
A substantial number of large corporations and banks’ headquarters are located in the Amsterdam area, including AkzoNobel, Heineken International, ING Group, ABN AMRO, TomTom, Delta Lloyd Group, Booking.com and Philips.
Although many small offices remain along the historic canals, centrally based companies have increasingly relocated outside Amsterdam’s city centre.
Consequently, the Zuidas (or South Axis in English) has become the new financial and legal hub of Amsterdam with the country’s five largest law firms and several subsidiaries of large consulting firms, such as Boston Consulting Group and Accenture, as well as the World Trade Centre (Amsterdam) located in the district.
As emerging technology continues to thrive in the capital, Amsterdam Data Collective, a business designed to support clients with services including data strategy, data engineering, analytics, and data visualisation, continues to grow.
In January 2023, a new expansion deal was signed with Damvad Analytics, ensuring further growth and cementing the city’s position as a innovation hub.
Metro population: 2.3 million
Rotterdam is considered a major logistic and economic centre for investing in Netherlands businesses. Rotterdam is Europe’s largest seaport and has a population made up of people from more than 180 nationalities.
Rotterdam is also the home of the prestigious Erasmus University, with its idyllic riverside setting, lively cultural and social scene, as well as a rich maritime heritage coexisting with modern architecture.
Rotterdam has always been one of the main centres of the shipping industry in the Netherlands and a magnet for investing in Netherlands-based industries.
International companies with headquarters in Rotterdam include consumer goods company Unilever, asset management firm Robeco, energy company Eneco, dredging company Van Oord, oil company Royal Dutch Shell, terminal operator Vopak, commodity trading company Vitol and architecture firm Office for Metropolitan Architecture.
It is also home to the regional headquarters of chemical company LyondellBasell, commodities trading company Glencore, pharmaceutical company Pfizer, logistics companies Stolt-Nielsen, electrical equipment company ABB Group and consumer goods company Procter & Gamble.
The City of Rotterdam makes use of the services of semi-government companies Roteb and students at Rotterdam Business School to take care of sanitation, waste management and assorted services, and the Port of Rotterdam Authority to maintain the Port of Rotterdam.
Both these companies were once municipal bodies; now they are autonomous entities, owned by the city.
3. The Hague
Metro population 2.3 million
The Hague is the administrative and royal capital of the Netherlands and its official seat of government. It is also the capital of South Holland province.
When asking why invest in the Netherlands, the answer is often due to the status and economic prosperity of the de facto capital, The Hague.
It boasts a highly valuable service-oriented economy, but professional life in the city is dominated by the large number of civil servants and diplomats working there, with more than 26% of the jobs in The Hague provided by the Dutch government or the international institutions.
Large employers in this sector include the ministries of Defence, Justice, Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment, Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and Transport, Public Works and Water Management.
Several large international businesses have their headquarters in The Hague, including Royal Dutch Shell, the world’s fifth largest company in terms of revenue.
Other significant companies headquartered in The Hague include AEGON, APM Terminals, Damco, NIBC Bank, Chicago Bridge & Iron Company and PostNL. The city is also host to the regional headquarters of Siemens, T-Mobile, AT&T, Huawei, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, Saudi Aramco and Total Energies.
Metro population 780,000
Eindhoven is the largest city in the North Brabant province.
For many years, investing in Netherlands-based companies in Brabant has occurred due to the region’s long-standing reputation as a centre of cooperation between research institutes and industry.
This tradition started with Philips (the NatLab was a physical expression of this) and has since expanded to large cooperative networks. The Eindhoven University of Technology hosts an incubator for technology start-ups and the NatLab has developed into the High-Tech Campus Eindhoven.
Harnessing the investment and economic opportunities in Eindhoven, TNO has opened a branch on the university campus.
This tradition has also fostered inter-industry cooperation in the region; one example of this is the announcement in September 2010 of a new research lab for high-grade packaging materials, a cooperation of IPS Packaging and Thales Cryogenics.
This cooperative tradition has also developed into a different direction than the traditional technology research done at the university. Starting in 2002, the university, the Catharina hospital, Philips Medical and the University of Maastricht joined forces and started joint research into biomedical science, technology and engineering.
Within Eindhoven, this research has been concentrated in a new university faculty (BioMedical Technology or BMT). This development has also made Eindhoven a biomedical technology hub within the country and within Europe.
Metro population 650,000
Utrecht is the fourth-largest city and a municipality of the Netherlands, the capital and most populous city of the province of Utrecht. With a large economy, it provides many opportunities for investing in the Netherlands.
The economy of Utrecht depends for a large part on the several large institutions located in the city. It is the centre of the Dutch railroad network and the location of the head office of Nederlandse Spoorwegen.
ProRail is headquartered in De Inktpot, the largest brick building in the Netherlands (the ‘UFO’ featured on its façade stems from an art programme in 2000). Rabobank has its headquarters in Utrecht.
Metro population 360,000
Groningen is the capital city and main municipality of Groningen province in the Netherlands. It is the largest city in the north of the country.
The hotel and catering industries constitute a significant part of the economy in Groningen, making it a global opportunity for investment in Netherlands tourism.
Its focus on business services has increased over time and areas such as IT, life sciences, tourism, energy and the environment have developed.
Until 2008 there were two major sugar refineries within the city. The Suiker Unie plant was constructed in the outskirts of Groningen, but became a part of the city due to expansion. The factory had 98 employees before it was shut down in 2008 due to a reduction in demand. As of 2017, CSM Vierverlaten in Hoogkerk remains the only beet sugar production plant in the city.
Other notable companies from Groningen include publishing company Noordhoff Uitgevers, tobacco company Niemeyer, health insurance company Menzis, distillery Hooghoudt and natural gas companies GasUnie and GasTerra.
Metro population 324,000
Breda is located in the province of North Brabant. Breda was, historically, the centre of the food and drink industry in the region. Companies including Hero (lemonade), Van Melle (Mentos), De Faam (liquorice) and Kwatta (chocolate) are famous throughout Western Europe. Breda also had a sugar factory, supplying its best-known products.
Breda is now predominantly a service-oriented economy based on business, trade and logistics, making it attractive for investment opportunities in Netherlands. A growing number of international companies choose to establish their head office for Benelux operations and manufacturing in Breda.
Examples of these companies are 3M, Abbott Laboratories, Alfa Laval, Amgen, Dockwise, ExxonMobil, General Electric, General Motors, Krohne Oil & Gas, Ritchie Bros Auctioneers, Scania, Texaco and Toshiba. Also, the food industry is still largely represented by companies such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, Hero Group, Perfetti Van Melle and Royal Cosun.
Furthermore, the city is host to the headquarters of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Because of its central location between the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam, the city also attracts logistics companies. Koch Media has its Benelux office in Breda.
Metro population 300,000
Tilburg is in the southern province of North Brabant. It is the second-largest municipality in North Brabant and the seventh largest in the Netherlands.
As well as other industries, education is well represented with the prestigious Tilburg University, Avans University of Applied Sciences and Fontys University of Applied Sciences.
The economy was concentrated on wool industry for centuries, however, since the 1960s Tilburg has made more progress in having different kinds of industries, supported by the government to save the city after the decline of wool industry. The chemical company IFF has a factory in Tilburg, and in the 1980s, the Japanese company Fujifilm came to Tilburg.
Insurance companies such as Interpolis and CZ are headquartered in Tilburg and Iris Ohyama has its European offices in the city. Since 2013, electric car-producing company Tesla has operated its main EU facility for assembly and distribution in Europe in the industrial area of Vossenberg.
Tilburg has a high concentration of transportation and distribution industries, specialising in value-added logistics and services, due to it being the geographical centre of the Benelux countries and being located on the transport corridor between Antwerp, Rotterdam and the Ruhr area. This leads to major investing in Netherlands-based businesses in this region.
The Waalwijk-Tilburg region has been a leading logistics hotspot within the Netherlands for years now.
Metro population 280,000
Nijmegen is the largest city in the Dutch province of Gelderland. When asking why they invest in Netherlands businesses in this region, its proximity to the German border is a frequent reply by those doing the investing.
In terms of investment strengths, this is more limited than other cities in Nijmegen but still has some major industries to consider. The three main employers in Nijmegen are in education, healthcare and industrial areas.
Radboud University is a prestigious educational centre established with excellent facilities. For healthcare, there are three hospitals in the city: Radboud University Medical Center, Sint Maartenskliniek and Canisius-Wilhelmina Ziekenhuis.
Another draw for investment opportunities in the Netherlands business is the semiconductor industry, which has a presence in Nijmegen. Nexperia and Ampleon (both spun off from NXP Semiconductors) are headquartered in the city.
Other notable companies headquartered in Nijmegen include Synthon, a Dutch multinational pharmaceutical company, and Vaxxinova, an EW group subsidiary that produces animal vaccines.
Metro population 200,000
Almere is one of the newer investment opportunities in the Netherlands. It is a planned city and municipality located in the province of Flevoland, bordering Lelystad and Zeewolde.
In Almere, lease companies have contributed to recent economic growth.
Groningen’s regional economy, including Almere, was 1.5% smaller in 2017 than in the year before. This economic decline has been officially attributed, by the national statistics department, to the reduction in natural gas extraction, something that has also affected the economies of Friesland and Drenthe.
All figures, estimates and statistics are up to and including 2021 from Statistics Netherlands.