Utrecht. Its the fourth largest city in the Netherlands, and many regard it as the cozier alternative to Amsterdam. The city boasts beautiful canals and parks, lively restaurants and cafés, fascinating museums and remarkable historical buildings. Its city center alone is absolutely worth a visit, but there is much more to Utrecht than that.
Like a local
Experience Utrecht like a local, a true ‘Utregter’

Experience Utrecht like a local, a true ‘Utregter’

Traditional houses on the Oudegracht in downtown Utrecht
Utrecht caters to all ages. The city center bustles with cafés and restaurants and is also home to some wonderful museums. The Nijntje Museum is the perfect place to introduce little ones to museums and to Nijntje (or Miffy, as she is known outside the Netherlands), Utrecht’s world-famous protagonist from Dick Bruna’s series of children’s books. Centraal Museum is for grown-ups. The works on display change frequently, but its collection includes many world-famous pieces. Centraal Museum is also home to the largest Gerrit Rietveld collection in the world.

The Spoorwegmuseum (Railway Museum) is another place that definitely deserves a visit. Board the special train at Utrecht’s station for a direct trip to the wonderful world of old railway stations, steam locomotives, and all things railway-related.

And, of course, no visit to Utrecht is complete without a climb up the 465 steps of the Dom Tower to drink in the spectacular view from the top.

Traditional old buildings and tower of the Dom cathedral in Utrecht

Make your trip to Utrecht unforgettable by paddling through the canals in a canoe. It’s an amazing and healthy way to marvel at the historical canal houses, vaulted cellars, and charming restaurants that simply ooze ambiance.

You may have to watch your head as you pass under the occasional low bridge, but as long as you remember to duck, that shouldn’t stop you from joining in on the fun. If for no other reason than the coffeehouse and dinner bar Tijm, which has set up a drive-through (or should we say sail-through) in the back where canoeists, rowers and other boaters can order beer, coffee and other tasty treats.

Supping for diner Tijm
If you wish to take a short break from downtown Utrecht and everything it has to offer, you may want to head over to the pleasant Wittevrouwen neighborhood which is home to the enormous Wilhelmina Park. Conveniently located near the city center, the neighborhood is surrounded by stately mansions and, although it may come across as a touch pretentious at first glance, its cozy bars and attractive park make it the ideal spot to enjoy a picnic or go for a stroll.
A green visit to Utrecht

A green visit to Utrecht

No matter which of Utrecht’s neighborhoods you find yourself in, you can bet that it has a park. Transwijk park, Julianapark, Lepelenburg, Wilhelminapark… they all have their own unique aspects, but one thing they have in common is that they are either big or really big.

Transwijk park, for example, is especially known for the large-scale Liberation Day festival which is held there every year, while Griftpark boasts a large playground and a petting zoo. No matter what park you find yourself in, there are plenty of ways to pass the time. Spread out a blanket and order a pizza or, better yet, treat yourself to a barbecue! As long as you stick to a few rules, local law gives the thumbs up to BBQing in Utrecht’s parks.

Cyclists Wilhelminapark Utrecht
Cyclists at Dafne Schippers bridge

And that’s not all. Because Utrecht is in the midst of a huge greening campaign, the city is building more and more bike-only roads and even housefront gardens. The municipality has come up with special subsidies and solutions for the latter. For example, they will pick up your tiles for free if you replace them with green features.

Thanks to all that, Utrecht manages to be one of the greenest cities in the country without losing any of its urban character. Truly a splendid combination.

Hidden gems
The road less traveled in Utrecht

The road less traveled in Utrecht

Like many other cities in the Netherlands, Utrecht makes every effort to keep cars and trucks as far from its busy center as possible. The result: a fairly low-traffic city center where cyclists have right of way. This applies even on many of the big streets, such as Voorstraat, a major thoroughfare in the very heart of the city. Should you find yourself cycling down this particular road, do yourself a favor and stop by The Village, a local coffee sensation with multiple locations across Utrecht.
Parking space bicycle Utrecht
Peter Walker
Utrecht is rightfully called the most cycle-friendly city in the world.
Peter Walker CNN
Speaking of cycling: Utrecht has every right to call itself a special city. It might not be a major tourist hotspot, but right next to its central train station is the largest bicycle parking lot in the world, with room for no fewer than 12,500 bikes. In fact, it’s one of the reasons why CNN declared Utrecht the cycling capital of the world. So if you’re in the area, make sure to pop in for a peek. Or park your bike there. Why not? After all, it’s within easy walking distance of the city center. Just for fun, keep an eye on any traffic lights you come across; there’s a good chance you’ll spot Miffy’s iconic silhouette.
Terrace in Utrecht
Because Utrecht is not very big, especially compared to Amsterdam, many of its unique locales are quick and relatively easy to reach. If you’re prepared to hop on your bike for 15 minutes, a trip to the cultural hotspot
De Nijverheid in Werkspoorkwartier is definitely worth your time. Exhibitions, art shows, movies – you’ll be surprised at how much there is to see here and a lot of it is created or organized by young creatives. It’s the spirit of Berlin but with an Utrecht twist. Visit the EXboot, a former houseboat with a somewhat seedy past – once upon a time, it was used as a brothel. Or enjoy the many performers and the cultural terrace. De Nijverheid hosts unique events on an almost daily basis, especially in the summer. Top tip: if you’re not too familiar with Utrecht, it’s a good idea to bring a map.

Discover more cities as a local

Boating in Almere surrounded by architectural gems
Category: Discover

Almere: The youngest city in the Netherlands

The newest city in the Netherlands might just surprise you with all it has to offer. ‘Ally’ is an open-air museum of modern architecture.

Dordrecht Lombardbrug couple looks at mural
Category: Discover

Discover history in Dordrecht

Discover Dordrecht, the oldest city in the Netherlands.

Strollers on the Plein with The Hague skyline in the background
Category: Discover

The Hague: Green city by the sea

Many associate The Hague with the International Court of Justice. But did you know that it’s home to historical monuments, beaches, fabulous museums and a vibrant shopping centre?