If you have the opportunity to travel to the Netherlands, in addition to stopping in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, you will definitely have time to visit Utrecht. Located in the center of the country, like the heart of the Netherlands, Utrecht is also known as the student city, always referred to with two quite symbolic images of youth on the ancient background of a city that has a long history.
- What to buy in Amsterdam? — 14+ must have gifts, best Amsterdam souvenirs & best things to buy in Amsterdam
- The Hague blog — The fullest the Hague guide for first-timers
- Rotterdam travel blog — The fullest Rotterdam travel guide for first-timers
- Amsterdam travel blog — The fullest Amsterdam travel guide for first-timers
- What to buy in Netherlands? — 15+ best gifts, souvenirs & best things to buy in Netherlands
So, is Utrecht worth visiting, how to visit Utrecht, what to do in Utrecht and how to plan a budget trip to Utrecht for the first-time perfectly? Let’s check out our Utrecht travel blog (Utrecht blog) with the fullest Utrecht travel guide (guide to Utrecht, Utrecht tourist guide, Utrecht city guide, Utrecht guide) from how to get to Utrecht, best places to visit, best time to come, what to eat as well as top things to do in Utrecht to help you maximize your trip as follows!
The Netherlands is not only famous for its vast fields of tulips and windmills, but also famous for its bustling and vibrant cities. When it comes to the Netherlands, people often choose destinations with famous tourist cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, etc. However, few people know that Utrecht is also an extremely attractive tourist city in the Netherlands. This is considered one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the world with an extremely clean and fresh air. If you are planning to travel to Utrecht, do not forget to read the “Utrecht travel guide” in this article.
Utrecht, the fourth largest city in the Netherlands and the capital of the province of the same name, lies on the geographical divide between the sea and the hot sandy land. This location favored the town’s growth over the centuries when the hot, higher-lying lands were out of reach for tides and storms.
Overview of Utrecht (#utrecht travel blog)
Utrecht is a city in the province of Utrecht, located in the Eastern Region of Randstad. This is also the fourth largest city in the Netherlands with an area of about 99.32 square kilometers. Utrecht was once voted by CNN as the most environmentally friendly city in the world. Not only that, Utrecht also has a long history of development, so this city has many beautiful and ancient architectures and extremely valuable historical sites.
Tourism in Utrecht also contributes significantly to the economy, here the picturesque old streets lined with historical buildings surrounded and intersected by canals offer many interesting things to tourists. and attracts a large number of tourists all year round.
Utrecht is the oldest city in the Netherlands possessing ancient architecture and blending into the medieval style and modern shape of the city. Besides, the city also holds cultural and ancient values along with the lovely and friendly, so it is extremely attractive to tourists.
For example, when coming to Amsterdam, visitors also see quaint architecture but it has the color of a quiet capital, or Rotterdam is the ancient in bustling with the non-stop moving character of a busy port city, The Hague also has that ancient feature, but in the poetic immensity of the open nature and the same for Utrecht, it has ancient features but is full of youthful vitality and unbelievably young exhilaration.
Having a very long history since its formation in very ancient times, to the 8th century it became the religious center of the Netherlands and up to now the country’s fourth largest city, the city of Utrecht as an indispensable part to balance every aspect of the Netherlands through the ages. Utrecht has a valuable historical background that other cities in the Netherlands do not have, in that rather long historical step is now dotted with youthful and dynamic features of the crowded domestic as well as international students living and studying here, creating a unique interesting unique feature for Utrecht.
When to come? (#utrecht blog)
Many people joke that Utrecht does not have a tourist season, because it is beautiful all year round. Yes, the weather here is extremely pleasant, which is why you visit Utrecht at any time to find it’s always wonderful, worth a visit.
Utrecht, like many other Dutch cities, has a fairly mild and favorable climate and weather. Winter in Utrecht is not too cold like other cities in Europe. In general, you can visit Utrecht at any time of the year you like, even in winter. The best time to visit Utrecht is in spring or autumn. This is the time when the weather and climate are most pleasant, the trees are green, sprouting buds. In addition, you can also travel to Utrecht in the summer to have the opportunity to participate in vibrant culinary and cultural festivals.
Like Amsterdam, in the summer, the weather is not too hot, but the most interesting point is that the markets are bustling day and night, cultural and musical events are also so much more than ever causing tourists flock to Utrecht on this occasion spike.
Getting to Utrecht
You can getting to Utrecht from Schiphol Airport (Amsterdam) which is the closest international airport to the city by train, it takes around 30 minutes with a frequent 15 minutes and costs €10.20 (2nd class). In addition, a taxi from the airport cost around 90 Euros.
Traveling from Amsterdam Central via intercity services such as Heerlen, Maastricht and Nijmegen depart every 10 minutes. The journey takes 26 minutes and costs 8.80 euros.
Alternatively, you can take the non-stop ICE international service between Amsterdam and Utrecht which takes around 24 minutes and departs every 2 hours, costs 2.90 euros.
In addition, you can getting to Utrecht from Rotterdam or Eindhoven by train.
Utrecht is an ancient, peaceful and especially environmentally friendly city, so the city government always encourages people to use bicycles to move inside the city. One tip that you should know is absolutely do not drive a car into the city because this city has a complete ban on cars.
Tourists should use bicycles to get around. According to statistics, more than 50% of vehicles in the city are bicycles. You can easily rent bicycles from locals in Utrecht for a very cheap price.
Where to go and what to do? (#utrecht travel guide)
Utrecht, like many other Dutch cities, the first attraction to visitors is always architecture. In this city there are many famous architectural works such as the ancient building Academiegebouw (Utrecht University Hall), Pandhof Sinte Marie (St Mary’s Courtyard), Stadskasteel Oudaen… below are some most prominent attractions you should know.
Churches (#utrecht travel blog)
If you are still wondering where to go in Utrecht, surely the ancient churches in this city will be an ideal choice for you. The most famous church in Utrecht is the city center church. This church was built in a very unique architectural style. It was built around the fourteenth century. No matter where you stand in the city, visitors can see this church. You can also climb 465 steps to the highest point of the church, enjoying the beautiful view of Utrecht city from above.
St. Martin’s Cathedral
Address: Rudnayovo námestie 1, 811 01 Bratislava, Slovakia
In the center of Utrecht is Cathedral Square, Domplein, where you will find St. Martin’s Cathedral. Often referred to as the Dom Church (Domkerk) by locals, this beautiful church is considered one of the most important churches in the Netherlands, so don’t miss it when traveling to Utreht.
Its highlights include numerous ancient tombs and a crypt known to contain the organs of Emperors Conrad II and Henry IV, who died at Utrecht. Especially the picturesque 14th-century church connecting the church to the university.
While a visit to the church stills one of the top free visits in Utrecht, you can indulge in a little exploration to enjoy in the on-site tea room (visitors are also welcome to attend services on Sunday).
The Domtoren (Dom Tower) – the tallest church tower in the Netherlands (#utrecht travel guide)
Looming over the old city of Utrecht is the old church tower, the Dom Tower (or Domtoren), the massive structure split from the Cathedral of St. Martin after a devastating storm in 1674.
Two chapels can also be visited in the tower: St. Michael’s, the Bishop’s domestic chapel, and the Egmond Chapel, which have exhibits on the history of this spectacular structure and a centerpiece (RonDom).
Cathedral Square and Domunder
Like many historic cities in the Netherlands, Utrecht has many old squares. By far the most important, however, is the Cathedral Square (Domplein, or “Dom Square”). Named after the magnificent of the St. Martin Cathedral, this is a space with many attractive old towers worth a visit.
In addition to the cathedral and the imposing Dom Tower (Domtoren), here you’ll find the fascinating (and colorful) Utrecht University building, as well as the Utrecht Tourist Information Office, a great place to start your discovery.
Church of St. Peter (Pieterskerk)
Address: Pieterskerkhof 5, 3512 JR Utrecht, Netherlands
Hours: 8 AM–5 PM/Friday, Saturday, Sunday: Closed
Just a short walk north of St. Martin Cathedral in Pieterskerkhof, is the church of St. Peter’s (St. Pieterskerk), the town’s first church was built. Built in 1048 and notable for its two Roman towers, the church has a crypt with a sarcophagus of its founder, Bishop Bernold.
Other distinctive features of the church are that of the columns in the nave, the wall paintings in the north aisle, and the 12th-century reliefs created in the Maasland style.
In the former hospice of the Order of St. John, the Museum of St. Catherine’s Monastery associated with the history of Christianity in the Netherlands. Founded in 1978, it is the country’s largest collection of medieval art, with sections devoted to medieval church interiors, religious beliefs and abbeys.
In addition to a large collection of 17th and 18th century documents, other exhibits include valuable books and manuscripts, and an original model of St. Martin’s Cathedral with an explanation of its history.
There is also a display of embroidered Flemish church clothes of the late Middle Ages on site. Tours with English guides are always available. There is also an on-site shop and cafe, as well as a library.
De Haar Castle – the largest castle in the Netherlands
Address: Kasteellaan 1, 3455 RR Utrecht, Netherlands
Hours: 11 AM–5 PM
Built by Dutch architect, PJH Cuypers, De Haar Castle (Kasteel De Haar) is not only the largest castle in the Netherlands, it is considered the most attractive thanks to its fairy-tale appearance. It was so large that when it was built in 1822, the entire village of Haarzuilens had to be moved. The castle is just 16 kilometers west of Utrecht, and a highlight of a visit is its large collection of antiques, furniture, paintings and tapestries, along with its rich decoration, including wood carvings and ornate interiors, and a rare Japanese trainer for women.
The grounds, too, are great for exploring the 135 acres, along with fountains and a lovely garden. Events and festivals are also often held here, including the annual Christmas & Country Fair. An on-site shop sells souvenirs.
Museum Speelklok – Utrecht Music Box Museum
One of Utrecht’s most popular tourist attractions is the Speelklok Museum – or Music Box Museum – dedicated to music boxes, organs and other devices and instruments capable of playing music without with human involvement (apart from turning on their controller). The museum was established in 1956, and displays a wide variety of mechanical instruments from the 18th century to the present day, as well as domestic instruments, from small music boxes to large fairgrounds, most of which still playable.
Other highlights are models of musical clocks, pianolas and turret clocks with carillons, along with the chance to explore behind the scenes the restoration work carried out in the workshops. Free English guided tour.
Address: Agnietenstraat 1, 3512 XA Utrecht, Netherlands
Hours: 11 AM–5 PM/Monday: Closed
Between the remnants of an old monastery and the city’s old Fireworks Barn, Utrecht’s excellent municipal collections – most of them created by locals over the centuries – are well worth a visit.
The museum also has a collection of costumes from the 18th century to the present day, along with period-style rooms, sculptures, silverware, and a documentary collection about the history of the city.
Railway Museum (Het Spoorwegmuseum)
Address: Maliebaanstation 16, 3581 XW Utrecht, Netherlands
Hours: 10 AM–5 PM/Monday: Closed
Housed in Maliebaan’s old railway station, Utrecht’s Railway Museum (Spoorwegmuseum) is the country’s national railway museum and a must-see for train lovers.
Exhibits in the museum cover the early years of railroads, including the heyday of the 1900s, and an activity workshop. In addition to the museum’s impressive collection of locomotives (including nine well-preserved steam engines) and rolling stock, kids will love the model railroad and the playground.
Huis Doorn – the last house of Kaiser Wilhelm
Address: Langbroekerweg 10, 3941 MT Doorn, Netherlands
Hours: 1–5 PM/Monday: Closed
In the small picturesque town of Doorn is the last home of the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, Huis Doorn (known in English as Doorn Manor).
Forced into exile following defeat at WWI, Kaiser purchased Huis Doorn in 1920 and lived there until his death in 1941 at the age of 82 (he is buried in a tomb on the grounds).
Originally a medieval castle, the house was rebuilt in the Classical style in the 18th century, with only minor changes since.
Explore the canal system
Utrecht is an ancient, old city that still retains its medieval plans. There is a very interesting experience when traveling to Utrecht that you should not miss that is exploring the interlaced canal system here. There are two main canals in Utrecht that play a very important role in the trading activities of the city.
The Oudegracht – the canal in the city center
A highlight of a visit to Utrecht is a stroll along the beautiful Oudegracht, the old canal that runs through the city center. Starting in the southeastern part of the city, a part traces the Oudegracht, which was once the original route of a section of the Rhine, while the northern part consists of sections of a canal built around circa AD 1000 connects the Rhine to the Vecht.
When Utrecht’s lock network was completed in 1275, the canal banks began to be settled, with numerous docks, jetties, and warehouses added. Today, many of their old buildings and cellars have been turned into restaurants, cafes, galleries and shops.
Rietveld Schröder House
Address: Prins Hendriklaan 50, 3583 EP Utrecht, Netherlands
Hours: 11 AM–4 PM/Monday: Closed
Considered a part of architecture so important that UNESCO has designated it a World Heritage Site, the stunning Rietveld Schröder House (Rietveld Schröderhuis) is a must-see for design lovers.
Designed and built in the early 1920s by leading Dutch architect (and Utrecht resident) Gerrit Rietveld for a widowed friend and her family, this attractive little house has been decades ahead of century in many ways.
The unique windows are also revolutionary and can be fully opened, they help blur the distinction between the inside and outside worlds.
Explore the bustling markets of the city
Traveling to Utrecht without spending time exploring the busy and bustling markets here is a pity. The most famous market is the Open Market. This market is usually open on two days a week, Monday and Saturday. In these two days, there are a lot of Dutch people as well as tourists coming here to visit and shop. This market is famous for fresh, clean foods grown and sold by the farmers themselves.
What to eat? (#utrecht guide)
Kibbeling: This is a traditional dish made from cod. Later, due to the increasingly scarce source of cod, the price was expensive, so the types of pangasius, basa,… were chosen to replace. The fish is marinated in spices, then rolled in flour and then crispy deep-fried, served with mayonnaise sauce, you can find it in any street of Utrecht.
Erwtensoep – Dutch Split Pea Soup: For many Dutch people, this is an indispensable soup on cold winter days. The soup consists of peas, potatoes, onions, and pork stewed for several hours over low heat until tender until thickened. Drop in a little ham or rye bread and you’ve got hot bean soup.
Stamppot: The stamppot is actually just mashed potatoes with vegetables combined with bacon or sausage, depending on taste. Vegetables commonly used in this dish are lettuce, spinach, kale, turnip greens, or carrots and onions. The processing is very simple, first wash the potatoes and vegetables above, chop them and put them in a pot to boil. When the potatoes are cooked, remove the boiling water and mash the potatoes with the vegetable mixture until smooth and mix well. Add smoked meat or sausages that have been pre-fried before and mix well, add a little fresh milk to soften the mixture and have an attractive fatty aroma.
Where to stay? (#utrecht travel blog)
If you plan to stay in Utrecht for more days, below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Hampton By Hilton Utrecht Centraal Station (Agoda, Booking)
- NH Utrecht (Agoda, Booking)
- Hotel Mitland (Agoda, Booking)
- Park Plaza Utrecht (Agoda, Booking)
- Carlton President (Agoda, Booking)
- BUNK Hotel Utrecht (Agoda, Booking)
- Inntel Hotels Utrecht Centre (Agoda, Booking)
- Holiday Inn Express Utrecht – Papendorp, an IHG Hotel (Agoda, Booking)
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Utrecht you can refer to
- Utrecht Spooky Nights of Terror Ghost Tour
- Utrecht Highlights Walking Tour with Dom Tower and Canal Walk
- Utrecht: National Railway Museum Admission Ticket
- Utrecht: Centraal Museum Entrance Ticket
- Utrecht: Escape Tour – Self-Guided Citygame
- Utrecht: The Monster Mystery Exploration Game
- Utrecht: De Haar Castle and Park Entrance Ticket
- Utrecht: City Canal Cruise
- Utrecht: Silver Betrayal – City Exploration Game
- Utrecht: Murder Mystery City Game with Remote Guide
- Utrecht: Escape the City – Interactive City Walk in Utrecht
Read more Netherland guide here.