Utrecht: A medieval city centre small enough to explore on foot. Large enough to enjoy world-class festivals, modern architecture, trendy shops, and interesting museums for days on end
By Sierra Sumner
Come discover Utrecht . Experience the city that is called the “beating heart of the Netherlands.” Even if you have only 24 hours, there is a lot Utrecht has to offer–museums, castles, shipyards, gardens, and more!
Discover Utrecht recommends that, as well as visiting the city center,”if you have the time, it is well worth the trouble to travel further afield and discover the region. Visit one of the many castles and forts or hit the local nature trails or stunning cycle routes.” You can stroll along the canals, which are known to some as the ‘Europe’s most beautiful canal city.’
Here are some great places to see when you come to Utrecht, Netherlands:
Ask the Locals!
Here are some tips about the city provided by Utrecht’s locals:
Bram, 33: “Utrecht has tonnes of hidden courtyards and gardens. Just wander around, turn into the small alleyways, and you’ll discover the most beautiful patches of greenery. Take a look behind the cathedral, fr example, where the Pandhof gardens await.”
Peter, 53: “One of the best little spots in Utrecht is the intersection called ‘t Wed. Turn up early in the morning for breakfast, or drop by for a drink in the evening. There is always plenty of atmosphere. Perhas that’s why Dick Bruna regularly came here for his cup of coffee.”
Annick, 28: “If you gave some time to spare after sun-down, discover Utrecht via this wonderful artistic light-themed route that leads past beautifully-lit sites in the city centre. The map is available at the Utrecht Tourist Information Center (VVV), where you can also make a booking if you prefer a guided tour.”
Castle de Haar
These buildings, designed by architect P.J.H., were built upon of the original castle back in 1892. The castle is located near Haarzuilens, within the providence of Utrectht. It is the largest castle built in the Netherlands and it has expansive styled gardens as well as a landscaped park.
You can take a guided tour through the castle or explore the landscape on your own.
City Castle Oudaen
Built in 1276, this is an ancient castle and one of the first stone building in Utrecht. It was originally built for the Zoudenbalch family.
The City Castle offers guided tours of the brewery in the vaults of the castle. As a modern addition, it provides catering services as well.
Located in Domplein Square, Dom Tower is the Netherlands’ tallest bell tower.
After climbing all 465 steps to the top, you can head over to the Domkerk. “Every tour of Utrecht should include a visit to its magnificent Gothic cathedral, the Domkerk,” says discover Utrecht.
Another attraction located in the square is the DOMunder, which is an underground voyage of archaeological treasures.
This museum, known as the Het Spoorwegmuseum, is entirely dedicated to trains. It is in the former Maliebaan station and has an expansive collection of transportation. It includes historic wagons, tours through the old railway station, and interactive exhibits.
Anna Matica, a visitor to Utrecht, visited the Het Spoorwegmuseum.”This was our favorite spot in Utrecht and was far more interesting than the Dom Tower. The trains are so cool and its nice that you can walk around inside of them versus just imagining what they look like on the inside. All the of the interactive tours are far beyond any train museum in the states and I’d encourage people to do the Fire test twice. If the weather is nice, don’t miss the activities outside. Even though it was raining, we still managed to do some of the outdoor options.”
Designed with the Dutch De Stijl art movement in mind, the Rietveld Schroder House is the most famous home in Utrecht. It was built in 1924 by Gerrrit Rietveld, who was commissioned by the eccentric Truus Schröder, and it was Rietvelds’ first full house design.
It is notably on the UNESCO World Heritage list for its artistic significance. His design involved a “a three-dimensional, asymmetrical composition,” so that the transitions were seamless within the house.
To visit this house, you can book online.
The Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden has bustling flora and fauna that takes you away from the rush of the city. Find the Botanic Gardens in the Utrecht Science Park, where you can see great, unique architecture within the park.
If you’re looking for more parks, there’s also Lepelenburg Park. It’s one of Utrecht’s best parks, where all come to enjoy the sun and the nature around them. At the park’s edge, musical and theatrical events are staged in the pavilion.
AAMU – Aboriginal Art Museum
Experience contemporary aboriginal art from Australia at the Aboriginal Art Museum. The museums offers guided tours, children’s trails, didgeridoo workshops, special events, and lectures throughout the year.
This October, they opened up a new exhibition entitled “Mapping Australia: Country to Cartography.”It involves a combination between historical maps and the artwork of aboriginals, specifically paintings. The museum presents two new exhibits every year.
This February 2016, a children’s museum opened called the “Miffy” after the famous Utrecht celebrity cartoon bunny. The museum offers a place for toddlers and children to crawl, walk, and explore the museum. It is now celebrating 60 years since Dick Bruna began drawing the children’s book. Dick Bruna aims to ‘offer children a safe environment as a starting point for their own independent exploration and adventure.’
Built for Dutch Pope Adrian VI (Adriaan Florizoon Boyens), this renaissance building features Gothic influences. The architecture of Paushuize is particularly special for its alternation of red bricks with lighter white layers of stone and a prominent gable.
Since 2012, it has become popularly used for congresses, weddings, and dinners. The Paushize offers free guided tours of the hour every Sunday of the month.