Utrecht is a chill college town in the central Netherlands with more than 2000 years of history. The iconic Dom Tower and the Gothic Cathedral of St. Martin in Domplein square trace back to medieval times. 

Dubbed Europe’s most beautiful canal city, Utrecht boasts a gorgeous tree-lined canal. On weeknights, locals chill at the beer houses along the canal. The Dutch sail their boat there on weekends with beer on their hands. 

The fourth-largest city in the country is well connected to other Dutch cities via train and canal. Inevitably, Utrecht makes an excellent day trip from Amsterdam, Rotterdam, or The Hague. But if you can spare extra days, Utrecht is also an ideal base to take day trips from. 

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11 Things to Do in Utrecht, Netherlands | #Utrecht #Netherlands #NetherlandsTravel #TravelEurope

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How to Get to Utrecht

One day in Utrecht, Netherlands | #Utrecht #Netherlands #NetherlandsTravel #TravelEurope

Utrecht from Amsterdam

By Train: Take an intercity train from Amsterdam Centraal to Utrecht Centraal (€8.40), which takes about 30 minutes.

By Bicycle: Pedal 41.5km. According to Google Map, it takes about 2.25 hours.

By Private Car: Hire a private tour anywhere in the Netherlands.

Amsterdam Day Trips to Utrecht 

>> If you are taking a day trip to Utrecht from Amsterdam, consider joining these tours:

Utrecht from Rotterdam

By Train: Take an intercity train from Rotterdam Centraal to Utrecht Centraal (€11.50). The journey takes about 40 minutes.

By Bicycle: Ride about 60km, which takes about 3.5 hours.

By Private Car: Hire a private tour anywhere in the Netherlands.

Utrecht from The Hague 

By Train: Take an intercity train from Den Haag Centraal to Utrecht Centraal (€12.30). It takes about 40 minutes.

By Bicycle: Pedal about 70km. It takes about 4 hours.

By Private Car: Hire a private tour anywhere in the Netherlands.

What to Do in Utrecht in One Day

One day in Utrecht, Netherlands - Dom Tower cityview| #Utrecht #Netherlands #NetherlandsTravel #TravelEurope

#1. Dom Tower (Domtoren)

The Dom Tower (Domtoren) is Utrecht’s must-visit attraction. The 112-meter-high medieval church tower is the tallest in the Netherlands. 

Take the tour of an iconic cultural landmark in the city center. (It is only accessible by a guided tour.) You would have to climb up 465 steps, but the reward is the best panoramic view of Utrecht. And you also receive a postcard as your keepsake for your accomplishment. But the tower is also wheelchair accessible by the lift.

One day in Utrecht, Netherlands - Dom Tower Indoors | #Utrecht #Netherlands #NetherlandsTravel #TravelEurope

Inside the tower, you will also learn about the history and see its famous bells (at 40 meters) and 17th-century carillon (at 80 meters). Every Saturday around 11 am, a live bell play by a professional player takes place. (Otherwise, it is recorded and automated.)

Tickets are sold at the tourist information center. Be sure to sign up for the tour. All bags must be stored in the locker inside the information center. (Don’t forget to take the ticket out of your bag.) And be there on time for the tour. 

Optional: take DOMunder tour (€12.50) if interested in seeing the underground Utrecht from 2000 years ago.

Admission: €10, Children age 4-12 €5, age 0-3 free, Students/65+ €7.50

Location: [Open Google Map]

Hours: 10 am – 5 pm

One day in Utrecht, Netherlands - St. Martin's Cathedral indoors | #Utrecht #Netherlands #NetherlandsTravel #TravelEurope

#2. St. Martin’s Cathedral (Dom Kerk)

St. Martin’s Cathedral is also known as the Dom Church (Dom Kerk). In Domplein Square, the medieval cathedral stands next to the Dom Tower. Step into this peaceful church and you will be awed by fabulous stained glass windows, pointed arches and vaulted ceilings. A music concert is regularly held every Saturday at 3:30 pm.  

Location: [Open Google Map]

Hours: May – Sept. 10 am – 5 pm | Oct. – April 11 am – 4 pm | Sun. 12:30-4 pm

One day in Utrecht, Netherlands - St. Martin's Cathedral | #Utrecht #Netherlands #NetherlandsTravel #TravelEurope

#3. Pandhof Domkerk

Pandhof Domkerk is a lovely courtyard on the church ground. This square garden is an excellent place to rest or stroll. The entrance is closed at 4 pm; Unfortunately, I only got to see it from the tower (see it in the photo above).  

Location: [Open Google Map]

Hours: 10 am – 4 pm

>> Joining Utrecht Walking Tours (off-the-beaten-path and city tour) is an excellent way to learn about the city’s 2000-year-old history with an expert. Explore the medieval Domplein in the heart of the town.   

One day in Utrecht, Netherlands - Utrecht Canals | #Utrecht #Netherlands #NetherlandsTravel #TravelEurope

#4. Utrecht Canal

Are you canaled out yet? I mean, where can you not find canals in the Netherlands, right? However, since Utrecht has won the title “Europe’s most beautiful canal city,” taking time to appreciate its stunning canal is a must. 

I noticed that Utrecht canals have what-I-would-call a basement area. Basically, you go down from the street to reach the terrace of restaurants and beer houses along the water. It is nice to grab a terrace seat here and watch the Dutch chill on their boat in the water. 

Where to eat in Utrecht, Netherlands | #Utrecht #Netherlands #NetherlandsTravel #DutchFood

A few places of my recommendations:

  • Beers & Barrels [Google Map]: A relaxed bar & grill with a great selection of beers and food.
  • Stadskasteel Oudaen [Google Map]: Built in 1276 for the Zoudenbalch family, one of the first stone buildings in Utrecht had turned into a restaurant. It has its own brewery. 

>> You don’t have a Dutch friend to invite you to a boat party? Hop on a canal cruise to see the highlights of the medieval city from the water. 

One day in Utrecht, Netherlands - Utrecht Square | #Utrecht #Netherlands #NetherlandsTravel #TravelEurope

#5. Utrecht Museums

Utrecht offers an excellent selection of museums. Especially if you have a museumkaart, you should definitely take advantage of complimentary admission.

Museum Speelklok

Museum Speelklok is one of the most popular museums in Utrecht for families traveling with children. The museum has self-playing musical instruments from music boxes to carillon bells to barrel organs. 

Admission: €14 [Book your ticket here] or free with Museumkaart, Children 4-12 €7.50, Children 0-3 free. Family (2 adults + 2 children) €39

Location: [Open Google Map]

Hours: 10 am – 5 pm (Closed on Mondays.)

Centraal Museum

Centraal Museum showcases arts, fashion and the history of Utrecht with a diverse collection of the old and modern arts. Its permanent exhibit includes Studio Dick Bruna (the creator of Miffy) and the Rietveld collection (the world-famous Utrecht furniture designer and architect).   

Admission: €15 or free with Museumkaart, Children 13-17/Student €6.50, Children 12 & under free

Location: [Open Google Map]

Hours: 11 am – 5 pm (Closed on Mondays, Christmas, New Year’s Day and King’s Day)

Miffy Museum (Nijntje Museum)

In case you are not familiar, Miffy (Dutch name: Nijntje) is a popular rabbit character in picture book series by Dutch artist Dick Bruna. This museum was specifically designed for families and children to play and learn with Miffy. 

The Miffy Museum is part of the Centraal Museum. But note that the location and admission are all separate.  

Admission: €7.50 or free with Museumkaart, Children 2-6 €11

Location: [Open Google Map]

Hours: 10 am – 5 pm (Closed on Mondays, Christmas, New Year’s Day and King’s Day)

One day in Utrecht, Netherlands - Market Vredenburg | #Utrecht #Netherlands #NetherlandsTravel #TravelEurope

#6. Market Vredenburg

What more can be an authentic local experience than visiting a local market? Also, Market Vredenburg might be the first thing you run into in Utrecht anyway if you travel by train. Only steps out of the Utrecht Centraal Station, this farmers market sells fresh produces (cheese, fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc.), snack food (harring, stroopwafel, baked goods, etc.) and some clothing.

Location: [Open Google Map]

Hours: Opens three days a week. Wed. & Fri. 10 am – 5 pm Sat. 8 am – 5 pm

11 Things to Do in Utrecht, Netherlands | #Utrecht #Netherlands #NetherlandsTravel #TravelEurope

#7. Trajectum Lumen Project

Trajectum Lumen is a free, self-guided light art walk around Utrecht city center. After the sunset (starts at 10 pm in summer), landmarks and sidewalks are beautifully illuminated featuring 15 light artworks by local and international artists. 

You can follow a trail of light drops on the ground every night using a route map. The map is available at the Tourist Information Center and hotels. If you easily get lost, you may also join a 1.5-hour Trajectum Lumen tour by an experienced guide on Saturdays. 

More Info: Trajectum Lumen Project

Hours: Sunset to midnight, 365 days a year

Traveling around the Netherlands? Consider buying a city pass to save money and time. Here is a thorough comparison of 5 most popular Dutch tourist saving cards >>  

Day Trips from Utrecht

Day trips from Utrecht, Netherlands: De Haar Castle | #DeHaar #Utrecht #Netherlands #NetherlandsTravel #TravelEurope

#8. De Haar Castle (Kasteel De Haar)

De Haar Castle (Kasteel De Haar) is the largest castle in the Netherlands. The medieval fortress had been renovated by the Van Zuylen family, and once was a lavish party house for international jet setters, fashion icons and Hollywood stars.

Its rich history, elaborate decorations and stunning garden make it a popular day-trip destination from Utrecht.

Check out my detailed guide to visiting De Haar Castle here >> 

Castle & Park Admission: €18 [Book your ticket here] or free with Museumkaart, Children 4-12 €12.5, Children under 4 free

Park Admission: €7 [Book your ticket here], Children 4-12 €5, Children under 4 free

Location: [Open Google Map]

Hours: Park 9 am – 5 pm, Castle 11 am – 5 pm  (Closed on Mondays, Christmas, New Year’s Day and King’s Day)

Teahouse Rhijnauwen: Dutch Pancake House in countryside Netherlands near Utrecht | #DutchPancake #Utrecht #NetherlandsCountryside #NetherlandsTravel #TravelEurope 


#9. Teahouse Rhijnauwen: Dutch Pancakes

How would you like to have the best Dutch pancakes in the Netherlands? Let me present Teahouse Rhijnauwen to you! 

Teahouse Rhijnauwen is a super cute indoor/outdoor pancake restaurant. You would have to venture out of Utrecht a tiny bit. But I think this teahouse is a fantastic picnic site for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Be ready to spend about half a day here because this is the slow-travel type place you would not want to rush. 

Read my post with more details and photos >>

Location: [Open Google Map]

Hours: 10 am – 8:30 pm

Day trips from Utrecht, Netherlands | #Utrecht #Netherlands #NetherlandsTravel #TravelEurope

#10. Gouda Cheese Market

The Netherlands is one of the world’s leading dairy producers. And what is it most famous for? Its Cheese!

Utrecht is close to (not one but) two of the famous cheese markets: Gouda and Woerden. So do yourself a favor and visit at least one of these cheese markets. 

Gouda, of course, is the birthplace of Gouda cheese. For that reason, it is perhaps the most famous Dutch cheese market. As if that’s not a good enough reason to visit Gouda, this town is also the hometown of Dutch stroopwafel. (Read more about things to do in Gouda here>>)

From April through August, every Thursday is the traditional cheese market. But please be aware that the Gouda cheese market is a re-enactment show for tourists. If you are interested in seeing the real deal – where farmers and merchants historically and even today make deals in the traditional way, head over to Woerden (see #11 below). 

Location: City Center [Open Google Map]

Hours: Thursdays from April through August, 10 am – 12:30 pm

Day trips from Utrecht, Netherlands | #Utrecht #Netherlands #NetherlandsTravel #TravelEurope

#11. Woerden Cheese Market

Woerden is the last-standing “real” farmer’s cheese market in the Netherlands. Unlike the re-enactment shows in Gouda or Alkmaar, merchants and farmers traditionally make commercial deals; and the cheese prices are bounded at this cheese market.  

Both Woerden and Gouda are so close to Utrecht. If you’d like, you can visit both of them in a day. (As you suspect, that’s what I did!) 

I shared about my first Dutch cheese market experience and what you can expect here >>

Woerden Historic Cheese Market

Location: [Open Google Map]

Hours: Saturdays, 11-11:30 am & 12-12:30 pm

 

>> If you have a half-day or one to spare in Utrecht, enjoy an idyllic river cruise on the picturesque Vecht River (with lunch or dinner). The Vecht River cruise is a highly praised activity to do in Utrecht. You will enjoy the idyllic countryside, gorgeous country houses along the bank and castles from the water.

Where to Eat in Utrecht

Where to eat in Utrecht, Netherlands | #Utrecht #Netherlands #NetherlandsTravel #DutchFood

’t Koffieboontje 

’t Koffieboontje is an espresso bar with excellent coffee and cakes. If you are looking for a simple breakfast, head over here. The coffee shop serves croissants, yogurt and breakfast sandwiches. And in the first hour, the espresso is only 1 euro!

Location: [Open Google Map]

Hours: 9 am – 4:30 pm

Where to eat in Utrecht, Netherlands | #Utrecht #Netherlands #NetherlandsTravel #DutchFood

The Village Coffee & Music

The Village Coffee & Music is a hip espresso bar with rock ’n roll music. It gives out Austin vibes, I must add, which is well-fitting in Utrecht. I liked their coffee and dessert. It is an excellent place to chill.

Location: [Open Google Map]

Hours: 7:30 am – 6 pm (Saturday opens at 8 am and Sunday at 8:30 am)

Where to eat in Utrecht, Netherlands | #Utrecht #Netherlands #NetherlandsTravel #DutchFood

Blegisch Biercafe Olivier Utrecht

Belgisch Biercafe Olivier Utrecht is a restaurant and beer bar you must visit in Utrecht. The place itself is like an attraction because the original architecture as an underground church is kept creating a unique ambiance. 

Can you find a napping cat in the photo above? While we were there for a few hours, he did not budge at all with all the noise! (And no one dared to push him away to sit at that table.)

Where to eat in Utrecht, Netherlands | #Utrecht #Netherlands #NetherlandsTravel #DutchFood

Their selection of beers is AMAZING! We had to study their Rolodex beer menu. After trying out a bunch, my favorite was Gouden Carolus Tripel. We would recommend sea bass, but not the beef steak (Texas steaks have raised my bar way too high).

Where to eat in Utrecht, Netherlands | #Utrecht #Netherlands #NetherlandsTravel #DutchFood

Location: [Open Google Map]

Hours: 12 pm – 10 pm

De Oaseboom

You can always find a budget-friendly late-night snack place in a college town. In Utrecht, De Oaseboom is that place. We got hungry at night and had an incredible slice of pizza (the type you crave when drunk) and shawarma here. By the way, it used to be a slightly grungy pizzeria a while back; but it looks like they have remodeled and rebranded. 

Location: [Open Google Map]

Hours: Tues. – Sat. 12 pm – 6 am, Sun. 12 pm – 2 am, Mon. 2 pm – 2 am

Where to Stay in Utrecht

Mother Goose Hotel

Mother Goose Hotel [Book here] is a cozy, affordable luxury hotel in central Utrecht. A stylish bedroom in this 4-star hotel features the city view, a comfortable bed and sustainable products.

Hotel Simple

Around the corner of the Dom Tower, Hotel Simple [Book hereis a simple and modern hotel with a restaurant. Its comfortable beds and decor are highly praised by the guests.

Leonardo Hotel Utrecht City Center

Leonardo Hotel Utrecht City Center [Book hereis only steps away from the Utrecht Centraal Station. We stayed here because we had a 4 am train to catch. I remember we struggled to drag luggage over the stairs at the entrance, and the hallway to the rooms was a bit funky. But for train travelers, you cannot really beat this location.  

Where to Go Next in the Netherlands

>> Amsterdam Itinerary for the First-time Visitors: Explore the charming, liberal Dutch capital in just 4 days

>> 5 Best Amsterdam Museums

>> Rotterdam: A hip, modern city with funky architecture

>> Delft: Imbibe in artisan Delftware and Vermeer’s masterpieces like The Girl with a Pearl Earring

Bon Voyage!

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11 Things to Do in Utrecht, Netherlands | #Utrecht #Netherlands #NetherlandsTravel #TravelEurope

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