Quaint, quirky and full of quality activities to enjoy, it’s easy to fall in love with Utretch. This busy and hip university city in the Netherlands is one of the country’s most historically rich urban centers. In fact, it has been known throughout the centuries for being deeply religious, with many iconic religious landmarks to explore. Apart from its medieval history, Utretch is also home to a thriving cultural scene. Trendy cafes and eateries are popping up left and right to cater to the ever changing student population, while a busy concert schedule regularly draws large crowds from all over the country. Not sure where to start your Utretch vacation? Check out some of the city’s most popular draws below.
1.The Dom Tower
© Olena Z/stock.adobe.com
Famous for being the tallest church tower in all of the Netherlands, the Dom Tower is more than just a Gothic-style structure, it’s an icon of the city. The Dom Tower is part of the St. Martin’s Cathedral and was built sometime between 1321 and 1382 by John of Hainaut. Standing at 112.5 meters tall, the tower is the pride of the city and many guided tours are available for visitors who want to learn more about the tower's history. Guests will be guided up all 465 steps of the tower, while stopping along notable characteristics of the structure as you go. See the huge church bells ringing in the attic, or drop by the chapel to appreciate its architecture in addition to many other eye-catching features.
Domplein 21, 3512, JC Utrecht, Netherlands, Phone: +31-3-02-36-00-10
2.St. Martin’s Cathedral
Dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, the St. Martin’s Cathedral was first opened in 1254 and has a storied past as one of the two pre-Reformation cathedrals in the country. It was once the cathedral of the Diocese of Utretch before it converted into a protestant church in 1580. Visitors to the cathedral ought to make time for its three main highlights: the interior, the cloister and the tower. Though St. Martin’s Cathedral actually has rather simple interiors, it is known for being the home of several tombs that house the internal organs of Emperors Conrad II and Henry IV. Meanwhile, the ambulatory is home to fragments of a Holy Spulcher by Gherit Splintersz. The cloister, circa 14th or 15 century, features windows with gorgeous scenes of Saint Martin, while the tower is known for being a symbol of the city.
Achter de Dom 1, 3512 JN Utrecht, Netherlands, Phone: +31-3-02-31-04-03
3.Rietveld Schroder House
Visit one of Urtrecht’s iconic landmarks and an architectural highlight of De Stijl when you stop by the Rietveld Schroder House. Commission by Truus Schroder in 1924 and designed by Gerrit Rietveld, the Rietveld Schroder House was born out of Truus’ desire to have a home that was completely attuned to her personality. Her unconventional past and eccentric ideas birthed this eye-catching home, which was one of the De Stijl art movements leading proponents. Visitors at the Rietveld Schroder House can examine the fluid transitions between interior and exterior spaces, see the clean horizontal and vertical lines of its design, while enjoying the lovely primary colors dotted around the space.
Prins Hendriklaan 50, 3583 EP Utrecht, Netherlands, Phone: +31-3-02-36-23-10
4.De Haar Castle
There are many reasons to take a trip to the De Haar Castle. Whether it’s to soak up the castle’s rich history, admire the many exhibitions on display within the castle walls, or to walk through the beautiful gardens, the De Haar Castle will ultimately transport every visitor to another world. Few castles can equal De Haar in beauty, which paints the perfect picture of what an ideal medieval fortress ought to look like. From a tower and ramparts to its sizeable moat and intimidating gates, De Haar has everything one would expect from a castle. De Haar is the largest castle in Holland to date, and is, without a doubt, one of the most luxurious ones in all of Europe.
Kasteellaan 1, 3455 RR Utrecht, Netherlands, Phone: +31-3-06-77-85-15
© Olena Z/stock.adobe.com
The Oudegracht, also known as the Old Canal, runs through the middle of the city and is a beloved and scenic icon of Utrecht. Locals love spending time by the Old Canal not just because it’s peaceful and relaxing to walk along the river, but also because of the many restaurants, stores and lovely Dutch houses that stand along the canal. What’s peculiar about Oudegracht is that it actually has two levels to it. At the street level, travelers will find stunning examples of Dutch architecture, curious shops to visit and comb through, or relaxing cafes to sit at and people watch. Meanwhile, on the water level of the Old Canal, there are incredible restaurants to have a mouthwatering meal at.
© Museum Speelklok
For travelers looking for one of the most culturally rich and enjoyable activities in the heart of Utrecht, it’s hard to go wrong with the Museum Speelklok. The museum is housed in what was formerly known as Buurkerk and was established in 1984. Today, it’s home to a curious collection of old but functioning automatically playing instruments that date back to the 16th century, as well as moving dolls and puppets. While the museum is indeed made for children, even adults are bound to find something enjoyable and entertaining to do. When you’re done exploring all of the exhibits, make sure to stop by the Museum Expedition, the newest addition to the Speelklok.
Steenweg 6, 3511, JP Utrecht, Netherlands, Phone: +31-3-02-31-27-89
7.Miffy Traffic Light
People all around the world have grown up listening to stories of Nijntje, a white rabbit created and illustrated by the illustrator, Dick Bruna in 1955. Nijntje, or Miffy as she is known to the rest of the world, has touched many lives around the world and has brought fame to Utrecht in such a way that she even has several landmarks around the city dedicated to her. The Miffy Traffic Light is one such landmark. In fact, there are several Miffy Traffic Lights situated around the city featuring lights in the shape of this cute white rabbit herself, but the best one is light that features a rainbow colored crosswalk in front of the Bijenkorf department store.
Lange Viestraat 1-669, 3511 BK Utrecht, Netherlands
© Centraal Museum
As the main museum in Utrecht, it would be a mistake to leave the Centraal Museum off of your vacation itinerary. It’s wide-ranging collection that features almost exclusively locally produced works of art has drawn visitors from near and far since the museum was first opened in 1838. One of the key features of the Centraal Museum is its collection of paintings by Joachim Wtewael, a famed Northern Mannerist, which is by far the largest in the world. Another is the thousand-year-old Utrecht Ship, a part of the Stadsgeschiedenis collection, which was found in the 1930s near the Van Hoornekade.
Agnietenstraat 1, 3512 XA Utrecht, Netherlands, Phone: +31-3-02-36-23-62
© Miffy Museum
Believe it or not, you actually learn a ton while playing. Just ask the kids at the Miffy Museum! Between crawling, exploring, dancing and singing along to different tunes, children and adults alike can learn a thing or two at the Miffy Museum. Inside the Miffy Museum, visitors will find a series of engaging and vibrant miniature worlds. There are 10 rooms total, each of which are dedicated to a different subject that will invite visitors to discover amazing things about the world around them. Some stops to see along the way include Miffy’s house, and even a trip to the zoo or the doctor as it would happen in Miffy’s world.
Agnietenstraat 2, 3512 XB, Utrecht, Netherlands, Phone: +31-3-02-36-23-99
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10.Museum Catharijne Convent
© Museum Catharijne Convent
There’s no better place to visit in Utrecht for medieval religious art than the St. Catherine’s Convent Museum. At this museum, visitors can sink deep into a captivating and rich story of Netherland’s Christian history and current state. Although the Netherlands is a Protestant country, the St. Catherine’s Convent Museum features both Protestant and Catholic art as well as religious relics. Some of the gorgeous pieces to see include altarpieces, magnificently illustrated manuscripts, book-bindings set with precious stones, ecclesiastical objects of gold and silver, as well as clothing. Aside from the objects on display, the museum gives visitors insight into the impact that religion has had on Dutch society.
Lange Nieuwstraat 38, 3512 PH Utrecht, Netherlands, Phone: +31-3-02-31-38-35
11.Utrecht University Botanic Gardens
Home to some of the world’s most beautiful plants, the Utrecht University Botanic Garden is stunning no matter what time of the year it is. The gardens are great for travelers looking for some relaxation and recreation, while also offering educational programs and classes for curious minds. This green oasis spans over nine lavish hectares with several curated gardens to visit such as the evolution garden, the rock garden, the birders den, and tropical greenhouses. Situated in the heart of Utrecht Science Park, Utrecht University Botanic Gardens offer guided tours through the eleven focus areas and four themed locations of the gardens.
Heidelberglaan 8, 3584 CS Utrecht, Netherlands, Phone: +31-3-02-53-35-50
Music genres of all kinds from all over the world come together under a single roof at the TivoliVredenburg, a state of the art performance center in the heart of Utrecht’s cultural scene. The TivoliVredenburg is home to several incredible rooms, each one designed by a different architect, which means several unique atmospheres all in one building. Visitors can catch spectacular performances like orchestra performances in the Grote Zaal, rock bands at the Ronda, smaller ensemble performances in Pandora, or even string quartet extravaganzas at the Hertz. Other rooms in the TivoliVredenburg include the Cloud Nine, Park 6, the Rabo Open Stage, and Club Nine.
Vredenburgkade 11, 3511 WC Utrecht, Netherlands, Phone: +31-3-07-60-67-77
Go on an underground adventure and discover the 2,000 year archaeological history of Domplein when you visit the award-winning attraction known as DOMunder. Guests will go on journeys through bygone eras like that of the mighty Romans, the glory of the Middle Ages, and even relive the storm of 1674. Great for both young and old visitors alike, guests can take guided archaeological tours with experts to get inside knowledge on specific sites and ruins. Tours are 90-minutes long and are conducted in a personal and interactive way. Visitors who prefer to go it alone can certainly do so with the help of the DOMunder app.
Domplein 4, 3512 JC, Utrecht, Netherlands, Phone: +31-3-07-43-15-94
14.Sonnenborgh Museum and Observatory
© Sonnenborgh Museum and Observatory
Welcoming guests from near and far at all times of the year, the Sonnenborgh Museum and Observatory is perfect for exploring the secrets of the skies and star cupolas. As the first home of the Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute, Sonnenborgh features telescopes with the power and precision to bring the stars, nay the universe, up close and personal. From bastion to institute to observatory, the Sonnenborgh Museum and Observatory features a range of objects and relics like cannon emplacements, extremely thick walls from 16th-century fortifications, and 19th-century observatory domes perfect for gazing up at the night sky when the sun goes down.
Zonnenburg 2, 3512 NL Utrecht, Netherlands, Phone: +31-3-08-20-14-20
15.Museum Oud Amelisweerd
© Museum Oud Amelisweerd
Within the lively locale of Utrecht, the beating heart Holland, is the Museum Oud Amelisweerd. Fondly referred to as the MOA for shower, the museum is found within a lovingly renovated 18th-century castle on the historical Amelisweerd estate. The estate is very much a museum on it’s own as it dates back to the 13th century, was destroyed in 1672 by the French, then rebuilt in 1770. The museum is a window into 18th-century life with its main feature being the stunning wallpaper that adorns the mansion’s walls. Alongside the rare wall decoration, the museum displays a unique collection of modern art.
Koningslaan 9, 3981 HD Bunnik, Netherlands, Phone: +31-3-43-42-10-20
The Janskerk, also known as the St. John’s Church, is a gorgeous old church located right on the Janskerkhof square in the heart of Utrecht. Built in a Romanesque basilica style, the church was founded by Bishop Bernold in 1040 and was used for the chapter for St. John. One of Utrecht’s five collegiate churches, it was later converted to a city library then university library when it was repossessed by the Reformed Church. Today, the church is a remarkable historical landmark to visit that comes alive on the weekends with farmer’s markets popping up all around. The church has also been used as a remarkable events place for various occasions.
Janskerkhof 26, 3512 BN Utrecht, Netherlands, Phone: +31-3-02-32-16-16
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Nestled within the lush and vibrant forests of Bunnik, Utrecht, De Bilt and Zeist is Fort Rijnauwen, a large and impressive stronghold that has become a popular destination for vacationers in The Netherlands. Fort Rijnauwen is the largest fort of its kind along the New Dutch Waterline, and is known for being the only fort of its kind thanks to its unique architecture and immaculate condition. Culturally and historically significant, the fort has become a significant natural habitat as it has become one with the forest that surrounds it. Visitors can enjoy a guided tour of the fort all throughout the year, while visiting children will love a tour with Captain Dirk who will take them on an incredible bat safari.
Vossegatsedijk 5, 3981 HS Bunnik, Netherlands, Phone: +31-6-53-40-22-96
Get a glimpse into the lifestyle that Dutch royals once lived when you step into the Zuylen Castle. Known locally as Slot Zuylen, the castle radiates extravagance and grandeur along with grace and prestige through every room and wall. The Zuylen Castle was originally built in the 1300s as a fortified fortress and was later rebuilt into a country mansion in 1752 before it was turned into a museum in recent years. Walk into the serene and luxurious tea room, which features enthralling views of the garden. Around the garden is a fortified moat, which lends an irresistible charm to the castle. Wherever you go in the castle, you’ll be sure to come face to face with an interesting and rich history.
Tournooiveld 1, 3611 AS Oud Zuilen, The Netherlands, Phone: +31-3-02-44-02-55
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The railway has a special place in the history and culture of The Netherlands, so much so that there is even a museum dedicated to the incredible 175-year history of the railway. A visit to the Railway Museum is a thrilling and interactive experience for the entire family, where everyone can view grand historic trains, take a mine lift, and see the components that went into the design and creation of the steam engine. Admire the De Arend, the first Dutch steam locomotive, or drop by the Dream Journeys exhibit of the museum, or take a ride on the Trial By Fire. Guests can also stop by the Oriental Auditorium, wherein actors recreate scenes from the Orient Express.
Maliebaanstation 16, 3581 XW Utrecht, Netherlands, Phone: +31-3-02-30-62-06
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Much like an ethereal other world in the heart of the Leidsche Rijn district, the Maximapark is a popular recreational landmark that is as large as the city’s center. Peaceful and lively at the very same time, the Maximapark is perfect for exercise, whether it’s walking, cycling, or jogging. It’s also a relaxing place to enjoy a picnic or even go boating, and was even voted the most-loved park by locals in The Netherlands. Some unique sites to see in Maximapark include its butterfly garden, several cafes, and the Hent Lint, which is the park’s car-free asphalt path.
Utrechtseweg 4, 3451 GG Vleuten, The Netherlands
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Arguably the most popular dining establishment in all of Utrecht, the Restaurant Podium is known for dishing up one creative dish after another, all crafted, designed, and brought to life by a young and passionate team of exceptional chefs. Each item on the menu comes with an unexpected and creative twist, which elevates the dish’s traditional base. Also known as the Podium Onder de Dom, the Restaurant Podium is notably featured in the Michelin Guide of excellent restaurants, which just goes to show how absolutely delicious meals at this restaurant are. Booking a few weeks in advance is recommended at this richly decorated restaurant.
4 Domstraat, Utrecht, 3512, The Netherlands, Phone: +31-3-06-35-08-88
One wouldn’t think to find an Indonesian restaurant in the heart of a Dutch town like Utrecht, and yet eager foodies and hungry eaters alike will find just that at the Blauw Restaurant. The Blauw Restaurant is known across the region for being one of the most excellent dining establishments for Indonesian food, with meals built on traditional recipes and ingredients. Each plate that leaves the kitchen oozes with authenticity, which is what entices and enthralls every diner at this restaurant to keep coming back for more. One dish that visitors mustn't miss is the Ikan Bali Jimbaran, which is fried red snapper fillets, covered with a mouthwatering jimbaran sauce.
64 Springweg, Binnenstad Utrecht, 3511 VT, The Netherlands, Phone: +31-3-02-34-24-63
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© Cest Ca
Flamboyant, classic, and unexpected all in one, Cest Ca is a fresh restaurant that offers incredible French cuisine in the heart of Utrecht. Although the main draw is obviously their spectacular food, the open kitchen concept as Cest Ca is a close second as guests are invited to watch passionate chefs whipping up dish after dish in a frenzy of skill and precision. Daily menus are surprise to both guests and the chefs, as ingredients that are brought into the restaurant daily largely depend on what’s available, what’s of highest quality, and what is most fresh. Pro tip? Choose the restaurant's five course dinner when you visit to ensure that you get the best of what the chefs, and the region has to offer.
142 Bollenhofsestraat, Noord-Oost Utrecht, 3572 VT, The Netherlands, Phone: +31-3-02-71-01-05
Sample and savor praiseworthy Belgian cuisine from within the graceful confines of the old Maria Minor Church when you dine at Olivier. The restaurant, which was designed to resemble a traditional Belgian beer cafe, utilizes the beauty of the building’s original architecture to create a cozy and welcoming atmosphere to its regulars and first-timers. Meanwhile, Olivier’s food exciting with a varied menu to serve something up for every palate. Each of Olivier’s main course dishes are served with the standard Belgian favorites such as Vlaamse frites and mayonnaise. One of the stand out dishes, however, has got to be the Gent Waterzooi, which feature guinea fowl, bacon, vegetables, and roseval potatoes in a luxurious and velvety cream sauce.
6A Achter Clarenburg, Binnenstad Utrecht, Utrecht, 3511 JJ, The Netherlands, +31-3-02-36-78-76
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An unexpected find in Utrecht, the MaS Restaurant is a gastronomic repository of French and international fusion cuisine. MaS brings fine dining level service and food, as well as fine wines, to a casual environment with top notch hospitality. The restaurant’s menu is eclectic, featuring seasonally changing dishes, and a daily 4-course special, built on flavor combinations that are both traditional yet out of this world. Dishes to try include the popular Iberico pork belly, which is served with rouleau of pig, quinoa and pepper coulis. The best thing about MaS Restaurant is its ever-changing daily additions, which guarantees a new dining experience with every visit.
Schalkwijkstraat 26-28, 3512 KS Utrecht, The Netherlands, Phone: +31-3-02-30-22-29
25 Best Things to Do in Utrecht, Netherlands
- The Dom Tower, Photo: Olena Z/stock.adobe.com
- St. Martin’s Cathedral, Photo: venemama/stock.adobe.com
- Rietveld Schroder House, Photo: hal_pand_108/stock.adobe.com
- De Haar Castle, Photo: Adrian72/stock.adobe.com
- Oudegracht, Photo: Olena Z/stock.adobe.com
- Museum Speelklok, Photo: Museum Speelklok
- Miffy Traffic Light, Photo: Taku/stock.adobe.com
- Centraal Museum, Photo: Centraal Museum
- Miffy Museum, Photo: Miffy Museum
- Museum Catharijne Convent, Photo: Museum Catharijne Convent
- Utrecht University Botanic Gardens, Photo: naiveangelde/stock.adobe.com
- Tivoli Vredenburg, Photo: shocky/stock.adobe.com
- DOMunder, Photo: DOMunder
- Sonnenborgh Museum and Observatory, Photo: Sonnenborgh Museum and Observatory
- Museum Oud Amelisweerd, Photo: Museum Oud Amelisweerd
- Janskerk, Photo: Janskerk
- Fort Rijnauwen, Photo: Sergey Kamshylin/stock.adobe.com
- Zuylen Castle, Photo: homocosmicos/stock.adobe.com
- Railway Museum, Photo: tetyanaustenko/stock.adobe.com
- Maximapark, Photo: Maximapark
- Restaurant Podium, Photo: InsideCreativeHouse/stock.adobe.com
- Blauw, Photo: Blauw
- Cest Ca, Photo: Cest Ca
- Olivier, Photo: Olivier
- MaS, Photo: applezoomzoom/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Kruwt/stock.adobe.com