Welcome to Utrecht, a city that holds a special place in my heart. Having lived here for several years and explored its hidden treasures as a frequent visitor, I’m thrilled to share with you the absolute best spots and experiences that Utrecht has to offer. Whether you’re planning a short getaway or a longer stay, this charming Dutch city promises an unforgettable adventure filled with culture, history, and endless delights.
Start the day at the Oudegracht
When exploring Utrecht, it’s essential to begin your day at the Oudegracht, the beating heart of the city. As you stroll along this historic central canal, you’ll be immersed in the rich heritage of Utrecht.
The Oudegracht, meaning “old canal” in Dutch, was handcrafted in the 12th century, and it continues to attract visitors today. It’s no wonder that the Oudegracht is considered one of the top things to do in Utrecht.
Experience the tranquility of the Pandhof Sinte Marie
One of the must-see attractions in Utrecht is the Pandhof Sinte Marie, a serene courtyard garden. This is the sole surviving part of the historic St. Mary’s Church, which Napoleon ordered to be demolished in 1813.
Visitors are drawn to this enchanting space, where seasonal flowers, medicinal herbs, and carefully tended garden plants create a picturesque oasis. It’s a place of tranquility and respite, allowing you to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
Explore the best of Utrecht’s markets
When it comes to markets, Utrecht truly shines with its diverse and lively offerings. Among the most renowned are the Bloemenmarkt, Lapjesmarkt, and Vredenburg.
Vredenburg holds a special place in my heart as it encapsulates the essence of a quintessential Dutch market. With over 100 stalls, this bustling marketplace is a treasure trove of products, local delicacies, and fresh produce.
Vredenburg Market operates on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. On Fridays, the market showcases a range of high-quality organic products. However, my favorite time to visit is on Saturdays. There’s nothing quite like having fresh kibbling or a warm, syrup-filled stroopwafel while browsing around.
For flower and plant enthusiasts, the Bloemenmarkt in Utrecht is a must-visit destination.
This vibrant flower market is a haven for those seeking a wide variety of blooms, house plants, garden plants, bouquets, pots, and so much more. Each season brings its own unique offerings, making every visit a special experience.
See the iconic Dom Tower
A trip to Utrecht wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the Dom Tower. As the tallest church tower in the Netherlands, it offers a must-see attraction for visitors. Despite undergoing construction and being scaffolded in recent years, the Dom Tower remains a breathtaking sight. Don’t miss the opportunity to capture photos or even take a tour and climb its nearly 500 steps.
Learn about the history of Dutch Railways at the Spoorwegmuseum
Located in a former rail station, known as Maliebaan, this museum offers a one-of-a-kind experience. Immerse yourself in the world of trains as you explore the interactive exhibits that showcase the technology and evolution of railways throughout Dutch history.
Step aboard historical coaches and carriages, allowing you to get a firsthand glimpse into the past.
What sets the Spoorwegmuseum apart is its array of interactive elements. Engage with hands-on exhibits that enable you to understand the inner workings of trains, their mechanics, and the transformative impact they have had on society.
Relax at Zochterpark and stroll along the Singel
If you want a break from the buzz of the city, head to Zochterpark and stroll along the Singel. This is one of the most serene walkways in Utrecht and where you’ll find locals and tourists on nice days out.
However, this area is more than just a pretty sight. Zochterpark holds a rich historical significance, making it worthwhile to follow one of the recommended walking routes.
Explore the city from a unique perspective – on the water!
One of the most enjoyable things to do in Utrecht is to explore the city by the water. Embarking on a boat cruise, paddle boat adventure, or even kayaking allows you to witness the charm of Utrecht from a unique vantage point.
Supping and boat rentals are popular choices with locals and visitors. It’s an adventure that should not be missed during your visit to Utrecht.
Explore Utrecht’s street art
Utrecht has a thriving art scene with over 130 pieces spread throughout the city. As you wander the streets, you’ll encounter a number of artworks, each bearing the distinctive style of local artists.
Grab your camera, follow the street art route, or get a knowledgeable guide who can provide in-depth insights and background information on selected art pieces.
See Utrecht’s Botanical Gardens
Just a stone’s throw away from the city center lies a quaint oasis: the Utrecht Botanical Gardens. These gardens have so much diversity of flora and fauna, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts.
With each season the garden transforms, offering a new spectacle of vibrant blooms and captivating landscapes. One of the highlights of the gardens is the enchanting butterfly sanctuary house, where a multitude of butterfly species reside.
Discover Museum Speelklok
Experience something truly unique at Museum Speelklok, where a collection of self-playing musical instruments are on display. See a diverse array of intricately crafted organs, music boxes, and other mechanical marvels.
Each piece holds its own story so I highly recommend going on a guided tour to hear in-depth insights into the instruments’ histories, mechanisms, and unique characteristics.
Take a day trip to Kasteel de Haar
A must-do attraction when visiting Utrecht is Kasteel de Haar. This is the largest and most extravagant castle in the Netherlands.
Set amongst picturesque grounds and gardens, Kasteel de Haar looks like a page straight out of a fairytale book. It dates back to 1391 and is incredibly well-maintained on the exterior and interior.