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Ahh, Utrecht… underrated Utrecht! How I miss you!
Utrecht is actually a province in the Netherlands that is famous for castles, mansions, and forests. But aside from the gorgeous nature, there is also the old student city of the same name.
And you should definitely go there.
Personally, I’d love to go back. I went there on a day trip some years ago while visiting family in the nearby region of North Brabant. And I absolutely loved it.
Sadly, I haven’t managed to go back since then. But maybe in 2020, I will finally make it back to the Netherlands.
But for those who are heading to Utrecht soon here are a few of my recommendations for things to do there.
Discover the Cathedral Square (Domplein)
St. Martin’s Cathedral in Utrecht was severely damaged during a tornado. So much so that the bell tower was separated from the church which is how the square was created. And Utrecht’s most famous landmark, the bell tower, is the highest church tower in the Netherlands. If you want to do something more interactive why not see the DOMunder tour which takes place underneath the tower? Here you can find out about the city’s history all the way back to Roman times.
Visit St. Catherine’s Cathedral
As a non-Christian, I have to say I find Catholic churches much more impressive than their Protestant counterparts. However, in the Netherlands things are a bit more complicated. St. Catherine’s Cathedral was a Protestant church for hundreds of years until it was returned to the Catholic church. So when you visit this church you feel like stepping into a Protestant church. There is less gold than you would expect in a Catholic church. It seems that even Catholics in the Netherlands prefer a simpler approach to religion.
Go for a Stroll in the City Center
Like any Dutch city, Utrecht is a bike-friendly city. But if you want to do any sightseeing you will stay in the city center where walking is the best way to get around. Since the city discourages the use of cars you can go for a lovely walk and take in the atmosphere without the noise of cars that you often find in other cities.
See a Typical Dutch Canal
We all know the canals as the most typical thing about the Netherlands. Utrecht’s Oudegracht is a particularly beautiful example with a vibrant restaurant and pub scene. The canal is actually more than 800 years old so the name Oudegracht (“old canal”) is certainly fitting. The coolest part about it is that it has two levels, the street level with stores and cafés and the water level with restaurant terraces. When the weather is good you can get some vegan ice cream and stroll along the canal and its bridges.
Do a Boat Tour Through the Canals
While a walk along the canals is always a lovely thing to do I firmly believe that you only learn to truly appreciate the importance of them on a boat tour. This is certainly true for Utrecht as well as cities like Amsterdam or Hamburg. (Do check out my post on free things to do in Hamburg.) The canals played an important part in the city’s history and seeing them from water level helps you understand how intricate the system is. After an hour on the boat, you’ll know more about Utrecht’s role in trade as an independent city. And the photos you will take from there will be spectacular. If you’re more adventurous you could even go kayaking on the canals!
Have you ever been to Utrecht? And if not, have you ever considered going?