This post is also available in: Dutch
In the recent years I started to appreciate my own country more and more. There are so many cool cities and small towns to explore in the Netherlands. For instance Utrecht, a very authentic Dutch city with beautiful architecture and little canals. A day trip to Utrecht is easy to undertake, as the city is located in the heart of the Netherlands. It’s also easy to combine with a trip to Amsterdam. Are you planning on spending one day in Utrecht? Or perhaps even more days? Then be sure to use this article for inspiration! It includes 20 fun things to do in Utrecht, with lots of fun activities, great hotspots and more!
We also have a great article with 15 Cool day trips in the Netherlands, be sure to check it out!
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20 Things to do in Utrecht
1. Admire the canals and old houses
Not only Amsterdam has lots of canals, Utrecht has a big canal network too, all over the city. Along the canals you can find cute traditional Dutch houses. It’s wonderful just to walk through the city and admire the beautiful canals and houses. Especially on a sunny spring or fall day, it’s a real pleasure to soak in all the beauty of Utrecht. And a big plus is that Utrecht isn’t as touristy as Amsterdam, so perhaps you can even skip the capital of the Netherlands ;).
2. Have breakfast, lunch or dinner at one of the Instagrammable hotspots in Utrecht
There are a lot of great cafés and restaurants in Utrecht where you can get breakfast, lunch, diner and drinks. Most of the hotspots in Utrecht not only serve yummy food, but also have an amazing interior. Just a few examples of Instagrammable hotspots in Utrecht are: Metro City Kitchen, Fico Utrecht, Tiger Mama Utrecht and The Streetfood Club.
Take your time before your trip to do some research online and find a hotspot that you would love to visit. There are quite some great places to go, so choose wisely! I had the pleasure of visiting the Streetfood Club myself recently, and just had to share a bit more photos of this incredible hotspot.
The Streetfood Club
If you look at the above photos you can see why The Streetfood Club is a very popular hotspot. It’s colourful, playful and full of cool props. It’s a surprisingly big place, with a lot of different areas where you can sit. Once you set foot in the place, you can either sit down in the pink area with hanging bird cages and lots of playful monkeys, at the bright and hip ‘greenhouse’ or sit down at the bar and drink one of the tasty cocktails. And that throne isn’t bad either, right?
3. Sonnenborgh Observatory
At the Sonnenborgh Observatory in Utrecht you can gaze at the stars through the 19th century telescope domes. During autumn and winter weekends you can even visit a Star Viewing Night! Pretty cool, right?
At this authentic 19th century observatory with three telescope domes, you can also learn more about meteorology, what the sun is made of and experience the history of a Utrecht 16th century bastion. It’s definitely an interesting place, where you can see and learn a lot.
4. Visit the Dom Tower of Utrecht
The Dom Tower is one of Utrecht most popular tourist attractions. With 465 steps, it’s quite a big climb and actually the highest church tower in the Netherlands. At the top point of the Dom Tower you will be rewarded with an amazing view of Utrecht and the surrounding areas. So it’s worth going up all those steps.
You can only visit the Dom Tower as part of a guided tour. Get more information on the Dom Tower website.
5. Sit on a terrace on a sunny day
Instead of taking a tour inside of the Dom Tower, you can also decide to admire its exterior from a distance. Such as from this lovely terrace in the same street!
During a sunny day in Utrecht, and basically in most Dutch cities, you will see how the terraces slowly get filled with Dutch people having drinks and popular snacks such as our famous bitterballen. Don’t be shy and also find yourself a table outside. Get your friends together for some beers, wines and/or refreshing non-alcoholic drinks and enjoy the weather the way Dutch people do.
6. Visit a museum in Utrecht
Big chance that you visit Utrecht during a rainy day, because it rains a lot in the Netherlands… Trust me. If it is raining on your visit, you can always decide to enjoy some culture and visit a museum. Of course, there are a lot museums in Utrecht to visit. There’s the Centraal Museum, which features an impressive collection of artworks from well-known local artists. Here you can find historical, modern and applied art. Other museums in Utrecht are: Museum Speelklok, University Museum Utrecht, Railway Museum and more!
7. Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea
During colder days in Utrecht, it’s a great idea to take a break from exploring the city and sit down for a cup of coffee or tea. Like mentioned before, there are lots of Instagrammable hotspots in Utrecht where you can have breakfast, lunch or dinner, but of course you can also simply enjoy a cup of coffee or tea to recharge.
Tip: If you only have one day in Utrecht, but want to see more great hotspots, go for a drink at one hotspot, and lunch at another. That way you still visited two different ones without overeating or spending too much money.
8. Visit the Utrecht Botanic Gardens
Escape the city and indulge yourself in nature at the Botanic Gardens at the heart of Utrecht Science Park in Fort Hoofddijk. The gardens date back to 1639, making it one of the oldest botanic gardens in the Netherlands.
In total there are six gardens and other attractions: Rock Garden, Evolution Garden, Discovery Garden (Theme Garden), Tropical Greenhouses, Birders Den and the Bee Hotel. The Rock Garden is actually Europe’s largest rock garden with mountain plant life from around the world.
9. Go shopping in Utrecht
The cute streets and charming old city center of Utrecht makes it a wonderful destination to go shopping. There are lots of different department stores, small boutiques and markets. There really is something for everyone!
During my recent visit to Utrecht, I went to the Polette showroom for new glasses. As their showroom isn’t located in my hometown Rotterdam, I thought it was a great reason to visit another city and make some time to explore it.
10. Go vintage shopping in Utrecht
What I especially love about shopping in Utrecht, is the countless second-hand shops! It’s wonderful to browse the vintage shops at the Oudegracht and Museumkwartier and find real treasures. Along the canal of Oudegracht you will find countless of vintage shops with clothes, furniture, toys for kids and much more! So if you love vintage items too, definitely pick Utrecht as your next citytrip.
11. Buy flowers at the flower markets
Fresh flowers can really bright up your day! In Utrecht you can get them right in the city center on Janskerkhof every Saturday from 08.00 – 17.00. You can also go to the flower market at Oude Gracht and Bakkerbrug, with 12 market stalls full of flowers and bouquets. Even if you’re not planning on buying flowers, it’s still a treat to just walk around the stalls.
12. Visit Castle de Haar
Castle de Haar is a gorgeous, big castle close to Utrecht. Here you can walk around the castle grounds and gardens, and of course you can explore inside the castle too. Castle de Haar makes a great day trip in Utrecht or the Netherlands in general. If you decide on going from Utrecht, it’s only a 20 or 30 minute drive!
13. Walk around the cute little streets of Utrecht
Besides the gorgeous canals, the smalls streets in Utrecht are also a real treat to admire. Walk around the narrow cobblestone streets and explore the traditional Dutch architecture.
14. Take a photo of Nijntje Pleintje (Miffy Square)
Nijntje, or Miffy in English, is created by Dick Bruna and known because of the children’s books around the world. As Dick Bruna is from Utrecht, it makes sense that there is a square named after the white rabbit: Nijntje Pleintje or Miffy Square. There is a statue of Miffy on Miffy Square at the beginning of the Van Asch van Wijckskade. This statue is created by Dick Bruna’s son called Marc Bruna.
Next to the Miffy Square, there are also Miffy traffic lights in Utrecht, which are really cute! You can find them on the Lange Vliestraat.
15. Go to Nijntje Museum (Miffy Museum)
If you’re going to Utrecht with children, it’s a fun idea to visit the Miffy Museum. It’s a super fun way for preschoolers and toddlers to play and learn at the same time. Check out their website for more information (only in Dutch).
16. Explore Utrecht on a bicycle
If you’re looking for a fun way to get around Utrecht, you can decide to rent a bicycle. It’s the most popular way of transportation by locals, so you can get a real impression of what it’s like to live there. Utrecht has quite a compact center, so it’s not that hard to find your way around.
At the VVV store on the Domplein you can rent a bicycle and get cycling maps of Utrecht and surrounding areas.
17. Go to a concert at Tivoli Vredenburg
Tivoli Vredenburg is a contemporary music venue where there are lots of performances and concerts, about 1500+ events per year. There are five halls with great acoustics and facilities, plus there are bars, lounges, a cafe and restaurant.
Go to the Tivoli Vredenburg website to see what kind of events are coming up!
18. Visit a beer café
Do you love beer? Utrecht is a great city to visit a café and grab some beers. There are small breweries, pubs and cafés. Check out this article for some great recommendations for great spots in Utrecht to get a beer!
19. Visit Fort bij Rijnauwen
Fort bij Rijnauwen is the largest fortification of the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie and has a big historical value. Together with Fort bij Vechten it had to defend one of the weakest points in the line. Because of the military function of the Fort, it was hermetically closed for a while. That is why the nature had the chance to grow freely. So it’s not only interesting to visit because it’s a historic place, but also for its nature.
20. Visit all the highlights in Utrecht on this tour
Are you looking for a great tour in Utrecht? Check out this tour that takes you to all the highlights in Utrecht. The tour takes three hours and takes you to its main attractions and hidden corners!
Have you ever been to this charming city in the Netherlands? What is your favourite thing to do in Utrecht?