Are you planning to visit the Netherlands?
In that case, don’t set your sights only on Amsterdam!
If you have ever longed to explore a charming medieval city with picture-perfect canals, striking architecture, and an extraordinary history, then your fantasy can come true in Utrecht.
With much fewer crowds compared to Amsterdam, this hidden gem offers calming surroundings where they are free to delve into Dutch culture at their rate of exploration. An ideal destination for those wishing to experience something unique. You can also find plenty of day trips from Utrecht that will let you explore most of this beautiful country.
While staying in Amsterdam on my trip to the Netherlands, I planned a day trip to Utrecht, which was only a short 30-minute train ride.
Utrecht on the first impression very much reminds you of the traditional English town, minus the canals. The entrance to the city is through an impressive and very modern train station which leads straight to a selection of restaurants on a small square and the entrance to the shopping mall.
We crossed through the shopping mall to get to the old town of Utrecht. In this guide, you will find all the highlights you can cover in Utrecht in a single day, let’s dive in!
Is one day enough in Utrecht?
Yes, one day is the perfect amount of time to spend exploring Utrecht. The city is not big by any means and doesn’t have as many sights and attractions as Amsterdam, so a day trip is the perfect option.
Is Utrecht worth visiting?
Utrecht is an unmissable destination that I believe surpasses the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam. Although it’s not too well-known yet among travelers, I recommend you make your way there!
Arriving in Utrecht
If you’re in Amsterdam and want to explore Utrecht, the fourth biggest city in the Netherlands, which has a unique story of hosting an only Dutch pope, visiting this captivating place is easy.
Just board a direct train from Amsterdam Centraal to Utrecht Centraal. Situated near the center of the town, allowing quick access through its shopping mall for sightseeing!
A day trip with visits into rich history by experiencing its alluring charm can be made within no time at all – that’s why it’s worth going for sure.
One Day in Utrecht: What to see & do
Exploring the Historic Center
For your day trip, starting in Utrecht’s old center is a great choice. The narrow lanes and quaint waterways create an atmospheric charm that transports you to the past. Start by appreciating the town’s grand medieval structures such as Dom Tower and St. Martin’s Cathedral. Don’t forget to enjoy taking a calming walk down Old Canal or Oudegracht too!
Consider going on one of those romantic canal cruises from Gaardbrug Bridge which take visitors along some canals around the city to them get exposed to rich history while enjoying beautiful scenery all over again.
Dom Tower and St. Martin’s Cathedral
Situated in Utrecht’s historic city center, the Dom Tower is one of the Netherlands’ tallest church towers and part of St. Martin’s Cathedral complex, it has been standing for centuries with its bells heard all over town – adding to this magical atmosphere.
You can climb 465 steps up to observe beautiful views across the city or join Saturday afternoon music concerts at 3:30 pm inside (at 80 meters).
Not far away from here lies The DOM Under tour – 75 minutes long and costing €11. An ideal opportunity to discover Utrecht’s extensive history including Roman ruins that were left behind after the 1674 tornado!
Visiting St Martins Cathedral will reveal fascinating graves belonging to Conrad II as well as Henry IV among others!
University Quarter and Local Markets
The University Quarter of Utrecht has remarkable architectural styles from medieval times, along with neoclassical and Renaissance revival characteristics that are all interwoven to showcase its wealthy past.
The city center here is a great place for browsing shops specializing in local items such as fresh produce, flowers, crafts, clothing, and more at Janskerkhof Market, ideal for getting into Dutch culture. Venture into the nearby Botanical Gardens at Utrecht University, to explore the beautiful nature and serene atmosphere.
Coffee Break and Dutch Treats
After an enjoyable morning, why not take a break and relax in one of Utrecht’s comfortable cafés?
Unwind with an invigorating cup of coffee while observing the local life, and sampling some of the best Dutch treats, like the appelbollen, commonly known as the Dutch apple ball. This tasty pastry is made by covering an apple in puff pastry and baking it until it’s golden and crisp inside – inside are almond paste, raisins, and aromatic cinnamon sugar which when combined make for a truly delightful experience!
Museum Highlights in Utrecht
The Centraal Museum contains a collection of beautiful works from the 15th century along with artifacts collected in the Dutch East Indies and incredible furniture designs by Gerrit Rietveld.
Also worth visiting on your tour around Utrecht is another unique attraction – the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as Rietveld Schröder House.
If it’s something completely different that interests you, then look no further than Museum Speelklok. Devoted entirely to automated instruments capable of playing music without human interference.
Strolling Along Utrecht’s Canals
No trip to Utrecht would be complete without taking some time to enjoy the beauty of its canals, most notably Oudegracht. Another lovely canal is Kromme Nieuwegracht with quaint bridges as well as abundant foliage creating an atmosphere of tranquility. Make sure to take a break at one of the cozy cafes while absorbing all the sights around you on your day out here!
To Experience what Dutch city has to offer, join a canal cruise which usually takes one to 1.5 hours and allows you to experience the city from the best vantage point.
Trajectum Lumen: Utrecht’s Light Art Trail
This art project consists of 15 works created by international as well as local artists, and you can enjoy this spectacle every evening from sunset until midnight.
The trail starts at Domplein Square where you will find directions guiding you throughout its path.
Dining and Nightlife in Utrecht
As a university town, Utrecht is proud of its lively dining and nightlife scene, featuring many restaurants and bars situated in the city center.
You can enjoy anything from a relaxed meal at an intimate cafe to a fine dining experience in one of Utrecht’s upscale eateries.
When evening arrives, people have plenty of options when it comes to choosing a place to hang out: Belgisch Bierkafe Olivier – serving excellent Belgian beers; Beers & Barrels – an alluring bar boasting a unique self-service beer system; Lebowski – a trendy joint welcoming visitors with their diverse cocktail selection as well as other treats such as inviting atmosphere inside.
A visit to the Dutch city of Utrecht can be a wonderful day trip, as it boasts stunning architecture and picturesque canals that provide an ideal mix of culture and history. The many museums found within its walls are sure to captivate you with their diverse collections while the vibrant nightlife scene will keep your evenings filled with entertainment.
Whether you’re looking for adventure or leisurely exploring during your time in this historic town, there’s certainly something for everyone here at Utrecht! With its unique charm and hidden surprises just waiting to be discovered, we’d highly recommend taking some time away from Amsterdam – or any other nearby destinations – and embracing all that makes up beautiful Utrecht today!