Utrecht is a large city (4th in the Netherlands in terms of inhabitants), and it is also the capital of the province of Utrecht. This city is often seen as the center of the Netherlands (which is not really the case). It is part of the Randstad, a conurbation of the Netherlands, grouping the cities of Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht.
The Dom Tower, the old OudeGracht canal that crosses the center, and the beautiful square of Neude are some well-known places in the city of Utrecht. Best known thanks to its Dom tower and its university, Utrecht University, which is very popular among international students, Utrecht is a dynamic city with many things to do. In addition, it is a city close to Amsterdam, only 20 minutes by train from Amsterdam Centraal Station.
In the center of the Netherlands, 25 kilometers south of Amsterdam, the city has the particular charm of these Dutch cities, with its canals, cycle paths, houses with pointed roofs, and colorful facades.
Rich in history, you will be able to discover an essential cultural heritage there: cathedral and other religious buildings, old fortifications, and underground ruins to which is added a panel of museums devoted to subjects as varied as liturgical art, the Dutch contemporary art or astronomy.
Its effervescence is expressed through the city center, which abounds in bars and restaurants and lively markets where you can taste local specialties. The city has different districts to visit. Every one of them has its unique taste. You can get an different experiences and enrich yourself in Utrecht.
Dom District, Authentic Side of the City
The Domkwartier district, commonly known as Dom District, is located in the heart of the city center. This mythical district extends all around the magnificent Saint-Martin Cathedral of Utrecht (or Domkerk), the Pieterskerk church, and is limited to the level of the Mariaplaats Square.
Dom District is the best place to go in Utrecht as it is considered very authentic, but it is also the heart of the Old Town. Furthermore, you will find many shops and terraces in the Domkwartier. During the night, the impressive historical monuments of the district light up, making this place just spectacular.
St. Martin’s Cathedral
The cathedral was built in 1254. It was Catholic until 1580, and, with the Dutch Reformed, it was transformed to Protestant and remained like this until 2003. St. Martin’s Cathedral is just next to the Cathedral Tower. They were both connected, but after the storm in 1674, the cathedral was separated from the tower and collapsed. The cathedral was the largest church in the country before it collapsed.
Dom Tower of Utrecht is the oldest and highest church tower in the Netherlands. Dom Tower is the major landmark of the city. It was started built-in 1321 and completed 61 years later in 1382. It is impossible to miss the 112-meter-high tower. Even you can hear the tower’s bells when you can’t see the tower. There are thirteen bells on top of the tower weighing between 400 – 8160 kilos. If you dare to climb 465 stairs, you can enjoy the breathtaking view of the city. If you have a luck and crystal-clear weather day, you can even see Amsterdam from Dom Tower. Another important thing about the tower is it was erected at the right spot where Utrecht originated 2000 years ago.
Utrecht University Botanic Gardens
The botanical garden is very close to Utrecht Science Park, and it is home to thousands of insects, flowers, and other plants. It is the oldest university garden in the Netherlands, and its creation dates back to the 17th century. In this botanical garden in Utrecht, you will find a vast collection of plants worldwide. It also has a butterfly house inside the greenhouse section of the gardens.
Where to Stay in Dom District
The Dom District is also the best area to stay in Utrecht. Everyone can find an exact need in this district. There are plenty of hotels in the region.
Hotel Beijers: Hotel Beijers is among the best places to stay in Utrecht. It is located in the city center, but it is also a quiet place. The hotel is very close to the city icons. Hotel Beijers is also famous for with top-notch Dutch breakfast. But like every other thing, luxury comes with the price. The hotel offers an exquisite experience in the city.
Logement Petit Beijers: Logement Petit Beijer is a more affordable but luxurious hotel in the district. It has spacious en well-lit rooms. Thanks to that, you can start a day full of energy. The hotel also offers vegetarian breakfast for its customers.
BUNK Hotel: BUNK Hotel is budget-friendly but not insufficient. On the contrary, you’ll be surprised by the hotel’s amenities. You can walk by the canals in the evening before enjoying your dinner located around the local restaurants.
De Nobelstraat, Best District for Families
Also known as the University District, this neighborhood is perfect for staying in Utrecht. Around the Nobelstraat area, you will find many typical cafes, bars, and restaurants.
The streets of Voorstraat, Nobelstraat, or Janskerkhof are the most beautiful and liveliest of this district. Also, this is the most suitable neighborhood to be in direct contact with the natives. There, you will have a plethora of activities to experience. These university district streets are the best areas for fun until the end of the night in Utrecht.
If you love to taste local cuisine, you can stop thinking about where should I go in Utrecht and visit Janskerkhof. The place is loaded with local bars and restaurants. Even if you are lucky, you can attend some local festivals in Janskerhof. Also, there is a flower and plant market every Saturday in the street. You can find vast different kind of flowers in the colorful, and fragrant market.
Voorstraat, is a 300 meters long street in De Nobelstraat. There is also the famous Central Pharmacy Love on this street. You can visit local second-hand antique stores also. There are some significant pieces from fashion designers and home decorators. The street might be 300 meters long, but you can spend an entire day in the authentic shops in Voorstraat.
The Museum Speelklok is the most fun museum you can ever visit in the city. A musical museum, the Speelklok is the appropriate setting to mix fun and education in Utrecht. Indeed, this museum, with a festive and warm atmosphere, is full of collections composed mainly of musical clocks, pianolas, chime clocks, barrel organs, etc. You can experience pleasant moments with the children while enjoying their famous orchestras. Just upper side of the Voorstraat, you can hire bikes with your family and have fun in this museum.
Places to Stay in De Nobelstraat
De Nobelstraat is s tranquil place. If you get bored with the tourist flocks in the city or experience an ordinary Dutch day, De Nobelstraat is the place. De Nobelstraat is a good place in Utrecht where to stay if you’re looking for a quiet yet calming place.
Mother Goose Hotel: Mother Goose hotel is one of the best place to stay in Utrecht for families. It is close to Vecht canal, Dom Tower, and De Nobelstraat. You can’t decide which museum to visit after a couple of minutes’ walk. The hotel’s bright rooms will prepare you for a new and adventurous day.
Hotel NH Centre Utrecht: Hotel NH Centre Utrecht is in the city’s old town section. Thanks to this, the building dates back to 1780. Globally known composer Franz List and many other Dutch celebrities were frequented back in time. Both Dom and De Nobelstraat districts are steps away from the hotel.
City Center Lodge Utrecht: City Center Lodge Utrecht is on the opposite side of the canal. But don’t worry, it is within walking distance to De Nobelstraat and a little further from Dom District. This budget-friendly hotel is ideal for couples who spend more time and money in the city.
Museum District, A Place for Art Lovers
Located between the Dom District and the beautiful Nicolaïkerk church in the south of the city center and consisting essentially of the Lange Nieuwstraat at its heart, this district practically encapsulates the history and culture of Utrecht.
Indeed, this space includes hidden and picturesque inner courtyards, many old medieval buildings, small parks and alleys with century-old trees, and museums housed in the heart of ancient monasteries and universities.
Food lovers will not be disappointed because the Museum District has many typical cafes and welcoming restaurants. Nothing better than a delicious local specialty after a long day of sightseeing. Not just only the Museum District, but museums encircle the whole city.
If you are an art enthusiast, you should visit the Centraal Museum, where you can discover the works of local artists. The extensive collection covering several centuries will satisfy history buffs and modern art lovers. Whether or not you are accompanied by kids, the museum dedicated to the character Miffy allows you to retrace the history of its author and his work. It is right in front of the central museum.
The train museum (Spoorwegmuseum) is located east of the city, near the station. We warmly recommend this museum which will take you this time into the world of the railway. A rich collection of parts ranging from the real locomotive to the miniature train will delight adults and children. After visiting the Centraal Museum, you can walk or cycle for a couple of minutes to see the Spoorwegmuseum.
Be curious and discover the scientist in you at the Utrecht University Museum. Learn about scientists then and now and watch their working lives.
The University Museum has several exhibits. Visit ‘Tot op het Bot’ and be impressed by a nine-meter high skeleton, touch an elephant’s skin, and discover the many points in common between humans and animals. Do you like strange objects? Don’t forget to enter the Curiosity Cabinet. This is where you will find a multitude of unfamiliar objects. The museum is just located backside of the Centraal Museum.
Where to Stay in Museum District
The Museum district is located in the south of the city center but still close to it. There are plenty of choices for every budget in the region. You can step out of your hotel and visit many essential places in the city or take an afternoon walk in a park. It is a good place where to stay in Utrecht if you like peaceful and inspiring locations.
Boutique Hotel ZIES: Boutique Hotel ZIES is one of the best places hotels in Utrecht if you don’t mind the price. Located at the heart of the museum quarter, you can visit any museum in the region any time you want. Boutique Hotel ZIES does not serve a breakfast buffet but offers a breakfast bag that you can eat while walking down the streets or canal bank.
Bed & Breakfast De Verrasing: Utrecht is not an exhausting city, but there are too many places to visit. The hotel’s area is critical if you want to visit famous places as much as possible. Bed & Breakfast De Verrasing has an excellent location. You can walk to Museum Speelklok, Centraal Museum or University Museum in a few minutes.
Hotel Oudegracht: Hotel Oudegracht is a hotel in the medieval wharf cellar. The hotel is budget-friendly, but even so, you can sip your coffee and feast your eyes on a canal view from your room or your terrace.
Utrecht is an excellent place to visit for everyone. Culture geeks, history enthusiasts, romantic couples, or architecture passionates. The city center is not too large; you can walk or cycle anywhere. But since the numerous spots, you must spare two or more days to visit. The city is also close to other famous cities of the Netherlands like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, or the Hauge.