Do you ever get that excited, bubbly feeling when you visit a new city, the feeling that makes you think ‘I’m gonna be at home here’? Because that’s what I felt when I visited Utrecht for the first time. What a beautiful city with a great overall atmosphere. Utrecht isn’t nearly as big as Amsterdam but it does give me Ghent (a city in Belgium where I went to university) vibes and I think that’s also why I immediately felt at home.
Utrecht is, like Ghent, a big university city so that means you’ll be able to see students nearly everywhere! And what’s the main form of transport for students in a city like Utrecht? Bikes of course! There were so many bikes, everywhere! And when I say everywhere I mean everywhere! Every corner of every street was filled with bikes. I come from a big cycling country myself so I am used to it but even I noticed the abundance of bikes.
1. Go on a bikeride around town
And that brings me to my first point. Since Utrecht is such a big ‘bike city’, I’d highly recommend renting one for a day. There are multiple bike routes designed for tourists but you could always design your own route using Google Maps of course.
2. Rent a pedal boat and discover the Utrecht Canal side
If cycling isn’t really your thing you could always rent a pedal boat and explore Utrecht via its beautiful canals. The canals in Utrecht are unique in the way that the ‘canal docks’ are really close to the edge of the water and some of the canals are surrounded with beautiful old trees! Discovering Utrecht by pedal boat gives you a whole different perspective of the city so I would highly recommend it!
3. Have dinner at one of the restaurants on the canal docks
There are many restaurants and pubs on the lower docks, right at the edge of the water. It is the perfect spot to really relax and take in everything the city has to offer, all the while enjoying a good meal of course. Just make sure you find a table early, I went to Utrecht in the midst of summer and noticed it getting crowded really early. It was already difficult to find a good seat between 6PM and 7PM, that is without reservations of course.
4. Have a coffee at one of the many coffee places in Utrecht
If you’ve followed me for a bit, you’ll know that I love coffee. Like really LOVE coffee. So one of my favourite things to do when I visit a new town or city, is try out the many different coffeehouses the city in question has to offer. And I was certainly not disappointed with the coffee possibilities in Utrecht. I stayed in Utrecht for 5 days and I didn’t even get the chance to visit all the great coffee shops I wanted to. That’s how much good options there were!
I would recommend 30ml as they have a great selection and they do delicious pancakes! I also loved Broodnodig which has 3 establishments all over the city. They do a great breakfast as well. Broei and Koffie & Ik are great options as well. Sadly I can’t recommend more as I didn’t have the time to try any others! But we’ll save that for a second visit, no?
5. Visit the Dom Tower of Utrecht
The Dom Tower is one of the main tourist focal points in Utrecht but I do agree it’s a must-see. Sadly they were busy renovating the beautiful tower when I was there so I didn’t get the stunning full-on view but it was worth seeing nevertheless. Plus it is right in the city centre so you’ll probably pass by the tower at some point during your visit anyway.
6. Go for a stroll in the Botanic Gardens of Utrecht
Another thing you need to know about me is that I love visiting botanic gardens. So I always try to fit at least one into my schedule whenever I visit a new country. The Botanic Gardens of Utrecht were without a doubt one of the most beautiful ones I’ve ever been to. My personal highlight was the butterfly conservatory, where you could walk into a glass house and admire all the different butterflies in all their glory.
7. Have a picnic and spend the afternoon relaxing at the Wilhelminapark
Contrary to the weather I had in The Hague , I had superb weather in Utrecht. So much so that I spent a good couple of hours relaxing and reading a book in the Wilhelminapark. It’s a safe and well-maintained park and with plenty of things to do for little kids and plenty of areas to relax when you’re with friends, or by yourself. In summer they do drive a little ice cream cart around the park but there’s also a great ice cream shop, called Vorst, nearby if you don’t mind taking the, I’d say, 5-minute stroll.
8. Eat a Croquette Sandwich at the Croquetten Boutique
There are many fries shops in Utrecht but if you’re looking for something a little different I would highly recommend going for a croquette sandwich at the Croquetten Boutique. I still dream about the sandwich I had there. Seriously, I am not even joking, it was just that good! I had one with a goat cheese filling but they have plenty of different options! You can eat yours indoors or take it with you and eat it at one of the multiple canal docks.
9. Go on a little shopping spree and discover the little independent stores that Utrecht has to offer
And last but not least I just couldn’t talk about Utrecht and not mention all the shopping possibilities it has to offer. Utrecht has all the main stores and a big shopping mall so you could be all set with that but there are so many cute little independent stores that definitely deserve your euros as well. Just to mention a few amazing stores: Paperbird Conceptstore, Mus Conceptstore, Waar, It’s A Present! and Keck & Lisa.
Utrecht is one of those cities you just immediately fall in love with. Besides the disappointing experience at my hostel I had a great time in Utrecht and I would definitely go back for another little visit! There are so many affordable things to do and see and even if you don’t want to spend a euro, you’ll be good in Utrecht for a few hours. Utrecht is only half an hour away by train from Amsterdam so you could even make your way to Utrecht for a little day trip! I’d highly recommend stopping by Utrecht if you’re in the Netherlands!