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15 Best Things to Do in Utrecht, Netherlands

15 Best Things to Do in Utrecht, Netherlands

Utrecht is one of the best cities for a weekend trip. It’s close enough to Amsterdam to visit both cities in one trip, but it still has plenty of unique things to do. If you’re looking for a fun, student-focused city with many historic sites and beautiful architecture – Utrecht is your place.

Utrecht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, and there are many things to do in Utrecht. It was founded by the Roman Empire in 47 AD. It quickly became a major trade and religious center and remained an important city throughout the Middle Ages.

In the 12th Century, Utrecht became the religious center of the Netherlands, and the Cathedral of Saint Martin became one of the most important Christian pilgrimage sites in Europe.

The city flourished until the Dutch Golden Age when it declined economically and politically. In the 19th Century, railroads finally reconnected Utrecht to the rest of the Netherlands and began to grow again.

Nieuwegracht in Utrecht, Netherlands
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Today, Utrecht is a thriving city with a population of over 300,000, making it the fourth-largest city in the Netherlands. It’s known for its lively student life (with over 40,000 students attending the enormous University of Utrecht) and its many canals, bridges, historical buildings, and iconic landmarks.

It’s also a great place to enjoy the outdoors. With plenty of parks and green spaces, you will surely find some great outdoor adventures.

Things to Do in Utrecht, Netherlands

1. Tour the Rietveld-Schröder House

Rietveld-Schröder House and Skyline
image by frm_tokyo is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Address: Prins Hendriklaan 50, 3583 EP Utrecht, Netherlands

The Rietveld-Schröder House is a must-see for any traveler to Utrecht. This atypical home, designed by architect and designer Gerrit Rietveld, was built between 1924 and 1925 for Mrs. Truus Schröder-Schräder and her three children.

The house is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is open to the public for tours. The Rietveld-Schröderhuis is a museum dedicated to the work of Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld and his wife, Truus Schröder-Schräder.

It is located in Utrecht, Netherlands, and is open for tours. The building is considered one of the best examples of De Stijl architecture and has been designated a national monument since 1978.

The two-story house features a number of De Stijl elements, including a staggered floor plan, asymmetrical facade, and primary colors. Visitors can also see Rietveld’s “Red and Blue Chair” on display in the house.

See Related: Day Trips from Amsterdam, Netherlands

2. Admire the breathtaking Dom Tower

Dom Tower and Utrecht Cityscape

Address: Domplein 9, 3512 JC Utrecht, Netherlands

The Dom Tower is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands and offers stunning views over the city from its top. The tower dates back to the 14th Century and is well worth a visit in addition to the adjacent Dom Church.

The Dom Tower is a medieval tower on the Grote Markt in Utrecht’s main square. The 400-year-old structure was built as part of an abbey and was used as a watchtower by monks.

Today, it’s open to the public and free to visit—a great way to take in some history while enjoying city views. The Dom Tower is also one of Utrecht’s tallest structures, so this might be a perfect option if you’re looking for views with more elevation than its castle neighbor.

You can’t go wrong with a visit to the Dom Tower. You can see the tower on a Utrecht Private or Public Off-The-Beaten Path Walking Tour.

See Related: Best Beaches in the Netherlands to Visit

3. Enjoy the canals of Utrecht

Utrecht Canal and Skyline

Utrecht’s Canal District is one of the city’s most charming areas and a great place to wander around. Its narrow streets, quaint canals, and lovely old buildings make it a great place to wander around. Check out Oudegracht, the main canal with cafes and shops.

If you have time during your stay, take advantage of Utrecht’s unique canal system by renting pedal boats or taking an hour-long boat tour around the city center.

The city’s beautiful canals date back to Roman times, and boating down them is a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else. So don’t miss out on this opportunity to see Utrecht from another perspective.

We recommend taking a canal cruise via a guided tour or private tour. Or, rent a standup paddleboard or kayak to cruise along Oudegracht and Nieuwegracht.

See Related: Best Canals in Amsterdam

4. Visit De Haar Castle, the largest castle in the Netherlands

Castle De Haar on a sunny day, surrounded by moat, showcasing medieval architecture and vibrant colors.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: Kasteellaan 1, 3455 RR Utrecht, Netherlands

De Haar Castle is a must-see for castle enthusiasts, history buffs, and anyone who loves a good hike. This 16th-century castle, built by the Count of Horne, is the largest in the Netherlands.

It’s located in a forest outside Utrecht, making it an easy day trip. You can explore all four floors of this enormous, impressive (and enormously impressive) building, including the two towers and many beautiful rooms filled with period furniture and artwork.

The Majesty Towers are set among beautiful rose botanic gardens, while the Neogothic Castle is an architectural dream. There are also guided tours every day.

De Haar Castle is a fairytale that comes to life and has a simply magical atmosphere. There are also daily guided tours and tickets online to purchase in advance that can help you see all the nooks and crannies of this magical place for yourself. You can take a tour of beautiful Dutch castles.

See Related: Cities in the Netherlands to Visit

5. Learn more at the Centraal Museum

Centraal Museum Exhibit
image by Sebastiaan ter Burg is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Address: Agnietenstraat 1, 3512 XA Utrecht, Netherlands

Centraal Museum is one of those places where you can spend an entire afternoon. This museum has much to cover from art and design to Dutch history.

The Centraal Museum is located on the Oudegracht (Old Canal) in Utrecht and has been open since 1838. It’s one of the oldest municipal museums on the continent and holds a collection of over 160,000 objects. The majority of the pieces are from between the years 1600 and 2000 and primarily focus on art and design.

When you visit, you’ll see how Dutch artists have influenced Utrecht’s culture through their work. Given the long history of the Centraal Museum, it provides a captivating view of Utrecht’s history. Purchase your entrance ticket in advance to skip long lines.

See Related: Things to Do in Alkmaar, Netherlands

6. Stroll around the University of Utrecht Botanical Gardens

Utrecht Botanical Gardens and Skyline
image by Hanno Lans is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Address: Budapestlaan 17, 3584 CD Utrecht, Netherlands

The University of Utrecht Botanical Gardens is a landscaped 22-acre oasis located in the heart of the city. It is easy to spend an afternoon relaxing in the sun-drenched botanic gardens, home to over 6,000 plant species.

During term time, this place is a haven for horticulture students at Utrecht University. The botanic gardens date back to 1828, and the University of Utrecht has operated them since 1857. The gardens are open to the public from April through October, and admission is free.

Visiting these old botanical gardens is a delightful way to spend a sunny day in Utrecht. It’s one of the best free things to do in Utrecht. I mean, how could you not love Dutch flower gardens?

See Related: Things to Do in Giethoorn, Netherlands

7. Check out DOMUnderground

DOMUnderground Exhibit
image by TripAdvisor

Address: Domplein 9, 3512 JC Utrecht, Netherlands

DOMUnderground is an archaeological site located beneath the Dom Tower and Dom Church. It was discovered in the 1990s when workers were preparing to build a new parking garage.

The site includes the remains of a 12th-century church and other buildings from the 14th and 15th Centuries. Visitors can explore the site on a guided tour, which lasts about an hour.

DOMUnderground is a fascinating glimpse into Utrecht’s past, and it’s a great option for rainy days or when you need a break from sightseeing.

See Related: Parks in Amsterdam to Visit

8. Get educated at St. Catherine’s Convent Museum

Catharijneconvent Museum Exhibit
image by I, Sailko is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Address: Lange Nieuwstraat 38, 3512 PH Utrecht, Netherlands

St. Catherine’s Convent Museum (Catharijneconvent Museum) is a must-see for history buffs visiting the Netherlands. The museum is located in a 13th-century convent that served as living quarters for nuns until the 18th Century.

Today, the convent houses a museum dedicated to telling its story, with preserved medieval rooms, historical artifacts, and 16th-century paintings that give visitors a glimpse into life during those centuries.

The St. Catherine’s Convent Museum is home to one of the most important collections of medieval treasures in the Netherlands, and it provides valuable insight into the evangelic life of the Dutch during that time.

The collection includes valuable books, documents, and models, as well as a model of St. Martin’s original Cathedral. The St. Catherine’s Convent Museum is an essential stop for anyone interested in learning more about the history of the Netherlands.

See Related: Things to Do in Leiden, Netherlands

9. Play musical instruments at Museum Speelklok

Museum Speelklok Exhibit
image by tacowitte is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Address: Steenweg 6, 3511 JP Utrecht, Netherlands

Museum Speelklok (or the Speelklok Museum) is one of Utrecht’s most unusual and popular tourist attractions. This museum displays over 130 historical musical instruments, including kid-friendly (easy-to-hammer) keyboards and drum kits. It was established in 1956, and many displays are hands-on or interactive.

Museum Speelklok contains mechanical musical equipment from the 17th Century until today, including small music boxes and large fair organs that visitors can play. If you’re interested in the history of musical instruments or have always wanted to learn how to play an instrument, Museum Speelklok is the place for you!

See Related: ​​Best Museums in Europe to Visit

10. Gawp at St. Peter’s Church

St. Peter's Church Architecture
image by Michielderoo is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 nl

Address: Pieterskerkhof 5, 3512 JR Utrecht, Netherlands

St. Peter’s Church (Pieterskerkhof) is one of the most popular places for weddings in town. The church’s beautiful ceiling, stained glass windows, and impressive organ make it a popular choice for couples getting married.

St. Peter’s Cathedral is the oldest church building in town and has a crypt with the founder’s sarcophagus from 1048! The stunning tapestries on either side of the pulpit, made by Jan van Scorel in 1532, are also a big draw.

Other notable features include the capital of the column in the nave, mural paintings in the north aisle, and the 12th Century, mainland-style relief.

See Related: Best Museums in the Hague, Netherlands

11. Wander around Cathedral Square

Cathedral Square and Skyline

Address: Domplein, 3512 JD Utrecht, Netherlands

Dom Square is a great place to watch and view Utrecht’s beautiful Dom Church. The Domtoren and Dom Church are evidence of the several churches that have dotted the landscape throughout history.

The Dom Tower, the highest church tower in the Netherlands, was once part of the naves destroyed by tornadoes in 1674. The area was cleared in 1829, but the Dom Tower and Dom Churches remain.

Today, Dom Square is a popular tourist destination for those interested in Dutch history and culture. The square is an attraction on a Utrecht Small Public Walking Tour.

If you’re looking for free entertainment, Dom Square is also a great place to watch street performers or enjoy a picnic lunch.

See Related: Famous Buildings in Amsterdam to Visit

12. Take pictures of Saint Martin’s Cathedral

Saint Martin's Cathedral Architecture
image by corno.fulgur75 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Address: Achter de Dom 1, 3512 JN Utrecht, Netherlands

Saint Martin’s Cathedral is one of the most important churches in the Netherlands and a must-see for anyone visiting Utrecht. This impressive cathedral was built in the 14th Century and is the largest church in the Netherlands.

The Cathedral of Saint Martin is known for its beautiful stained glass windows, which depict scenes from the life of Saint Martin of Tours. The Cathedral also houses a number of important works of art, including a painting by Jan van Scorel and a carved wood altarpiece by Rombout Verhulst.

The Cathedral of Saint Martin is open to the public for tours and services. Visitors can also climb the tower for a panoramic view of Utrecht, making it one of the best Utrecht attractions for people looking to take in the inner city views.

See Related: Things to Do in Haarlem, Netherlands

13. Visit Miffy at the Miffy Museum

Address: Agnietenstraat 2, 3512 XB Utrecht, Netherlands

The Miffy Museum is a must-visit for fans of the popular children’s book character, Miffy (or Nijntje in Dutch). The museum offers interactive exhibits and a chance to learn more about Miffy’s creator, Dick Bruna.

Some interactive exhibits include a drawing area, where visitors can create their Miffy-inspired drawings and a play area with Miffy-themed games. The museum also has a number of Dick Bruna’s original Miffy illustrations on display.

The Miffy Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is €7 for adults, €4 for children ages 4-17, and free for children three and under.

See Related: Best Bike Cities in the World

14. Spend time at the Railway Museum

Railway Museum Exhibit
image by hemkes is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Address: Maliebaanstation 16, 3581 XW Utrecht, Netherlands

As you’ve probably gathered by now, rail travel in the Netherlands is one of the more popular forms of public transport. You can learn more about the railways right here in Utrecht!

The Dutch National Railway Museum (Spoorwegmuseum) is one of the top Utrecht attractions for families. The museum offers a chance to learn about the history of Dutch railways, as well as see a variety of historic locomotives, a charming model railway, and all manner of railway equipment.

Set in a beautiful old railway station, the Dutch National Railway Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is €9 for adults, €4.50 for children ages 4-17, and free for children three and under.

See Related: Best Military Museums in Europe

15. Go shopping at Hoog Catharijne

Bustling Shopping Experience at Hoog Catharijne Mall in Utrecht, Netherlands - Premier shopping destination with diverse stores and eateries, modern architecture, and international brands.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: Godebaldkwartier 54, 3511 DX Utrecht, Netherlands

Hoog Catharijne is a mall located in the center of Utrecht. The mall is home to over 200 stores, as well as a number of restaurants and cafes. This mall is easy to access for things to do or a quick stop when you visit Utrecht. It’s located right outside of the Utrecht Central Station, so if you are arriving by train, you can’t miss it.

Also close to the train station is the Jaarbeurs, which is Utrecht’s large convention and exhibition center and is also home to a number of shops and restaurants. It’s worth a visit if you’re looking for some retail therapy. Hoog Catharijne is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

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See Related: Things to Do in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Tours in Utrecht

1. Utrecht: Private or Public Off-The-Beaten Path Walking Tour Top Recommendation

The medieval city of Utrecht is a pleasant surprise. This daytrip from Amsterdam offeres an excellent opportunity to see one of the country's best-kept secrets, conveniently reached by direct train. Utrecht is filled with canals and beautiful gothic architecture dating back to the early Middle Ages. During this 4-hour walking tour you will be able to enjoy its centuries-old buildings, learn about its history, and appreciate its unique atmosphere.

2. Utrecht: City Canal Cruise

Take a journey through time and space as you cruise along the historic canals of Utrecht. This 1.5-hour canal tour will treat you to an incredible view of the city's most iconic landmarks and attractions, including the renowned Dom Tower! So grab your ticket now, hop on board and get ready for a breathtaking experience.

3. Comedy Walks© Utrecht (the comedy walking tour)

Comedy Walks© Utrecht is an hilarious walking tour around the historic city center of Utrecht. The comedy walking tour will show you the best spots, but this time with a good dose of humor. During 1,5 hours a local comedian will make fun of Dutch history, Utrecht and above all herself. No dark theater, but the whole city as the stage!

FAQs

Is Utrecht worth visiting?

Absolutely! Amsterdam often overshadows Utrecht, but this charming Dutch city has plenty to offer visitors. With its extensive system of canals, medieval architecture, lively nightlife, and vibrant student population, Utrecht is definitely worth visiting.

What is Utrecht known for?

Utrecht is known for its canals, which are like those in Amsterdam. The city is also known for its medieval architecture, including the Gothic Cathedral of Saint Martin and Dom Tower, as well as its lively nightlife and vibrant student population.

How many days should I spend in Utrecht?

You could easily spend a few days exploring Utrecht. If you’re pressed for time, a day or two should be enough to see the city’s highlights. If you plan to visit Amsterdam, it is one of the easiest day trips from the city center.

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