Utrecht is one of the best cities for a weekend trip. It’s close enough to Amsterdam that you can visit both cities in one trip, but still has plenty of unique things to do of its own. If you’re looking for a fun, student-focused city with tons of 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 is founded by the Roman Empire in 47 AD. It quickly grew into a major center of trade and religion 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 decline economically and politically. In the 19th Century, Utrecht was finally reconnected to the rest of the Netherlands by railroads and began to grow once again.
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 vibrant student life (with over 40,000 students attending the enormous University of Utrecht) as well as 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 are sure to find some great outdoor adventures. And of course, there are plenty of things to do indoors as well – from museums and art galleries to theaters and nightclubs.
Table of Contents
- Fun & Best Things to do in Utrecht, The Netherlands
- 1. Tour the Rietveld-Schröder House
- 2. Admire the breathtaking Dom Tower
- 3. Enjoy the canals of Utrecht
- 4. Visit De Haar Castle, the largest castle in the Netherlands
- 5. Learn more at the Centraal Museum
- 6. Stroll around the University of Utrecht Botanical Gardens
- 7. Check out DOMUnderground
- 8. Get educated at St. Catherine’s Convent Museum
- 9. Play musical instruments at Museum Speelklok
- 10. Gawp at St. Peter’s Church
- 11. Wander around Cathedral Square
- 12. Take pictures of Saint Martin’s Cathedral
- 13. Visit Miffy at the Miffy Museum
- 14. Spend time at the Railway Museum
- 15. Go shopping at Hoog Catharijne
- Final Thoughts
- Is Utrecht worth visiting?
- What is Utrecht known for?
- How many days should I spend in Utrecht?
Fun & Best Things to do in Utrecht, The Netherlands
So what are the best things to do in Utrecht? Here are our favorite attractions and places to visit:
1. Tour the Rietveld-Schröder House
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 that is 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: Best Day Trips from Amsterdam, Netherlands
2. Admire the breathtaking Dom Tower
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 views of the city.
The Dom Tower is also one of Utrecht’s tallest structures, so if you’re looking for views with more elevation than its castle neighbor, this might be a perfect option.
You can’t go wrong with a visit to the Dom Tower. The tower is a sight that you can see 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’s Canal District is one of the most charming areas of the city, and a great place to wander around with its narrow streets, quaint canals, and lovely old buildings. Be sure to check out Oudegracht, the main canal, lined with cafes and shops.
If you have time during your stay, take advantage of Utrecht’s unique canal system by renting some 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 truly unique experience that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. 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 on your own.
See Related: Best Canals in Amsterdam You Need to See
4. Visit De Haar Castle, the largest castle in the 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 come to life and has a simply magical atmosphere. There are also guided tours every day 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: Best Cities in the Netherlands to Visit
5. Learn more at the Centraal Museum
Centraal Museum is one of those places you can spend an entire afternoon. From art and design to Dutch history, there’s a lot to cover in this museum.
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 to 2000 and primarily focus on art and design.
When you visit, you’ll get to 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: Best Things to do in Alkmaar, Netherlands
6. Stroll around the University of Utrecht Botanical Gardens
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, which are home to over 6,000 different 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 been operating them since 1857. The gardens are open to the public from April through October, and admission is free.
A visit to 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 by far. I mean, how could you not love Dutch flower gardens?
See Related: Fun & Best Things To Do in Giethoorn, Netherlands
7. Check out DOMUnderground
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: Best Parks in Amsterdam to Visit
8. Get educated at St. Catherine’s Convent Museum
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 period.
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: Best Things to Do in Leiden, Netherlands
9. Play musical instruments at Museum Speelklok
Museum Speelklok (or the Speelklok Museum) is one of the most unusual and popular tourist attractions in Utrecht.
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 of its displays are hands-on or interactive.
Museum Speelklok contains mechanical musical equipment spanning from the 17th Century until to today, including small music boxes to large fair organs that can be played by visitors.
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 (Pieterskerkhof) is one of the most popular places for weddings in town. The church’s beautiful ceiling, stained glass window, 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, which were 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
Dom Square is a great place for people to watch and take in the view of Utrecht’s beautiful Dom Church.
Dom Square in the Netherlands is located in the center of Utrecht and is named for the cathedral within the square. The Domtoren and Dom Church is evidence of the several churches that have dotted the landscape throughout history.
The Dom Tower, which is the highest church tower in the Netherlands, was once part of the naves that were 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 to see on a Utrecht Small Public Walking Tour.
If you’re looking for some 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 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: Best Things to Do in Haarlem, Netherlands
13. Visit Miffy at the Miffy Museum
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 of the interactive exhibits include a drawing area, where visitors can create their own 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 am to 5:00 pm. Admission is €7 for adults, €4 for children ages 4-17, and free for children 3 and under.
14. Spend time at the Railway Museum
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 am to 5:00 pm. Admission is €9 for adults, €4.50 for children ages 4-17, and free for children 3 and under.
See Related: Best Military Museums in Europe
15. Go shopping at Hoog Catharijne
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 an easy access 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 am to 8:00 pm, and Sunday from 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
We hope that this has given you a good idea of what to do in Utrecht and how to plan your trip. There are so many things for all ages and interests in Utrecht. Take some time to think about what you want to do during your visit and let us know if we can help.
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Is Utrecht worth visiting?
Utrecht is often overshadowed by Amsterdam, 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, though, a day or two should be enough to see the city’s highlights. If you plan to visit Amsterdam, it makes for one of the easiest day trips from the city center.
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