How about visiting Utrecht? You won’t regret it! This incredibly charming Dutch city has plenty to offer, and you will enjoy a relaxing visit roaming its picturesque streets. You will see some truly wonderful landmarks, soak in the sun while sipping your favorite drink in one of the bars on Utrecht’s canals, and discover a city that can truly be considered a hidden gem for every travel fanatic. Oh, and this place is also a university town, so you can be sure there’s plenty of fun to be had here. Yes, one day in Utrecht is just what you need to recharge your batteries.
The best time to visit Utrecht is undoubtedly summer. The climate here is not exactly tropical, so coming here during the summer months means enjoying warm days, but do be warned that rain is fairly common. Mind you, it can get hot sometimes, but generally, the temperatures are quite pleasant. Winters are fairly cold, usually around freezing point, and springs take a while to heat up. In autumn, it gets colder fairly quickly, although September is still quite nice and it’s warmer than in spring.
However, one thing you might want to consider when creating your Utrecht itinerary are the annual events. The city is pretty big on music, and festivals such as Lief Festival are a great example of that. Then there’s also The Parade, a huge theater festival that takes place every summer and attracts plenty of people, and the Betweter Festival is a very interesting mix of science and art. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but even from this, you can see there’s something for everyone in this town.
With about 360,000 people, Utrecht is the fourth-largest city in the Netherlands. However, it has the largest university in the country and has been incredibly important throughout the nation’s history, especially in the religious sense – it is known as the Netherlands’ center of Christianity.
Utrecht is also the name of the province in which the city is located which can sometimes cause confusion among visitors.
Thanks to its central position, Utrecht is absolutely ideal for organizing day trips to other parts of the country (more on that a bit later). That’s definitely something to consider if you’re thinking of spending more than one day here.
Utrecht is also the most important railway hub in the country: about 200,000 passengers go through it EVERY DAY!
The city also has the distinct honor of being the birthplace of the only Dutch pope in history – Adrianus VI was the head of the Church in the 16th century, but only for about one year.
The famous football player Marco Van Basten was born here as was Wesley Sneijder.
The year 2022 is the year of Utrecht’s 900th birthday! There will be celebrations and various festivities throughout the year, so if you’re on the fence about visiting the place, know that there will be LOADS of fun.
Welcome to Utrecht, an incredibly charming Dutch city with plenty to offer. Your one day here should include loads of sightseeing and enjoying the canals, as well as some affordable and delicious food and drinks along the way. After all, this is a university city. But to make the most of your day, you’ll need a good itinerary, so follow these tips and make the most of your time in Utrecht!
Utrecht is all about canals, so exploring them is the best way to get a feel of the city. For a fantastic start to your one day in Utrecht head to the city center and just explore a bit. The main canal is called Oudegracht and its banks are full of quaint cafes, eateries and bars, with cobbled streets running around it.
You’ve probably seen this canal at least once if you were researching the city online, and it really pays to sit down for a cup of coffee or breakfast here and just take everything in. And once you’re done enjoying yourself here, the next stop in this itinerary is very close by.
Right next to Oudegracht is the Utrecht cathedral known as St. Martin’s Cathedral or Domkerk, as the locals call it. This incredibly impressive building has been around since the 13th century but has since seen many additions and restorations, so there’s a bit of every style embedded in it. Most importantly, it houses the remains of Henry IV and Conrad II among many other resting places.
This is one of the most important churches in the whole country, but you can enter it for free and explore it as much as you want. What is very cool about it is that it has a lovely little cafe where you can also sit down and have a moment to yourself. But don’t stay too long, we’re just getting started!
Right next to the cathedral is an enormous tower, another landmark that should be high up on your list of things to see in Utrecht. The Domtoren, as the locals call it, used to be attached to the cathedral directly, but after a huge storm in the 17th century, it became detached.
Standing at more than 110 meters tall, with a couple of chapels in it, the tower is quite a sight to behold, but try to come here after the sun sets for quite a magical sight. In the morning, though, just climb it for a view unlike any other – if the weather is good enough, you can actually see Amsterdam from up there!
Once you come down, take a moment to soak in the beauty of Cathedral Square (AKA Domplein). There is some absolutely beautiful architecture here, most notably the red building of Utrecht University, an illustrious institution founded in 1636.
However, that’s not all. It is also possible to drop below the square’s surface and explore the archaeological remains there! It’s a trip that takes you back more than two millennia, through the remains of an old Roman fort. The whole tour lasts a bit over an hour and is really worth the effort.
As mentioned, you can find some great eateries in Utrecht, and the prices are generally quite fair. On top of that, you will have many different cuisines to choose from, so a nice lunch under the Dutch sun is going to be a blast.
Broadway American Steakhouse is a pretty self-explanatory place, and San Siro offers delicious Italian dishes. The Seafood Bar is another eatery that doesn’t need much explaining, and Sarban will introduce you to Afghani dishes. This is all in the city center, so you really don’t need to walk far to eat well.
The Centraal Museum is also in the city center and should definitely be on your to-do list because it is the oldest city museum in the country, dating back to 1838. But that’s not all – the collection they have here is quite impressive.
There are paintings from the 15th century, items from the Dutch East Indies and furniture designed by Gerrit Rietveld, among other things. All of these objects show you a small part of Utrecht’s history, so coming here is, without a doubt, the right move to make if you want to learn about the city. Get a ticket in advance here.
Time for a little walk! Approximately one kilometer east of the museum and the area in which you’ve spent the first part of your one day in Utrecht is the Rietveld Schröder House. At first, you might be thinking that this is just another modern house, but the thing is that this place was built way back in the 1920s!
Therefore, this creation of Gerrit Rietveld (who lived in Utrecht, by the way) was almost a century ahead of its time in terms of design, which is why it’s today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are some pretty ingenious solutions inside, and you can explore them all as a part of a guided tour because the house now operates as a museum.
If you still have time after all this sightseeing, head further east to the Utrecht University Botanical Gardens. It is an absolutely lovely place where you can rest and recharge your batteries after a long day. There are several different gardens you can check out, with one of them being dedicated to birds, meaning you can stop for some bird-watching, too.
Then there’s also a tropical greenhouse, lush meadows, and plenty of other great things to see. A great way to create lasting memories of your visit.
Utrecht is a student city, so it’s reasonable to assume that there will be plenty of options to have fun at night here because of that. Indeed, there are some great bars and nightclubs around, so if you still have some energy to burn after a day of sightseeing, here are some of the best options.
Belgisch Bierkafe Olivier Utrecht is pretty much a must if you’re looking to sit down with a beer and just chill out a bit, whereas Beers & Barrels adds some great grill dishes into the mix, and Lebowski is also a great place to grab a drink. As for nightclubs, ACU is a pretty good place to visit, and dB’s oefenstudio’s often has excellent live music to offer.
Grand Hotel Karel V
Geertebolwerk 1, City Centre, 3511 XA Utrecht
If you’re looking for luxury hotels in Utrecht, look no further than Grand Hotel Karel V. This five-star place is a real oasis of peace in the city center, primarily thanks to its wonderful garden where you can go for a stroll. Furthermore, there’s a fantastic center in the hotel, they serve a killer breakfast, and you get a bathrobe and slippers in your room (along with plenty of other things, of course). A swimming pool and a spa are also available, so there’s no doubt this hotel’s five-star status is well-deserved.
Achter Sint Pieter 140, City Centre, 3512 HT Utrecht
Hotel Beijers puts you as close to Utrecht city center as you can possibly get, and it’s also a fantastic and very charming hotel with plenty to offer. You can set up a ride to come and pick you up from the airport, pets are more than welcome, and the breakfast is praised by pretty much every guest who comes here. But the highlight of this hotel has to be the rooms which are very comfortable, extremely clean, well-equipped and decorated in a very unique but absolutely stunning fashion. You won’t want to leave!
Helling 1, Zuid, 3523 CB Utrecht
A new and very comfortable hotel, Moxy Utrecht offers everything you need for a pleasant stay. Clean and modern rooms with plenty of light come with private bathrooms and hairdryers, there’s a great fitness center on the premises, and you can always relax for a bit on the hotel’s terrace. But perhaps the best feature of the hotel is its location right next to a canal, which allows you to experience a bit of that iconic Utrecht vibe. Add to that extremely pleasant staff working here, and you get a hotel that provides excellent value every time.
Stayokay Hostel Utrecht Centrum
Neude 5, City Centre, 3512 AD Utrecht
Are you a student or are you just looking for affordable accommodation? Stayokay Hostel Utrecht Centrum is a great choice because it’s right in the city center and offers a shower and a toilet in every room which can be private or a shared dormitory. Furthermore, breakfast is available for an extra fee, and you can rent out a bike and explore the city that way. Great location and a very pleasant stay, no doubt about that!
As already mentioned, Utrecht is a great starting point for day trips and exploring the Netherlands because of its central location and excellent connections. But which destination should you pick? Well, here are a few suggestions you really shouldn’t overlook when planning a day trip from Utrecht.
Utrecht is very close to Amsterdam, which makes visiting this great city an absolute breeze. At most, it takes 45 minutes to make the journey, and after that you can enjoy the wonderful architecture, picturesque streets, and maybe even the Red Light District if you’re so inclined. And that’s just the beginning – one day in Amsterdam simply can’t be dull!
Cheese-lovers, rejoice! The name of this town is bound to be familiar to anyone who’s even slightly a fan of cheese, but the town of Gouda has a lot more to offer than the references to this dairy product. It’s a quiet town where you can come and relax, enjoy the market and the cafes around it and marvel at the exquisite 15th-century town hall. And there’s a cheese museum, naturally.
It’s easy to organize one day in Rotterdam from Utrecht because you need less than an hour to get there. The city famous for its architecture is undoubtedly a very interesting destination, but it’s also famous for its festivals, and there is a distinct difference in how the city looked before and after WWII. There is plenty to explore on this day trip, so get ready!
Now, there’s a mouthful for you. Oostvaardersplassen is a great day trip from Utrecht if you’re looking to get away from cities and enjoy some wonderful nature. This nature reserve is ideal for bird watching, plus it has wild horses and other animals you can come across. A great way to relax and forget about stress, but it’s recommended that you come here by car.
- people in Utrecht love their bikes, and getting around on one is an excellent way to cover a lot of ground quickly. So, consider renting one while in town, but if you don’t be mindful of the bikers when you’re walking.
- not a fan of biking? Consider renting out a kayak and exploring the city from a whole new perspective!
- the public transport here mostly relies on buses, although there are instances in which trams and even trains can help. Just remember that they don’t use paper tickets here anymore – everything is electronic!
- the tap water is perfectly drinkable, so it’s good to have a bottle of your own with you at all times.
- you can buy the Museum Card if you’re looking to visit the city’s museums. You can even visit the same museum again with it!
Make sure you have everything you need
What to pack for your next trip?
Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.