Utrecht is one of the Netherlands oldest cities, with an ancient city-centre which features many buildings and structures from its earliest origins onwards. This relatively petite city is simply beautiful, and with its vibrant nightlife and old-world city centre really is an infectious place.
The inner city has largely retained its Medieval structure, and the moat ringing the old town is pretty much intact. The old centre is ringed by striking 13th century canal wharves. One of which, the Oudegracht, is a curved canal which partly follows an old arm of the Rhine. It is lined with the unique wharf-basement structures that create a two-level street along the canals. These wharves are unique to Utrecht, and the streets alongside them are absolutely packed with shops, restaurants & cafes – definitely a place to visit to enjoy a sunny day.
Due to the past importance of Utrecht as a religious centre, several monumental churches have survived. The most prominent of these is DomKerk (Dom Church) which was the cathedral of the diocese of Utrecht during the Middle Ages. Finished in the 14th century, the cathedral and its tower (Domtoren) are the most striking medieval landmarks in a city that once had 40 cathedrals. Behind the church however, is the most charming component of this structure: the Kloostergang, a monastic garden and peaceful refuge. Other notables churches include the romanesque St Peter’s and St John’s churches, the gothic churches of St James and St Nicholas.
Utrecht has several museums, many of which are located in the eastern part of the old town, which is called Museum Quarter. Some of the more popular museums in Utrecht include the National Museum in the centre of the city, which displays several centuries of mechanical musical instruments, the Aboriginal Art Museum (located at the Oude Gracht), the Railroad Museum, Centraal Museum which has a large collection of art, design, and historical artifacts, Museum Catharijne convent featuring the history of Christian culture and arts in the Netherlands, the Money Museum, the museum of the Royal Dutch Mint, located in the actual building where Dutch coins are minted, and the University Museum which includes the ancient botanical garden.
In summer, Utrecht is Festival City, hosting various jazz events (you’ll see musicians on every single corner) and the Netherlands Film Festival in September.
Located less than 30 minutes to the west of Utrecht is Kasteel de Haar, the biggest and most fairytale-like castle in the Netherlands. With its towers, turrets, moats, gates and suspension bridges, De Haar Castle resembles a true medieval castle. The park and gardens surrounding De Haar Castle, including the Rose Garden, the Roman Garden, the ponds and canals, as well as the many bridges, romantic vistas and impressive avenues, are worth a visit in their own right.
Travelling to Utrecht by Ferry
With less than an hour driving from the port in Amsterdam, taking the ferry to Utrecht is great way of visiting this great city. The Rotterdam port, Amsterdam port and the Hook of Holland also offer train and bus links in to the heart of Utrecht.