1. 12th century Old Canal Area (Oudegracht)
Utrecht’s canal system is unique. It is the only inner-canal system in Europe with wharves. The city is essentially built in two stories – homes, shops, and restaurants in the upper street level and wharves on the lower canal level.
In the Middle ages, the lower level was used for warehouses. These days, you can enjoy a relaxing drink by the water in one of the pop-up patios and cafes that open in the wharf level when the weather is nice.
2. Picturesque Bike Tours
It isn’t really possible to talk about a Dutch city without mentioning bicycles, is it?
The city is very bike-friendly, with plenty of bike lanes making it convenient to cycle around main roads as well. Scenic cycling routes include the large Maxima Park or Amelisweerd Estate and nature reserve, which is located only 15 minutes from the city center on a bike.
3. Dom Tower
This is one of the most iconic sights in Utrecht and a main tourist attraction.
This 14th-century church has one 112.5 meter (368 feet) tall tower – making it the highest church in the Netherlands. The building of the cathedral was never finished due to lack of money, and unfortunately, even the unfinished nave no longer exists. It collapsed in 1674 after a heavy storm, so the Dom Tower was left as a standalone piece.
Climbing to the top will take you about an hour (there are many, many stairs…), but the view from the top is definitely worth it.
4. Rietveld Schroder House
The Rietveld Schroder House is considered to be an icon of the Modern Movement of architecture and the only true example of De Stijl Architecture. It was commissioned by Ms. Truus Schröder-Schräder and designed by the architect Gerrit Thomas Rietveld in 1924.
Every room and piece of furniture showcasing the movement’s core reliance on vertical and horizontal lines, primary colors and black and white. The walls are moveable, thus creating rooms or open spaces as required. The building was seen as extremely radical at the time and is considered a masterpiece to this day. It was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2000.
Beer is essential in Dutch everyday life, which makes Utrecht a beer lover’s haven. The Netherlands is mostly known for lighter beers like Pilsner, but you can find pretty much anything your heart desires in Utecht. There are a few joints that offer a wide selection of unique local brews such as De Drie Dorstige Herten, or Bert’s Bierhuis, which specializes in rare, hard-to-find brews.
If you happen to be an art enthusiast, the city has musch to offer. Centraal Museum is the main museum in Utrecht and was founded back in 1838. It has a wide range of permanent and temporary exhibits, including the largest collection of Rietveld in the world and a collection of Old Dutch masters.
If you feel like something more quirky that can also be enjoyed by children, check out Museum Speelklok (seen in the image above). The entire place is dedicated to automated instruments that can play a melody without humans. Turning all the handles and levers is entertaining and there is much history behind these machines – some of them date back to the 15th century!
The main shopping area in the city is around Oudegracht, with many flagship stores of big brands. The streets branching out of the central canal are full of local and international designer shops, and the museum area has more second-hand and vintage treasures.
8. De Haar Castle
The oldest historical record of the castle dates back to 1391. Over the years the castle fell into ruins until in 1892 Baron Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt and his wife Baroness Helene de Rothschild decided to rebuild it, with the help of architect Pierre Cuypers. During the 1960's it became a place where the Van Zuylen van Nijevelt family entertained guests like Brigitte Bardot, Coco Chanel, and Roger Moore.
The castle is home to many art objects and has stunning gardens. Although situated outside the city itself, De Haar Castle is worth a visit and is very easy to access by car or public transport.
The Amelisweerd nature reserve was mentioned before as a tranquil spot for a bike tour, but another thing you could do here is hire a canoe and pedal through the beautiful forest. It’s a very relaxed pedal so you won’t need much experience to enjoy it. There are a few pretty picnic spots you could stop at, or have a quick bite in one of the restaurants on the way.