Here’s a list of the 15 best things to do in Utrecht (Netherlands), along with famous landmarks, museums, and other points of interest.
Railway Museum (Het Spoorwegmuseum)
The Railway Museum is a great place to learn about the interesting history of trains and what impact they had on the development and culture of countries.
This museum is located in a historic train station that also houses a large number of well-preserved train cars and locomotives. Many of them are open for visitors and especially children will love climbing into these old trains.
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Oudegracht is a picturesque canal that runs through central Utrecht. It’s a lovely area to stroll around where many of the city’s best restaurants and hotels are located here.
Stop by and have something to eat while enjoying the beautiful view of the water and old buildings. Going shopping in the atmospheric stores situated in typical Dutch houses is also a great way to spend an afternoon and evening in Oudegracht.
At 112.5 m theDom Toweris the tallest church in the Netherlands. It is visible from many areas of the city as Utrecht is dominated by largely smaller, more historical buildings.
Interestingly, the structure was planned to be part of a cathedral but ended up being a stand-alone tower as the rest of the church never got completed due to financial problems.
It takes the visitors 465 steps to reach the viewing platform which offers a great overview of the beautiful streets of Utrecht. Climbing the tower is only possible on guided tours offered by the visitor center located in the tower’s ground floor.
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Pandhof Domkerk is a monastery garden enclosed by a 15th-centurycloister and the St. Martin’s Cathedral. It is one of the most idyllic spots in Utrecht and is home to many flowers and herbs.
The gardens are often considered to be one of the best in the Netherlands. Due to its construction in the late 14th century, the Pandhof offers a distinctly medieval atmosphere.
Many residents of Utrecht use it as a meeting place or a place to read and relax. The entrance to the Pandhof Domkerk is located on the Dom Square. There is no admission fee and the gardens are open every day.
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Museum Speelklok is a very unique institution that focuses on self-playing instruments. The museum enjoys increasing popularity as it featured in several TV shows and other media outlets.
There is an interesting collection of self-playing music boxes, pianolas, musical clocks, and barrel organs to be found here. The museum is a great spot for families with children as many of the exhibits can be tried out.
There is also a free guide tour offered here which takes visitors around the museum explaining most of its interesting sites.
Photo: Stephan Schlachter / Shutterstock.com
De Haar Castle
De Haar Castle is the region’s historic highlight, located around 20km northwest of Utrecht’s city center. The castle has a distinct medieval style as its history goes back to as early as the 14th century.
The current castle was built as part of a restoration effort in the late 19thcentury and today impresses with its almost perfect conservation. The interior of the castle is used as a gallery and museum and impresses with fantastic ornamented woodcarvings and furniture from the famous Rothschild collections.
The landscaped gardens surrounding the castle are very inviting for short walks. During the summer there are many fairs and markets held here, it is best to check the schedule online before coming in order not to miss an interesting event.
The modern Beatrix Theater, named after the queen of the Netherlands, has quickly become a cultural hotspot of the city since its inauguration in 1999. The theater offers a state-of-the-art stage, fantastic acoustics and very comfortable, yet elegant seating.
Many fantastic musicals such as Mama Mia have been performed here. The theater and its 1500 seats attract visitors from all over the country.
Make sure to check the schedule and don’t hesitate to book your tickets, live events at the Beatrix Theater are always a great experience.
DOMunder is a unique visitors’ centre dedicated to the Domplein square and its history. Visitors can go on an underground tour of the city’s past where they will find a fascinating collection of artifacts and ruins of former buildings such as the pillars of the cathedral.
Visitors will experience the area with a flashlight and find many interactive exhibits that spark the imagination of what life must have been like centuries ago.
Centraal Museum is the biggest and most popular museum in Utrecht and was founded in 1838. Most of its exhibits are dedicated to art coming from Utrecht and its surroundings.
The art on display ranges from medieval times all the way to the modern era. Highlights include the paintings of Joachim Wtewael. But there is more than art to be found here.
Some sections of the Centraal Museum are dedicated to fashion and the city’s history. The Miffy Museum, located across the street also belongs to the institution and offers an interesting collection dedicated to Dick Bruna. The creator of the rabbit character Miffy.
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The Sonnenborgh Observatory is located on the scenic banks of the Stadsbuitengracht right in the middle of Utrecht. The observatory was once a major fortification of the city and features thick walls and cannon emplacements.
This museum and observatory offer a great combination of educational exhibitions dedicated to astronomy and everything connected with it while at the same time also allowing visitors to look through the giant telescopes during certain times of the week.
The area surrounding the observatory offers plenty of scenic greenery and is very inviting for walks or some quiet minutes on a park bench.
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The Rietveld-Schröder House is not just a landmark of Utrecht but is also listed as a Dutch UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was designed in 1924 and served as a private residence until the 90s.
De Stijl was a Dutch artistic movement known for its fluid transitions and clean horizontal and vertical lines and use of primary colors. The house is today open to the public and can be visited with a reservation.
Photo: Takashi Images / Shutterstock.com
Houtzaagmolen De Ster
The windmills at Houtzaagmolen De Ster are a perfect example of the local windmill traditions and can be found in the Lombok neighborhood. The 18th-centurystructures are still functioning to this day and are very well-maintained.
Visitors can take part in guided tours that often also include a demonstration of the historic windmills and their local function as a sawmill. The site also features a playground for children.
Photo: Nigel Wiggins / Shutterstock.com
Go Kayaking in the canals
Utrecht’s canals can be navigated with kayaks, an increasingly popular activity in the region. Along with pedal boats and canoes, kayaks offer a unique way to get along the city.
The rental companies usually offer maps with laid-out tours that lead the visitors along with the main sights of the city. Alternatively, there are also guided tours available which are a great way to hear some of the interesting stories that the local guides can tell about the city.
Lapjesmarkt and Bloemenmarkt
Utrecht offers many interesting markets that sell fresh produce as well as other goods. The Lapjesmarkt is a good example of that. It looks back on 400 years of history and is known as one of the major fabric markets in the area.
All kinds of fabrics, no matter if new or old, modern or traditional can be found here. Keep in mind that the market is only open on Saturday between 8 am and 1 pm.
The Netherlands are well known for their flowers and on the lively Bloemenmarkt, you will have an unbelievable choice of them. Most of them come from the area and are very fresh.
The locally produced flowers are often considered some of the best in all of Europe. The Bloemenmarkt opens its doors every Saturday from 7 am to 5 pm.
The popular Cafe Olivier is one of the best venues for beer lovers in Utrecht. The house has a history of around 1000 years and served the city of Utrecht as a home for many of its most significant residents and even served as a religious building for a while when it was owned by the Catholic Church.
Today people mainly come here for the great Belgian beer that is on offer. Of course, there is also some great food served. Cafe Oliver is one of the best places in Utrecht to have a nice evening with friends and relax in a rustic atmosphere.
More reading from the Netherlands
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- Things to do in Maastricht
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