Are you planning a trip or vacation to the Netherlands? Utrecht is definitely at the top of the must-see cities in the Netherlands, that you should not miss. Here is my overview guide for travel and tourism in Utrecht, to help you plan your trip or vacation in this awesome city. Utrecht is located at the heart of mainland Netherlands and is around a half an hour’s drive (60 km.) from Amsterdam, the capital of Netherlands. Though Amsterdam is a more popular tourist destination on the European map, many (including me) recommend Utrecht for its laid-back charm, historic appeal and fascinating cityscapes. Utrecht is not only known for its soothing charm that quietly grows on you but is also a busy cultural, educational, religious and transportation hub in the Netherlands. Utrecht has been a religious hub in the Netherlands since the Middle Ages. A part of that religious heritage continues even today and is reflected in its rich cultural and social diversity. The city plays host to many popular cultural events and is home to many museums and cultural landmarks. The Dom Tower or Domtoren (in Dutch) is the most significant cultural and historic landmark in Utrecht. Utrecht is also a University city, popular with the young, dynamic student crowd both from the Netherlands and abroad. Located at the heart of the Netherlands, Utrecht is also ideally placed as an important transport hub for the country.
What places to visit in Utrecht, Netherlands
Utrecht University is not only the oldest and largest University Campus in the Netherlands, but it is also highly ranked in both European and International University listings. The University is popular amongst both Dutch as well as international students. I too found Utrecht a very immigrant-friendly place, because of its significant percentage of the immigrant student population. Utrecht University is also a research and development hub for innovation in information technology and biotechnology.
A majestic and historic monument, this church tower is a must visit. The Dom tower has been the center of the socio-cultural and geographic landscape of Utrecht, for the past many centuries. You can enjoy a peaceful couple of hours walking around the Domplein (the church square lined with trees) and for adventure, you can even participate in the guided tour to climb to the top of the Dom tower.
Oudegracht and Canals of Utrecht
The old city center of Utrecht is a unique experience for those who relish the feel of old times. Utrecht is full of beautiful canals, lined by trees and walkways. But the most beautiful is the Oudegracht or the Old Canal, in the city center. The canal is lined by two levels of streets, from the Medieval ages. The lower level has basements that now host multi-cuisine restaurants. I have fond memories of dinners with friends and family, enjoying the unique views of the Oudegracht.
Utrecht Centraal Station
The Utrecht Centraal is the main railway station in Utrecht and is a hub for the entire railway network in the Netherlands. Located close to the old city center, the station building is an optimum combination of old and modern architecture. Utrecht Centraal manages the most complex network of international, national and regional trains in all of Netherlands. The shopping streets, cafes, restaurants, bus station and shopping complexes around Utrecht Centraal has also made it one of the socio-cultural centers of the city.
How to reach Utrecht, Netherlands
You will find it an enriching experience to include Utrecht as a part of your itinerary across Europe, Western Europe or the Netherlands. Amsterdam is the nearby big city. It is very convenient to reach Utrecht by Air, Road or Rail from multiple European destinations.
The Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is only 30 minutes by train or road, from Utrecht. Schiphol Airport is one of the busiest international airports in Europe, and so one of the easiest ways to reach Utrecht is by air, from both European and international destinations. You can reach Utrecht by Cab or by rail from the Schiphol Airport Railway Station (below the Airport terminal), which runs regular Intercity trains to Utrecht Centraal station.
You can rent a car and enjoy driving along with the scenic A2 and A12 motorways that connect Utrecht to all the major cities in the Netherlands. The Central Bus Station, adjacent to the Utrecht Centraal Railway station, also runs one of the cleanest and most punctual bus services across the city and to all surrounding boroughs and towns.
The International High-Speed Train networks of ICE (InterCity Express) connects Utrecht with many major European cities like Brussels, Frankfurt, and Basel. From Brussels, you can catch the Eurostar for London.
Utrecht weather & when to visit
Utrecht and all of the Netherlands has an oceanic climate, with significant humidity, wind, and precipitation throughout the year. It is wise to plan your travel considering the various seasonal weather changes, and your particular comfort zone. Though the festive season of December-January is a popular tourist choice, the Spring and Summer months from April to August are also a popular choice for tourists preferring warmer temperatures.
Spring (March to May)
Spring, with its colorful blossoms and nature’s glory, is a popular option with many tourists. Though you can find good deals in the early weeks of Spring, with its slow start for tourism.
Summer (June to August)
Summer is another favorite season to visit Utrecht and the Netherlands. The social life is in full bloom, and with the warmest temperatures of the year, all the restaurants and café’s open out their terraces. You can feel the vibrant social life everywhere.
Autumn (September to November)
The natural beauty of the fall colors of autumn can have a special attraction for the discerning tourist or the artist within you. But more popularly, this is a less favorite season for most travelers.
Winter (December to February)
The festive season from December to early January is a peak tourist season, with Christmas markets and other festivities in the air. But winters are typically cold, with varying degrees of snowfall every year and it is prudent to come prepared for the same. Attribution for images: Image by 0805edwin from Pixabay Image by MrsBrown from Pixabay Image by niekverlaan from Pixabay