Utrecht is another one of those places that I’d just never really thought of visiting before.
I vaguely remember it from my history lessons at school, but it had never occurred to me as a holiday destination. Which is my loss, because this historical Dutch city is AWESOME.
There are so many things to see and do in Utrecht, from gorgeous buildings to fabulous views, great food, and interesting history. If you have time, you can even take a day trip to the nearby De Haar castle!
Only visiting for a day? Not to worry. Here are three activities that you can easily squeeze in on a quick visit to Utrecht:
CLIMB THE DOM TOWER
Utrecht’s Dom Tower is the highest and oldest church tower in Holland. At 112 meters tall, it’s big, it’s iconic, and I think it’s the number one thing you need to do in Utrecht.
The tower became separated from the main cathedral back in the 1600s. The city was hit by a crazy tornado, and the connecting structure was knocked down and never rebuilt.
Nowadays, you can climb to the very top of the tower and enjoy the best views in town. You have to join a guided group (no solo climbs), and it’s not for the faint-hearted. There are 465 steps up to the very top, with no lift or mechanical support.
It’s worth the effort though!
The tour takes around an hour to complete and the views are SPECTACULAR. On a clear day you can see the church towers from surrounding cities, including Amsterdam. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the history of the Tower, and we also got to see the giant cathedral bells which were incredible.
Tickets for the guided tour cost €9 for an adult, and online booking is available from the Utrecht tourist office website.
EXPLORE THE OLD TOWN
Whether you choose to take a walking tour, or just wander around on your own, you HAVE to spend some time exploring Utrecht’s medieval city centre.
It’s SO beautiful. The houses are quaint and quintessentially Dutch, and the cobbled streets and delicate bridges give it a really cosy romantic feel.
The city is famous for its canal wharfs, and their two-tier pedestrian system, which means you can actually climb down the stairs and wander along right by the edge of the water. You’ll see the city from a whole new angle, and can admire the colourful street art scrawled on the walls by the old Winkel Van Sinkel department store.
The Dom Tower rises above the skyline, ensuring you never get too lost, and all you really have to worry about it whether you’re going to get run over by a bicycle!
TAKE A CANAL BOAT TRIP
A lot of Utrecht city history is tied to its canals, so I think it’s a really good idea to do a canal cruise.
We did the Schuttevaer canal boat trip, which was awesome, and gave us such an interesting new perspective to the city.
I saw gorgeous canal-side houses, learned about the old shipping methods and the commercial wharfs, gazed at churches, and even saw the exterior of several beautiful museums.
The boats are all glass-covered and heated, so that even in the middle of winter, you’ll stay warm and cosy. The speaking bit is pre-recorded in both Dutch and English, and our boat driver would point out the buildings as we trundled along, so we knew where we were at all times.
It’s something I’d definitely recommend doing if you’re short on time. The whole boat tour was only an hour long, and I felt like I learned a lot and really got a feel for the city.
Even though there are so many more things to do in Utrecht, I think this was a great taster, and it definitely made me want to go back again in the future!
*I explored Utrecht as part of a press trip with Stena Line Ferries.