Utrecht is the fourth largest city of the Netherlands and is a very warm and welcoming place, although much less known to tourists than for instance Amsterdam and Rotterdam. People apparently prefer elbowing their way through hundreds of others over a stroll along the picturesque canals of the historical Utrecht center. That’s not as big of a problem as we are making it sound like though, for Utrecht will never disappoint those who do decide to pay it a visit.
Many young people from all over the country and even the world choose to move to Utrecht and study at the biggest university in the Netherlands, which is aptly named Utrecht University. Because of the many young people combined with the beautiful sights and surroundings of the city, Utrecht flourishes and thrives throughout the year. Located almost in the dead center of the Netherlands, Utrecht is easy to reach.
Especially with a rental car from one of the major airports in the country, like Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. But what will you do when you arrive in the city? Below we have
Defining the skyline of the city for hundreds of years, the Domtoren is the main icon of Utrecht. It is the tallest building in the city and the highest church tower in all of the Netherlands. It stands alone since a heavy summer storm in 1674 collapsed the part of the church that once connected it to the tower. Its main purpose, besides being awe inspiringly massive, is the large bells which hang in the top part. Together they weigh over 31 tons, a feat few churches are able to equal. Viewing the tower from the outside is inevitable when you visit Utrecht, but to experience all of its glory you will want to take a tour and climb all 465 steps to enjoy a breathtaking view of the city and its surroundings. The tours take an hour and start at multiple times throughout the day.
The Utrecht University has moved to the outskirts of the city, where it has a giant campus housing all of its different fields of study, sport complexes, student housing and leisure locations. However, the University used to be spread throughout the city, with different buildings for different disciplines and so forth. As such, there are many old university buildings to be seen when wandering around the old center of Utrecht. Will you be able to find them all?
The Centraal Museum is situated in a stately building near the centrally located Oudegracht. Here you will find many different artworks from the Utrecht region and the artists it brought forth throughout the ages. Works from Rietveld and the Caravaggists, Dick Bruna and Viktor & Rolf, its all there. The museum boasts the largest collection of Rietveld objects in the world and also has many works from the hand of the famous Dutch illustrator Dick Bruna, whom worked in Utrecht for over thirty years. His studio was situated in an attic in the center of Utrecht and was filled with his work and many personal items like letters and pictures of special meetings. The Centraal Museum shows his atelier and all those belongings on display, which is amazing to see.
Kasteel de Haar
The monumental castle de Haar is the largest castle in the Netherlands. It was rebuilt upon the ruin of the former castle in
Rent a canoe
Just like many old cities in the Netherlands, Utrecht has many canals and waterways. To explore these, we strongly advise you to rent a canoe for a day. When the weather allows it, especially during summer, this is an amazing way to explore the old city center and everything it has to offer. The best part is that alongside the canals there used to be many wharf basements which the merchants used to store their goods. They no longer serve that purpose and now house many different cafés with terraces, tasty pastries and good beverages. You will be able to step out of your canoe and sit right down into a chair to make your order and enjoy lunch by the beautiful canal. What’s not to like?
The Nieuw Hollandse Waterlinie
Part of the UNESCO World Heritage list, the Niewe Hollandse Waterlinie was a defense line which replaced the former Hollandse Waterlinie. It consists of smart sluices combined with forts in weak spots, to create a defense line over 85 kilometers in length. The idea was to use the nature and water as a natural barrier and complement it with changes to make it easier to defend. As such, 46 forts were built along the defense line, many of which are unique because the places in which they stood defined what they should look like and how they should function. Along the line are also five historical, fortified towns. It is possible to walk or ride a bicycle along the defense line and learn about its history in many different places along the long defense line, which is not only interesting from an historical viewpoint but also for those who enjoy nature and the outdoors.
Botanical garden Oude Hortus
Situated in central Utrecht this garden functions as a green oasis in the midst of the busy city life. Part of and right behind the University Museum this garden currently functions as a museum garden, as the botanical garden used by the university is now located on the new university grounds at the Uithof. That doesn’t mean this garden has no more purpose though, because there are still many different kinds and species of plants to be found. Including a 260 year old Ginkgo Biloba and lots of herbs said to have healing powers. The botanical garden is open daily and should definitely be on your list!
Step inside this tiny free museum and feel transported hundreds of years back in time in an instant. The Kruideniersmuseum is an ode to the grocerystore of yore. You can shop around like people would have done in the 18th century. Buying typical Dutch candy or peppermint will be a tasty adventure for sure, but helps the museum as well. Whatever you choose to nibble on, it will be carefully weighed using calibrated copper weights just like back in the days!
A very cozy square in the middle of Utrecht. It is flanked by tons of nice winebars and cafés and during the summertime people flock to the terraces to soak up the sun while enjoying a drink. During the summertime there are many outdoor events hosted here, like the Dutch Filmfestival, and in the wintertime you can even ice skate on an indoor ice track!
On the western edge of the city you will find the Vlinderhof. A special park as large as the city center of Utrecht and a place for people to enjoy the outdoors to its fullest. For groups there are tours available, during which you will hear everything there is to know about the Vlinderhof. It was designed by Piet Oudolf for instance, but you will also hear about the planting plans and everything else. This place is all about sticking your nose out for some fresh air.
The Ouwehand’s dierenpark is a zoo situated closely to the city of Utrecht. It is a spectacularly large zoo which houses many different animals from around the world, including African Elephants and monkeys from Borneo! The amazing animals who live here aren’t the only reason for the zoo’s existence though. From an environmental perspective the zoo strives for the protection of endangered species, the protection of nature in general as well as the education of youth when it comes to nature and wildlife. This way, the zoo tries to play its part in the future of our planet. For instance, there is a large bear sanctuary for the endangered species of brown bears. Most of the bears housed there used to be part of circuses and street performances, which wasn’t a health existence for them. If you like animals, you will love Ouwehand’s dierenpark!
This museum is located close to the city center and, as the name suggests, is all about the railroads. The Railroad museum is a playful one and tells the history of trains and railroads in the Netherlands and beyond. You will find it near the city center in an old, discontinued trainstation. What to expect? Well, quite a lot actually! Some examples are the first Dutch steamtrain, de Arend (the eagle), a roller coaster and theatre shows about train travel in the old days! Great fun for both young and old, be sure to pay this museum a visit.
This museum is very popular both nationally and internationally. That’s because the Speelklok museum is all about automatically playing instruments. From small music boxes to large, automatically playing piano’s and organs. Most of these old instruments still actually work, which is amazing to begin with, but they still sound good as well. As such there is a lot of ear soothing music to be heard! When you join a guided tour, they will be played for you.
In need for a Car Rental in Utrecht?
All of these sights are just a snippet of the total package that Utrecht is and offers when you visit the city. As such, we strongly advise you to take this list as a starting point and be sure to explore other spots and places that might not have been noted on this list. To do so, it is best to take a car rental Utrecht with you. This will ensure you will be able to see everything you want to in whatever timescale you have available. Simply go to our homepage and select the parameters which are important to you. On that basis we will recommend the Dutch car rental companies that are most suited for your needs. After that you will only have to book and you will be entirely ready for the trip! We hope you have a great time in this beautiful city!