Utrecht travel tips.
My travel-quickies are for high-flyers and fast-info-junkies. Addresses, recommendations and tips, put together nice and neat!
Are you looking for a city to travel to for a weekend trip?
A city with charm and flair, not too small and not too big? Nice restaurants and nice cafes? And of course, you want to shop a little? A trip for a couple or for a mother-daughter outing? You want to go out with the girls but not travel too far?
I have the perfect recommendation for you:
The City of Canals – Utrecht!
This Dutch town is young and lively. Art and culture paint the city. In summer, people gather at the pubs and restaurants found along the canals. Here is an overview of my Utrecht tips:
Arrival in Utrecht:
- By plane: Airport Amsterdam
Travel time: Hamburg – Amsterdam: approx. 1h / London – Amsterdam: approx. 1h 30min
Time to transfer from the airport to the city: approx. 30min via train
- By Car: Cologne – Utrecht
- Travel time: approx. 2h
I recommend taking public transportation. Utrecht’s city centre is small, narrow and not suited for cars.
- By train: Central Station Utrecht Centraal
- Travel time: Cologne – Utrecht: approx. 2.5hTrains are available several times a day from Cologne. The same applies for Rotterdam, but calculate 10 more minutes of travel time. For several years, the central station in Utrecht has been under reconstruction, which should be completed in 2019. Nevertheless, the building is very modern and flooded with light.
Parking in Utrecht:
It is best to park outside Utrecht on one of the P&R parking lots and go to the city centre by train or bus. In case you really need to park directly in the centre, I recommend car park P4 in the Hoog Catharjine Zentrum. Reserve a parking spot online to save some euros!
Hotel Recommendations Utrecht:
If you are looking for 5-star hotels your options are limited in Utrecht. Though of course, you can find soulless business hotels. In my online research I found most of the buildings appear rather run down and rough. Online reviews on well-known sites confirmed this impression. Therefore, I chose a 4-star hotel. A good choice!
• Mother Goose**** (dogs are not allowed)
Mother Goose is as close to the city centre as you could possibly be. This small hotel with only 23 rooms is situated directly on the Ganzenmarkt with its many cafes. The canals, the dome and the shopping streets are close by. The atmosphere is stylish and unique. The service is friendly and the staff are always ready to help. However, there is no restaurant inside the building. For breakfast you can simply cross the street and go to the Daens Cafe or you can choose one of the several other cafes in the surrounding area. The central station is only a few minutes by foot away. The hotel offers parking spots you would need to book ahead of time that are two minutes away by foot. Take the chance to make your own impressions of the Ganzenmarkt and the White Suite.
Additional Hotel Recommendations from Other Travelers:
• Eye Hotel**** (dogs are not allowed)
Another small designer hotel at the corner of the city centre. The central station is only a few minutes away by foot.
Jenny & Sebastian from the blog 22places stayed there during their trip to Utrecht. Have a look at their review!
• Mary K**** (dogs are not allowed)
Another boutique hotel with a good reputation that is very uniquely and artfully decorated. It only 500m from the dome and only a few minutes to the central station by foot.
Restaurant Recommendations Utrecht:
The city centre offers a multitude of restaurants, from small, romantic Italian restaurants, to hip burger stations and the classic Dutch Frikandel stands. Throughout the small alleyways that branch from the canals and squares, Utrecht offers a vast variety of international cuisine, ranging from exquisite delicacies to simple snacks. In the summer, almost every restaurant offers outdoor seating.
- Bistronome Des Arts
I really do recommend this French restaurant. From its balcony you can look directly to the Oudergracht, the entrance is on the shopping street Lijnmarkt 48. Bistronome Des Arts is a picturesque restaurant, including painted ceilings and antique interior. It’s the perfect spot to eat good fish and drink a glass of wine.
Shopping in Utrecht:
In Utrecht, you can shop seven days a week! Shops are usually open between 10am and 6pm. On Thursdays, some are do not close until 9pm, though in that case they open later at around noon.
Utrecht is an exciting shopping destination, because there are many small individual shops with different specialties, including knickknacks, antiquities, boutique goods and cheese. I have never seen so many gentlemen’s outfitters. To be honest, I encountered a lot of well-dressed men. Utrecht is also home to the Hoog Catharjine, which is one of the largest in-door shopping malls in the Netherlands. Of course, there you can find the typical big fashion labels but luxury designer shops are not present.
Activities & Sightseeing Utrecht:
- Dive into the atmosphere and discover small parks and narrow alleys with beautiful houses.
- Rest next to a canal and watch the passing boats.
- Take a trip on one of the boats as a passenger or rent a paddleboat or canoe. You can also learn stand-up paddling on the canals.
- Take a stroll around the university quarter with its historic faculty buildings.
- Take part in a guided tour of the dome and enjoy the view across Utrecht.
- Do you like it under ground? Then you should take part in the DomUnder guided tour below the dome.
- Visit one of the many art galleries and expositions.
- Have a look at the Event Calendar of Utrecht to find the dates of the many concerts and festivals in the city.
- Take a trip in the dark. As soon as it gets dark, Trajectum Lumen starts. Renowned artists put up light installations all across town. You can also book a guided tour across town at night.
Click here for a map with all attractions in Utrecht: Website of the Tourism Board
Summary of a weekend in Utrecht:
Personally, I liked Utrecht a lot and I will definitely return! It is only a short trip from the Ruhr region but still feels like a proper vacation. Utrecht is a small and likeable version of Amsterdam, with less stress and less big city hassle. A culinary paradise you can spend years in. Here you can still discover small shops, apart from mainstream labels, and Sunday shopping!
If you stay far from the city centre, it is possible to run into drug addicts that will ask you for money or cigarettes or just run around screaming and flailing. These situations give me a feeling of insecurity and are definitely similar to situations in Amsterdam. Of course, similar scenes can be witnessed in major German cities. However, I personally feel the extent of the issue is larger in the Netherlands. I think it is important to also point out the darker sides of a travel destination. That being said, this should definitely not keep you from visiting Utrecht!
(Translates by Barbara Riedel)
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