If you visit the Netherlands, set aside some time to venture beyond Amsterdam. There’s more to the Netherlands than that one city and Utrecht is well worth adding to your itinerary. Here’s a local’s perspective on why you should consider visiting Utrecht.
Utrecht houses the Utrecht University and is ultimately a student city. Each year, at the end of August and the beginning of September, new students flock the city. This makes for a very lively atmosphere.
Welcoming the new students spills over throughout the whole city center, with parties and so on. Residents either love this extra craziness or hate it.
Since Utrecht is a student city, it also has “cheap” food options. Cheap in this instance doesn't mean low quality - there just are restaurants that offer meals for reasonable prices. Some popular options are Restaurant Kartoffel (German cuisine) or Café Florin (Pub food).
Every student also gets introduced to broodje Mario, and you can’t call yourself a local until you've had it. It’s a large bun with cheese, salami, chorizo, peperoni peppers and some fresh vegetables. Get it at the booth along the Oudegracht.
This is not all Utrecht has to offer on the foodie side. There are pancake restaurants and lots of different cuisines to choose from, such as Indonesian, Indian, French and Ethiopian.
The best way to get around Utrecht is by bike. You’ll see locals biking all around the city - often with kids in the front and/or back of their bike and/or holding a television they just bought.
There are traffic rules, of course, but expect bikes coming from all sides. A non-local is easily recognizable since they stop at a red light and wait till it turns green. So if you can’t bike or don’t bike that well, maybe walk to take public transport instead, just to be safe.
When exploring the city on bike isn’t a good option, consider public transport. There’s a good bus system throughout the city and, in some spots the tram or train can be used. The central train station is the hub of the country - it has the most passengers passing through in the whole of the Netherlands.
Be aware that you can’t buy a single paper ticket anymore for public transportation. It works with an electronic pass system. You can buy an anonymous one as a tourist.
During your explorations of the city, watch out for some cool street art in Utrecht. You'll see street art everywhere, ranging from larger-than-life murals to small works on unexpected corners.
Street artists like JanIsDeMan and De Verfdokter make murals in which they ask the input of the neighborhood. An example is the book shelves mural on Amsterdamsestraatweg, the books on the shelves are the favorites of the people living there.
Most tourists stay around the historical canal area in downtown Utrecht. While the canal area is really beautiful, it’s not the only neighbourhood worthwhile exploring in Utrecht.
Venture further outside and you’ll find more places which are local favorites, such as Wilhelminapark and Lepelenburg, both beautiful parks. Nearer the outskirts of the city, you'll find Amelisweerd, a forest-like park with trails perfect for longer walks.
Festivals are held in Utrecht all year round. Some are seasonal and mostly attended by locals, such as the St. Maartens parade. Others are more widely known and revolve around music, like the Central Park Festival or the famous Festival Oude Muziek. When in town, be sure to check out whether a festival is on at the same time.
Planning a trip to Utrecht? Stay at Daen's Greenhouse with beautifully-decorated rooms near the city centre.
Last Updated 4 September 2022