15 Best Things to Do in Utrecht

view of Utrecht train station
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The city of Utrecht in the Netherlands is the capital and most populated city in the eponymous province.

It is also the country's fourth-biggest city.

The city's history dates to Roman times, about 50 CE, and it has grown into a significant economic hub for the Netherlands.

The historic city center of Utrecht is home to several buildings and constructions, some of which date back to the Middle Ages.

Since the 8th century, it has served as the country's spiritual epicenter.

However, Amsterdam eclipsed the city during the Dutch Golden Age due to its cultural importance and population.

Tourism also contributes significantly to its economy.

The scenic Old Town, ringed by canals and has several ancient buildings, offers a wide range of entertaining activities for tourists and draws a considerable number of them year-round.

Its old town center is compact as opposed to Amsterdam or Rotterdam, allowing visitors to see a number of the city's most notable attractions in a single day.

Let's know more about this exciting tourist destination with our list of the 15 best things to do in Utrecht.

Stroll Around the Cathedral Square

Cathedral Square
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Utrecht, like many Dutch ancient cities, has several historical public squares.

The most vital is Cathedral Square.

It took its name from the majestic St. Martin's Cathedral framed by numerous stunning historic structures.

Along with the cathedral and the Domtoren, you'll discover the bright Utrecht University building and the city's Tourist Information Office, all of which are lovely places to start your trip.

It's also where you will find DOMUnder, an underground exhibit.

Utrecht University
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This fascinating self-guided tour takes visitors beneath Cathedral Square, revealing the ruins of the city's 2,000+ year past.

Your journey begins hundreds of feet deep, with a lantern as a visual guide (English language available).

During your 75-minute tour, you'll see historic vaults and learn about the tragic 17th-century tornado that damaged parts of the cathedral.

Audio tours in English are also available.

Visit Utrecht early to avoid disappointment with tickets to this famous attraction.

Climb the Dom Tower of Utrecht

One of Utrecht's most famous monuments, this massive building rises majestically above the city.

The Cathedral of Saint Martin, completed in 1321, stands apart from the tower.

You may view Utrecht's tallest structure, which rises 112.5 meters above the city, miles away.

Dom Tower of Utrecht
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On several occasions, a squad of devoted ringers still chimes the tower's 14 bells, which weigh a combined 32,000 pounds.

There's a visitor center with exhibits on the tower's history and a souvenir shop, and tours allow you to ascend the tower's 465 stairs to the summit.

From the summit, you'll get a spectacular view of the Netherlands, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

Relax at the View of Botanic Gardens in Utrecht University

Botanic Gardens in Utrecht University
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The Botanic Gardens at Utrecht University provide a great day trip for individuals with green fingers - or just a love of beautiful green landscapes and gardens in general.

This lovely 22-acre property, which stands on the ancient abandoned Fort Hoofddijk, is relatively recent.

Although the completion of construction was in the late 20th century, it has roots going back to the 17th century.

Here, you may explore a total of six different gardens.

The Birders Den is a popular stop for bird watchers, and the Bee Hotel has a wide variety of pollinating insects. These are just a few of the many attractions available.

Botanic Gardens in Utrecht University
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It's also worth checking out the tropical greenhouses.

It's possible to go to the gardens from March to December. Consider joining one of the frequent and educational guided tours to make sure you get the most out of your trip.

There's a pleasant Garden Café on-site, and there's also a shop.

Visiting the neighboring Old Botanical Gardens (Oude Hortus), known for its medicinal plants and historic ginkgo trees, and the University Museum Utrecht are also enjoyable things to do if you have the time.

Admire the Architecture of St. Martin's Cathedral

St. Martin's Cathedral
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St. Martin's Cathedral stands at the Cathedral Square, in the city center of Utrecht.

Locals call this magnificent structure the Dom Church (Domkerk), one of the country's most significant religious structures.

Even though the church constructed an initial cathedral on the site of a Romanesque church in 1254, today's stunning cathedral includes 15th-century transepts, a 14th-century choir, and two chapels completed during that period.

A tornado destroyed the nave in 1674, and the church authorities demolished the original building included the neighboring Domtoren.

It wasn't until 1826 when the church swept away the ruins and completed the restoration in 1988.

You may find many historic graves here, as well as a crypt said to include the remains of Emperors Henry IV and Conrad II, both of whom died at Utrecht.

The magnificent 14th-century cloister that connects the cathedral and university is particularly noteworthy. Above the windows depict the patron saint, St. Martin. Meanwhile, in the middle of the lovely Cloister Garden, you may find a bronze monk figure atop a fountain.

Sunday services are open to the public as well.

Attend a Service at St. Peter's Church

St. Peter's Church
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St. Peter's Church is the first church erected in Pieterskerkhof, just a few minutes' walk from St. Martin's Cathedral.

Consecrated in 1048, the church has two Romanesque towers and a crypt housing the tomb of Bishop Bernold, the church's founder.

The capitals of the nave's columns, the north aisle's wall paintings, and the Maasland-style reliefs from the 12th century are significant elements.

Treat Your Eyes to the Interiors of St. Willibrord Church

Interior of St. Willibrord Church
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Known locally as Sint Willibrordkerk, St. Willibrord Church is a Roman Catholic congregation situated between Dom Tower and the Janskerk structures in central Utrecht, a simple magnificent example of Neo-Gothic design.

Completed in the 1800s, the church is comparably the region's newest religious structure.

The tall, narrow outside of this building sets it apart, and the interior is every bit as extravagant and luxurious as you'd expect.

There's nothing like walking into the gorgeous interior for a treat; the vibrant colors and seemingly limitless expanses of artwork will take your breath away.

Stained-glass windows are adorning the arches and gold-toned pillars and the ceiling, making the Willibrord Church a must-see for architecture buffs.

Bike Around Wilhelminapark

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Located east of Utrecht, this historic city park is a great pit break en route to the Utrecht University Botanical Gardens.

Henry Copjin, the park's designer, based his work on the English Landscape style.

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There is a cycling route inside the park and several sculptures and monuments, such as the "teahouse" structure and a memorial of Queen Wilhelmina, after whom the park got its name.

As well, there's a lovely rose garden, as well as many other interesting plants and animals.

This city-owned park is indeed a beautiful place to stroll through and take in the fresh air.

Check Out the Railway Museum

Railway Museum at Utrecht
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This intriguing railroad museum stands on the eastern side of Utrecht, in an old railway station.

The museum recently underwent renovations, and a newly-constructed facility close to the train station just opened.

The museum has a substantial collection of railroad-related artifacts, exhibits, and repurposed station rooms.

Railway Museum
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Each part of the museum has its theme, such as Dream Travel, Monsters, the Workshop, and The Great Discovery.

Additionally, it features a children's play area, a model railroad, and several real locomotives, such as the New York Central NS Class 200 and the De Arend.

The museum is a fantastic location for the whole family since the visual displays and history appeal to everyone.

Visit the Rietveld-Schröderhuis

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This one-of-a-kind house, designed and built by Gerrit Rietveld, a renowned Dutch architect, is a shining example of 'De Stijl' architecture and is currently open to the public as part of a tour.

Because Truus Schroder-Schrader commissioned and resided in the house, the house took its name partly after him.

The house's exterior has interesting patterns with poles, panels, and lines of various colors placed in multiple directions.

Visits to the interior are just as exciting as those on the outside. Only an open and flexible space may be repaired and modified according to the situation.

The Rietveld-Schröderhuis, completed in 1924, will surely blow your mind away.

Ride a Boat Along Oudegracht

Boat rides at Oudegracht
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Other Dutch cities also have substantial canal systems, like Utrecht, where many of the canals are surrounded by classic buildings and provide for lovely strolls.

Throughout the town center, you'll find waterways that provide a mystical element.

Small boat cruises on canals are available, but walking around the neighborhoods and immersing yourself with it on foot is just as enjoyable.

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A succession of tall, narrow residences, some with doors leading directly into the canal, are painted a variety of bright hues.

What used to be wharves, basements, and warehouses are now busy cafés, bars, and restaurants in many of the stunning brickwork structures that line the canal.

As a result, the canals lie primarily below street level, giving the city an additional dimension.

Feel Like a Royalty at De Haar Castle

De Haar Castle
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De Haar Castle, which looks like something out of a storybook, is simply magnificent.

Stunning castles and towers loom over romantic rose gardens.

Beautiful grounds surround the Neo-Gothic castle, which has a plethora of romantic settings to offer photographers.

Interior of De Haar Castle
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Rothschild renovated the castle in 1892, and it now contains more than 200 rooms and 30 baths.

Paintings, sculptures, and other pieces of art lavishly furnish the castle.

With its magnificent halls and lush grounds, De Haar Castle, located east of Utrecht near Huurzuilens, is a popular day-trip destination.

Learn About Netherlands' Christian History at St. Catherine's Convent Museum

Saint Catherine's Convent Museum, housed in a former hospice run by order of St. John, chronicles Dutch Christian history.

It's the largest repository of art treasures during the medieval era in the country, including parts dedicated to medieval monasteries, church interiors, and religious beliefs. It opened in 1978.

Other exhibitions include rare books and manuscripts and a replica of the ancient St. Martin's Cathedral, with descriptions of its history, in addition to a vast collection of 17th and 18th-century materials.

In addition, there's a late-medieval Flemish church vestment exhibition here.

Both guided and audio tours come in English.

Additionally, there's a store, cafe, and reference library located on-site.

Grab a Bouquet for Your Loved One at Janskerkhof Flower Market

Janskerkhof Flower Market
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At the enormous flower market in Utrecht, where tulips are the primary attraction, you may find a more comprehensive selection of flowers and seeds to purchase every Saturday.

Close to the Janskerkhof church, the market may be found, as well as the Dom Tower and the city's central plaza.

Janskerkhof Flower Market
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They have outstanding flower quality and cut and a vast selection of various species and pot plants.

Smells and colors abound here.

It's a terrific spot for photographs, soaking up the ambiance, and maybe even picking up a souvenir or two.

See the Amusing Displays at Museum Speelklok

There is something for everyone at the clock museum, a beautiful site full of amusement and extraordinary items that will please both children and adults.

The museum is devoted to clockwork and wind-up devices like clocks, barrel organs, musical instruments, amongst other things.

Museum Speelklok
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Sound and moving elements fill the entire room, and the quality of the displays remains unsurpassed in the industry.

In addition to showcasing magnificent instruments and items, the museum also provides an in-depth look into the processes of making these things and the immense amount of dedication, patience, and artistry that went into every piece.

Explore Utrecht's History at Centraal Museum

Centraal Museum
Centraal Museum / fotograaf: Vincent Zedelius, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Centraal Museum in Utrecht is the country's oldest municipal museum, having opened its doors in 1838 and providing a fascinating peek into the city's past ever since.

You'll learn about a diverse group of artists who have left their mark on the city throughout the years via art and design.

There is also a unique medieval sculpture with beautiful paintings by the 'Dutch Dali,' Johannes Moesman, Joachim Wtewael, beautiful furniture by Gerrit Rietveld, and an incredible 1,000-year-old ship on display.

Centraal museum
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Old and modern artifacts and pieces of art have their own stories to tell. When taken as a whole, they provide a unique perspective of Utrecht.

The Centraal Museum, located in Amsterdam's Museum Quarter and frequently holds temporary exhibitions, is well-liked by residents and visitors.

Final Thoughts

Utrecht is a compact city, so you can easily walk to most attractions.

All the city's major attractions are within walking distance of one another.

On the other hand, the exact amount of time wouldn't even touch the surface in Amsterdam.

Additionally, the city doesn't have to deal with these issues because it's a relatively unknown location for foreign tourists.

Stay in Utrecht for a few days, and you'll get a good sense of it!