12 essential things to see and do in Utrecht

Utrecht is one of the most beautiful and special cities to see in the Netherlands , despite not being the most popular or the first option for the traveler.

It is the fourth largest in the country behind Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. There are so many things to see and do in Utrecht. From getting lost in the alleys of the historic center, visiting the most emblematic places, enjoying your leisure and of course taking a trip back in time when you visit the Castle of Haar .

It is one of the essential cities to visit in the country and in this article you will find the 15 essential things to see and do in Utrecht , where to stay and some tips to save money in the country.

1. Fall in love with the historic center of Utrecht, the Museum Quarter

I personally liked Utrecht a lot, especially for the magic of its historic center. It is a much smaller city than Amsterdam and it seems that time passes more slowly here.

Its historic center has a lot of cobbled alleys that hide buildings of incredible architectural beauty, as well as small interior patios, medieval houses and, of course, the canals.

As the name suggests, this neighborhood is full of museums. So if you like them you will enjoy it very much. Later I will tell you which museums are essential to visit in Utrecht.

If you feel like it , you can take a free tour of the historic center of Utrecht . It is the perfect opportunity to get to know the most emblematic places of the city with a local guide who will give you the tour in Spanish.

2. Find St. Martin’s Cathedral

The construction of the Cathedral began in the year 1254. The building was religious Catholic until 1580, when it began to be a Protestant church. In 1853 the building became a Catholic church again when the episcopal hierarchy was re-established in the Netherlands.

It has a Gothic style with a single tower 112 meters high. It was the largest cathedral in the Netherlands until 1974.

It is a beautiful building that stands out for its huge tower and that you can see from many points in the city. It is the perfect starting point to get to know Utrecht.

Do not forget to visit the small garden patio that is located in the cloister and if you travel in spring or summer you will find it full of flowers.

3. Climb the Tower of St. Martin’s Cathedral for incredible views of Utrecht

One of the essential things to do in Utrecht is to photograph the city from above. The best option to have spectacular views of the city is to climb the tower of the Cathedral. Although… I warn you that to get to see the views you will have to sweat a little. You must climb 465 steps! Until you reach the top. It is mandatory to go up with a guide and during the climb you will stop while they explain the history of the Cathedral. The viewpoint of the tower is 95 meters high.

The price of the guided tour is 9 euros.

The tower is separated from the cathedral and the reason is that in 1647 a devastating storm took place that took away a part of the cathedral that was never built again.

4. The old Town Hall of Utrecht

The Utrecht Town Hall is one of the rarest buildings to see in Utrecht. It is rather a network of buildings linked together in a labyrinthine way. In 1997 the Spanish architect Enric Miralles was commissioned to design an open building, combining the historical and monumental parts with a new wing.

In the Town Hall Square you can see a plaque commemorating the Treaty of Utrecht.

5. Visit the DOMunder

Are you interested in knowing the different periods of the city and its history? Then don’t miss the DOMunder. This place is located under the Domplein. You will know the history from the moment the Romans built the castellum Trajectum, around the year 45 AD to the present day in a dynamic and very entertaining way.

The entrance price is 11 euros.

6. Stroll through Domplein

Domplein Square would not exist if the storm that destroyed much of the Cathedral had not taken place. After that moment in which the Cathedral was destroyed, nobody did anything to rebuild it, they didn’t even pick up the rubble. Finally, this project was carried out so that the place would be free of ruins and the plaza was built. If you look closely, you can see black cobblestones where the old columns of the Cathedral used to be.

7. Enjoy the canals of Utrecht

One of the things I like the most about cities in the Netherlands are their canals. They are usually very romantic places, perfect for disconnecting and enjoying the city without rushing. You can walk its banks, enjoy a coffee and even take a kayak ride, a boat ride… Utrecht also has canals dating back to medieval times. And they are beautiful, do not miss them.

8. Look for the statues of Winkel Van Sinkel

Winkel Van Sinkel is one of the most historic buildings in the Netherlands. Today, the building houses a restaurant and a nightclub.

And the statues?

The Winkel Van Sinkel statues are famous for their history. They were made in England in the 20th century. Due to their enormous weight and size, they were transported by ship to Utrecht. When trying to place them in the building, the crane fell down and for that reason they are called the fallen English or the English prostitutes. You’ll find them outside, so you don’t have to go into the restaurant to see them.

9. Find Miffy’s Traffic Light

In the center of the city you will find one of the most curious zebra crossings. It is a step of wax painted with the colors of the LGTBI flag. But what attracts attention and you have to pay attention to is at the traffic light where a nice bunny appears. Miffy was created in 1955 by a local artist, Dick Bruna. Without a doubt, finding this traffic light is something curious to do in Utrecht.

If you want to know more about this character you can visit Dick Bruna’s house, located in the Museum Quarter. There you can learn many details about Miffy. The ticket costs 9.50 euros at the box office.

10. Go under the Ganzenmarkt Tunnel

You cannot leave Utrecht without going under the Ganzenmarkt Tunnel. This tunnel was turned into a work of art by Erik Groen. This artist studied physics, biology and philosophy at the University of Utrecht. He mixed art and technology to renovate this tunnel and the result is incredible.

11. Admire Utrecht University

The University of Utrecht is one of the most important in the Netherlands and welcomes thousands of students of different nationalities. The most beautiful building of the university is the Academiegebouw and easily recognized by its façade. In that same place is where the famous treaty of Utrecht was signed, which was the seed for the creation of the Netherlands.

12. Find the Thinker in Neude Square

This square is one of the most atmospheric squares in Utrecht. It is full of cafes and restaurants. It is a place where different festivals are usually celebrated during the year and craft and Christmas markets are set up…

At one end of the square is the statue “El Pensador”. This is a somewhat original donkey.

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