The COVID-19 pandemic has brought travel and tourism to a standstill, and I'm not sure when it will restart. I’m sure everyone else is feeling the same way as the world is practically melting in front of us. However, that should not stop me from completing my travel blog posts. I went for a two-week long trip to The Netherlands in December last year and I didn’t know that would be my last trip for a long time. I can hardly believe it has taken me this long to share this, and I have to say, long overdue. But I think it’s always better late than never at all. So I will be rolling out some blogs this month to conclude the few remaining highlights of my Netherlands trip, with this post on Utrecht.
Travelling throughout the Netherlands on a whirlwind week of adventures in December 2019, I finally arrived in Utrecht. I made my way by train to Utrecht (the journey takes only 25 minutes by train from Amsterdam), a city that has come to be known by many as “Amsterdam’s cool little sister”. And indeed, I think it's one of my favourite cities in the Netherlands.
Charming is perhaps the best word to describe Utrecht. Utrecht is home to enchanting canals, medieval streets and fascinating monuments. This is a city that thrives on mixing old and new, urban living and green space, tradition and innovation. Cobblestone streets hum with chatter as the locals sip coffee and catch up with friends, while every bit of the canal is put to good use – even right down to water level, where wine bars, sports clubs, cafes start right at the water’s edge. What sets them apart is the “lower level” - below the street above - where the warehouses were located in olden times.
One of the things that marvelled me about the city was the city station. It is a modern vibrant train station, filled with Dutch people and tourists running around and stopping for a coffee or a meal in this wonderful place. Once I left the train station, to connect to the citiy center i had to cross a mall and I was in the beautiful streets of Utrecht. It is a big city but at least is not overpopulated by bikes like Amsterdam. You can walk through the cannals or visit old building like the town hall or the multiple historic sites within the city.
It's easy to navigate around, you can freely ditch your map and just walk around the canals to explore Utrecht's more off the beaten paths. In my view, this is an ideal city in which to put down your map and just wander, watching the world go by. Stop at one of the many cafes or restarants for a coffee or bite to eat and experience true Dutch life; with so many fewer tourists than other cities in the Netherlands. Utrecht is a great place to familiarise yourself with life as the locals live it. In general, people were considerate, something which I really appreciate when visiting a new destination. Shops were plentiful, with international brands as well as local boutiques.
From the centre of town, you can explore all that Utrecht has to offer, which is predominantly centred around the cities’ canals. The city is full of yummy eats, al fresco restaurants, boutiques and the usual chain brands you’ll see everywhere in Europe.
Utrecht is a university town that dates back to medieval times and it’s easy to imagine how life was just centuries ago.
It’s traditional buildings watch over the canal with a smug but modest beauty; whilst it isn’t as well-visited or even as well-known as other cities in the Netherlands. Utrecht’s understated charm does not go amiss. With bikes lining the pathways and trees framing the water, Utrecht is postcard perfect.
I only learnt on arrival that the creator of Miffy was a resident of Utrecht, making Miffy a celebrity of the city! Utrecht was the home of Dick Bruna, the author of Nijntje (Miffy). This museum in Utrecht was built in honor of his most famous work and it’s a super child-friendly museum, perfect for families with young children visiting Utrecht. You’ll find lots of Miffy stuffed animals, Miffy-inspired rooms, and interactive activities
An icon of Utrecht, the Dom Tower is a much beloved landmark of the city and is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands.
Some Dutch locals told me that Utrecht is a truly a gem and it would be a shame if it became overcrowded, and of course I have to agree, though as a travel blogger I feel obliged to encourage responsible travel to all of the places that I have enjoyed visiting. Utrecht is incredibly photogenic which makes it a must for any travel photographer. The city itself captivated my imagination. Utrecht felt lively but also somewhat relaxed and quaint after the commotion found on the streets of Amsterdam. I particularly love the pace in Utrecht as the center is still not overly touristy and you can just stroll around the city without worrying about directions as each corner is absolutely beautiful.
When travellers visit the Netherlands, more often than not, their first port of call is Amsterdam. A lot of these visitors, sadly, don’t go much further than that, and end up missing out on a wealth of history, landscapes, experiences and, of course, some of the most beautiful cities in the Netherlands besides the capital. With this in mind, I wanted to put together a few posts that show everyone that there are a lot more to this fascinating country than Amsterdam.
As far as seasons go, I travelled in winter and thoroughly enjoyed all the withering leaves, though I think anytime of the year would be nice. I look forward to visiting Utrecht again, if there is a chance. As always, thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely my own.