Are you in Amsterdam and looking for a nearby day trip destination? Take a day trip to Utrecht – and you’ll be in for a treat!
Charming would be the one word I would use to describe this quintessential Dutch town. With its winding canals, vibrant street life, and fascinating history, Utrecht is the ideal place to spend a day exploring.
While you may only have one day in Utrecht Netherlands, fear not! With a little bit of planning and insider knowledge, you can make the most of your day trip to Utrecht and experience all that this wonderful city has to offer. (Updated in 2023)
Utrecht old town to start your Utrecht one day itinerary.
Table of Contents
Is Utrecht Worth Visiting?
Absolutely! Utrecht is a charming and vibrant city located in the heart of the Netherlands that is definitely worth a visit.
With its picturesque canals, historic architecture, and cozy cafes, Utrecht has a unique and inviting atmosphere that is sure to leave a lasting impression. There are plenty of things to see and do in Utrecht. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or just soaking up the local atmosphere, Utrecht is a fantastic destination that should not be missed!
Day Trip to Utrecht from Amsterdam
Luckily, getting to Utrecht from Amsterdam is a breeze thanks to the efficient Dutch train system.
Simply head to Amsterdam Centraal station and hop on a direct train to Utrecht Centraal, which runs approximately every 15 minutes and takes just over 20 minutes.
Purchase your train ticket beforehand, either online or at the ticket kiosks located in the station.
Once you arrive at Utrecht Centraal, you’ll find yourself in Utrecht city center. The Utrecht train station is connected to a modern shopping mall. Fun fact, this is actually the largest indoor shopping mall in the Netherlands. Likely by design, everyone who arrives by train needs to walk through this light modern space featuring over 160 stores until you emerge outside to the old urban center.
It’s that easy!
What to Do in Utrecht in One Day – 11 Things to Do!
#1 Visit the Dom Church of Utrecht
In the heart of Utrecht is the beautiful Cathedral Square or Domplein, often referred to as Dom Square. The most impressive historic building that frames it is St. Martin’s cathedral, but locals call it Dom Church, or Domkerk.
Of all the things to see in Utrecht, this needs to be top of the list. The Dom Church is considered one of the most important churches in the Netherlands. What’s so impressive you ask? It dates back to the 13th century and has two chapels and a 14th-century choir. If you are visiting Utrecht on a Saturday, you can enjoy a music concert held at 3:30 pm.
- Opening hours: opening daily May – September 10 am – 5 pm, October – April 11 am – 4 pm | Sun. 12:30-4 pm
- Entrance cost: Free
#2 Climb the Dom Tower of Utrecht
The Dom Tower, built between 1321 to 1382, is the city and the Netherlands’ most notable landmark in the historic town center. It’s the highest and oldest church tower in the Netherlands, soaring at 112 meters.
The tower was originally part of a 14 to 15th-century cathedral complex, but due to a freak hurricane in 1674, it was blown down and never rebuilt. Climb the 465 steps to the top for some unbeatable views, which on a clear day stretch as far as Amsterdam.
The ringing of the 13 bells, which weigh between 880 and 18,000 pounds, can be heard throughout the city. Visiting Utrecht on a Saturday you’ll hear the live bell played by a professional at around 11 am, any other day it’s a recording.
- Opening hours: open daily from 10 am – 5 pm
- Entrance fee: €12.50 (adult), €7.50 (children age 4-12/Student/65+), or combo Under and Up de Dom €17.50 (stairs)/€20 (elevator)
#3 Go Under de DOM
One of the most unique things to do in Utrecht is to visit this underground attraction below Domplein. Discover the 2000 years of history as you explore the archaeological findings that date back to the Roman Castellum Trajectum.
- Opening hours: open daily from 10 am – 5 pm
- Entrance Fee: a ticket from Domtoren will get you a 20% discount on DOMunder and vice versa.
#4 Enjoy the Serenity of Pandhof Sinte Marie
Right next to the Dom church is the peaceful medieval monastery garden called Pandhof Sinte Marie. It connects the cathedral to Utrecht University. In the center of this beautiful garden is a fountain with a bronze statue, of priest Hugo Wstinc, sitting and writing. It’s one of the most idyllic spots to sit and relax and definitely one the of best hidden gems Utrecht.
- Opening hours: open daily from 10 am – 4 pm
- Entrance fee: free
#5 Stroll Along the Old Canal
Definitely what sets this city apart is the beautiful Old Canal or Oudegracht that flows right through the Utrecht old town center.
Of all the places to visit in Utrecht, this is a must. The southern part traces, in part, what was once the original route of a section of the Rhine, while the northern section includes a part of a canal built around AD 1000 that connected the Rhine to the River Vecht. Once locks were created in 1275, warehouses were built on either side of the canal.
Today, they are now boutique shops, galleries, restaurants, and cafes. Don’t rush your time strolling along the picturesque double-level canal. To me, this is what makes Utrecht so special and a day in Utrecht is not complete until you’ve experienced this.
#6 Wander the Dom Quarter
One of the best Utrecht hidden gems is the Dom Quarter. It’s a peaceful side of the city with little alleyways, pretty houses, and tiny little shops. This residential neighbourhood is worthy of a stroll and it’s here you will discover the city’s first church, St. Peter’s Church, built in 1048. Experience Utrecht by going off the beaten path and discovering the undiscovered.
#7 Visit a Museum in Utrecht
If you visit Utrecht in one day, it won’t be enough time to visit all the museums in Utrecht Netherlands – so take your pick and enjoy at least one.
The most notable museums are the Miffy Museum and Centraal Museum. The first would be a child’s favourite, featuring the origins of Miffy the rabbit, whose creator was from Utrecht. The second is an art museum showcasing local artists, past and present.
One of the most unusual things to do in Utrecht is to visit the Musical Clock Museum or Speelklok. This museum is dedicated to music boxes, organs, and crank music players.
For lovers of architecture, a museum not to be missed is the Rietveld Schröder House. This is considered one of the icons of the Modern Movement in architecture and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Lastly, one of the most fascinating just might be the railway museum. This museum is housed in one of Utrecht’s old railway stations and is located in the eastern part of the town.
- Centraal Museum – open Tuesday to Sunday 11 am – 5 pm | Free with Museumkaart or €15 (adult), €6.50 (children 13-17/student) – pre-book your entrance ticket
- Miffy Museum – open Tuesday to Sunday 10 am – 5 pm | Free with Museumkaart or €7.5 (adult), €7.50 (children 2-6)
- Museum Speelklok – open Tuesday to Sunday 10 am – 5 pm | Free with Museumkaart or €13 (adult), €7 (children 4-12), or €36 (Family – 2 adults + 2 children) – pre-book your entrance ticket
- National Railway Museum – open Tuesday to Sunday 11 am – 5 pm | Free with Museumkaart or €7.50 (adult), €11 (children 2-6), €7.50 (children 7-17) – pre-book your entrance ticket
#8 Head to the Local Market Vredenburg
Only mere steps from the train station is Utrecht’s Biologic Farmers’ Market called Vredenburg in Utrecht’s city centre.
This market features all the typical vendors selling cheese, produce, bread, fabrics, and flowers. Your nose will lead you to some deliciously sweet-smelling food trucks offering traditional Dutch pastries, like Hagelslag, Olieballen (deep-fried fritters), Pofferties, and Stroopwafels.
Days and Hours: Wednesday and Friday from 10 am – 5 pm and Saturday from 8 am – 5 pm
#9 Take a City Canal
Tour Utrecht from the water and see all the sites Utrecht has to offer. Cruise along the Old Canal while listening to the history of Utrecht. Make sure to have your camera ready to capture those amazing views.
Check prices and book your dates for this 1 to 1.5-hour cruise
#10 Dine at Utrecht Best Restaurants
Getting to know a town or city through its cafés and restaurants is always a good idea. Here are some of the best ones to try in Old Town Utrecht:
- Oliver – a café serving up Belgian pub-style food and drink in the former Maria Minor Church
- Le Jardin – a vegetarian French restaurant and flower shop in one. With one bite, you will be transported to France
- Gys – light, airy bistro specializing in vegetarian dishes is a local’s favourite for brunch and lunch
- Syr – a casual bistro-style restaurant serving Middle Eastern and European fusion cuisine that is cooked and served by refugees who have escaped Syria’s civil war
#11 Day Trips from Utrecht
Although it lies on the outskirts of the city, the wonderful Botanical Gardens are certainly worth visiting. Especially if you want to immerse yourself in nature and enjoy some splendid scenery. Part of Utrecht University, the peaceful gardens were founded all the way back in 1639 and have been open for the public to enjoy ever since. Although this is not a free thing to do in Utrecht, it is worthwhile and considered a popular attraction in Utrecht.
Hours + Cost: open daily 10 am – 4:30 pm | Free with Museum card, or €8.5 (adult), €7 (65+), €3.50 (children 13-17)
If you love visiting castles, de Haar Castle is one to seek out. It is the largest castle in the Netherlands and is considered the most attractive. This fairy-tale castle from 1822 is known for its impressive setting too. The grounds feature 135 treed acres, fountains, and a formal garden.
Hours + Cost: open daily 11 am – 5 pm | Free with Museum card, or €19 (adult), €12.5 (children 4-12)
5 Fun Facts about Utrecht Netherlands
- Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands, with a population of over 350,000 people.
- Utrecht is home to the tallest church tower in the Netherlands, the Dom Tower, which stands at a height of 112 m (367 feet).
- Utrecht has a vibrant student population, with over 30,000 students enrolled at the city’s university giving this city a youthful vibe.
- Utrecht has a rich history, dating back to Roman times. The city was once the religious center of the Netherlands, and many historic churches and buildings still stand today.
- Finally, Utrecht is a city of bicycles! With over 220 km (136 miles) of bike paths, Utrecht is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. So grab a bike and explore all that this vibrant and beautiful city has to offer!
FAQ: Visit Utrecht in One Day
Is one day enough for Utrecht?
While one day may not be enough to see everything in Utrecht, you can definitely experience the charm of this beautiful city. Make sure to visit the Dom Tower, explore the canals, and try some local treats like stroopwafels and bitterballen!
Is Utrecht nicer than Amsterdam?
While both Utrecht and Amsterdam have their own unique charm, I personally adore the cozy, quaint vibes of Utrecht. It’s like a hidden gem waiting to be discovered!
How long should I spend in Utrecht?
While any amount of time in Utrecht is worth it! I recommend spending at least 2-3 days to fully immerse yourself. But if you only have a day, make the most of it and enjoy every moment!
More Day Trips from Amsterdam
If you enjoyed the Utrecht day trip be sure to check out these other unmissable places near Amsterdam:
- Take a Haarlem day trip another quintessential Dutch town worth visiting
- Take a day trip to the Dutch Countryside – and visit three typical Dutch villages of Volendam, Edam, Marken
As a holidaymaker
How can you not help but fall in love with this pretty little Dutch city? A city full of history and charm with its beautiful old canal, architecture, and top sites makes Utrecht a perfect day trip from Amsterdam.