Day Trip to Utrecht: A 2024 Must from Amsterdam

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.

If you’re wondering what is there to do in Utrecht? You’ve landed in the right spot.

An Amsterdam to Utrecht day trip will include exploring its winding canals and Utrecht Old Town with its historical sites. While you might only have one day in Utrecht, with a little planning and insider tips I can help you maximize your experience.

If you’re ready to dive into your Utrecht one day itinerary, let’s go!

Is Utrecht Worth Visiting?

canal, tree with buildings in day trip to Utrecht

First things first, if you are wondering if a day trip from Amsterdam to Utrecht is worth it, I’m here to say, absolutely it is!

Utrecht is such a charming little city. It was one of the highlights of my Amsterdam itinerary.

It’s one of those destinations that is almost too pretty for words. Every little square inch is photo-worthy. With its picturesque canals, historic architecture, and cozy cafes, Utrecht has a unique and inviting atmosphere.

Fueled by a vibrant student community of over 30,000 at the local university, the Utrecht exudes a youthful energy. Its rich history, dating back to Roman times, is evident in well-preserved historic churches and buildings, once making it the religious center of the Netherlands. And, Utrecht is another city full of cyclists, featuring over 220 km (136 miles) of bike paths, earning its reputation as one of the world’s most bike-friendly cities.

Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or just want to soak up the local atmosphere, Utrecht is a good choice for all travellers that should not be missed!

How to Take a Day Trip to Utrecht from Amsterdam

canal with bridge on day trip to Utrecht

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 train from Amsterdam to Utrecht Centraal station. The Amsterdam to Utrecht train 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 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.

What to Do in Utrecht in One Day

1. Visit the Dom Church of Utrecht, Netherlands

church with sky on one day in 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.  

Visiting information

📍Achter de Dom 1, 3512 JN Utrecht, Netherlands
🕥 Monday to Saturday from May to September 10 am – 5 pm, October to April 11 am – 4 pm | Sunday year-round 12:30 – 4 pm
Entrance cost: Free
🌟Tip: If you are visiting Utrecht on a Saturday, you can enjoy a music concert held at 3:30 pm

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.

Visiting information

📍Achter de Dom 1, 3512 JN Utrecht, Netherlands
🕥 Monday to Saturday from May to September 10 am – 5 pm, October to April 11 am – 4 pm | Sunday year-round 12:30 – 4 pm
Entrance cost: €12.50
🌟Tip: purchase a combo ticket for €20 and visit both the Dom Tower and Museum Speelklok

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.

Visiting information

📍Domplein 9, 3512 JC Utrecht, Netherlands
🕥 Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am – 4:30 pm
Entrance cost: €12.50
🌟Tip: a ticket from Domtoren will get you a 20% discount on DOMunder and vice versa.

4. Enjoy the Serenity of Pandhof Sinte Marie

statue and gardens in park utrecht one day itinerary

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 of Utrecht.

Visiting information

📍Achter de Dom 1, 3512 JN Utrecht, Netherlands
🕥 Open daily from 10 am – 4 pm
Entrance cost: Free

5. Stroll Along the Old Canal

canal with trees reflecting on day trip to utrecht

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

person on bike in what to do in utrecht for a day

What to do in Utrecht for a day has to include visiting one of the best Utrecht hidden gems – 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 in a day by going off the beaten path and discovering the undiscovered. I think this is one of the best things to do in Utrecht for free.

7. Visit a Museum in Utrecht

canal with flowers and townhouses on day trip to 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.

  • Centraal Museum: an art museum showcasing local artists, past and present
    • Open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am – 5 pm
    • Free with Museumkaart or €15, boo your entrance ticket in advance
  • Miffy Museum: a child’s favourite, featuring the origins of Miffy the rabbit, whose creator was from Utrecht
    • Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am – 5 pm
    • Free with Museumkaart or €7.50, book your entrance ticket in advance
  • Musical Clock Museum or Speelklok: one of the most unusual things to do in Utrecht, this museum is dedicated to music boxes, organs, and crank music players
    • Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am – 5 pm
    • Free with Museumkaart or €13, book your entrance ticket in advance
  • Rietveld Schröder House: is a must for architecture lovers, it is considered one of the icons of the Modern Movement in architecture and is designated as a UNESCO Netherlands World Heritage Site
    • Open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am – 4 pm
    • €19 (but does offer reduced pricing on non-peak days and hours, entrance tickets must be booked in advance
  • Railway museum: is housed in one of Utrecht’s old railway stations and is a must for train enthusiasts
    • Open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am – 5 pm
    • Free with Museumkaart or €7.50, book your entrance tickets in advance

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.

Give into your tempation, they are worth the calories and your Utrecht what to do day wouldn’t be complete without having at least one.

  • Days and Hours: Wednesday and Friday from 10 am – 5 pm and Saturday from 8 am – 5 pm

9. Take a City Canal Boat Cruise

canal with bridge in utrecht day trip

What to see in Utrecht is best seen from the water!

Take a leisurely boat cruise along the Old Canal while listening to the history of Utrecht. Make sure to have your camera ready to capture those amazing views.

10. Dine at Utrecht Best Restaurants

Getting to know a new destination through its food is always top of my list. Here are the ones I recommend checking out in Old Town Utrecht:

  • Oliver – a restaurant serving up Belgian pub-style food and drink in the former Maria Minor Church. This is a must for beer lovers, where there are Belgian beers on tap which I enjoyed in the afternoon
  • Le Jardin – a vegetarian French restaurant and flower shop in one. With one bite, you will be transported to France, this was my pick and the elegant plating was just as delectable as the food
  • 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 for Your Utrecht Itinerary

catherdral and garden in utrecht on a day trip

Botanical Gardens

Although it lies on the outskirts of the city, the beautiful Botanical Gardens are certainly worth it. Especially if you’re anything like me and like to immerse yourself in nature and enjoy some splendid scenery, this is a great option for your Utrecht things to do list.

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 €8.50

Haar Castle

If you love visiting castles, de Haar Castle is one to seek out and add to your day trip Utrecht list. 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, get your entrance tickets

FAQ About 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. Your Utrecht 1 day itinerary can include the Dom Tower, the canals, and trying 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!

How far is Utrecht from Amsterdam?

The distance from Utrecht to Amsterdam is approximately 40 kms (25 miles) by road. Keep in mind that this distance may vary slightly depending on the specific starting and ending points within each city.

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. You will be amazed by what to see in Utrecht in one day.

If you enjoyed this day trip, here are two more that I think you’ll like just as much:

  • 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 Volendam, Edam, Marken

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