Utrecht: a Day Trip to a Quintessential Dutch Town | DreamPlanExperience.com
Netherlands

Utrecht – a Day Trip to a Quintessential Dutch Town

Charming would be the one word I would use to describe this quintessential Dutch town just outside of Amsterdam. The town’s historic center is small and compact, making it very possible to experience all of its attractions easily within one day. It’s definitely one of the most enchanting and photogenic places I have ever visited. I immediately fell in love with this lovely town, let me tell (and show) you why.

Utrecht: a Day Trip to a Quintessential Dutch Town | DreamPlanExperience.com

I arrived by train, a short 25 minutes from Amsterdam. The train station is connected to a large shopping mall, 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. After a mere couple of steps I fell upon a local market. I adore European market days! So, of course, I had to check it out. It featured all your typical vendors selling cheese, produce, bread, fabrics and flowers; and also, deliciously sweet-smelling food trucks offering traditional Dutch pastries, like Hagelslag, Olieballen, Pofferties and Stroopwafels. A couple of Olieballen (deep fried fritters) later, I was on my way to find the historic town center.

Utrecht: a Day Trip to a Quintessential Dutch Town | DreamPlanExperience.com

This town has a rich and interesting history dating back to the Middle Ages, and even before that. Historians believe that the first inhabitants date all the way back to the Stone Age, earlier than 2000 BC. For many, many centuries, Utrecht was considered the heart of the Netherlands. It was the top city. It had a large population size of 300,000 people within the province of Utrecht and it was home to main offices of both the Catholic and Protestant faiths. It wasn’t until the 17th century, during the Dutch Golden Age, that it was replaced by Amsterdam.

Utrecht: a Day Trip to a Quintessential Dutch Town | DreamPlanExperience.com

The town’s (and the Netherlands) most notable landmark is the Dom Tower, built between 1321 and 1382, sits in the middle of the historic town center. It’s the highest and oldest church tower in the Netherlands, soaring at 112 meters (or 367 feet). The tower was originally part of a 14th to 15th century cathedral complex, but due to a freak hurricane in 1674 it was blown down and never rebuilt. The tower allows you to climb the 465 steps to the top for unbeatable views, which on a clear day stretch as far as Amsterdam. There is currently major restoration work being done (fall 2019), both at the bottom and top of the tower, and sadly we did not visit. Even the ringing of the 13 bells, that weigh between 880 and 18,000 pounds, have been temporarily stopped. 

Utrecht: a Day Trip to a Quintessential Dutch Town | DreamPlanExperience.com

Right next to the Dom square is the peaceful medieval monastery garden called Pandhof. In the center of this beautiful garden is a fountain with a bronze statue, of priest Hugo Wstinc, sitting and writing. It is one of the most idyllic spots to sit and relax.

Utrecht: a Day Trip to a Quintessential Dutch Town | DreamPlanExperience.com

East of the Dom Quarter is a peaceful side of the city with little alleyways, pretty houses, and tiny little shops. It is mostly residential, but I loved wandering about. You will also discover Utrecht’s first church, St. Peter’s Church, built in 1048.

Utrecht: a Day Trip to a Quintessential Dutch Town | DreamPlanExperience.com

Definitely what sets this city apart is the beautiful Oudegracht (or old canal) that flows right through the city’s center. 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. I spent hours just strolling along the picturesque double level canal and to me, this is what made Utrecht so special.   

Utrecht: a Day Trip to a Quintessential Dutch Town | DreamPlanExperience.com

Utrecht’s 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. Unfortunately, we didn’t visit either, as I couldn’t tear myself away from just strolling this beautiful town.

Utrecht: a Day Trip to a Quintessential Dutch Town | DreamPlanExperience.com

So hopefully I have convinced you…Utrecht makes for a perfect day trip to a quintessential Dutch town. With its rich and interesting history, its beautiful old canal, its plethora of amazing restaurants and cafes; how can you not help but fall in love with this pretty little town?

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35 Comments

  • Sandra Papas

    The canals in Holland look so pretty and so tranquil always make me so annoyed that I haven’t yet been there! Ulrecht sounds like a great idea for a day trip and 25 minutes on the train is incredibly convenient!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Well Sandra, it sounds like you need to plan a trip! And, if you are looking for tranquility you might consider staying in Utrecht and taking the train to Amsterdam as a day trip! Thanks for commenting.

  • Sage

    I’ve been to that church! Your photos make me miss the heck out of living in this gorgeous country. The canals, the bicycles, the frites mit mayonnaise — I miss it all nearly every day!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Well, hopefully I have captured it accurately and the way you remember it. I loved visiting the Netherlands, and can see why you might miss it! Thanks so much for your comment.

  • Ketki

    I went to Utrecht for a day trip and I totally loved it. Though it was freezing, I loved my time at Dom Toren. The shopping mall by the station is so addictive, I ended up buying so much which was cheaper than Amsterdam so it was a steal 😉 Great post!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thanks Ketki, I am so glad you agree with me! I thought it made for a great day trip too! The only downside for us was that the Dom was under renovation, so no photos and couldn’t go to the lookout. I hope to return. Thanks for commenting.

  • Candy

    We recently visited Amsterdam and wish we had time to visit Utrecht. It’s great that it’s only a short half-hour away and that it can be explored within a day. The shopping mall that is connected to the train station sounds very similar to the station in Singapore i. I love how picturesque the entire town is and would love to visit Dom Tower.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thanks Candi for your comment, and its too bad you weren’t in Amsterdam long enough to enjoy a couple of day trips outside of the city. People told us it’s just like Amsterdam but without the crowds. It definitely is a picturesque town and wish I had been able to climb the Dom Tower. But maybe a returned trip is in order.

  • Dani

    I LOVE these photos! The Dom Tower is just stunning. I’m a huge gothic architecture nerd, and that is a perfect example of it. I tend to fly into and out of Amsterdam a lot – I will need to include this as a day trip next time!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you so much for your comment, I appreciate you taking the time and I am glad it may inspire future travels.

  • Jamie Italiane

    So sad I missed this city when I visited this year. I especially love gardens and one by that amazing church would be lovely. Is the church still active? The grand church in the small city we visited was completely empty inside, which was so odd to me.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for your comment Jamie. It is too bad you were not able to visit this city when in Netherlands, but hopefully you are able to return. Yes, indeed the garden sanctuary is so lovely. The attached cathedral is still active, although there are so many churches in this small town, I doubt they ever fill it. Thanks for stopping by.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you so much for your comment Rob and Ann. Glad to hear I am not the only one who would want to get lost in those pretty canals.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for your comment Margo. Hopefully you enjoyed Netherlands enough to return. We did, and will definitely return to explore more.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      I am always happy to inspire Carole, and so happy to know you would fall in love with Utrecht too! Thank you for your comment.

  • Jay Artale

    It’s somewhere I was aware of, but not a place I would have considered visiting … so thanks for those amazing photos to inspire me to add it to my list of places for 2020 Renee.

  • Kevin | Caffeinated Excursions

    Utrecht looks so beautiful! I always love to get out of city centers and explore surrounding towns, so this would definitely be my kind of place. The Dom Tower looks so ornate, and I’d be sure to stroll along the canal as well. Thanks for sharing!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Kevin for your comment! And, I am so glad you love to explore those places outside of the city centre too.

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