Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands, with a population of more than 300,000. It has a large student population and is known for its exciting nightlife. It is also a city with beautiful architecture and a long history, dating back to Roman times.
Head to Janskerkhof Square or Oudkerkhof for the best clubs in the city.
Rent a canal bike to pedal around the city's canals and gain a unique perspective on Utrecht.
You can buy a map of walking routes for EUR3 at the tourist information center. These will guide you through the best of the city, explaining its history, and lead you to some hidden beauty spots.
The Trajectum Lumen is a series of artistically lit city locations which makes an evening stroll through Utrecht particularly enjoyable.
The Dom Tower dates from the 13th century and you can climb 112 meters to the top for some stunning views of the city.
Located in the popular Museum Quarter, Centraal Museum is the oldest art museum in the Netherlands, hosting many permanent and rotating exhibits. The museum was created in 1838, and today focuses mainly on pieces from local artists. This includes a large collection of Rietveld designs and a permanent installation by Dick Bruna. There are also several speaker series, workshops, and short films that are shown on site, so its worth your while to check out the museum's calendar of events before visiting.
Treat yourself to a royal countryside retreat at De Haar Castle, northwest of Utrecht. The original castle dates back to the 13th century, but most of the building you see today underwent a Neo-Gothic restoration in the late 19th century. Inside you'll find ornate woodcarvings, rare works of art, and lavishly rich textiles. The gardens were also restored to their original glory after much destruction in World War 2, and have fountain paths and curated paths similar to those at the Palace of Versailles. Until 2000, De Haar castle was owned by the prestigious Van Zuylen family, but has since been handed over to governmental museum conservationists.
St. Martins Cathedral, otherwise referred to as Dom Church, has been the central point of worship for Dutch protestants since the 15th century. Over the years it has been repeatedly damaged by fires and faulty building, though it's pre-reformation Gothic architecture continues to attract visitors. The cathedral is especially welcoming on Saturday afternoons, when vocalists and musicians join together to make the calm and universally appealing Zaterdagmiddagmuziek. These weekend concert sessions are free to the public, and offer a great way to feel part of the larger city community. Fun travel tip: try climbing to the top of Dom Tower, 112 meters high, for some incredible views of Utrecht.
Spend a night on the town and enjoy a performance at the newly minted TivoliVrendenburg contemporary music hall. The venue has superb acoustics and pop, jazz, and classical music concerts are held regularly. To give exposure to local talent, there is also a stage for amateur performances. The TivoliVrendenburg welcomes both domestic and internationally acclaimed artists to share their work, making it a sought-out venue for top tier entertainment in Utrecht.
Established in 1636, Utrecht University is one of the oldest in the Netherlands. It has large research laboratories and offers many different fields of study. The gardens associated with the university are situated in two different locations; the main garden at Fort Hoofddijk in Uithof and the Von Gimborn Arboretum in Doorn. Depending on the location, you will find bee hotels, tropical greenhouses, rock gardens and more within this green haven. The Utrecht University Botanical Gardens serve a dual purpose of conducting research for natural sustainability and biodiversity, as well as providing a recreational outlet for visitors to enjoy the plants.
A mild European climate makes Utrecht a great all year round destination. The weather is warmest between June and September but can get chilly - and many out-of-town attractions can be closed - between November and March.
Utrecht's nearest airport is Schipol at Amsterdam. A high speed rail link leaves every 30 minutes from the airport and the 30 minute journey costs EUR8. An airport cab will cost around EUR100 but a pre-booked taxi can be as low as EUR50.
Utrecht is at the center of the Dutch rail network and has excellent connections. An express fare to Amsterdam will cost from EUR8.
Utrecht is centrally located in the Netherlands and has good road links west to The Hague on the A12, North to Amsterdam on the A2 and South to Eindhoven, also on the A2. The A1 runs to the east of the country.
The city bus station, Busstation CS Centrumzijde, is next to the train station and has good regional connections. A pre-booked bus from Amsterdam can cost as little as EUR7.
Hostel Strowis on Boothstraat is a good central option with dorm beds from EUR15.50. Grand Hotel Karel V on Geertebolwerk is a five star luxury hotel with rooms from EUR200.
Ijisselstei - is perfect for those seeking a quieter location. It is close to the Loosdrechtse Plassen lakes and has some excellent hiking trails nearby.
The Old Town - has excellent architecture, restaurants and bars and is great for exploring the city on foot.
Leidsche Rij - is an up and coming new neighborhood with good transport links to the city center.
Utrecht is easily explored on foot but also has an extensive bus network with fares from EUR2.70.
Taxis are reliable, if a little expensive. The starting fare is EUR7 and you will then pay EUR3 per mile.
Driving in Utrecht is not recommended. City planners have designed the city with many pedestrian zones, one-way streets and bus lanes. Parking is expensive. Car rental will cost around EUR80 per day.
You will find the best shopping around Neude, Oudegracht and Vredeburg. Hoog Catharijne is a large mall at the train station, where you can find lots of fashion, electrical and homeware stores.
A quart of milk in Utrecht will cost EUR0.88 and a loaf of bread EUR1.20.
Try the traditional Dutch pancakes at De Oude Muntkelder on Oude Gracht. Mains are around EUR10. Florent on Visschersplein is a stylish restaurant serving modern European food with mains from EUR15.