What to do in Utrecht – A weekend in the historic city

boat on the canals in utrecht
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Planning a weekend in Utrecht or just considering where to visit next in the Netherlands? Utrecht is a beautiful city and a great choice for a relaxing short break away. In this guide, I share what to do in Utrecht as where to stay and where to eat.

Add these things to your Utrecht itinerary to ensure a fantastic weekend.

boat on the canals in utrecht

What to do in Utrecht – A weekend guide

How To Get To Utrecht from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

Just 27-minute direct train journey from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (37 minutes from Rotterdam), Utrecht is easily accessible.

A single train journey costs $8.60 and tickets are easily obtained from all machines. Trains run frequently (44 a day on average)  and stops are highlighted to ensure you alight at Utrecht Centraal.

Train travel across Holland is reliable, affordable and tickets can easily be purchased in advance from Trainline.com.

Where to stay in Utrecht

If you are looking for a boutique hotel then book into the Mother Goose. The Mother Goose Hotel is centrally located and boasts fresh Scandi decor throughout. Due to the structure of the hotel rooms are reached by a steep staircase, however, there is a small elevator available as well.

a room at the mother goose hotel in utrecht, a great place to stay during a weekend in utrecht

If you are looking for budget accommodation in Utrecht, as always, I would recommend the StayOkay Central. StayOkay branches are located all across The Netherlands and off clean, safe budget private rooms as well as hostel dorm rooms.


 The top activities to do in Utrecht

Climb the Dom Tower

Utrecht is the religious centre of The Netherlands, and at the centre of it at 112 metres (465 steps, there is no lift) high is the Gothic Dom Tower. The tower was part of the St. Martin’s Cathedral, also known as Dom Church, and was built between 1321 and 1382. The cathedral was never fully completed due to lack of money. Since the unfinished nave collapsed in 1674 the Dom tower became a free-standing tower.

As part of your guided tour, you visit the fourteen swinging bells which are still rung each week by hand to this day. After climbing to 80 metres you can find the Carillon, a majestic instrument created from more bells, which is played each week by the local Malgosia Fiebig, the majority of times more traditional music is played, however on occasion the music of David Bowie has flowed from the windows and down to the people below.

Once you finally reach the top and recatch your breath you are rewarded with a magnificent view that reaches both Amsterdam and Rotterdam on a clear day.

The beautiful view from the top of the Dom Tower

Rent Bikes

Do as the Dutch do and ride bikes, like the rest of the country, cycling is the most common form of transportation in Utrecht. Cycling is one of the most popular things to do in Utrecht. Bikes can be rented (€10 per day) from the VVV centre (tourist information located behind the Dom Tower) and cycle lanes are placed throughout the city to ensure safety.

Cycling in Utrecht is much calmer and safer than cycling in Amsterdam, making it a great place for beginners.

Spend a warm day at Soia

Soia is a social hotspot during the summer months in Utrecht, a makeshift beach set alongside the river. Soia makes the perfect location to head to for a bite to eat over a table tennis game or for dancing the evening away, a glass of wine in hand, at the silent disco.

However, if mindfulness is also your thing, on a Saturday morning you can practice Yoga by the water’s edge. If you are looking for what to do in Utrecht during the summer, then Soia is a must.

Shop independent

Like I noticed in The Hague, Utrecht is filled with independent shops, small shops filled with quirky gifts, shops that looked like botanical gardens, and many stores filled to the brim with all kinds of board games.

One of which even had an escape room nestled towards the back, ensuring Utrecht is on the map for the latest trend of Escape Room tourism.

independant flower shop in utrecht, netherlands

Independent stores are something I have noticed a lot throughout The Netherlands and are a very common sight along with the popular high street stores Hema and Pull & Bear.

Dom Underground

Dom Underground takes you through the large pillar foundations of the Gothic Dom Cathedral to discover the 2000 years of history under the Dom Square. Torches are used to activate stories and animated films, while you inspect all the archaeological finds.

Dom Underground is one of the top things to do in Utrecht with kids.

Canoe down the canals

An alternative way to see the city is via canoe, you can rent a canoe from €5 pp per hour and for a maximum of €12 pp for a full day (prices are inclusive of a waterways map and a waterproof bag).

Canoes are rented from the centrally located wharf on Oudegracht 4, then you are left to your own devices, seeing Utrecht by water really gives a different perspective to the city, follow your map towards the Amelisweerd district for more natural landscapes.

canoes on the canals of utrecht

Visit De Haar Castle

This incredible neo-gothic castle in Utrecht’s northern periphery was designed by Pierre Cuypers whose illustrious portfolio also includes several other Dutch masterpieces such as the Rijksmuseum and Amsterdam’s Centraal Station.

How to get to De Haar Castle from Utrecht

From Utrecht Centraal, board the train to Den Haag Centraal and alight at Vleuten train station. From here you will need to take the 111 Bus to stop Kasteel de Haar.


 Where To Eat In Utrecht

Street Food Club

The Street Food Club is the definition of cool. A beautiful, colourful location serving delicious street food. The interior design is a collection of bright pinks and greens with florals and lush succulents using to pull it all together.

poached eggs at the street food club, one of the best places to eat in utrecht

Due to its popularity, The Street Food Club is always busy. Brunch offers classic varieties such as smashed avocado and poached eggs, whereas lunch and dinner a street food menu is served, offering a food trip through Mexico to the streets of Bangkok.

PK Bar and Kitchen

Located alongside the central cancel, PK Bar and Kitchen offers a beautiful view as well as fantastic food.

burger at pk kitchen and bar utrecht

Offering a gourmet pub-style menu, fit for both carnivores and vegetarians, PK’s seems to be another hot spot with the locals in Utrecht. My recommendation would be their fantastic veggie burger with thick-cut chips and the ‘lady-killer’ for dessert.

Anan Kitchen

Anan kitchen is a little bit of South East Asia in Utrecht and definitely somewhere to visit if you enjoy this type of food.

Anan Kitchen offers an amazing array of choices for vegetarians, even down to the choice of mock meat or tofu, and the authentic taste of their Pho along a chilled Saigon Red will take you straight back to Asia. Alongside the fantastic food is adorable decor which instantly reminded me of being back in Hanoi.

Bagels and Beans

Bagels and Beans is actually a chain cafe throughout the Netherlands, but in Utrecht is perfectly placed in the quiet back streets, making it a lovely place to start your day with a light breakfast.

I spent an early morning here with a cream cheese bagel, a fresh mint tea and my book, many of the people around me seemed to be doing the same, the relaxed, peaceful atmosphere set me up wholly for the day ahead.

Utrecht is one of the smaller Dutch cities, however, what it lacks in size it makes up for in personality. Alongside Rotterdam, Utrecht is my favourite city in The Netherlands, it is tranquil and pretty but still with plenty of things to do. A short weekend in Utrecht is the perfect amount of time to see the city and a great next stop if you have already explored Amsterdam.

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