What to do in Utrecht

Things to do in Utrecht – Utrecht is a beautiful compact city, ideal for walking and biking.

Griftpark, a short walk from our house, has farm animals, playgrounds for toddlers and older kids, a pond with ducks, a skateboard park, (One of the largest in the Netherlands) a basketball court, a small hill, a nature area and a restaurant we’ve eaten at many times.  People bring out their grills in the summertime and hang out by the pond. It’s a nice park for jogging.IMG_4067IMG_4065


Explore tiny alleyways leading to hidden courtyards and gardens.



Walk or bike along the Oudegracht (Old canal) and catch an impromptu musical performance.


Join a free Historical Walking Tour of Utrecht.  Paul and Rebecca have been on several of them.IMG_6016

Climb 465 steps to the top of the Domtoren, (Cathedral Tower) for a beautiful panoramic view of the city and the surrounding countryside.IMG_0878IMG_0879IMG_0763

Looking through the passageway of the Domtoren.

Rear of theDomkerk

IMG_7175Courtyard Garden at Domkerk (St Martin’s CathedralIMG_7177

Visit a museum.
Railway Museum Click on English option. This museum is great. It is located in a no longer used train station.IMG_7153

MuseumSpeelklok    Museum of self-playing musical instruments. We love this museum.IMG_7183

Windmill Museum (Molen de Ster), a working 18th-century wind-driven sawmill next to the city center. The only working sawmill in the Netherlands. Click on English option. On Saturdays, volunteers operate the windmill, sawing large logs for clients.

Utrecht’s working sawmill, Molen de Ster.

Miffy Museum   Home of the beloved Dutch children’s book character, Miffy. The author and illustrator Dick Bruna , recently deceased, was an Utrecht native.IMG_4108

Grocery Museum  A 19th century grocery. First link is in Dutch. This link is in English.

Sonnenborgh   19th century observatory and home to the Royal Dutch Meteorological Society. The museum was built on a 16th century bastion of the old city wall.IMG_5361

Art museums, Central Museum , Museum Catharijneconvent and Universiteits Museum UtrechtIMG_7169IMG_7165IMG_7167

Go to the theater.
 Tivoli Contemporary music complex with five theaters.

Beatrix Theater Utrecht   musicals, concerts and shows

 Theater De Paardenkathedraal here in Wittevrouwen

Theater Kikker contemporary theater, modern dance and youth theater.IMG_7136

Het Werftheater cabaret, stand-up comedy and improvIMG_7122

Watch Art and contemporary films at theaters within easy walking or biking distance. Click on English option for Hardlooper and Springhaver.

Louis Hartlooper ComplexIMG_5903


Stadsschouwburg Utrecht IMG_7142

Bioscoop IMG_7130

Wander through Utrecht’s markets, the Fabric Market, the largest in the Netherlands, the beautiful Flower Market in the picturesque Janskerkhof (church square) and the Food Markets at Vredenburg

Visit a Verkeerstuin, a  Traffic Garden  for children.

Go Bowling in the heart of Utrecht

IMG_7179or play pool at two billiard halls. PoolCafé Hart Van Utrecht next to OudegrachtIMG_7135, and  Ozebi  in a hidden courtyard just off nearby Biltstraat, situated in a former swimming pool.IMG_7138

Play Ping Pong and board games. The site is in Dutch. There are photos.

Window shop In Utrecht Center on pedestrian shopping streets closed to cars.

Poke around in second-hand clothing and bric-a-brac stores along the Oudegracht.

Enjoy coffee or a beer at sidewalk cafes while watching streams of people walking and biking.

Listen to the quarterly bells and carillon of the Domtoren. Hear bells from other Utrecht churches. Make a game of discovering where those bell are coming from.

Enter the Dom Cathedral and the other old churches open to the public.

Rent an electric boat, pedal boat, kayak or take a guided cruise on the canals and River Vecht and the Krommerijn River leading out into the countryside.IMG_7124IMG_7189


Look for festivals in the public squares and parks that occur continuously throughout the warmer months.

Walking  & Bicycling in Utrecht Provence
Walking, (strolling/sauntering) called wandeling in Dutch, is a popular activity. Large nature areas just outside of the city are easily reached by a short bike ride, bicycle racks are available at the entrances.  Marked walking trails  pass through fields and woods.  For multi-day walks, there is an extensive walking network of marked paths, called wandeling routes, throughout the Netherlands.
Throughout the city of Utrecht and out into the countryside and beyond to the whole of the Netherlands is a connected network of bike-ways

Here is a short list of destinations that are a short bike ride from our house in Utrecht –

Many city parks. My favorite is Voorveldse Polder, which has a super nice water feature that includes a pond with two small islands reachable by a shaky log bridge on chains, or a child-powered ferry, and a serpentine water channel down a slope into a small estuary at the pond’s edge.IMG_7080IMG_7082



Stately Houses on the rivers

Slot Zuylen is one of the oldest castles on the Vecht River.  Some history which I translated from the website. –The history of Slot Zuylen begins around the year 1250. Then Steven van Zuylen built a donjon along the Vecht, a square residential tower with walls of 2.70 meters thick. The foundations were dug up during a restoration and are still visible visible on the terrace.IMG_0203IMG_0284

A remarkable resident of  the castle was Belle Van Zuylen, a feminist and author with views, centuries ahead of her times. Isabelle Agneta Elisabeth van Tuyll ,was born on October 20, 1740, better known as the writer Belle van Zuylen. She lived in Slot Zuylen until she was 31, usually excluding the winters: the family spent it in the canal house on the Kromme Nieuwegracht in Utrecht.IMG_6026

Compared to other noble girls, Belle had a wide interest. She attended physics classes at Utrecht University (because women were not really allowed to study) and took private math classes. In addition to writing, studying and philosophizing, she was involved in drawing, composing and gardening.

Belles enlightened ideas often clashed with the traditional views of her family and class. She discovered that when she published her first book in 1762: Le Noble, in which she satirically described the stuck habits in the noble environment. When it became known that his daughter was the author of the anonymous published novella, Belle’s father had the remaining copies destroyed to prevent further shame.

Belle also had modern ideas about marriage. She briefly expressed her views in a letter to the Scottish writer James Boswell, who unsuccessfully made her a proposal: “I have no talent for subordination.” He had set a condition for their marriage that Belle would not have contact with other men without his permission. This was not an option for the pressure corresponding Belle. For years she wrote letters with her ‘secret love’ Constant d’Hermenches. She had met him at a ball where she asked him to dance, but her parents forbade her from dealing with it, by the way not incomprehensible: he was married and much older than Belle.

In 1771 Belle finally married the Swiss Charles-Emmanuel de Charrière, the former home teacher of her brothers. Because of his lower noble status, this is not an ideal choice for her father, but a literate man who, moreover, allowed her complete freedom. Shortly after their marriage in the chapel of Zuilen they settled in Colombier near Neuchâtel (Switzerland). Belle has lived there for most of her later life and created most of her oeuvre, although she also lived in Geneva and Paris for periods. The marriage remained childless.
Because French was the language of the nobility and the international working language of her time, Belle wrote all her books in that language. The advantage of this was that it could be read throughout Europe. Internationally she has become known as Isabelle de Charrière. After a period of oblivion, interest in Belle van Zuylen has revived. The publication of her Collected Works (in French), a biography and various Dutch translations make her oeuvre widely accessible. In 2004 she was proclaimed the largest Utrechter of all time and in 2005 her 200th year of death was extensively commemorated.

Fort De Bilt,  Fort Aan De Klop,  Fort bij Vechten and Fort Rhijnauwen close to Utrecht are all part of the Waterline defense strategy.IMG_5372IMG_2809

The Waterline Museum  IMG_4405IMG_4409IMG_4425

Kasteel de Haar   The largest castle in the Netherlands (click on English)

The popular pancake house, Theehuisrhijnauwen,  situated in the middle of the forest of Rhijnauwen with a view over the river De Krommerijn

On really hot days, in the 80’s, (there were a few last Summer), there is a nearby swimming pool, a nearby swimming hole and a good bike ride away is a fantastic swimming area, at a man-made lake called, Maarsseveensche Plassen.IMG_4420IMG_4417IMG_4435

De Stijl Bicycle Route, Mondriaan meets Rietveld  is a fifteen mile bike route (one way) linking ten sculptures. The route begins near our house in Utrecht and ends in AmersfoortIMG_7106

For people wishing more energetic biking, there are amazing bike trails to and within the Utrechtse Heuvelrug.  The site is in Dutch but there are photos and it’s a starting point for further explorations


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