The Dutch province of Utrecht is situated right in the middle of the Netherlands. It may be the smallest of all the Dutch provinces, but it’s also the oldest. If you want to visit a province that offers centuries-old structures, nature reserves, and ultra-modern cities, then the Utrecht province is for you. Discover the best things to see and do in the Utrecht province below.
Sights and Activities in the Utrecht Province
1. Utrecht City
Utrecht city is the capital of the Utrecht province. It’s perfect for a day trip or an extended weekend trip. The Dom Tower, the most famous landmark of Utrecht city, is also the country’s highest church tower. Starting in the 14th century, it was never finished due to spiraling costs. In 1674, a tornado devastated the area and disconnected the church and tower!
Similar to Amsterdam, Utrecht is full of canals, the famous Dutch grachten. A canal cruise in Utrecht allows you to see the facades of the famous canal houses and wharf cellars from the water.
Learn more about the best things to do in Utrecht city.
Amersfoort is a smaller but lovely city with a historic charm. Similar to Utrecht, Amersfoort is full of historic buildings, monuments, lovely canals, and shopping opportunities. The Koppelpoort, a water gate that dates back to the 1400s, is the main sight in Amersfoort.
Another must-see is the Tower of our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwentoren). At 322 feet, it’s one of the highest medieval church towers in the Netherlands. During your visit, take note of the 12 consoles around the tower. It depicts various persons associated with the province of Utrecht in general, or with the church itself in particular.
If you have more time, a visit to the Amersfoort zoo as well as the world-famous Mondriaanhuis is also recommended.
3. De Haar Castle
Haarzuilens is a village in the Utrecht province. It may be small, but it boasts the famous De Haar Castle, which is the largest castle in the Netherlands. The history of the castle dates back to the late 1300s. Covering more than 135 acres of land, it offers visitors plenty of themed gardens, lakes, canals, and bridges. The castle itself, of course, is a must-see due to its medieval charm. Various events are held throughout the year so do check what’s on before you visit.
4. Pyramide of Austerlitz
Constructed by the soldiers of Napoleon in 1804 in Woudenberg, the Pyramid of Austerlitz is a 36-meter-high pyramid with a stone obelisk on top. Climb the 81 steps of the pyramid for a great view of the surrounding woods.
The forest area around Austerlitz is wonderful for long walks, with or without a dog.
5. Utrecht Heuvelrug National Park
If you long for peace and quiet in the middle of seemingly never-ending scenic areas, then a visit to the Utrecht Heuvelrug National Park is a must.
The national park is famous for its origins. It was formed during an Ice Age thousands of years ago and is pretty much untainted. That is, the woods are not ‘landscaped’ so the forest has naturally evolved year after year. This of course offers visitors different kinds of flora and fauna to admire.
Utrechtse Heuvelrug is quite big. It stretches from the city of Veenendaal until Zeist. There are countless hiking and cycling trails you can choose to take.
6. Recreational Water Activities
If your sea legs are calling to you, then it would please you to know that there are plenty of water-related activities to do all over Utrecht.
The Henschotermeer is a swimming lake right in the middle of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug forests near Woudenberg. Note that dogs are not allowed here. Since the lake is well maintained (including a sandy beach), there’s an admission fee of €3.25 (per person) between 1st April and 30th September. During the winter months, entry is free.
The Loosdrechtse Plassen in Loosdrecht is perfect for swimming, kayaking, windsurfing, boating, and many other water sports. You can rent a boat and sail by yourself or take a guided boat tour. If boating is not for you, you can simply visit and enjoy the terrace scene, which is dotted with various cafes and restaurants.
The De Vecht runs through the province of Utrecht, starting at Weersluis and ending in Muiden at the IJsselmeer. It’s a river that offers excellent scenic views of Utrecht. Guided boat tours are advised, but you can also just explore parts of the river bank by bike or on foot.
Getting Around Utrecht
Dutchies love to bike – everywhere. And thanks to this, various cycling routes are available. Choose your distance (10 km to 30+ km) and your scenic preference (through the city or woods) and there’s bound to be a biking or cycling route for it.
Just like any major province in the Netherlands, Utrecht offers fantastic waterways. As such, there are plenty of boat tours available if you want to explore the province via its canal belt. Although you can go solo and explore on your own by renting a pedal boat, a guided boat tour is recommended if you’re new to the region.
Of course, you can also explore Utrecht on foot! There’s so much to see and absorb in Utrecht that perhaps a slower pace is what you prefer. Go through the woods and past castles and country estates via the Kromme Rijnpad route (29 km) or take a short city walkthrough in Vianen (3 km). There’s even an Amersfoort fotoroute (2.5 km), for IG-worthy moments.
Accommodations in Utrecht
Utrecht offers accommodations for every budget, from budget lodgings to 5-start hotels. If you’re up for a bit of adventure, boutique hotels (e.g. a stay in a loft, wine bar, art hotel, etc.) are also available throughout the province.