Utrecht is lesser known by foreign visitors and is often overshadowed by Amsterdam. However, Utrecht is not to be missed, as it has a lot to offer as a hidden gem. In addition to the typical Dutch canals and a beautiful historic center, there is a lot to see and do in Utrecht. Below you will find the most popular sights and attractions for your trip to Utrecht.

Sightseeing in Utrecht

Utrecht is a beautiful city located in the center of the Netherlands, and easily reachable from other cities such as Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Rotterdam or Arnhem. These are our recommendations for a day-trip (or weekend trip) to Utrecht.

#1 Utrecht Cathedral (Dom Tower)

Utrecht Cathedral (Domtoren) is one of the city’s main landmarks and useful for orientation when navigating the city. Built in the 14th century, it is the oldest church tower in the Netherlands. At 112 meters high, it is also the highest church tower in the country. Climb the 465 steps (no elevator!) of the cathedral tower to the very top, where a magnificent view over Utrecht awaits you. Please note that visits to the top are only possible as part of a one hour guided tour that takes you through the rooms and galleries of the Cathedral Tower. A worthwhile experience, but you should have some time and an interest in history.

Utrecht Dom Tower
Utrecht Dom Tower at Sunset

#2 St. Martin’s Cathedral (Domkerk)

St. Martin’s Cathedral (Domkerk) and its tower once formed the largest cathedral in the Netherlands. In 1674 a tornado separated  the cathedral and the tower, today they are separated by a square, the Domplein. The French style Gothic cathedral contains many murals from the period as well as a medieval courtyard with a well-kept garden and a small fountain.

St. Martin's Cathedral (Domerk)
St. Martin’s Cathedral (Domkerk)

#3 DOMunder

DOMunder is an excavation site that lets you look back on over 2000 years of history of Utrecht. DOMunder is located underground, below the cathedral square. An impressive journey through time awaits you here: you’ll be able to explore the construction of the Castellum Traiectum which was built by the Romans around 45 AD and time travel up upon the devastating storm of 1674 that separated the cathedral tower from the cathedral itself. The visit lasts about 75 minutes.

Our tip: Do you already have a ticket for the cathedral? Then enjoy a 20% discount on the ticket price at DOMunder!

#4 Canal Cruise

In Utrecht you will find the canals typical in the Netherlands, which play an important role in the cityscape. Most worth seeing is the Oudegracht, which is about 2 kilometers long and runs through the old part of Utrecht. A canal cruise in Utrecht allows you to see the facades of the famous canal houses and wharf cellars from the water, the ideal perspective, making the experience particularly worthwhile. There are many companies that offer canal cruises.

Is the weather nice and do you feel like spending a little more time on the canals? In addition to the guided canal cruises, you can also rent a boat or canoe and explore the canals of Utrecht on your own with friends or family.

Utrecht Grachten
Explore the canals by boat

#5 Bank of the Canals

The canals aren’t the only thing worth seeing in Utrecht, the banks are also a lovely place to spend some time! The banks are what distinguishes the canals of Utrecht from those of Amsterdam. Walk down the canal stairs and you will find canal houses and wharf cellars, as well as many restaurants and cafés where you can enjoy a drink or meal in a unique atmosphere.

#6 Canal Houses and Cellars

Traditional canal houses can be found in Utrecht along the Oudegracht (literally: old canal) and the Nieuwegracht (literally: new canal), both located in the center of Utrecht. There are still more than 700 wharf cellars, in the basement of canal houses which once served as Utrecht’s storage space. Many of the wharf cellars in the old city are now used as cafés or restaurants as well as residential and commercial premises. There are also a few hotels located in wharf cellars.

Canals and Canal Houses
View of the canals and canal houses

#7 Stroll Through the Old Town

The city center of Utrecht is a great representation of the Dutch lifestyle and very manageable in size, so it is best to explore on foot. Walk along the canals, admire the cathedral tower and enjoy the cozy atmosphere of the city. Especially in the old part of the city there are numerous small shops and boutiques selling clothes, antiques, books and more, a nice change from the big fashion chains.

Utrecht Netherlands
The city center of Utrecht on a sunny day
Utrecht City Center
Make sure to explore the many side streets in the city centre

#8 Culture & Events

Utrecht is an interesting place for festival lovers. In the Jaarbeurs Event and Exhibition Centre, well renowned fairs, exhibitions and other events take place throughout the year. Once a year Utrecht hosts the festival De Parade and a food truck festival, which can be found in other large cities such as Rotterdam.

In the Area

Utrecht is more than just a city, it is the capital of the province with whom it shares a name. The city of Utrecht is surrounded by impressive nature, forests, castles and waterways. Don’t forget a visit to the Kasteel de Haar, the largest castle in the Netherlands.

The beautiful green landscapes and villages east of Utrecht are also worth a visit! Enjoy a cycle through nature, take a tour of the Rhijnauwen (fortress) or walk through the beautiful forests and sand dunes of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park. If you travel with your dog, the Soesterduinen will surely be appreciated by your four-legged friend!

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