Utrecht has an extensive number of cultural events an old town encircled by a medieval canal and numerous cafés, restaurants and shops and interesting museums. Despite all it has to offer, it remains, as the travel guide Lonely Planet describes it, “bizarrely under-visited”. Don’t let that deter from visiting. Instead, use it to your advantage and take a side trip from Amsterdam to discover this wonderfully pleasant city in the heart of the Netherlands.
History and Culture of Utrecht, Holland
Utrecht was the Netherlands’ ecclesiastic center since the 8th century, and there is no better symbol of the city’s religious influence than Domtoren (Dom Tower). Climbing the nearly 500 steps of what is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands will provide spectacular panoramic views of Utrecht. The central nave that once connected Domtoren to the beautiful Gothic church, Domkerk (Dom church), was destroyed in a tornado in 1674 and never rebuilt, and today Domplein (Dom Square) exists in its stead.
Not far from Domkerk is Utrecht’s Centraal Museum. Founded in 1838, it is the oldest municipal museum in the Netherlands and houses an impressive collection that consists of works by Dick Bruna, the creator of the beloved Dutch cartoon character, Miffy, some of the old masters who lived in Utrecht, as well as modern art and fashion.
Utrecht is also where The National Museum van Speelklok is located. This one-of-a-kind museum is a “living collection of mechanical music” and has carillon clocks, music boxes of all shapes and sizes, pianolas and the largest collection of full-sized street organs!
Just outside of Utrecht lies the splendid, centuries-old De Haar Castle, a wonderful option for a family outing. In addition to guided tours, which are available in English on Sundays, children will enjoy the castle’s park, where they can find loot in the organized treasure hunt, or instead, get lost in a labyrinth.
In a country known for its multiple and picturesque canals, the ones of Utrecht are quite unique.
Getting to Utrecht
Utrecht is 50 minutes by train from Amsterdam, a major transportation hub for the Netherlands and within an hour of every major attraction in Holland.