When we visited Amsterdam at the end of February, it was my third time in the Dutch capital. While we were there, we planned to see Lana Del Rey, but unfortunately she cancelled her tour the day we flew out. There wasn’t much that I wanted to do in Amsterdam having already spent a lot of time there, so we decided to do a day trip to Utrecht.
A day trip to Utrecht from Amsterdam
I think it’s great to travel outside of the city you’re visiting. I’ve previously travelled to different areas of the same country and even did a day trip to Sweden from Denmark in October. There were a few places we’d been recommended in The Netherlands including The Hague, Zaanse Schans, Rotterdam, Leiden and Utrecht. After a bit of research, we decided to take a day trip to Utrecht by train.
Travelling from Amsterdam to Utrecht
We were staying in the Zuid area of Amsterdam, so we caught a tram to Amsterdam Zuid Station. From Amsterdam Zuid, we then caught a direct train to Utrecht Centraal. The journey took just 25 minutes and cost £15.32 for a return ticket on the Trainline app. We chose to have e-tickets on our phones. We had to scan these to get in and out of the barriers at each station. This worked for my phone (iPhone XS), however Leigh had trouble getting through the barriers at both stations with his Sony Xperia. As there were no staff members to help, I opened the barrier with my ticket twice to let him through.
Getting around Utrecht
Utrecht is a relatively small city, so it’s easy to get around by foot. Utrecht Centraal is right opposite a shopping centre which we walked through to get to the city. We used Google Maps to find the landmarks we wanted to visit and walked everywhere. Cycling is also an option, if you fancy it. There seemed to be a lot less bikes than in Amsterdam, so it could be less daunting than cycling in the capital.
Why take a day trip to Utrecht?
One of the main reasons why we chose to do a day trip to Utrecht was that we heard it is a lot less touristy than Amsterdam. We were told that it’s a great way to get a proper taste of the Dutch culture without all of the tourist traps.
Utrecht still has canals like Amsterdam, however it doesn’t have a big marijuana scene and there’s no red light district. It’s a lot quieter and less spoilt than the capital city. We visited on a drizzly Sunday so it may have also been something to do with the weather.
What can you do in Utrecht?
Utrecht is home to the tallest church tower in the Netherlands, also known as the Dom Tower standing at 368ft tall. There are guided tours running everyday on the hour. Tickets cost just 10€ each. While we were there, it was very windy (Storm Dennis!) so going to the top of the tower was not deemed safe. Instead, we went halfway up and we were shown into the bell ringer’s room which is usually closed to the public. It’s also currently covered in scaffolding, so my photos don’t show it at its best!
Our tour was in both English and Dutch. There were around twenty people on the tour and only four of us spoke English. That goes to show how Utrecht is a lot less touristy than Amsterdam.
The old canal (or oudegracht in Dutch) runs through the centre of Utrecht and is famous for its “two floors”. You can explore both floors and go on a boat tour if you have the time. We chose to go on a boat tour in the afternoon which cost around 13€ each. The tour lasted an hour and we were one of two couples on there. The other couple were French, so we had commentary in both French and English. Whilst we were on the boat there was another boat blocking the canal so our captain had to use a piece of rope to move it out of the way. It was really clever how he managed it!
In Utrecht there are a couple of different windmills you can visit. While we were wandering around we stumbled upon Molen Rijn en Zon. One of the two remaining mills in Utrecht, Rijn en Zon was constructed using parts of two former mills. The mill ceased operations in 2011, however it’s still worth going to look at. Nothing screams Holland more than a windmill, right?
The other remaining mill in Utrecht is Molen de Ster in the Lombok region. Unlike Molen Rijn en Zon, Molen de Ster is open for tours on Saturdays. Unfortunately we were in Utrecht on a Sunday, so we weren’t able to to visit.
Shopping and restaurants
If you fancy a shopping trip whilst you’re in the Netherlands, then a day trip to Utrecht is ideal. Utrecht has a great selection of shops and is a lot quieter than Amsterdam. As you leave Utrecht Centraal Station, you will come across Hoog Catharijne – one of the largest indoor shopping centres in the Netherlands. With over 90 stores, there’s something for everyone!
Utrecht is also home to Winkel Van Sinkel, the Netherlands first ever department store. This is situated along the Oudegracht canal and ceased trading as a department store in 1898 when it became a bank. In the present day, Winkel Van Sinkel is a café and restaurant during the day and a nightclub by night.
We stopped for a drink at Café Heen en Weer while we waited for our tour of the Domtoren. Hot drinks were reasonably priced and we needed somewhere to warm up! I must admit that I chose the place based on the name; the initials ‘HW’ on the door are the same as mine. We sat in the corner of the café which gave a great view of the Oudegracht. I can imagine that this would be a lovely café to sit outside during the summer.
Utrecht is home to Miffy, the famous white rabbit which was created by Dutch author Dick Bruna. If you’re a fan of Miffy, then Utrecht is definitely the place to visit. Here you will find Nijntje Pleintje or Miffy Square which has a statue of Miffy and even traffic lights featuring the little white rabbit. They’re the only set of traffic lights featuring Miffy in the world. There’s also the Nijntje Museum or Miffy Museum where you can learn more about the character.
Overall, I would definitely recommend a day trip to Utrecht. I can imagine that it would be beautiful in the summer months, but there’s also plenty to do on a rainy day.