15 Best Things to Do in Utrecht (the Netherlands)

Written by Veronique Raes
Updated on
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Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands and serves as the capital of the Utrecht province in the centre of the country around 25 minutes south of Amsterdam.

The city is an important religious centre in the Netherlands and has many historical churches and architecture dating as far back as the middle ages.

Due to its central location and proximity to Amsterdam it also serves as a transport hub for the rest of the country with well-developed railway stations.

Traces of the city date back as far as 50 CE with Roman occupation and through the years it has developed into a large and important centre of economy for the Netherlands.

The myriad of historical buildings, network of beautiful canals and collection of high quality museums make Utrecht a fascinating tourist destination.

1. The Dom Tower of Utrecht

The Dom Tower of UtrechtSource: flickr
The Dom Tower of Utrecht

This huge structure towers above the city and is one of Utrecht’s most iconic landmarks.

The tower stands separately from the Cathedral of Saint Martin and was constructed in 1321. At a height of 112.5m, the Dom Tower towers over the centre of Utrecht and can be seen for miles around.

The tower contains a set of 14 bells that weigh a total of 32,000, at certain times the bells are still rung by a group of dedicated ringers.

There is a visitor’s centre where you can find a detailed history of the tower and a gift shop, and it is also possible to have tours that allow you to climb the 465 steps to the top of the tower.

From the top you are granted with fantastic views of the Netherlands and can even see as far as Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

2. Railway Museum

Railway MuseumSource: flickr
Railway Museum

This fascinating railway museum is actually housed in one of Utrecht’s old railway stations and is located in the eastern part of the town.

The museum has been renovated recently and a new building opened adjacent to the railway station.

Inside the museum you can find a huge collection of railway memorabilia, displays and restored station rooms.

The museum is split into four distinct sections – Dream Travels, Steel Monsters, The Workshop and The great discovery.

Aside from the main rooms, there is also a model railway, a children’s playground and also a range of actual locomotives on display like the De Arend and the NS Class 200. This is a great place to visit and the whole family will appreciate the history and visual displays.

3. Utrecht Canals

Utrecht CanalsSource: flickr
Utrecht Canals

Amsterdam is not the only city in the Netherlands to have a canal network – Utrecht has an extensive system of canals, most of which are lined with traditional houses and provide a beautiful area to walk through.

The canals can be found throughout the town centre and are simply magical.

There are some small boat tours that run on certain canals but it is also just a great idea to simply walk through the streets and take it all in on foot.

Tall narrow houses in varying colours line the water, some of which have doors opening right onto the canal.

Most of the canals are below the level of the streets which add another dimension to the city.

4. Centraal Museum

Centraal MuseumSource: flickr
Centraal Museum

This is the main museum in Utrecht and was originally established in 1838. The museum features an impressive collection of artworks mainly from well-known local artists such as Joachim Wtewael and Gerard Van Honthorst.

While historical art is the main feature, the collection also features modern art, fashion and applied art.

Another interesting feature is an old ship called the “Utrecht Ship” that can be seen in the cellar of the museum.

This museum is a great place to visit and displays like the Roman coins from the Limes region, a look at law and order, and a range of medieval sculptures ensures that there is something for everyone to enjoy.

5. St Martin’s Cathedral

St Martin's CathedralSource: flickr
St Martin’s Cathedral

St. Martin’s is the main Cathedral in Utrecht and was once connected to the Dom Tower, however the nave collapsed and the two building have been separate ever since.

This impressive cathedral has stood since the middle ages and was once the largest church in the Netherlands.

The architecture of the Cathedral is predominantly Gothic and has a resemblance to the style seen in France.

The remains of the church today is the choir and transept and the area that once served as the main nave is now a square filled with trees.

What remains of the interior is still high quality and extremely ornate with many vaulted arches and colourful stained glass windows.

6. Museum Speelklok

Museum SpeelklokSource: flickr
Museum Speelklok

The clock museum is a magical place full of entertainment and wondrous pieces that will delight people of all ages.

The museum is dedicated to clockwork and wind-up objects such as clocks, musical instruments and barrel organs.

The whole place is full of sounds and moving parts and the quality of the exhibitions is second to none.

Aside from the brilliant instruments and objects, the museum also gives an in-depth look at how these things are created and the high amount of dedicated, patience and craftsmanship that goes into each piece.

7. Utrecht Botanical Gardens

Utrecht Botanical GardensSource: flickr
Utrecht Botanical Gardens

The famous Botanical Gardens are located in the University of Utrecht in the eastern part of the town just off of the A28 road.

While the gardens are on the outskirts of the town, they are definitely worth a visit.

The gardens contain a variety of fountains, plants, trees, and a beautiful collection of butterflies.

The butterfly greenhouse is simply amazing with various species like Morpho, and Atlas Moths.

The actual gardens are split into 6 different sections including a rock garden, a fort area with different flowers and a wildlife garden that aims to entice different animals and insects into its environment.

8. DOMunder

DOMunderSource: domunder

The DOMunder represents a very different and immersive kind of attraction and basically allows you to explore underneath Utrecht with a torch! DOMunder is located in the Domplein (surprisingly!) and next to the Dom Tower and St. Martin’s Cathedral.

There are two different tours that are available and both are fascinating in their own right.

The Discover tour introduces you to the 2000 year old history of the Domplein, and gives you a wonderful look at the underground world of Utrecht, while the Archaeology tour shows you a Roman fort and gives you a wealth of archaeological information of the area.

9. Janskerkhof flower market

Janskerkhof flower marketSource: flickr
Janskerkhof flower market

Every Saturday there is a large flower market in Utrecht and it provides a larger variety of flowers and seeds to buy than the mainly tulip orientated market of Amsterdam.

The market is held near the Janskerkhof church which is a short walk from the Dom Tower and main square.

The quality and cut of the flowers available here are simply amazing and you can buy a wide variety of different species together with different pot plants.

The smells and colours are really attractive and it is a great place to take photos, soak up the atmosphere and maybe take home a little souvenir.

10. Sint Willibrordkerk

Sint WillibrordkerkSource: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kotomi-jewelry/16218713640/in/photolist-djydbS-qHjFFB-dgmQKe-qHc1VN-qZAppK-q3KeDh-qHjt5K-qZEQkQ-q3K59q-qHjv7R-qZAthV-qHaCZ3-qXsm4E-qHaCio-qHbU5J-qXsntU-q3JZpA-qZAELB-qHaYcb-qHhTfK-qZELuU-qZEPkU-qHbUw5-qZACta-qHjx2x-qHaLK3-qHaWwh-qHaUvJ-qHjCie-q3KfFs-qZKD8T-qHbXwy-qZAj3T-q3K2r1-qHc9vN-qHc3Ej
Sint Willibrordkerk

St. Willibrord Church is a simple stunning example of Neo-Gothic architecture and is a Roman Catholic church located near both the Janskerk and Dom Tower buildings in central Utrecht.

The church was constructed in the 1800’s making it a relatively new religious building for the region.

The exterior of this building features a tall narrow design which makes it stand out while the interior is as lavish and opulent as one could imagine.

The magnificent interior really is a treat and the vivid colours and endless stretches of artwork will leave you astounded.

Stained glass windows frame the archways, colours of green, orange and gold are present throughout the pillars and the ceiling – For anyone who appreciates fine architecture the Willibrord Church is a must see.

11. Wilhelminapark

WilhelminaparkSource: flickr

This monumental city park lies to the east of Utrecht and is an ideal place to stop on the way to the Botanical Gardens.

The park was first opened in 1898 and was designed by Henry Copjin in an English Landscape style.

Inside the park there is a bicycle path, various statues and monuments (Including a statue of Queen Wilhelmina which the park is named after) and the “teahouse” building.

There is also a rose garden, a large central pond and a host of beautiful trees and plant life.

This public park really is a lovely spot to walk through and enjoy the outdoors.

12. Museum Catharijneconvent

Museum CatharijneconventSource: flickr
Museum Catharijneconvent

St. Catherin’s Convent Museum is dedicated to religious artwork and can be found in St. Catherine’s Cathedral in the southern part of Utrecht.

The museum has a huge collection of art and historical objects dating as far back as the middle ages right up to the present day.

The objects include historical manuscripts, book bindings, paintings, altar pieces and lots of gold and silver.

The art work includes works from Rembrandt and Jan Van Scorel.

13. Castle de Haar

Castle de HaarSource: flickr
Castle de Haar

This truly is a fairy-tale castle – Located in superb gardens and half surrounded by a moat and lake, it is a hidden gem.

The buildings feature a Neo Gothic style with a handful of pointed turrets and crenulations.

The spectacular interior of the castle features many wooden carvings and collections of artwork and tapestries.

The extensive gardens are just as impressive as the castles and the style is similar to that of Versailles.

This wonderful place is extremely photogenic and it is easy to see why it is such a popular tourist destination.

14. St. Pieterskerk

St. PieterskerkSource: memodatabase
St. Pieterskerk

The Church of Saint Peter is a Roman Catholic church and is one of the oldest in the city dating back a far as the early 1000’s.

The Romanesque style building is extremely beautiful and the exterior features some high arched stained glass windows and a tired back nave section.

The interior has some wonderful red sandstone pillars and the tall stained glass windows let in a huge amount of light, especially at the main altar.

There is also an old crypt underneath the church that has some strange circular stained glass windows.

This is a great religious building to visit and is in close proximity to the other main sights in central Utrecht.

15. Domplein

DompleinSource: flickr

The Domplein is one of the main squares in Utrecht and it has several important buildings and is one of the central tourist areas of the city.

The might Dom Tower and St.

Martin’s Cathedral both stand here, as does a host of restaurants, bars and cafes both on the square and in the immediate side streets.

The Domplein is a great place to start your Utrecht adventure and from here you will easily be able to navigate the city and find the main sights.

15 Best Things to Do in Utrecht (the Netherlands):

  • The Dom Tower of Utrecht
  • Railway Museum
  • Utrecht Canals
  • Centraal Museum
  • St Martin's Cathedral
  • Museum Speelklok
  • Utrecht Botanical Gardens
  • DOMunder
  • Janskerkhof flower market
  • Sint Willibrordkerk
  • Wilhelminapark
  • Museum Catharijneconvent
  • Castle de Haar
  • St. Pieterskerk
  • Domplein