MALENE LUNDAHL explores Holland’s fourth largest city
Utrecht is equal parts Dutch charm, lively students and a mini-metropolis. The Rhine flows past centuries-old cobblestone streets, bridges, historic buildings, sidewalk cafes and lots of bicycles.
The city’s university – Holland’s largest – means plenty of students explore Utrecht’s medieval town center on foot or by bicycle. Churches and old monastery farms serve as small herb gardens. Mariaplaats is one good example or Pieterskerk at Voetiusstraat, the oldest cathedral in the Netherlands founded in 1048. Another hidden gem is the post office at Janskerhof where ceiling light streaming into narrow glass windows provides a religious atmosphere.
Along Oudegracht you’ll find a flower market on Saturdays. Students and families picnic, eat ice cream and relax under the chestnut trees.
Holland is full of canals, but only Oudegracht has two levels – one in line with the water and a higher level of street life. Stairs go from the upper to the lower level and cafes, galleries, offices and homes are built into the quay at the waterline.
- Enjoy the view from Domtoren
Utrecht’s natural landmark is Domtoren, Holland’s highest church tower (112m) derived from 13th-century and part of the city’s former cathedral, which fell into ruins in 1674. Take the 456 steps to the top for magnificent views. On a clear day you can see to Amsterdam.
An icon of modern architecture with movable surfaces, this 1924 house is a UNESCO world heritage site. Take a guided tour.
Enjoy Utrecht from the water. Public transport options include boats, water taxies, canoes or kayaks. You can even ride in a Venetian gondola. Gondola rides start at Oudegracht 177, tour boats at Oudegracht 85th.Remember to duck as you sail under the bridges.
Utrecht’s most famous living artist, Dick Bruna, has a museum dedicated to his art. The museum contains posters, book covers and graphic works in Dick Bruna’s two-dimensional style. You might even meet Bruna himself with his distinctive handlebar moustache.
Eating, drinking and partying:
On a corner of Mariaplaats, Caffé P serves good panini. Sit out at the long wooden tables and enjoy the street life.
Über Trendy Luce serves reinterpreted Italian classics and wines. The organic menu changes weekly, the atmosphere is casual and prices are affordable.
Dating back to the mid 1800s Winkel van Sinkel is a high-ceilinged cafe with outdoor seating overlooking the canal. At night the place becomes a nightclub with disco balls and DJs.
A cool restaurant with a lovely patio and Asian themed cuisine. The place is popular so noise levels are high.
A medieval atmosphere prevails at Restaurant Oudaen in an old building dating back to the 1400s. Large iron lamps hang from the ceiling beams. You can watch beer being brewed in the basement.
Here, 69 types of beer are served under the arches of a former church. Enjoy the antique statues, musical instruments, posters and other stuff from your great-grandfather’s time. Evenings here are packed.
SJU Jazz podium has staged major international musicians for 30 years. Many concerts have free admission.
Cool cocktails, dance-friendly music and happy guests start the party, when the restaurant converts into a club at 10pm and the DJ fires up the music. English stand-up comedians wow the crowds.
- Cozy: Try Utrecht’s smallest Bed & Breakfast with just three rooms on the canal with soft beds, tasteful decor and homemade breakfasts.
- Luxurious: Grand Hotel Karel V. This luxury classic hotel was a former military hospital in Napoleonic times. Think large towelling bathrobes, fine dining, wellness center, service around the clock and views of the cathedral tower or garden.
- Self-catering: 344 aan de Gracht. In No. 344 on the historic Oudegracht you can rent the entire, newly-renovated ground floor apartment including kitchen, dining room and a small balcony.
- For more on current culture events or to share your opinion of Utrecht visit www.utrechtyourway.com