At the end of July, I decided to book two nights at a hostel in Utrecht. I had just spent all of Friday visiting Delft for the very first time. So the following two days were reserved for Utrecht. An adorable city in the Netherlands that felt like a miniature Amsterdam. Filled with adorable canals, bridges, and typically adorable Dutch gingerbread houses.

cute peaceful street in utrecht

Oddly enough, with a population of over 300,000, it’s technically a big city but it doesn’t give off that impression. In fact, I probably could have spent only one day here and then explore a new city on the second day. Instead, I chose to get to know Utrecht really well.

Right upon arriving from Delft, I took an hour-long walk through Utrecht at night. I was much too impatient to wait until the next morning. And I always love walking around cities in summer evenings because there’s a unique atmosphere to them. After a 10km sunrise walk the following day, I met up with two separate friends which meant I was walking down the same streets a few times. Yet I didn’t mind it one bit because Utrecht felt lively and vibrant. I didn’t want to be anywhere but outside, plunged into that vivacious city ambiance.

It’s often regarded as the cozier alternative to Amsterdam and I can definitely see that! With canals and historical buildings equally charming as the ones in the capital, Utrecht will easily charm you. You’ll find lovely cafés and restaurants, as well as interesting museums. Every street is worth stumbling into for its many pretty facades.

One of my favorite places to visit in Utrecht was Dom’s garden. Domtoren, or Dom Tower, is the church tower that’s also the most famous landmark in the city. You can climb up the 465 steps for an amazing view of Utrecht. Its secluded garden, also called Pandhof van de Dom is something straight out of fairytales. The cloister halls look like they could easily be in any of the Harry Potter movies!

Make sure you don’t miss this garden hidden in the very center of Utrecht. Early in the morning when it opens, the Dom’s Garden is a peaceful oasis that makes you feel like you traveled back in time. Surrounded by gothic architecture, the monastery garden is filled with flowers and herbs. The entrance is free, you just have to pay attention to the opening hours.

Where to eat

Since I was meeting friends during my stay in Utrecht, I let them guide me towards the cafés and restaurants of Utrecht. I especially loved Tijm, a café & restaurant with a beautiful interior. It was impossible to say no to Dutch pancakes in one of those restaurants by the waterfront. Keek Lunchroom was my most often stop early in the mornings for a quick bite of scone to fuel my sunrise walks. And my last meal in Utrecht included pancakes at Anna Pancakes, a brunch restaurant in the city center.

I saw so many people paddling through the canals during my two days in Utrecht. While I’ve never tried it, I would definitely say yes to such an activity in this city. I certainly walked alongside every single canal during my stay so it would’ve been nice to see it from a different angle!

Speaking of canals in Utrecht, they are lined with trees and absolutely enchanting. The leaves were in full bloom and the bridges were covered in flowers. It was summer but I couldn’t stop picturing autumn strolls. The two main canals that run through the city are Nieuwegracht and Oudegracht. You’ll cover most of Utrecht’s city center by walking alongside them.

Furthermore, there is one thing that makes the canals of Utrecht unique. In the Middle Ages, people dug tunnels from their houses to the docks, resulting in double docks. It saved them a lot of time and lifting and today these wharf cellars are a tourist attraction. In fact, we noticed that you can spend the night in some of these wharf houses! Others were turned into restaurants but on the whole, you can go down and roam alongside them.

Castle day trips from Utrecht

The most popular castle you can visit around Utrecht is Castle De Haar. However, it being such a popular destination, we figured we could instead have the latter castle all to ourselves. And we were completely right! Only 30 minutes away by bus, the Zuylen castle makes for a perfect day trip from Utrecht. That’s exactly what I did on my last rainy morning and you can read more about it here.

Even though I saw so much of Utrecht, my visit still felt incomplete. There are so many places to see outside of the city center. I always knew I would have to return to Utrecht for various museums, an astronomical observatory, and to simply wander through its residential areas. Utrecht genuinely seems like a lovely city to call home!

All in all, Utrecht is a big city with an atmosphere of a small and familiar town. I already know I will return here and not only because I didn’t visit everything I wanted to. I’ll go back because I loved the ambiance of the city, even on busy summer days. But I can just imagine how captivating those canals would look on foggy days. See you sometime during autumn, you lovely city!

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