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5 things to do in Utrecht

5 things to do in Utrecht

I had a chance to spend one of the weekends in April in Utrecht - a city that I’ve never really heard of. So when I was going there I didn’t really have any expectations. Maybe that’s why I didn’t expect that Utrecht would totally steal my heart! 

HOW TO GET TO UTRECHT

I landed at Amsterdam airport and went to Utrecht straight from there. Schiphol airport is connected to a train station and a bus station, so you don’t have to worry about getting around. Tickets to Utrecht cost around 9 euros and you can buy it from the machines at the airport (you can find them in the baggage reclaim area) or at the train station. When you get off the plane you just have to follow the signs - everything is in English so you can easily find your way to the train station even though the airport is big. The train trip itself takes around half an hour and the trains depart regularly. If you want to plan your trip beforehand you can easily check everything at https://www.ns.nl/en. Just pick Utrecht Centraal as your destination and it will show you the train times and all the stations. Easy peasy!
WHY I PREFER UTRECHT OVER AMSTERDAM

I think it’s worth mentioning that I’ve been to Amsterdam before and I already did most of the touristy things there. However, I was absolutely sure that I was going to take the Utrecht-Amsterdam train every day during my time there. I ended up spending only half a day in Amsterdam and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Amsterdam is an extremely busy city (and I can totally understand why) but the number of people, bikes and cars can give you a headache at the end of the day. You have to be careful when crossing the roads, and it is the bikes you have to beware - they’re literally everywhere and they always have priority. Utrecht with “only” half a million inhabitants is much calmer. And what’s even better it has all the great things that people look for in Amsterdam. Canals? Check! Lovely Dutch architecture? Check! Cool independent shops? Check! Museums? Check! Delicious food? Check! Check! Check! 

WHAT TO DO IN UTRECHT

1. Visit a local market

If you’re visiting Utrecht during the weekend then you definitely should go to one of the local markets. On Saturdays, you can visit Janskerkhof Bloemenmarkt - the flower market. Even when you’re not planning on buying any flowers it is still worth going to see the explosion of colours and scents. I was so tempted to get myself some tulips, as I was visiting right in the middle of the tulip season but unfortunately, it’s impossible to take a flower bouquet on the plane. 
Another must-see in Utrecht is Market Vredenburg. It’s the perfect spot to treat yourself to some local cheese or try the traditional Dutch delicacy - the Stroopwafel! 

FLOWER MARKET: Neude Janskerkhof en Domplein, 3512 JE Utrecht
Open only on Saturdays from 8AM to 5PM.

LOCAL FOOD MARKET: Vredenburg, 3511 CW Utrecht
Open on Saturdays from 8AM to 5PM as well as Wednesdays and Fridays from 10AM to 5PM.
2. Discover small, independent shops

Utrecht’s city centre is filled with the independent stores and boutiques where you can buy clothes, jewellery and home decor. There’s also a lot of vintage shops and high street brands available like H&M, Zara and Lush if you fancy some bigger shopping spree. However I would highly recommend the independent shops - you can find some really amazing, one of a kind things there and the interiors of most of them are just to die for. Perfect if you’re on a hunt for some home decor inspo. 
3. Get lost in the charming streets

Utrecht’s city centre is just ideal for strolls. Thanks to the city’s compact size you can easily get everywhere on foot which is not only eco-friendly but it also helps to burn the calories after eating ridiculous amounts of the delicious Stroopwafels. While walking around look for stairs that will take you down to the canals. There are some nice, slightly hidden restaurants there as well as benches where you can sit, enjoy the city view and eat yet another waffle.
4. Go on the boat tour around the canals

Utrecht’s city centre is surrounded by a canal and it makes a perfect opportunity to see the city from a different perspective. You can go for an organised boat tour - the trip takes about an hour and it costs 13 euros per person. If you feel more adventurous you can rent a canoe. It costs 6 euros per person per hour so it’s a more flexible option as it lets you take your time and explore the canals for as long as you want. 

BOAT TOUR: Oudegracht 85, 3511 AD Utrecht
Open every day from 9AM to 6PM. Tours start at every full hour.

CANOE RENTAL: Oudegracht 275, 3511 AL Utrecht 
Open every day from 10AM to 8PM except for Mondays (1PM - 8PM). 
5. Take a stroll around one of the parks

If you feel like you want to spend some of the time surrounded by nature then just go to one of Utrecht’s many parks. You can just go for a walk, go on a bike ride or have a picnic. In Utrecht, you can buy some really scrumptious bread and cheese so if your itinerary allows then I would highly recommend this option - relaxation guaranteed!

PARKS IN UTRECHT: 

- Vilhelminapark: Wilhelminapark 65, 3581 NP Utrecht
- VOORVELDSE POLDER: Lo Bruntpad, 3573 PT Utrecht
- Park Bloeyendael: Archimedeslaan 1, 3584 BC Utrecht, Netherlands
- Griftpark: 3572 KC Utrecht, Netherlands
I have to admit it - Utrecht really managed to quickly steal my heart. It’s such a cosy city that it is really easy to feel like a local. It’s not only a perfect place to stay if you’re planning to see Amsterdam but it’s a great city that’s well worth a visit. Even though it is significantly smaller than the capital it still offers tons of things to do and makes a perfect spot for a quick city break. 

Do you have places that stole your heart when you didn't expect it at all? 
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