Culture

Discover Utrecht by foot, bike and boat

Discover Uutrecht by foot, bike and boat (photo by Ruben Drenth) | Your Dutch Guide

I can’t tell you how much it has made my heart jump with joy that I’ve been hearing more and more foreign languages in Utrecht, especially on weekends and school holidays. It seems that visitors to The Netherlands are discovering Utrecht more and more. They wander along the canals, enjoy relaxing in the parks, climb the Dom Tower and feast in one of the many restaurants. How wonderful. If you’re curious too, I will explain how to discover Utrecht by foot, bike and boat.

A network of canals, pretty old gabled houses around the city’s cathedral Domkerk, some excellent museums and cutting-edge architecture. Utrecht, my hometown and love of my life, seems to have it all. When I moved here, over 12 years ago, there were hardly any hotels in town, only some big chains near the train station. But over the last 3 years I’ve been hearing Americans, Australians, Canadians, Spanish, Koreans and Japanese on weekends, enjoying a day (or maybe even more) in Utrecht. The city has been getting some very nice press attention over the last few years. Some splendid (boutique) hotels have been popping up lately, the central station is more accessible now and things are generally getting a lot more comfortable for foreign visitors.

If you feel like visiting, you can of course (like most visitors) discover Utrecht by foot. But if you feel like exploring like a proper local, you can decide to hop on a bike or in a boat or kayak even. Here’s how you handle things.

Discover Utrecht, The Netherlands, by foot: walking tours (photo by Wouter Jansen) | Your Dutch Guide

Discover Utrecht by foot, self guided walking tour | Your Dutch Guide

Discover Utrecht by foot

Utrecht is so (so!) accessible by foot and for many visitors the preferred way to discover Utrecht. I totally understand. I mean, it’s simply great to wander the compact city centre, stroll along the canals and pop into one of the sights, like the Dom church, Centraal Museum or Nijntje Museum, and some of the nicest cafés along the way. If you have no clue where to go (and that’s okay, you can’t get lost), simple stroll along the central canal ‘Oudegracht’ and take in the atmosphere.

However, if you’d like to know a little more about the city (and there’s lots to know, Utrecht is over 2000 years old after all!) I recommend joining one of the Utrecht Free Tours, which are held Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays and take you along some famous sights and will enlighten you on all things Utrecht. If you only have a couple of hours to spend in Utrecht (boo!) I recommend taking this self-guided tour along the highlights of medieval Utrecht.

Discover Utrecht by bike

However, the Utrecht city centre is quite compact and there’s simply so much more to explore. And it would be fun to be ‘like the Dutch’ and discover by bike. You basically have a lot more options when you’re on a bike. If you’d like to see the highlights of the city and explore a little outside the city centre too, I highly recommend joining this bike tour.

Discover Utrecht, The Netherlands, by bike | Your Dutch Guide

Discover Utrecht by bike, bike tour (photo by Anne Hamers) | Your Dutch Guide

But you might as well rent a bike in Utrecht and explore by yourself. A lot of hotels and hostels around town rent bikes for the day or you can pick up an ‘OV fiets‘ for the day. If you feel like seeing some interesting sights outside the city centre or even outside the city, I can highly recommend cycling to:

Discover Utrecht by boat

Confession of the day: I really suck at kayaking. I seem to miss the coordination to go in the right direction when you put me into something that floats. Isn’t that silly? Too bad really, as I really love boat trips and kayaking on the Utrecht canals is very popular. If you’re into kayaking and would love to see Utrecht from a duck’s perspective (and you should, you won’t get this chance in Amsterdam!) rent a kayak to discover the Utrecht canals or kayak all the way to the Rhijnauwen estate, which is a popular spot for locals to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Discover Utrecht, The Netherlands, by kayak (photo by Jurjen Drenth) | Your Dutch Guide

Discover Utrecht, The Netherlands, by kayak (photo by Jurjen Drenth) | Your Dutch Guide

If you’re not too comfy in a kayak (how I can relate) it’s also possible to rent a small motorised boat, which we Dutch call a ‘sloepje’. A couple of people fit into one and you can decide to either explore the Utrecht canals or sail along the Vecht to Maarsseveen or Tienhoven to catch some pretty Dutch landscapes.

Plan your trip to Utrecht, The Netherland

  • From Amsterdam simply hop on a direct train to Utrecht. Direct trains run every 15 minutes and it will take you about 25 minutes to get to Utrecht.
  • Please do stay a day or two in the city to explore the best Utrecht has to offer. You can stay at the inexpensive and brand new Stayokay Utrecht at the central square of the city, or at (also brand new) and pretty Mother Goose boutique hotel.
  • Plan your trip to Utrecht using my complete city guide Utrecht.

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Discover Utrecht (The Netherlands) by foot, bike and boat (photo by Ruben Drenth) | Your Dutch Guide #utrecht #holland #travel

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    Lolo
    April 11, 2018 at 9:50 pm

    It would have been so lovely to cruise the canals but the friend we were visiting wasn’t exactly the best tour guide (and she’s a travel blogger!). I feel our visit didn’t exactly do the town justice!

  • Reply
    Ruth
    April 12, 2018 at 5:19 am

    The city is too beautiful to miss! I can see why more people are visiting. In my way of seeing things, a lot of popular cities in Europe are getting very crowded. A lot of people are looking for alternatives. In my case, I am trying to visit new places on the less known/popular side.

    • Reply
      Esther
      April 12, 2018 at 8:45 am

      I couldn’t agree with you more, Ruth! If I see what’s happening to Barcelona, Prague, Bruges and Amsterdam… it’s breaking my heart. The cities are basically collapsing under mass tourism. And it’s too bad, as most countries have loads of other places to see and explore. Thank you for stopping by!

  • Reply
    Keri
    April 12, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    Cool guide!

  • Reply
    Sharon
    April 12, 2018 at 6:45 pm

    I would love to bike around this pretty, pretty place, along the canals and through the park. You live in such a great place to explore, and it looks so peaceful, too.

    • Reply
      Esther
      April 12, 2018 at 7:37 pm

      It’s a lovely city, Sharon. And because the city centre is so compact, it has that homely small-town feel too.

  • Reply
    Janis
    April 12, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    We did a road trip around parts of The Netherlands last year and Utrecht was our final stop, we managed to fit in a boat trip, did a lot of walking, however, we left the cycling to the locals.
    What Gary and I particularly enjoyed was ‘Trajectum Lumen’, the illuminated historical trail around the city, which comes alight every evening, when the sun goes down.

    • Reply
      Esther
      April 12, 2018 at 7:36 pm

      I love the Trajectum Lumen too, Janis! I was able to go along two Christmases ago and really liked it.

  • Reply
    hilary
    April 12, 2018 at 10:37 pm

    I’m sold, and I’m definitely planning a visit to Utrecht on our next visit to Holland. Our younger son wasn’t old enough to bike last time, and we didn’t do any boating either, so it looks like we’ll be trying all three of these! Lovely photos!

  • Reply
    hilary
    April 12, 2018 at 10:38 pm

    Whoops I meant next visit to The Netherlands!

  • Reply
    Jessica
    April 12, 2018 at 10:41 pm

    I went to the Netherlands a couple of years ago, and during my research, I remember hearing about Utrecht. Unfortunately, it just didn’t fit into our plans. I’ve been wanting to return to visit some other cities, so I’ll definitely keep this in mind! The kayak options seems super fun, although I’m not super coordinated either haha. Thanks for all of the valuable information, it looks like a great place to visit!

  • Reply
    Rhonda Albom
    April 12, 2018 at 11:33 pm

    Utrecht looks like a lovely city that has a lot going for it. I like the canals and wouldn’t mind some time touring around (perhaps a sloepje as it would be easier on my back). I am a fan of free walking tours so the one you mentioned would be on my list of things to do.

    • Reply
      Esther
      April 13, 2018 at 7:05 am

      Oh, I like free walking tours too, especially when you’ve just arrived and you need to get a bit of a feel for the place.

  • Reply
    Goblinette
    April 13, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    Discovering Utrecht with kayak looks extra fun. Would love to try that some day.

  • Reply
    Sarah
    April 13, 2018 at 7:38 pm

    Kayaking, architecture, and cafes, this sounds like my kind of place. Think I’ll have to add it to potential destinations.

  • Reply
    Sandra
    April 14, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    What a wonderful guide! I’ve only been to Amsterdam and Rotterdam, but would love to visit Utrecht one day. I would love to explore it by boat, but would definitely opt for sloepje as I’m not very (at all) good at kayaking.

  • Reply
    Emese
    April 14, 2018 at 10:21 pm

    This would be a great place to visit, I’m bookmarking it for later… I do plan on making it to the Netherlands sometime hopefully soon, within a year or two. Your photos are beautiful, it looks like a peaceful and happy place, must be nice to live there 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Anda
    April 15, 2018 at 8:50 am

    I would prefer to discover Utrecht by foot. I am not a great fan of bikes. As for the boats, you can’t see as much as when you walk.

  • Reply
    Corey
    April 15, 2018 at 5:36 pm

    What a delightful hometown you seem to have! Honestly, I don’t know that much about Utrecht but it looks so charming. I think I would explore it all three ways if I could! I love that you can kayak in the canals, not something you see every day! I haven’t kayaked in years, but love that that is an option.

  • Reply
    Jo
    April 17, 2018 at 8:34 pm

    What a charming place with so much to see. I’ve never been to Utrecht but am visiting Netherlands this year so maybe this is the year!

  • Reply
    Erin Gustafson
    April 18, 2018 at 12:35 am

    Sold! Bikes and boats?!? Yes please. I love the look of the cafes right on the water and after living in Copenhagen, I’m all about touring by bike! Love this look at your hometown.

  • Reply
    Cathy
    April 18, 2018 at 7:30 pm

    I’ve visited so little of the Netherlands and it always surprises me how close everywhere seems to be to each other. Reading your posts there are so many less visited cities which look so appealing-kayaking really tempts me! – I really need to plan a city hop around.

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