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Alter Kanal in Utrecht, Bild: Olena Z / shutterstock

Utrecht holidays: Discover the versatile student city

When you think of a holiday in the Netherlands , you first and foremost imagine the vibrant capital Amsterdam or relaxation on the North Sea. However, the student city of Utrecht has also turned out to be a real insider tip. Because if you spend your holidays in this city in the center of the Netherlands, you can admire many beautiful sights and make new discoveries again and again.

Important information about Utrecht

Kasteel de Haar
Kasteel de Haar near Utrecht,
Image: Ververidis Vasilis / shutterstock

Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands. Around 350,000 people are at home here. The urban area of Utrecht covers a total area of almost 100 m². The best time to visit Utrecht is between April and October. The highest average temperatures are reached in July and August. It is coolest in January and February. You can experience a real highlight if you plan your Utrecht holiday in late summer. At the end of August and beginning of September, the popular Oude Muziek festival takes place, where you can attend numerous musical performances.

How to get there

There are several ways to get to Utrecht. If you want to travel by plane, select the destination airport in Amsterdam, which is only about 30 kilometers away. Alternatively, you can use the airport in Rotterdam, which is about 45 kilometres from Utrecht.

In addition, Utrecht is very easy to reach by car due to its central location. For example, you can use the E30 or the A12, which leads directly into the city. Travelling by train is also easy: the city station is the largest in the Netherlands and is served by around 1,500 trains every day.

The sights in Utrecht

Utrecht University
The University of Utrecht, Image: Olena Z / shutterstock

Whether it’s a short city trip or a longer stay during your holidays: there are various sights in Utrecht. The city’s landmark is the striking Utrecher Cathedral. It has a height of 112 meters, making it the largest church tower in the entire country.

If you spend your holiday in Utrecht, you should definitely climb the cathedral. From the top, you will experience an impressive view of the city with its many canals that wind between the houses. The ascent to the cathedral is possible as part of a guided tour, so that you will receive a lot of interesting information about the building on the way up.

You will also have the opportunity to explore the underground: Below the Utrecht Cathedral, you will learn more about the history of the Roman fort that once stood on this site on the DOMunder Tour. Of course, the building itself also has a lot to offer. It is built in the Gothic style and impresses with stylish decorations. After the visit, stroll through the courtyard with cloister and beautiful hedges and herbs.

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View of Utrecht
View of Utrecht, Image: T.W. van Urk / shutterstock

Another flagship of the city are the magnificent canals. Here, visitors can take exciting boat tours. For example, you can opt for a guided tour or a paddle trip. The shipyard cellars are adjacent to the canals. When the weather is nice, you can sit on the quays in front of the cellars and enjoy the view of the water. Numerous cafes and bars invite you to linger.

A special experience is also the Trajectum Lumen, a route that takes you along various light art installations in the city. You can explore this route from the water, but also on foot.

Museums in Utrecht: lots to see

There are numerous museums in Utrecht that you should visit. A first address is the Centraal Museum. It scores above all with its versatility. There are changing exhibitions for every taste. They marvel at exhibitions of modern art, but also old works. Design prints can be seen just as much as fashion. Of particular interest are the exhibits by the De Stijl group and Gerrit Rietveld.

Younger guests will get their money’s worth in the Miffy Museum opposite. The focus here is on the children’s book character Miffy.

You should also plan a visit to the railway museum. There you will be amazed by the magnificent processions and can also become active yourself.

Museum Speelklok specialises in various self-playing instruments. They examine mini music boxes, see pianolas and look at large barrel organs. The museum is housed in a former church. In a former monastery is the Catherijneconvent, which presents ecclesiastical works of art. It scores with beautiful furnishings in a modern style. In any case, you should take a look at the imposing treasure chamber in the basement. Children enjoy the interactive activities.

Journey

  • Airports:
    • Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS): The nearest international airport, about 35 km northwest of Utrecht. Regular train services take travelers to Utrecht in about 30 minutes.
    • Rotterdam The Hague Airport (RTM): About 60 km southwest of Utrecht.
  • Train: Utrecht Centraal is a central hub in the Dutch rail network and offers good connections to the entire region.
  • Car: Good road connections via the A2 and A12 motorways.

Best time to visit

  • Spring (April to June): Mild weather and blooming tulip fields.
  • Summer (July to August): Warm weather, ideal for outdoor activities.
  • Autumn (September to October): Pleasant temperatures and fewer tourists.
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Activities and sights

  • Cathedral Tower: The tallest church tower in the Netherlands offers a great view over the city.
  • Canals: Experience Utrecht’s unique two-story canal design on a boat trip.
  • Rietveld Schröder House: A UNESCO World Heritage Site and a masterpiece of the De Stijl movement.
  • Museum Speelklok: A fascinating museum of self-playing musical instruments.
  • Centraal Museum: The oldest city museum in the Netherlands with a diverse collection.
  • Botanical Garden: A beautiful garden, ideal for a relaxing stroll.

Important telephone numbers

  • Emergency: 112 (general emergency)
  • Police: 0900 8844
  • Fire Department: 030 286 6666
  • Ambulance service: 030 239 8800
  • Utrecht Tourist Information: +31 30 236 0004

German Doctors

  • Dr. Sebastian Becker: Burgemeester Reigerstraat 57, +31 30 251 0934
  • Dr. Andrea Müller: Maliebaan 71, +31 30 231 6427

Important words with translation

  • Hello – Hello
  • Thank you – thanks u wel
  • Please – Alsjeblieft
  • Yes – Yes
  • No – No
  • Sorry
  • Where is…? – Waar is…?
  • How much does it cost…? – Hoeveel kost…?
  • Emergency – Noodsituatie
  • Doctor – Arts
  • Hospital – Ziekenhuis

Holidays

  • New Year’s Day: January 1
  • Good Friday: variable (March/April)
  • Easter Monday: variable (March/April)
  • King’s Day: April 27
  • Labour Day: 1 May
  • Liberation Day: May 5
  • Ascension Day: variable (May/June)
  • Whit Monday: variable (May/June)
  • Christmas: 25th and December 26

Opening hours

  • Shops: Usually open Monday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Thursday often until 9:00 p.m. Many shops are also open on Sundays.
  • Supermarkets: Usually daily from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
  • Restaurants: Lunch from 12:00 to 15:00, dinner from 18:00 to 22:00.
  • Banks: Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Airport

  • Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS): The nearest international airport, about 35 km northwest of Utrecht.

Post / Stamps

  • Post offices: In all major districts and shopping centres. Central post office near Utrecht Centraal. Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Stamps: Available at the post office, kiosks and supermarkets.
  • Costs for letters and postcards to Germany: Standard letter up to 20g: approx. 1.50 EUR; Postcard: approx. 1.50 EUR

Safety

  • Crime: Utrecht is considered safe. Observe common precautions as in any tourist city, especially against pickpockets in busy areas and markets.
  • Emergency number: 112

Current

  • Voltage: 230 volts
  • Sockets: Type C and F (as in Germany)

Tip

  • Restaurants: 5-10% of the bill amount, often included in the bill.
  • Taxis: Round up the amount
  • Hotels: 1-2 euros per day for cleaning staff

Customs

  • Allowances within the EU: No customs restrictions on personal belongings.
  • Alcohol: Maximum 10 liters of spirits, 20 liters of alcoholic beverages with less than 22%, 90 liters of wine, 110 liters of beer.
  • Tobacco: 800 cigarettes, 400 cigarillos, 200 cigars, 1 kg of tobacco.