Planning a solo trip to Utrecht? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- The capital city of the eponymous province, with a metro population of around 560,000.
- This university town boasts beautiful canals and hundreds of monuments that render the ancient city one of Holland’s cultural centers, second only to Amsterdam.
- The city has been the religious centre of the country since the 8th century and is the seat of the Archbishop of Utrecht.
- Founded over 1,200 years ago, it is one of the country’s oldest cities and one of its most traditional in architecture and design.
- Nickname: Domstad.
- Currency: Euro (EUR).
- Spoken languages: Dutch, while German and French are widely understood.
- Best time to visit: from May to September to make the most of the oceanic climate. Expect chilly evenings and the occasional rainfall.
- Arriving via airport: the nearest airport is Schiphol Amsterdam (AMS) which is served by rail service for €8.10 economy-class or €13.80 first-class.
WHERE TO STAY
- Best hostel for solo travelers in Utrecht: BUNK Hostel. A bit pricier than your standard hostel for a reason – very clean and cosy beds, well-kept facilities, and a great location close to all the sights and action (5 minute walk to the train station). Friendly and welcoming staff.
- The city centre is the perfect combination of superb proximity to main attractions, panoramic views of the world-famous canals and easy access to the food and leisure hotspots.
- OV-chipcard is the electronic payment card that stores cash value to pay for fares which are calculated based on kilometres travelled.
- Public transportation is well-organized and efficient, consisting of bus and tram lines that operate out of Utrecht Centraal Station.
- Cycling is a popular way to explore the city by both tourists and locals alike. Day rentals can be availed at the train station for €7 and there are plenty of safe free parking zones around the city.
- Taxis charge a starting fare of €2.80 and €2.05 for each succeeding kilometer. Call 2300 400 or 688 0711 to book.
- Drinking age is 18, and last call is 6 AM.
- Oudegracht has an eclectic array of bars and nightclubs that cater to the hip crowd.
- Neude is favored by the student population for its array of casual pubs and cheap beer.
- Donkere Gaard offers all-night dancing, costume parties and wild sessions meant to leave an impression.
- Great bars to start your night: Café Voortuin (21+), Café Lijn 4, Mick O’Connells, O’Leary’s (classic pub experience), and Kafé België.
- Places with good live music: Stathe, EKKO, BASIS, and Union Latin Lounge (if you want to dance Latin style!)
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Dom Tower is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands and the symbol of the city. Its 465 steps can be climbed for the most spectacular panorama of the city.
- Centraal Museum rises over the site of a former medieval monastery and opened in 1838 to hold the documented history of the city as well as artworks by classic Dutch painters and artists.
- Vredenburg was a 16th century castle built by Hasburg emperor Charles V. Its remains can still be seen on what is now Vredenburg Square.
- De Ster is the only completely preserved sawmill in the Netherlands.
- Museum Catharijneconvent displays religious artwork from the Middle Ages to the present and provides the account of discovery of Christianity in the country.
- Oudegracht snakes through the heart of the city and functions as its cultural artery.
- Trajectum Lumen is an evening exploration of light installations darting from Vredenburg to the city centre and in the summer, the guides offer canoe tours along Utrecht’s famous canals.
- Botanical Gardens at Fort Hoofddijk are home to an unparalleled collection of flora spanning 350 years of scientific research from all over the world.
- Wilhelminapark is an impressive city park first opened in 1992 and yet another reason why the city is called Holland’s green centre.
- The Dutch designer and architect Gerrit Thomas Rietveld was born in Utrecht in 1888 and is one of the fathers of the Dutch artistic movement called De Stijl. He was also the architect behind the UNESCO listed Rietveld Schröder House, considered to be the most influential domestic building of the early modern period.
- Festival Oude Muziek is one of the city’s most anticipated events, held annually between August and September and attended by some of the best artists in the world.
- Great restaurants to try in Utrecht: Sanju Ramen, Héron, Restaurant Blauw Utrecht (best for Indonesian), SHOKUDO (Japanese), Sarban – Utrecht (great Afghan food), and Le Jardin ($$$ – fine dining French).
- Where to find good cheap eats: Kanaalstraat and Mariastraat offer economic take-aways and quick meals. Check out Kimmade Vietnamese and ANAN Saigon Streetfood.
- Dangerous areas: Utrecht’s shady reputation may be fading, but travelers are still advised to avoid walking around poorly lit alleyways at night. While street crime is declining, caution should always be exercised.
Recommended trip duration: 2-3 days