Photograph: Patrick Rasenberg
1. The Dom tower: De Domtoren van Utrecht
This incredible building towers over the city and is the highest building in the center of Utrecht. Regulations ensure that buildings in the old city center cannot be higher than the Dom to secure its prestigious spot within Utrecht’s skyline. The Dom and Utrecht are truly inseparable: it’s the city’s symbol and most recognizable building with its construction dating back to the year 1254. You can climb the Dom-tower for a small fee and, once at the top, you’ll be able to enjoy an incredible view of the city.
The Dom tower was once connected to the Dom Cathedral that stands next to it, however, the part connecting the two was destroyed during a tornado in 1674. The Cathedral is still incredible and if you’re looking for a great spot to relax, have a picnic, or read a book, I highly recommend checking out the Pandhof that’s connected to the cathedral. It’s an incredible little garden hidden in the middle of Utrecht – you really wouldn’t know it’s there.
- Tip: It may look like the Dom tower is under construction, however, don’t let these renovations hold you back. You can still climb the Dom and see things you’d never be able to see otherwise.
2. Utrecht Canals: Oudegracht
The canals are definitely one of the best things to do in the city. The canal system is extensive and surrounded by lots of incredible architecture.
Because the canals run below street level, the view you get when cruising Utrecht’s canals is incredibly unique and opens up an entirely new dimension of the city and allows you to explore Utrecht in an entirely different way.
However, that definitely isn’t to say you can’t have a great time exploring the canals and the city on foot. There are lots of stores and restaurants in the area surrounding the canals and there’s so much to see and do that you’re not going to be able to see all of it in a day.
3. Railway Museum: Spoorwegmusem
The Spoorwegmuseum in Utrecht is the national railway museum of the Netherlands, featuring over 120 trains and trams. The collection also includes train models, art, and many other items as well. The railway museum is located in an old railway station, which is within walking distance of Utrecht’s city center.
4. Central Museum: Centraal Museum
Featuring an impressive collection, the Centraal Museum is the primary museum in Utrecht. It’s collection ranges from contemporary fashion designs by Viktor & Rolf to the works of famous Dutch painters.
5. Flower market: Bloemenmarkt
You’ll find an incredible flower market in Utrecht. Every Saturday, the Janskerkhof is filled with flower stalls. It is a popular event amongst locals and you can find some great deals here. The flowers at the flower market in Utrecht are generally of much higher quality than other popular flower markets in the Netherlands. This is mainly because the flower market in Utrecht is not primarily aimed at tourists. Make sure you get there early if you want to see the largest selection of flowers since many flowers are likely sold out towards the end of the day.
- Tip: The flower market takes place on the Janskerkhof square in the center of Utrecht, every Saturday between 8:00 – 17:00 (8 AM – 5 PM).
6. Utrecht Botanical Gardens: Botanische Tuinen
Staying within the flower-theme: the botanical gardens which are located in the Utrecht Science Park are fantastic. They’re easy to get using the brand new tram line that opened in December 2019 and the gardens.
If you’re a flower-lover, one of the best things to do in Utrecht is this less-known alternative – hidden right in the city center: De Oude Hortus. These are the old botanical gardens that are still maintained. The main difference between the two is the diversity and atmosphere: the older Hortus gardens have less of an academic purpose and are kept authentic.
Generally, I would recommend visiting De Oude Hortus due to its charm and its location within the city center.
Wilhelmina park is fantastic if you’re looking to spend the day hanging out with the locals in Utrecht. It can get super crowded when the weather is nice, although that only adds to the amazing ambiance. The park is great for relaxing, with lots of space to sit, sunbathe, or have a picnic. The Wilhelminapark is definitely recommended when the weather’s nice, however, it’s not nearly the best thing to do in Utrecht during cold winter days.
8. Utrecht Mall: Hoog Catharijne
Hoog Catharijne is a brand new mall in the city center. It is connected to the central station and it’s the best place to go shopping in Utrecht, however, I would highly recommend checking out the shops in the Oudegracht area.
- Tip: There are lots of shops located all around the Oudegracht as well. It’s great if you’re looking for a place to shop whilst still really enjoying Utrecht and the amazing canals and architecture in the city.
9. Miffy Museum: Nijntje Museum
The museum of this famous cartoon character by Dick Bruna is one of the best museums in Utrecht. You’ll find absolutely anything related to Miffy here. There’s lots of room for creativity and playful learning. Although it’s fun for all ages, it’s definitely targeted at families with young children and easily one of the best things to do in Utrecht if you’re traveling with small kids or toddlers.
10. Utrecht Central Station: Utrecht Centraal
Utrecht has the largest train station in the Netherlands. Utrecht Central Station is super modern and has a constant flow of trains coming through. The presence of Utrecht Centraal makes Utrecht the ideal city from which to Explore Holland. Because of the great central location of the city within the Netherlands, exploring more of the country is definitely one of the best things to do when staying in Utrecht!
- Tip: If you plan on using public transport in the Netherlands you should get an OV-Chipkaart. If it’s your first time visiting the Netherlands, make sure you check out the Ultimate Guide to Public Transport in the Netherlands.