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Utrecht (city)

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Travel Guide Europe Netherlands Utrecht Utrecht

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Introduction

Utrecht canals

Utrecht canals

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

The city of Utrecht is the 4th city of The Netherlands with a little less than 300,000 inhabitants and is the capital of the province with the same name. It is centrally located in the country and functions as a crossroad of most railwaylines and highways. Although it used to be located along the Rhine, nowadays the main Rhine river does not flow here any more, only some branches like the Kromme Rijn and Oude (old) Rhine flow here. Like Amsterdam, the city has a long system of canals, along which you can enjoy a good meal or drink on one of the many terraces in the city. Take a few stairs down to the wharves along the canals. These wharves were originally made for access to the cellars of the canal side houses but nowadays most of them are restaurants and/or pubs.

Utrecht is also a very lively city, both because of its multicultural mix of people (about one third is originally not Dutch) and the fact that the largest university of the country is located here since 1636.

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Neighbourhoods

1. Town Centre
2. Utrecht-East
3. Leidsche Rijn
4. Utrecht-West
5. Overvecht
6. Utrecht-South
7. Utrecht-Northeast
8. Utrecht-Southwest
9. Utrecht-Noordwest
10. Vleuten-De Meern

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Sights and Activities

The old city

Just walking around the compact old city is one of the highlights. Many old buildings and the cosy atmosphere along the canals will keep you busy for at least a few days. Besides this enjoyment, there are lots of churches and museums in the city as well. If you prefer to be shown the city, Utrecht City Tours offers guided walking tours through the historic city centre. In the summer months they have a specific tour schedule, but the rest of the year they can be contacted for private tours.

The Dom

Utrecht is home to the highest church tower in the country, the Domtower. Therefore, the city is also called the Dom city. The area around the Domtower and Domsquare is the old heart of the city, where Romans established themselves almost 2,000 years ago. The city itself is younger though, around 1300 years old. The Domtower itself is about 600 years old. The Dom tower is the landmark of the city, standing bang in the middle of the old part, being seperated from the church with the same name. A tornado destroyed part of the church, and since then the tower stands alone. The tower can be visited by a guided tour, which let you gradually climb most of the 112.32-metre high tower going up 465 steps. From the top there is a great view over the city, and on the square below. Tickets can be bought at the tothe urist information shop opposite the tower, the tour also starts from here.

Frozen canal, Utrecht

Frozen canal, Utrecht

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

Apart from the Dom, also the St. Jans church is worth a visit.

A few of the main museums are:

  • Centraal Museum Utrecht - A fine collection of art through the ages.
  • Dick Bruna Huis - The work of Dick Bruna, the creator of Miffy (Nijntje) is on permanent display in the Dick Bruna Huis opposite the Centraal Museum.
  • The Rietveld-Schröderhuis - A world-famous house designed by Gerrit Rietveld. It is part of the Centraal Museum and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The house can be visited by booking a tour.
  • The Aboriginal Art Museum - Not something you would expect in Utrecht, but is is surely worth a visit.
  • The Geldmuseum (Money Museum) - To this day, lots of Dutch euro coins are made in Utrecht and you can enjoy this and a display of older coins in the Geldmuseum.
  • Spoorweg Museum (The Railway Museum). This is one of the finest museums in town, with several themes to enjoy, among which a collection of old locs.
Rietveld Garage

Rietveld Garage

© All Rights Reserved Peter

  • Another building worth a visit is Oudaen, an old fortified house along the canals. There are more examples of these houses of rich patricians from the 13th and 14th century.
  • The Winkel van Sinkel and the Old City House located next to each other on the end of the Oude Gracht (Old Canal), in a great setting, are both examples of neoclassical building styles.

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Events and Festivals

Koningsdag (King's Day)

In 2013, the Dutch throne was passed on to King Willem-Alexander and what used to be Koninginnedag (Queen's Day) will from 2014 become Koningsdag (King's Day). The date will be changed to the 27th of April, which is the king's birthday. In 2014 however it will be on the 26th of April because the 27th falls on a Sunday. On this day the streets of almost every sizable town in the country come alive with activity. The centre of the action is in Amsterdam, but, if you prefer things a little less crowded, Utrecht is also a popular destination. Both cities have canals and it's just perfect to watch a boat parade with music while you are drinking a beer along the canal side terrace. There are also large outdoor concerts throughout the country, though the one in Amsterdam is the most popular. Several cities have night-markets which actually start the night prior to Koningsdag and last for about 24 hours.

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Weather

Utrecht weather is typical of what you get in the Netherlands, meaning mild winters with rare snow, and reasonably warm summers from June to September. Temperatures are slightly above 20 °C during the summer months, and slightly above zero during winters.

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Getting There

Check OV9292 for information about schedules for buses and trains.

By Plane

Schiphol international airport near Amsterdam is the closest airport nearby, easily reached by direct trains from the city of Utrecht in about half an hour.

By Train

Dutch Railways offers trains to and from Utrecht, which is the center of the railways in the country. Check the website for more information about prices and schedules.
Most of the Netherlands can be reached within 2 hours by train from Utrecht.

By Car

Many highways run to and from Utrecht. The main ones are the A2 between Amsterdam and Maastricht, the A1 between Amsterdam and Apeldoorn and on to Germany, the A12 between The Hague and Arnhem and the A27 between Breda and Almere. The A28 starts in Utrecht and goes northeastwards towards Drenthe and Groningen.

By Bus

Eurolines offers a number of connections with European cities. The stop of Eurolines is at the Central Station (Jaarbeursplein.) Eurolines has its own busstop here. Within the Netherlands, most bus travel to and from Utrecht is in the region, that is the province and surroundings.

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Getting Around

By Car

It is best to leave your car as far from the centre as possible. There are enough well signed parkings but it costs at least around €2.5 an hour, much more if you are not in a parking garage! Also, traffic during rush-hours and on Thursday nights and Saturdays can be heavy and you are probably even faster when walking very slowly.

By Public Transport

Check the GVU website for local bus lines. There is also a tram line from the central station to southern suburbs/towns like Nieuwegein and IJsselstein, but these are rarely useful for tourists.

By Foot

The innercity of Utrecht is easily explored on foot.

By Bike

Utrecht, like many other cities, is a great city to explore by bike, especially if you are visiting more places than only the city centre. Biking lanes are abundant and you can park your bike at many places, either guarded (recommended when you have a rental bike or expensive bike) or unguarded.

Living at the Utrecht canals

Living at the Utrecht canals

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

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Drink

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Sleep

Budget

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
B&B Utrecht City CenterLucasbolwerk 4Guesthouse81
Bed&Breakfast Kilim-centre-innHerenweg 28Guesthouse-
Malie Hotel -A Hampshire Classic HotelMaliestraat 2Hotel-
Stayokay Utrecht - BunnikRhijnauwenselaan 14 BunnikHostel78
Stone Hotel & HostelBiltstraat 31HOSTEL81
Hotel OorsprongparkF.c. Dondersstraat 12Hotel82
B&B Limes Oudwijkvan Alphenstraat 42bis 3581 JD UtrechtGUESTHOUSE-
Houseboat HarmonyVechtdijk 318GUESTHOUSE-
Hostel StrowisBoothstraat 8HOSTEL84
Martins ApartmentKoolstraat 47APARTMENT-

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Learn

  • The Utrecht University is one of the biggest in the country with numerous study options. It is located on the east side of the city and can be reached by buslines number 11 and 12.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafés are not as widespread as you would expect, but you can easily find one in the popular cities. Most hostels, hotels and camp sites have several computers, so you can keep connected with folk at home. Here is a list of internet cafés that could come in handy for travellers. Otherwise, most libraries have lots of computers and prices are around the €2-3 per hour range, although sometimes it can be even more expensive.

Wireless internet access using wifi is becoming more popular and is usually available at most hotels and increasingly at train stations. Also in trains (at least in most first class wagons, but also more and more in second class) and some buses you can use wifi. Finally, places like McDonald's and Starbucks have free wifi, and smaller individual business like cafés and restaurants are on the rise too offering these services. More often than not, these service tend to be free of charge, though there might be a limited time you can use the internet.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The country code for the Netherlands is 31. The outbound international prefix is 00. The general emergency number is 112, like many other countries.
0800 numbers are toll-free and for 09xx numbers are charged at premium rates. Mobile phones have numbers in the 06 range, and calls to cell phones are also priced at higher rates.

From internet cafés, it is also usually possible to make long distance international calls. Like in other countries, telephone booths have almost disappeared, though some are still found around public transport stations, where you can use a few coins to make calls. It is only recommended for local calls.

The cellular phone network in the Netherlands is GSM 900/1800. The main providers of cell phone networks are KPN (Dutch only), T-mobile and Vodafone, who cover the whole country. Other operators, like Hollandsnieuwe, Simyo or Tele2, use one of these 3 networks basically.

It is best to buy a SIM card when in the Netherlands for use in your cellphone, as this usually works out cheaper than using the one from home. If you are planning to study or work in the country and stay for several months, buying a cellphone is the best option. A simple one, sometimes with €10 worth on it, can be bought from around €25. The simplest smartphones are around €75.

Post

The rate for sending a postcard or letter up to 20 grams within the Netherlands is €0.64 (2014). Since 2010 there are stamps available for domestic post which no longer include the value in €. Instead, there are stamps available with either a '1' or a '2' as a substitute for value. The '1' can be used for letters and postcards up to 20 grams, while 20-50 grams require you to use the '2'-valued stamps (or two '1'-valued stamps of course).

Sending items to other EU countries and the rest of the world (there is one price since 2014) will cost €1.05. Stamps are sold at post offices, supermarkets and smaller shops/kiosks; often the place where you buy your postcards can also supply you with stamps.

Sending parcels abroad is more costly. A standard-sized parcel between up to 2 kilograms will cost you €9 for destinations within the EU and €18 (both without Track & Trace) to the rest of the world. Prices with Track & Trace start at €13 and €24.30 respectively. Parcel service is available from major post offices only; standard-size boxes are on sale there as well. For sending parcels, it might be just as competitive and fast to use a company like TNT, UPS or DHL.

If you need to receive mail while moving around, you can have it sent poste restante (to be called for) to a post office of your choice, where it will be kept for a month. If you come to claim it, bring a valid ID, and make sure to have told the sender that the name on the envelope must be an exact match with that in your passport. For addresses of post offices, as well as more information, consult the TNT website.

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Quick Facts

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Population
306.184
Coordinates
  • Latitude: 52.091262
  • Longitude: 5.122748

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This is version 38. Last edited at 12:08 on Apr 16, 14 by Utrecht. 7 articles link to this page.

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