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2020 – Utrecht, Netherlands
It’s the cool vibe of a university city mixed with the cozy atmosphere of a town. Also a very liberal and multicultural place, it makes you feel at home since day one. This pretty much says it all about Utrecht!
And because we celebrate 1 year since we call it home, we’ve put together a list with 20+ cool activities to do around Utrecht.
Grouping by activity type will help you pick your favorite easier. So if you’re visiting, there’s no excuse to stay inside. 😅 Let’s start!
Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park
Utrechtse Heuvelrug is an immense national park, just perfect to explore for the weekend. We had a refreshing walk in the woods, with no sound around but wild birds.
The scenery changes a lot while you keep advancing on different paths. Highly recommended it as a full day activity!
Utrecht Botanic Gardens
We found this green spot in the first rainy weekends in Utrecht. It was a cold November, but the heat inside the tropical greenery kept us warm.
Guess what, we liked it so much that we returned in spring!
A green relaxation oasis close to the city? Look no more. Just a few minutes outside Utrecht, a cool forest welcomes us every weekend with fresh air. We were very happy to discover this little paradise close to our house. Basically it saved us from getting mad during the lockdown.😂
And that’s not all: if you take the path to Rhijnauwen, you’ll reach another hidden treasure.
There are dozens of walking and bike paths on the Rhijnauwen grounds outside Utrecht. It’s a great place to discover remainings of a defense fort, eat pancakes, navigate on the river or explore the forest.
Our favorite part? The pancakes! 😁
If you want to combine a walk in the park and also check out a posh neighbourhood of Utrecht, stop in Wilhelminapark. The amount of beautiful houses in the area is overwhelming.
If you’re passionate about wild birds, this is your place.
Fun fact: during the lockdown we witnessed the little birds’ life journey since popping out of the eggs up until adulthood. It only took a few months. 😊
Rainbow houses by the Rietplas in Houten
Bikes ready, clear sky, perfect weekend for a bike trip. Houten welcomed us with a maze of bike paths revealing beautiful houses on each side. And right by the Rietplas beach, there’s the hidden gem for any photographer: the colorful wooden houses!
Castle de Haar
We had De Haar Castle on the travel list for years before moving here. It’s probably the most famous castle in the Netherlands, and for a good reason.
Interesting fact: few celebrities have stayed here as guests between the 1950s and 1970s, including Roger Moore, Elizabeth Taylor, Coco Chanel, Michael Caine, Yul Brenner, Brigitte Bardot.
Zuylen Castle was built around 1520 on top of medieval ruins in the small town of Oud Zuilen. It was originally surrounded on all sides by water, and only accessible via a bridge. Now it has a beautiful English style park and a summer house in the woods.
We could not miss the poshest village around, Zeist. We wrote here about its interesting history. Nothing surprising in having a beautiful castle in the center! 😁
Pop-up Museum Amelisweerd
Oud Amelisweerd Museum is a nice surprise in the woods, recently open to visitors after the lockdown. Inhabited by rich families, the brother of Napoleon, monks or even crazy tenants, the walls of this house have witnessed amazing events.
Step on the grounds on the pocket-sized imperial court of Huis Doorn. Exile home of the last German emperor, Wilhelm II, it has been furnished with over 30 000 objects brought with 59 train wagons from palaces in Berlin and Potsdam.
During a walking tour, the history of the Kaizer is brought to life for the visitors. We humbly realised we are living the most peaceful times of all.
With this view, biking our way back home via Doorn, Driebergen, Zeist and Bunnik for the remaining 20 kilometers felt like piece of cake.
Molen de Ster
Another weekend, another hidden gem in Utrecht: a windmill dating back to the 18th century. Residing on a field outside the city back in 1739, Molen “De Ster” was used to cut wood by several generations, until electricity was discovered.
Nowadays, with the city of Utrecht expanded, it’s just a few minutes walk from the city center and it has been restored to work again by wind power.
Looking for the most cheerful activity in Utrecht? Museum Speelklok will take you through the wonderful world of self-playing musical instruments. We had a blast listening to clocks, musical boxes, toys, orchestrions and traditional Dutch street organs.
Free tours in both Dutch and English are held every hour for the curious minds.
Weather is quite unpredictable in the Netherlands, but when the sun is up on a blue sky, you have to run to the Observatory!
The surface of the Sun can be seen through a special telescope. A fun interactive tour and lots of discoveries make this the perfect place for a visit on a sunny day.
The train museum in Utrecht takes you back to the past. Right from the entrance you step into a luxurious former train station. It’s a fun place to explore the history of traveling, when train was the fastest commuting option between countries.
Rietveld Schröder House
Small and often unobserved, the Rietveld Schröder house is well hidden on a quiet street in Utrecht. In fact it’s a Unesco World Heritage museum, with impressive modern architecture from 1924.
University College Utrecht
Step back in time by exploring the beautiful campus grounds of the first university college in the Netherlands, part of Utrecht University.
The walk brought back so many youth memories. Couldn’t help but wonder how would have been like to study abroad.
Well, at least we’re here now. 😁
Concert at TivoliVredenburg
TivoliVrendenburg is the place to go for all music genres events under one roof.
Free walking tour starting at the base of Dom Tower
These passionate tour guides gave us a comprehensive and funny tour of Utrecht in our first weekend here. It’s the perfect start to discover the city!
Football game of FC Utrecht on Galgenwaard Stadium
Football games of FC Utrecht are big events during weekends. We always hear the crowds from our terrace, and can even guess the score from that!
Comedy nights in English are super fun. We usually go here.
Canoeing on the Kromme Rijn
Renting a canoe or a boat are pretty common in summer. We rent from here.
WEATHER IN UTRECHT
After the first year in Utrecht, the best weather was between mid-March and mid-August.
Spring of 2020 was the sunniest on record by far, with 790 hours of sunshine.
With an average of 17.6 hours of daylight, June has the longest days of the year. It’s really cool to have natural light at 10 PM!
Warmest month was August, breaking the all times record in NL: 35 degrees for 5 days in a row!
February was the wettest month in the history of the country. Basically it rained every day. Winter was mild, temperature never went below 0.
All in all, get yourself a raincoat and you’re ready for the whole year.
HOW TO GET TO UTRECHT
From Schiphol Airport take the intercity and you’ll reach Utrecht in 30 minutes.
If you want to escape the Amsterdam crowds, Utrecht is a really good alternative. It has beautiful medieval architecture, plenty of cool things to do and a vivid night life.
What are you waiting for? Let us know if you’re in town!
Happy travels and stay safe!