Friday, 7 June 2019

Utrecht Travel Guide

Well, it's definitely been a while so please forgive me if I've forgotten how to do all this. So I've finished third year of college and just got my wisdom teeth out so a week on the couch can get quite boring so I decided I'd finally start the Utrecht travel guide that I have been meaning to do since October.
I'm a huge fan of travel diaries when you're going somewhere new so you can see how other people found the place, what they did and what they would or wouldn't recommend. I always look for them when I'm going away so I love doing them after visiting a place and hand over any gems I've found or anything I wouldn't recommend doing. I've also linked everything I mentioned so it's very easy if you want to check anything out further. 

Utrecht is a city in the Netherlands about half an hour train ride from Amsterdam. My friend Maeve was over there on erasmus this year and that's the only reason I would have found out about the place but I would definitely go back. I went in both October when it was still really warm and then February when it was quite cold and windy so I kind of got a sense of what to do in both weather situations. It's a great place to spend a day strolling around or a fab place to get the true Dutch experience and be away from the hustle and bustle from Amsterdam.
It's kind of like if Dublin was Amsterdam Cork would be Utrecht so you get more of a feel for the culture but it's not packed with tourists.
I of course can't take any credit for the things we did or places we visited because I had the best tour guide, I also stayed with Maeve in her apartment so I can't give you any thoughts on places to stay however Maeve suggests the NH hotel which is really close to the train station.
Utrecht Centraal Train Station 

How To Get There:
So both times I visited I flew into Amsterdam airport, first time from Dublin and second time from Cork (which was so much easier and a lot less travel from Cork to Dublin to do) and from there I got a train to Utrecht. You buy a ticket from one of the machines in the train station and there are a good few trains you can hop on that pass through Utrecht (they say where they stop off on the big screens). It takes about 30/40 mins to get from the airport to Utrecht depending on which train you get.
Alternatively if you're coming from the centre of Amsterdam you would go from the central train station and again hop on any of the trains going through Utrecht.

Top Tips:
If you have been to Amsterdam you'd know that bikes are absolutely everywhere and Utrecht is no exception. Bikes almost take priority on the road so don't be expecting them to stop for you crossing the road. That being said, renting a bike over there is definitely a good idea and it is a lot easier to cycle around there in comparison to Amsterdam, just try and be aware of their bike rules of the road.
I rented a bike in a place called Black Bikes and it was around €40 for 3 days which wasn't bad at all since you weren't paying for public transport then.
Black Bikes rental bike 

If you weren't interested in renting a bike and wanting to get a bus you need their sort of leap card and can't pay for a bus with cash or card so I would look into that before you head over but really everywhere is definitely in walking distance (bar one thing I'll mention later) but renting a bike is a great option for transport.

The main supermarket over there is called Albert Heijn which is perfect for grabbing snacks or breakfast (or white chocolate Oreos and these Haribo peach jellies that are stun that we can't get here) but in Utrecht supermarkets they only take cash or a Dutch credit card so make sure you have cash when you're going in there. They do take all cards in the Albert Heijn in Amsterdam but in Utrecht Albert Heijn they don't (they do take visa/debit/credit card everywhere else).
The Dom Tower 

What To Do: 
So apart from just strolling around aimlessly in the gorgeous streets by the canal there are a few things I suggest you see.
The Dom Tower is a gorgeous view of the whole city and is quite central to everything and a lovely bit of history. You do have to buy tickets to get up there but they're really cheap. 
On Saturday in the square just behind the shopping centre there's a huge market that's a great mix of clothes and accessories to fresh food and drink. I would definitely recommend trying a fresh Stroopwafel from one of the stalls, they're so much nicer fresh and just off the heat. 

There's a lovely park about a 15/20 minute cycle from the train station called Julianapark that is a gorgeous place to stroll around, there's an Albert Heijn close by so we picked up breakfast there one morning and ate it in the park. 
Kasteel de Haar

The last thing I would recommend to see in nice weather is Kasteel de Haar. I think it's more or less an hour cycle to get there and you do have to pay to get into the grounds but you could almost spend the day there. The cycle there was stunning, at one point you're going down a little canal with houses either side it was absolutely gorgeous and the grounds itself are fab. Definitely a good place for a day out and a picnic.

If you're unlucky and it's raining while you're there (it was the second time I was there) there are definitely a few things you could do because cycling around in the rain or going to parks in bad weather isn't the nicest thing to do. Of course strolling around the town and going in and out of shops and cafes is a good idea the shopping centre called Hoog Catharijne is also really good, they have great shops and great places to eat in too. The cinema (Pathé Rembrandt Utrecht) is also a good shout, the movies are usually in English with Dutch subtitles so good rainy day activity to add to the list. 
Hong Catharijne & Pathé Rembrandt Utrecht 

Food & Drink:
Because I stayed with Maeve we did mostly eat and cook in her apartment because it was easy and a lot cheaper. We did however go for pancakes one day in a place called Anna Pancakes. As you can guess they did pancakes and they were unbelievable, so incredibly fluffy and they had so many topping options. They were quite reasonably priced too. Instagram is a great place to find food places we saw loads that looked fab that we just didn't get around to visiting. 
Food places that we didn't visit but Maeve said are solid are Bagels & Beans and Firma Pickles which is a lovely burger place.  
Anna Pancakes 

Drinks wise then most places over there do table service which is something to remember and they're big into their wine and beer so they tend to be cheaper over there. My favourite place was definitely Grand Cafe Lebowski it's a really cool pub/bar that has loads of random decor and their drinks were so reasonable as well. At one stage we got raspberry mojitos that were so gorgeous and really fresh, would highly recommend. 
Another place we went back in October was Ubica which was a gorgeous place to sit out and people watch. Again really reasonable drinks and would definitely go back but I thought that Lebowskis had a bit more character and craic to it. 
Grand Cafe Lebowski & Ubica         

We didn't go to any clubs when I was over but we did go to Chupitos which is basically a shots bar/club. Now the place inside is absolutely tiny but they had these screens with different prices shots on them ranging from €3-€5, no menu as such just these tv screens with the names of different shots. The bartenders were great fun and the shots we got were all unreal, really sweet and they had music playing so a kind of bar/club vibe, basically loads of craic. Definitely one to go and check out. 
So there we have it, all my recommendations about Utrecht. If you're interested in any other part of the Netherlands check out my Amsterdam Travel Guide and my Amsterdam Food Guide. The only thing to add to those posts is this amazing cookie place we went the last time I was over visiting Maeve it's called Van Stapele Koekmakerij and is so so incredible. 

Hope this post is helpful to at least someone and hopefully you'll be seeing more blogposts from me over the summer. 
Also big shout out to the amazing to the best host, tour guide and blow up mattress owner Maeve. 
Ailbhe x 








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2 comments

  1. Nice post! It looks like you had a fab time in Utrecht, I had never heard it until recently as it is a very popular place to go on Erasmus. The Dutch are obsessed with cycling everywhere and I really wish that was a thing in Ireland or at least that it would be safe enough to cycle here.
    Róisín
    totallyro.blogspot.ie

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  2. I would like to say that this blog really convinced me to do it! Thanks, very good post. Bolt Posts

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