Both a municipality and capital of the eponymous province, Utrecht is often overlooked by visitors, despite being the fourth largest city in the Netherlands. However, its unique brand of high culture and entertainment nevertheless makes it an attractive tourist spot.

Founded around 47 AD as Traiectum by the Romans, the settlement was primarily a border fortification during the Empire. Thrown into flux by the collapse of Rome, it was only during the early medieval period that the area regained its status, given city rights in 1122. Dominated by the bishops of Utrecht for much of the Late Middle Ages, its historical worth stems from that period, being the site of the Union of Utrecht against Spain in 1579, which inaugurated the Dutch Republic. That said, it was only centuries later with the Industrial Revolution and the expansion of the railways in the 19th century that modern Utrecht was forged.

Growing still further during the late 20th century, Utrecht is now a vibrant city packed with things to see and everything the visitor could want to do.


Initially built in the 13th century in Gothic style, the Cathedral of Saint Martin is the chief religious building in Utrecht and one of the most spectacular. Once the only cathedral in the Netherlands, vandalism, neglect, and damage caused by an earthquake in 1647 made constant renovation necessary but the cathedral remains a fabulous sight.

More famous still is the Cathedral’s erstwhile church tower, the Dom Tower of Utrecht. Severed by the aforementioned earthquake, it remains the tallest tower of its type in the Netherlands at 112 metres high. Moreover, if you have the stamina to climb to the top, you will find a fantastic panoramic not just of Utrecht, but even Amsterdam and Rotterdam on a clear day.

Dramatically different but no less impressive is the Rietveld Schröder House. Built in 1924 by Gerrit Rietveld for the Schröder family, the house is the most famous (and possibly the only) example of De Stijl design in architecture. Now a museum, the building’s prestige is reflected in its classification as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Utrecht also has a wide range of museums and galleries. For art lovers, the first port of call should be the Centraal Museum in Nicolaaskerkhof, founded in 1838 and containing a fabulous historical art collection. Alternatively, the works at Aboriginal Art Museum in Oudegracht are equally intriguing and reflect the city’s diverse culture. If that’s not enough, check out the Museum Catharijneconvent in Lange Nieuwstraat (specialising in Christian art and culture in the Netherlands) and the Utrecht Universiteit Museum.

Among the many events and festivals held in Utrecht, some of the most stimulating are the Pop City event in October, providing an array of concerts, films and a pop fashion-show, and the Saint Matthew Passion series of classical music concerts in October, the history of which stretches as far back as 1727.

Football is very much the local sport in Utrecht and the city is represented by FC Utrecht, who play their games in the Eredivisie at the Stadion Galgenwaard and are one of the country’s most successful clubs.


The most obvious destination for shoppers is the Hoog Catharijne indoor shopping centre, packed with well-known stores. However, the areas around the Oude Gracht Canal, which runs through the city, are also renowned for their excellent shops.

An open-air market takes place in Vredenburg Square on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Also hosted on Saturdays is the Breedstraat market.

Nightlife and Eating Out

You can find a fantastic selection of places to eat near the Oude Gracht Canal. The premier restaurant in this area is Stadskasteel Oudaen, a 13th century converted castle which also serves up the locally-brewed beer.

Fine dining doesn’t in Utrecht end there though, with De Nederlanden in Duinkerken and Karel V in Geertebolwerk both Michelin star establishments. International cuisine is also available like Italian at the Ristorante La Ciabatta in Jaarbeursplein.

If you’re looking for a night out, the most popular spot in Utrecht is Tivoli nightclub in Oudegracht, serving up live music and dancing throughout the night. If you simply want somewhere to drink though, the Café Belgie also in Oudegracht is the place for you.

Utrecht has a number of nightclubs across the city including the interestingly named Stairway To Heaven in Mariaplaats.

For something a little quieter, the Stadsschouwburg Theatre in the Lucasbolwerk is renowned for its great concerts and performances.

Tourist Information

Utrecht Tourist Information OfficeDomplein, 9Tel: +31 (0)9001 288 732info@vvvutrecht.nl


Lacking its own airport, Utrecht is fortunately close to Amsterdam Schipol Airport, the main airport of the Netherlands. The city can be reached via regular trains or coaches, with the travel time a mere half an hour or so.

International and domestic connecting flights are available regularly everyday.

British Airways, bmi and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines all use Schipol Airport to and from multiple British destinations.