We all know that the French are not at the top of the ecology hit parade in Europe, even if we are making progress… In the Netherlands, the population is more sensitive to the upheaval in our lifestyles represented by a real approach ecological on a daily basis. Just look at the number of cyclists who ride there… The city of Utrecht is positioning itself in the niche of sustainability, a choice acclaimed by a large majority of its population. Tourism is therefore encouraged to follow this trend…

Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands, located in the center of Holland. It is a large agglomeration of 368,024 inhabitants identified to date, for 99.32 km². It is the capital of the eponymous province which has 1 million 300,000 souls. Utrecht is a centuries-old religious center that includes an old medieval city, canals, Christian monuments and a historic university. This very peaceful city is an ideal setting to spend a weekend discovering a serene population, just like its environment.

The main tourist places of Utrecht

Utrecht prides itself on its canals and parks, its museums and historic buildings, its many lively restaurants and its quality of life.

– Among the essential visits, the Central Museum considered the stronghold of Gerrit Rietveld. Exhibits are often fleeting, but the collections on display are often top-notch.

Domtoren: this tower is an emblematic bell tower of Utrecht, dating from the 14th century, which stands opposite the Gothic cathedral of Saint Martin, in the central square Domplein. The Sainte-Catherine convent museum presents works of art and religious objects in a former convent.
With a height of 112 m, the Dom tower is the tallest bell tower in the Netherlands. You can climb up to 95 m for the breathtaking view of Utrecht and its surroundings. During the ascent of the 465 steps, your guide (obligatory) will stop to breathe a little… the opportunity to briefly explain the history of this monument.

– THE Spoorwegmuseum (railway museum). To visit it, a special train leaves from the main station to reach the world of old platforms, steam locomotives and everything related to the railway world.

– The Rietveld Schröder House: Architecture enthusiasts should not miss a visit to this revolutionary house for its time, which was built in 1924 by the famous architect and designer Gerrit Rietveld For Truss Schröder. It will remain private until 1985 to become a small museum and an emblematic monument of Utrecht. You can see the ingenuity of this exceptional architect in his time and admire some of his creations, such as his famous red, yellow and blue chair, colors that can be found in the works of Piet Mondrian and to whom we sometimes erroneously attributes.

– The Miffy museum: For children, the Miffy museum is the funniest way to introduce them to this main character from the books of Dick Bruna, originally from Utrecht.

Cycling in Utrecht

Recently, the Spanish edition of National Geographic and CNN announced that Utrecht was the most bike-friendly city in the Netherlands and one of the best cities in the world to get around by bike. But be careful, because cyclists have priority over everything and everyone, including pedestrians! So stay very vigilant during your city wanderings, because bikes are not always equipped with bells or their owners have forgotten them…
Here the bicycle is queen and not only small! Most residents have one (or even several) and use it happily to go to work, do their shopping or simply go for a walk. There are more and more roads reserved for bicycles and bicycle parking lots are omnipresent (the largest can hold 12,000!). The first 24 hours of parking are free, most of the time. So you know what you have to do to visit Utrecht…

Walk on the canals of Utrecht

Taking a canoe or boat trip on the canals is an original and ecological way to discover all the beauty of Utrecht and the historic houses that line its canals, the vaulted cellars and the small restaurants with such a welcoming atmosphere.
These structures were created in the Middle Ages on the initiative of individuals. The transport and storage of goods allowed the city to acquire its prosperity. Each channel has its own atmosphere and characteristics. During this walk you will pass a number of quays and you will get to know Utrecht in a totally different way. Be careful when sailing, the ceiling of the bridges is sometimes very low!…

Green tour of Utrecht

With the many green spaces and rehabilitated canals, Utrecht is one of the greenest cities in the Netherlands, without losing its urban character. A pleasant compromise.
Parks abound there to the delight of all. Of Park Transwijk At Park Julianapark and Lepelenburg At Park Wilhelminaparkthey all have something special, but their common denominator is that they are free and very extensive.

Wittevrouwen: With the Wilhelminapark as its central point, it is an ideal area to take a break and organize a picnic. Lay down a blanket, get a pizza delivered….Located very close to the city center, surrounded by mansions, the area has a bit of a pompous side to it, but its welcoming bars and atmospheric park make it an ideal place or a walk.

Transwijk Park is known for its big annual festival, the LiberationFestival. The Griftpark offers a large playground and petting zoo.

Vegetarian and vegan restaurants

More and more restaurants and bars offering vegan or vegetarian dishes are springing up in Utrecht.
During our journey we were able to test several, each with its own specialties. I’m not vegan, but I was pleasantly surprised by some of the tastings. Please note a few addresses:
– The Winkel Van Sinkel: A rather chic establishment which has an open-air room where you are served vegan preparations and which has an incredible menu of Dutch beers.
– The Bunk is a surprising hotel restaurant, housed in an old church, the only vestige of which is a gigantic organ that sits at the back of the room. The architecture redesigned in a sustainable spirit of the place, alone deserves the visit. As for the rooms, even optimized, they are tiny, claustrophobic refrain…
– Le Kluts is a small vegan bakery, right in the city center, near the Dom tower. In addition to vegan cuisine, you can enjoy Bocca coffee and delicious cocktails. In the back room, the bakers create cakes and tarts every day, without milk or eggs, and exclusively from spelled flour.
– Le Broei (pronounced scramble). This is without doubt one of the friendliest vegan restaurants in Utrecht. The owner tells you about the history of the place and his ambitions to create a chain of quality vegan restaurants. I was amazed by the veg composite slice of his hamburgers which looks furiously like minced meat… Consistency, appearance, taste, everything is there!

For a selection of the best addresses, I can advise you to use the services of the agency of specialized and very nice guides: Vegan Food Tour Utrecht which organizes daily tastings, through a discovery on foot or by bike of the most current trends.

Hospitality hotels in Utrecht

The city has a good number of hotel establishments, rather confined to the 2 to 3* categories.
Only one establishment is adorned with 5* on the pediment: the Grand Hotel Karel V: This 14th-century monastery that once served as accommodation for knights and priests is now a five-star luxury hotel in the heart of Utrecht, less than 10 minutes from Central Station. Best to get there on foot.

The beautiful main building is surrounded by several gardens. The old-style rooms are spacious (from 32 to 60 m²) and all have a view of the green surroundings (the canal, the gardens or the “Domtoren”).
The period style of this centuries-old monastery can be found in different types of rooms and suites. The very classic decoration has already been modernized and a new makeover is planned for the end of the year. The bedding is of very good quality. We can criticize the ultra-sobriety of the bathrooms which are still equipped with bathtubs (a shame in a sustainable city!).
The Karel V has a gourmet restaurant and a wellness and fitness centre. A “bistro” is also installed in the former kitchen of the monastery, where lunch or casual dinner are served. You can also book a table in the garden, weather permitting.

Le Court Hotel: For a less classic and more contemporary address, you can opt for one of the rare 4* boutique hotels downtown. A small, elegant establishment, located in the old courthouse of Utrecht.

In summary of this discovery, Utrecht deserves a weekend, even if the journey requires passing through Rotterdam and changing trains. We used the fast Thalys train where you are served a cold meal on the way to Rotterdam, or on the way back, depending on your schedule.
Lovers of a “cool” atmosphere will be thrilled. The best way to visit Utrecht is by bike (be careful not to play bumper bike…), or by foot, at your own pace. For the channels you will have the choice, so follow your desires of the moment and have a nice weekend!


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