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Even with only 24 hours to spare, exploring Utrecht is exceptionally rewarding. This historic, culturally rich city lies around thirty kilometres due south of Amsterdam and is easily accessible from the Dutch capital by train, car, or even bike. Although it is impossible to see everything over one day, this timeframe allows travellers to see some of the city’s most iconic sites while leaving plenty of wiggle room for dinner and drinks.
There’s some seriously awesome accommodation on offer in Utrecht that range from distinctive, boutique-style rooms available at places like Eye Hotel or Mother Goose Hotel to five-star packages at Grand Hotel Karel V. Looking for something truly Utrecht? Then make sure to check the apartments managed by Hotel Oudegracht which are built inside the city’s famous canal-side cellars.
First off, head over to the Dom Tower which opens at 10am Tuesday through to Saturday and 12pm on Sundays and Mondays. This gigantic, gothic steeple ranks among the most iconic landmarks in the entire country and has stood in the centre of Utrecht since the 13th century. The tower’s 465 steps lead onto an incredible observation level that offers amazing views over the city and its surroundings.
There are plenty of great places to stop for a coffee, snacks or lunch nearby and the Dom Tower is surrounded by popular hangouts such as Grand Café Lebowski or Restaurant LOOF. Fancy something quick and easy? Then stop by Stach on Choorstraat and try one of their mouthwatering sandwiches (their meatball on white bread is super lekker).
After lunch take a stroll down on Oudegracht canal towards Wijde Doelen. This low-lying waterway was evacuated in the Middle Ages and runs straight through Utrecht’s city centre. It’s always worth taking some time to explore this area as there are some charming stores spread along the canal’s banks – many of which have overflowed into Oudegracht’s famous, subterranean wharfs. At Wijde Doelen take a left and walk along the city’s historic moat, over Manenburg until Agnietenstraat.
This road leads onto two possible destinations, namely the Miffy Museum or Centraal Museum. While the first is mainly designed for kids, its exhibitions will appeal to anyone that has a soft spot for Miffy the rabbit (Nijntje in Dutch) or follows Dick Bruna’s work (who was born in Utrecht). Centraal Musuem is just across the road and has an impressive collection of local artwork including many famous painting created by artists associated with Utrecht Caravaggistism and Northern Mannerism.
Central Utrecht has more than its fair share of excellent restaurants and it is easy enough to find somewhere to eat along Oudegract canal. For example Le Bibelot and Umami Utrecht are both located on the waterway and serve French and Asian-Fusion cuisine respectively. For more local fare book a table at Restaurant Graaf Floris on Vismaarkt, which serves a wide range of traditional Dutch meals.
Aside from wine bars, cocktail lounges and beer cafés, Utrecht also features several excellent cultural venues including EKKO and ACU which organise events throughout the week. For a truly memorable experience check out TivoliVredenburg which ranks among the largest venues in the Netherlands. This multi-storey, music complex houses five individual concert halls and regularly books internationally renowned artists as well as more obscure bands or up-and-coming acts.