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Utrecht, The Netherlands - California Globetrotter

Utrecht: The Less Touristy Version of Amsterdam


IMG_4818It seems like it is becoming more popular to visit the #2 or #3 cities of a country instead of heading straight for the capital city which is over priced, over crowded and a tad too dirty. While Amsterdam is incredibly beautiful and should not be missed while traveling through Holland, it might be more beneficial to just skip all the crowds and head straight for Amsterdam’s little brother, Utrecht.

Despite only being about a 20 minute train ride from Amsterdam, most tourists don’t seem to bother with this little Dutch town that is actually older than the capital! Utrecht has everything Amsterdam has just without the hordes of tourists. It was so peaceful here strolling the Oudegracht (Old Canal) passing cute cafes and restaurants and still getting the contact highs from nearby Coffee Shops.

Unlike Amsterdam, there aren’t as many canals to stroll through, however, the main canal, the Oudegracht stretched right through the middle of the city. It is a medieval canals that connects the city with the Rhine River. Here, there are shops and cafes which line the lower levels of the canal and there are stretches of the canal that you can walk along.

Utrecht, The Netherlands - California Globetrotter

IMG_4820IMG_4825As soon as we got into the center of town, you could see that the tower from the St. Martin’s Domkerk (cathedral) dominates the town, as it is the tallest tower in the Netherlands standing at a whopping 367ft tall. However, I was surprised to see that once coming closer to the cathedral that the tower was not actually a part of the cathedral. Turns out there was a huge storm in 1674 which caused the nave to collapse after a tornado plowed through the center of the church. Due to low funds, the cathedral was never completed nor repaired and the ruins actually laid there for 150 years. Today, you can climb the 465 steps to the top of the tower for amazing views over the town. Unfortunately, the RonDom tourist center located in the same square only sells a limited amount of day tickets. It is best to plan ahead for this.

Inside the Domkerk you can still see the choir and the transept. It makes for a quick walk around as there isn’t much to see on the inside. There are several tombs throughout the cathedral.

Next to the cathedral is a beautiful brick building which is part of the Utrecht University. Directly in front of the University building is a statue of Graaf Jan Van Nassau who was the brother of the first King of the Netherlands who helped form the union of Utrecht.

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IMG_4828Whenever I am meandering around, I always make sure to look down because there is usually something interesting which meets my feet! In Utrecht I found a row of hand and foot prints similar to the hand prints at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Turns out, this is the Utrecht Walk of Fame of famous Dutch celebrities. The Dutch Film Festival takes place every year in Utrecht when new plaques are unveiled.

One thing I truly loved about Amsterdam and Utrecht was that it was like stepping back into colonial America. For some reason, it truly made me feel like this is what the east coast probably felt like before the Revolution. Or maybe it was that I was too in love with the architecture that I was dreaming again. Or maybe I watch too many movies. And it felt like from every angle in town you had a fantastic glimpse of the Domtoren (Cathedral tower)!

IMG_4846We finally plopped down to eat at a great burger restaurant called Burger Bar. We had planned to eat at one in Amsterdam, but discovered that a new one opened in Utrecht. This was much better as the several Burger Bars in Amsterdam that we passed were way crowded. The burgers here are massive and messy but delicious and while eating my burger, I had to introduce my friends to the Carl’s Jr. slogan “If it doesn’t get all over the place, it doesn’t belong in your face”.

After consuming our juicy burgers we felt that we needed to walk around a bit more to burn off dinner before we could go for drinks, so we found a cute Pandhof (courtyard) of St. Mary – a former monastery and its garden filled with a variety of plants and flowers.

For drinks we went into a bar, which I had thought looked like any other bar, only to discover once inside, it was actually a former church turned into a bar called Olivier Café-Restaurant. Here they sell a huge variety of Belgian beers, which I was excited about having fallen in love with Belgian beers during my first trip to Belgium. It was a great way to end a lovely afternoon in Utrecht.

I highly suggest coming here if you are looking for something off the beaten track away from the hordes of tourists and the crazy jacked up prices of everything. You still get the same amazing feeling and can enjoy it at a much slower pace. There is no rush here to get to the next must-see tourist checklist.

And for the record: Proof we were actually in Utrecht since we didn’t really take any pictures of ourselves hahaIMG_4831

Stay tuned for more adventures from the Netherlands:

A Day Strolling the Canals of Amsterdam

Zaanse Schans: Windmills, Clogs & Cheese!

Alkmaar: A Typical Dutch Cheese Market (for Cheese Lovers!)


The Adorable Half-Timbered Town of Monschau, Germany

Charlemagne’s Aachen – Germany

and a drive into….

A Drive to Leuven, Belgium (Just for Waffles)

as well as….

The Beauty of Strasbourg, France

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Utrecht, The Netherlands - California Globetrotter

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Author: California Globetrotter

At 14 I started traveling the world with my parents and was hooked! By 21 I was studying abroad in Heidelberg, Germany. By 26 I sold all of my belongings and bought a one way ticket to Germany to teach English. Little did I know, I'd meet the love of my life and end up traveling to the most romantic and idyllic towns in Europe and becoming a long-term expat in Bavaria! My name is Lorelei and I'm just your typical CaliGirl, Sunset Chaser, Fairytale Dreamer, Dress Lover, Traveloholic, Beer Drinker!

24 thoughts on “Utrecht: The Less Touristy Version of Amsterdam

  1. Pingback: A Day Strolling the Canals of Amsterdam | California Globetrotter

  2. So glad you loved Utrecht–it’s my temporary home! I agree, it’s nice to get away from the hubbub of tourists in Amsterdam, and Utrecht is so easy to get to by train! Happy you had a sunny day–that’s not always the case in the Netherlands!

  3. Pingback: Zaanse Schans: Windmills, Clogs & Cheese! | California Globetrotter

  4. Plus 1 to visiting the 2nd and 3rd (not to mention 4th, 5th and 6th) cities in European countries. That’s one of the great advantages of living in Europe, it’s easy to visit places that would be difficult to prioritize on a short trip over from the US. I loved Utrecht although it looks like you had *much* nicer weather than when we visited. We got seriously rained on 🙂

    • This is why I love living in Europe and getting the chance to see the other cities one wouldn’t make the extra time for. We got lucky the whole weekend with great weather, but by Sunday afternoon as we were literally starting to drive away from the Netherlands, it pouuured!

  5. Pingback: Alkmaar: A Typical Dutch Cheese Market (for cheese lovers!) | California Globetrotter

  6. Utrecht is really pretty and it must get to my list! I’ve been in the Netherlands a couple of times when I was a kid and visited Rotherdam, Hague and Delft as well…but most recently I’ve visited Amsterdam (and on Queen’s Day no less…now renamed to Kings Day). It does get a bad rap because of the “coffee shops” and red light district, but I love it’s architecture and museums a lot!

  7. Utrecht looks very pretty indeed and I have not heard of this city other than Amsterdam. Thanks for sharing, at least now I know that there is another city to go to, some place to be away from hordes of people 🙂 #MondayEscapes.

  8. Must add this city to our must-sees in the Netherlands in 2017. What a vibrant and energetic nation – one could easily spend a month here and not see enough of it!!

  9. I looks so pretty! I have heard about this city but I think I had never taken a deep look. I love to discover places like this.

  10. We are headed to Holland next April and I’d definitely add this on the list. It’s less touristy but equally beautiful! I love it! :p

  11. Pingback: The Adorable Half-timbered Town of Monschau, Germany | California Globetrotter

  12. Utrecht looks lovely – somewhere I’ve never been although I was in Amsterdam this summer again. I agree sometimes it’s the smaller big cities which are the unexpected stars. #MondayEscapes

  13. I’ve never been to Utrecht but think I will remedy that if I go to Holland. It looks so pretty particularly the university. Sometimes these small towns are the biggest gems. Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

  14. I loved reading about your experience in Utrecht! I went to Amsterdam for a long weekend about a year ago, and I honestly didn’t really connect with the city. So many people LOVE Amsterdam, but I left feeling like I saw what I wanted to, and didn’t have a desire to return. It’s the only place I’ve been in the Netherlands, so I wouldn’t write off the country based on that one visit – so it sounds like next time I should give Utrecht a try! It looks beautiful. And how crazy that a tornado hit that church – I never think of tornadoes occurring in those parts of the world! #MondayEscapes

    • I never thought of tornadoes hittin Europe either until I moved here. They are no where near as powerful as in the States but we get some big storms in through here which can cause small tornadoes! Pretty crazy though! You should definitely give Utrecht a go!

  15. I love going to the #2 cities as well — I guess I like to discover offbeat places more. This is a lovely post. Too bad I missed Utrecht when I was to the Netherlands, but it’s a good reason to come back. 🙂

  16. Pingback: A Drive to Leuven (Just for Waffles!) | California Globetrotter

  17. Pingback: The Beauty of Strasbourg, France | California Globetrotter

  18. Pingback: YOL-2015-O | California Globetrotter

  19. Pingback: Charlemagne’s Aachen | California Globetrotter

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