Utrecht lies in the shadow of Amsterdam, somewhat unknown to visitors, though I’ve heard of lots of people who prefer living there to Amsterdam, actually. A cute university town, it’s a busy and prosperous city with all the benefits of Amsterdam (shopping, canals, public transportation, etc), but without the tourists. Which is always nice.
The other day we endured the 30 minute train ride (just horrible, I know) and set out to explore Utrecht. I’ve actually been there before, back in March, so some of these pictures are from that visit, too.
Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands and is home to the country’s largest university. The most “famous” thing about the city is it’s church tower, which is the tallest in the country! Utrecht was a haven of Christianity for a time, and in the middle ages a large church was built, with an impressively tall tower (the view is great!). The church has some humorous history in that it was built at opposite ends with the intention of meeting in the middle, but due to declining funds and a collapse of the nave, it was left in shambles for a while. Today it’s still not connected: you can visit the church tower, but you’ll have to cross the street to go inside the church!
Other than a tall impressive tower, Utrecht doesn’t have anything else famous to offer. But it’s one of those cities you can picture yourself living in, and loving your life. There’s a long, winding canal down the center of town lined by cute shops and cafes. Trees bloom everywhere, and bikes jingle past with kids riding in them. The canal in the city is unique due to the fact that they’ve dropped the water line, compared to Amsterdam, which gives a little “shelf” or walkway down below street level. Some places set up tables for cafes, or shops will set out their wares there. It gives a slower, more idyllic feel of being in a city park.
We chose a sunny outdoor terrace to relax in for a few hours, then wandered back through the streets before sipping some fresh-squeeze orange juice. If I were choose another city in the Netherlands to live, Utrecht would be at the top of my list. For sure.