And one's not cycling
We thought Amsterdam was the home of the cyclist, but the bustling city of Utrecht certainly comes a close 2nd.
Utrecht is only around 35 miles (56km) from Amsterdam, so it makes it an ideal place to visit for a day trip, with trains only taking around 25 minutes.
For us, though we chose Utrecht as our third & final destination on our ‘Tulips & Cheese’ road trip. We based ourselves here for a few nights so that we could explore not only Utrecht but also the picturesque windmills at the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Kinderdijk & the town of Gouda (more cheese).
A helpful guide
If you're thinking of heading of to the land of tulips and cheese, then grab this DK Eyewitness guide to help with your planning.
I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.
Utrecht’s eye-catching Dom Tower & Cathedral stands proudly overseeing this cultural city.
The tower is Holland’s oldest and tallest, reaching 112 metres high and dates from 1321.
Hopefully, you’ll get a clear day, as you’ll then be rewarded for climbing the 465 steps with a fantastic view across the city.
What is immediately unusual about the Dom and the Cathedral is that they are no longer connected. They sit opposite each other across the main square, showing very little trace that they were ever built as one.
However, this wasn’t always the case, the two became damaged and separated during a tornado storm on 1st August 1674 and were never re-joined
Just next to the Cathedral almost hidden is the entrance to the Pandhof of the Cathedral, this is a beautiful courtyard garden surrounded by a lovely cloister.
You feel like you have walked into an oasis, it is certainly not to be missed.
Originally built between 1390-1440 it was then later restored at the end of the 19th century.
Another little hidden garden is Flora’s Hof, it’s only open a few hours each day, and you’re free to wander in and have a mosey around.
Neglected for years, in 2008 the garden was replanted and given a new lease of life, old photos are on display depicting its former glory days.
One of the lovely things about Utrecht is the meandering Oudegracht canal that runs through this historic city.
On the canal
As usual for me, I never turn down the opportunity of a boat trip. So we hopped on the 1-hour boat tour with Schuttevaer.
It gives you an insight into the city and how the waterways have developed over the years.
Along part of the lower terrace, you can see under each street lamp is a little sculpture depicting a local craft or occupation.
Take a stroll
As Utrecht is a university town, it can be quite bustling at times particularly in the city centre, but as with most towns and cities, just a short saunter back a few streets & lanes and the pace becomes more relaxed.
It’s around some of these corners that amazing architecture can be found along with some interesting statues and sculptures.
One of Utrecht’s most notable residents was Gerrit Thomas Rietveld a Dutch designer and architect, who was a principle member of the artistic movement called De Stijl.
Not only can large replicas of his famous Red and Blue Chair be seen dotted around the town, his former residence ‘Rietveld Schröder House’, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
For 2017, the chosen theme for the Keukenhof flower displays was “Dutch Design” and included inspiration from Rietveld and Mondriaan.
Take me to church
This appears to be a regular thing in the Netherlands (not that I am complaining) but we found another church that has been converted into a bar, Olivier Belgian Beer café. Well, why we were there we thought we would try their wares, it would have been rude not too.
If you are in Utrecht for an evening be sure to follow the Trajectum Lumen tour, here is a taster of a post come.
Our accommodation while we were in Haarlem, was at the NH Centre Hotel, a relatively large hotel. Parking is available but at a secure offsite location.
The location was pretty good only a few minutes’ walk to the Old Town.
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