Utrecht, The Netherlands travel guide and things to do: Nine highlights

THE ONE BICYCLE PARK

Okay, so Stationsplein, the world’s biggest bike parking station for more than 12,500 bicycles, may not seem like Utrecht’s must-see attraction. But it does reveal much about the visionary urban planning philosophy behind the Netherlands’ fourth biggest city. Named 2022’s world’s most bicycle friendly city, a 96 per cent bike ownership rate sees the car in Utrecht taking decidedly a back seat on the city’s unpolluted streets. See utrecht.nl

THE ONE RAILWAY STATION

2F2AT85 UTRECHT, NETHERLANDS - FEBRUARY 28, 2020: Utrecht Centraal Railway Station from Station Square with Hoog Catharijne shopping mall at twilight. SatFeb11OneOnly


Photo: Alamy

Photo: Alamy 

Stationsplein is part of Utrecht’s eye-catching updated central rail hub, dominated by a sculptural Swiss cheese-like translucent roof. With Utrecht’s fully pedestrianised, supremely walkable old city centre – under half-an-hour (by train, of course) from Amsterdam – next to the station, the visitor doesn’t even really need a bike, unless they plan to head out of town. See ns.nl/en 

THE ONE CANAL CRUISE

Canal systems are ubiquitous in the low-lying Netherlands but what distinguishes Utrecht’s main six kilometre-long equivalent is that it flows well below street level. Lined with old- fashioned dock cellars reached only by stairs, today they’ve been converted to pleasant eateries and drinking holes with waterside terraces as well as several homes. View it all from aboard a Schuttevaer boat cruise city tour. See schuttevaer.com

THE ONE HOTEL

What Utrecht’s highly-recommended Hunfeld boutique hotel, fashioned inside an historic menswear store, lacks in elaborate facilities it compensates for in its friendliness and affordability. This stylish hotel’s locale is not too shabby either since it overlooks the leafy cafe-ringed De Mariaplaats square close to Centraal Station and right in the old city. See thehunfeld.com

THE ONE HOUSE MUSEUM

Built in 1924 by Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld for his client Truus Schroder-Schrader and her three children, Rietveld Schroder House house was deemed both revolutionary and controversial. Designed largely without fixed walls, visitors can tour the UNESCO World Heritage-listed modernist house furnished with some of the architect’s iconic pieces including his red and blue armchair. Make time for coffee and cake at the cool little cafe operating from the home’s original garage. See rietveldschroderhuis.nl

THE ONE LIBRARY

Shuttered for years, in 2020 the City of Utrecht reopened its restored and repurposed grand century-old yellow brick central post office as the Bibliotheek Neude public library. Below the building’s spectacular parabolic, or U-shaped, ceiling, take a seat at the in-house bar-cum-cafe spilling in part of the magnificent main hall. Sit back and admire the architectural splendour which includes walls lined with several metres high offbeat bluestone statues representing each of the continents. See discover-utrecht.com

THE ONE RESTAURANT

With modern-day Indonesia having been a Dutch colony between 1816 to 1941, one South-East Asian cuisine that predominates in the Netherlands is the spicy food derived from that now independent nation. The authentic and thoughtfully compiled menu at the Michelin Guide-listed Restaurant Blauw is an ideal way to discover the full array of Indonesian cuisine, a school of Asian cooking not as familiar to Australians as others. See restaurantblauw.nl

THE ONE MALL

If you take a canal cruise you’ll end up visiting popular Hoog Catharijne, its modern and agreeable shopping mall, whether you choose to or not. Tour boats, after all, novelly pass beneath the centre where shoppers can view the canal below them through transparent glass flooring inserts. See hoog-catharijne.klepierre.nl

THE ONE CAFE

After all of your foot-slogging in this gorgeous Dutch city, you will owe yourself a pitstop. Hop into the black-fronted Hop & Stork with its delectable selection of handmade chocolates, pastries and ice-cream. Don’t go early, though, as like a lot of such places in the Netherlands, it doesn’t open until at least 10am. See hopenstork.com

ONE MORE THING…

Dominating the city is the 112-metre tall, 14th century Dom Tower, temporarily hidden behind scaffolding as it undergoes a major restoration due for completion next year. Meanwhile guided tours of the tower and its bowels are still possible. See domtoren.nl

The writer visited the Netherlands as a guest of Norwegian Cruise Lines and British Airways. See ncl.com and britishairways.com

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