On our travels around the Netherlands in Summer one of the places we knew we wanted to visit was Utrecht. We had driven through the city two years ago on our spring trip to the Netherlands and didn’t have time to stop. I remember looking out over canals and quaint streets and just wishing we could go for wander. So this time I made sure we would have time and we started off our travels with a summer weekend in Utrecht with children.
Utrecht was everything I hoped it would be and is, so far, my favourite city in the Netherlands. It is so historic and picturesque with something to admire at every street corner.
We stayed right in Utrecht’s old town in one of the canal’s cellars which were first formed in the 11th century. We’d wandered through some of the cellars still in their almost original state and damp and dark, luckily our accommodation at Hotel 26 couldn’t have been further from this. Our apartment was beautiful, re-imagined with master bedroom, large lounge with all the mod cons and the sweetest kitchen. The whole space opened on to the canal where we would spend our evenings sat out, watching the last of the boats come chugging past, the bells of Dom’s Tower ringing melodically out at random times (it seemed to us).
Since we were staying so centrally we were able to wander out through the city and back again when little legs started to tire so it was the perfect space for us.
We wandered a lot over this lovely summer weekend in Utrecht with children. We walked along the cobbled streets, dodging the ever-present bicycles and watching the pedalos drift along the canals, staring in at the houses awe-struck at their style and cosiness.
We stopped for frites at Frietwinkel, eating fat, crispy fries dipped in mayonnaise that only the Dutch do so well.
The park also called us for time spent relaxing on the grass, in the playground and on the great reclining chairs that are set up for the public to enjoy.
We also took in some of the museums. Utrecht is a great place for museums with kids and we were spoiled for choice. As my youngest is a Miffy fan I knew we just had to take a trip there and it didn’t disappoint, a whole space dedicated to the character the Dutch call Nijntje and which feels as though you’ve stepped in to one of Dick Bruna’s books.
It’s adorable and for my five year old in particular it was a magical experience of playing with the props and sets and immersing himself in everything Miffy.
We couldn’t help but finish with Miffy pancakes which even I wished I’d chosen, they were so sweet.
We also visited the Speelklok Museum, a magical space in a converted church filled with musical clocks, instruments and amazing street organs from a time now past. We loved this museum, a surprising hit with all of us.
I think my favourite time in Utrecht was that spent wandering though, losing ourselves in the back streets, coming across sights that looked centuries old.
As the city is all but car-free the sounds were dominated by the creaking, spinning of bicycle tyres as they gently rattled past, by the church bells, the sounds of chatting and laughter and of boats chugging through the canals. It was so nice for it not to be overtaken by the hum of the car engine.
We wandered through the bric-a-brac stalls, browsing through stacks of old records and Scandi style interiors which I pondered whether they would fit in the car to be taken home. A wonderful chocolate shop, Cacao caught our eye for their chocolate dipped fruit and wonderful Dom Tower chocolate constructions. We settled for a slab of their milk chocolate that was creamy and delicious.
On our last evening we went for a wander at dusk, just as the lights started to flicker on in the canal side residences and street lamps were lit, giving everything the air of a Renaissance painting. It was the perfect way to see Utrecht, looking even more like it was held in time, somewhere not quite of the modern world and full of charm because of it. As we pulled our heavy cellar apartment door shut one last time, for a warm, cosy night in we knew we would return to Utrecht. It’s somewhere that I feel could be beautiful and mesmerising in every season and a Christmas here is now firmly in our sights to return to our favourite of Dutch cities.
Have you been to Utrecht? What is your favourite thing to do there?