A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
When you are an international student, first, you would like to explore the country that you study in. Apart from learning the language and the culture, international students are often keen to visit other cities during weekends or having a day-trip outside of the exam periods. This is also how I have, at least tried to, explored the Netherlands.
I was an exchange student at Utrecht University during the 2018/2019 academic year. My friends who knew about this fact always asked me to be their guide for a day-trip in Utrecht. (OK, I admit that I have promoted Utrecht quite often because I am in love with that city since it was my very first home in the Netherlands.) Having been the, so-to-say, tour-guide for various times, and receiving good feedback :), I would like to share with you some tips for the ultimate day-trip in Utrecht.
You can reach Utrecht from Leiden Centraal around 45 minutes by direct train. (The only stop between Leiden and Utrecht is Gouda – the city famous with its cheese! So, you can stop by on your way to Utrecht or back to Leiden in order to visit the cheese market in Gouda.) Utrecht Centraal is the hub of the Netherlands. Meaning that it is the connection point for many routes, therefore, it is very busy and lively during the day. Because of this, you can get mesmerized how big the Utrecht Centraal is when you step out off the platform.
If this is not enough, then you will definitely be fascinated by the massive shopping centre, the Hoog Catharijne, situated right next to the Utrecht Centraal. In order to reach the city centre, you need to walk through the shopping centre. (Clever choice, huh?) During the hot summer days, you can benefit from their air-conditioning though!
What I like the most about Utrecht is that, it is a city that is small enough to allowing you to explore it on foot, I mean the city centre, yet it is big enough to offer many options for its residents and visitors. Apart from that, the city is very lively for the entire year, especially during the summer months. I believe one of the main reasons for this is the unique tow-level street system that canals of Utrecht have. This allows pedestrians to walk on upper-level roads while people enjoy their time on the down-level terraces. If you would like to have some drinks before you start to explore the city, I would advise you to stop at one of the many bars at Oudegracht and enjoy the atmosphere that down-level terraces create.
After passing the famous Neude square, I would suggest you to have your lunch or bites at the Streetfood Club. It is situated right across the Utrecht Law School and very easy to reach on foot from the Utrecht Centraal. Not only the food is delicious, but also the interior is amazing here!
After having your drinks and lunch/bites, now you are ready to explore the city. The first thing you will realise in Utrecht is the famous Domtoren, a 112-meter tower. If you believe in your stamina for 465 steps and 112-meters, you can get your student tickets for €7.50 in order to join a guided tour in the tower. I must say that the view from the top of the tower is breath-taking and certainly worth the money and effort for it!
You can pay a visit also to the St. Martin’s Cathedral, right across the Domtoren, and take amazing pictures with your friends in the cloister garden. The main entrance to the gardens can be found next to the Academiegebouw of Utrecht University, which is also another stunning building! If you ever wonder about it, the globe in front of the building signifies the Sun of Righteousness.
From this point on, you can discover the city centre of Utrecht in any direction you want. I would advise you to follow the canals and enjoy the scenery, especially in Autumn. Alongside the canals, there are many small shops and galleries are located in Utrecht. Also, in between the buildings, you can discover some of the `secret gardens` that can be reach by following the narrow lines.
On your way back to Leiden or the Hague, I would recommend you to stop by at the Café Lebowski to have your final drinks or bites. Again, you will get fascinated by the interior in this café. Definitely worth a shot!
Bearing in mind that this `guide` only covers the city centre of Utrecht, I hope this blog will help you to enjoy day-trip to Utrecht. Have you already visited Utrecht? Let us know about your experience and tips in the comments below!