Before moving to the Netherlands, the only things I could have told you about Utrecht were a) it was the home of the University of Utrecht, and b) its name always reminded me of Steve Martin’s character from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Now that my wife is the holder of an OV-Jaarabonnement (Public Transport Annual Pass) card, she can travel anywhere in the country for free, and she can bring up to 3 people along with her for 40% off. She received her card on Friday though her job, and Saturday morning we were on the train to Utrecht!
Utrecht is a 27 minute train ride from Amsterdam Centraal Station, so fairly close. However, when you step off the train, the difference is immediately noticeable. While Amsterdam Centraal Station is old and traditional, Utrecht’s Centraal Station is more modern. It appears to be undergoing a renovation right now, but it is connected to Hoog Catharijne, which is a mall and a walkway into Utrecht itself. I have to say, I was a little bit jealous, since it had a Media Markt store, the closest thing the Netherlands seems to have to a Best Buy. The only Media Markts in Amsterdam are out in the suburbs.
After walking through the mall, we emerged into Utrecht. It’s a very different feeling from Amsterdam. While I always think of Amsterdam as a small big city, I’d equate Utrecht to a big small city. It just felt more neighborhood-y. We found our way to the Oudegracht (Old Canal) which is right in the middle of the city.
The Oudegracht sits about 25 feet lower than the rest of the city, and has many cellars on its banks. Quite a few of these have been turned into restaurants, shops, bars, etc.
Dominating the skyline of Utrecht is the Domtoren (Dom Tower), which is the bell-tower of the Dom Church. It used to be connected, but a hurricane in 1674 destroyed the part of the church that was attached to the tower. That part hasn’t been rebuilt, so the tower stands about 60 yards from the church itself now.
From there we wandered around the city a bit. I think a good way to see a city is to get out of the tourist areas and see the rest of the city.
From there, we headed back to the Oudegracht to find Mario’s, an Italian eatery that had been recommended to us. Evidently, there is both a brick & mortar restaurant, and a stand, and we found the stand. I ordered the Broodje Mario, which is a favorite of the locals. I thought it was okay, but I’d rather have a White Castle.
While sitting on the banks of the Oudegracht eating out sandwiches, I took a panoramic image of our surroundings. It’s too big to embed, but you can view it on Flickr here.
All in all, I enjoyed our trip, and we’ll probably come back when we can see more of the city. Now that we can easily travel around the country, I look forward to really seeing the Netherlands!