On a recent ‘trip to Amsterdam,’ I ended up spending more of my time in the town of Utrecht. Amsterdam is a place you should visit if you find yourself in Holland, however, a couple of days is enough. If you want to continue your trip, consider staying in Utrecht: A more Dutch Version of Amsterdam, here’s why:
Utrecht is still a city of canals; the Oudegracht [old canal] runs through central Utrecht. This forms duel-level streets with restaurants both on the street level or below along the canal, accessible by stairways. It has similar visuals to Amsterdam but with arguably more charm.
More Authentic Experience
Amsterdam is lively but most of the people you will meet are not Dutch. It is filled with tourists, while this can be fun you are missing out on meeting the friendly Dutch people. Utrecht is a normal Dutch town in the sense that you will be interacting with locals everywhere you go.
Walking around the old city center of Utrecht, you will find Dutch style canal homes and businesses with pops of color. Utrecht was everything I imagined a Dutch town to be. Every place I looked felt as though I was in a postcard that someone would bring back from their time in Holland.
Easier to Cycle
You cannot talk about The Netherlands and not talk about BIKES. It is such an integrated part of life that connects Dutch people. Biking in Amsterdam is harder as the number of pedestrians is higher and they become oblivious obstacles. Utrecht is far more cycle friendly.
I don’t have strong biking skills; I cannot go ‘hands-free,’ stop and go quickly, or squeeze between small spaces. Even if you don’t have strong skills yourself; go out and spend a day touring by bike. (It also helps that Dutch people are patient and kind, even when you are biking slowly in the wrong area, cut them off, or walk in front of them, as many tourists on bikes do. ) You will see many different decorated bikes that will make you yearn for one of your own!
Fun Fact: Some people lock their bikes up, others don’t. I have heard Dutch people admit that bikes aren’t often stolen as much as borrowed [especially after a night of drinking.] Many people use cheap bikes and destroy them with bright, identifiable spray paint and decor so that people don’t want to take them. It is also supposedly good fun to throw them into the canals after a few too many drinks. If this doesn’t show you how lively the Dutch people are, reread this paragraph again to see exactly why I emphasize the value of meeting the locals.
Amsterdam gives the impression that coffeeshops [different than coffee shops or cafes] are only used by tourists. In fact, I even had a Dutch person from Amsterdam tell me that Dutch people never have and never will use coffeeshops.
Now, I found this comical as Utrecht coffeeshops are filled with students doing their homework, along with both young and old meeting with their friends. The main point is that they were primarily full of Dutch people. If you are interested in participating in the coffeeshop culture, try it in and outside of Amsterdam to get a true feeling of what it’s all about. HERE you can see where I answer the FAQs of Coffeeshops.
Straightforward to Travel Back and Forth
You don’t have to choose Utrecht OR Amsterdam, you can easily experience both, even in a short amount of time. It’s cheap and fast to travel between the two cities. I stayed in Amsterdam then moved to stay in Utrecht. However, I still took the train to Amsterdam quite easily even while staying in Utrecht.
This statue is the perfect representation of how I felt in Utrecht.
Utrecht is a wonderful place just to WANDER and lose track of time. I would highly encourage anyone taking a trip to The Netherlands to explore more than just Amsterdam. As much as I fell in love with Utrecht, I think I fell in love with the Dutch people even more! This alone made going to Utrecht worth it.
Utrecht is one of the most postcard-esque places my eyes have seen.
Have you been to The Netherlands? Comment below with where you have been OR where you would like to go: