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10 Hidden Gems in Utrecht (Free)

The first semester is almost done, so it’s time for all of you newcomers to discover some wonderful places here in Utrecht, especially if you haven’t done so already! Here is a small list of 10 of my favourite beautiful places in Utrecht, and because we know how expensive your stay here can be, they are all free!

1. Oudegracht

(Old Canal)

I like to describe Utrecht as a smaller, cuter, and more Dutch version of Amsterdam, and one of the reasons is because of the gorgeous canals it has.

Stadswandeling centrum Utrecht, wandel langs grachten en steegjes

Utrecht is also an old, historic, and fortified town, hence why you will find canals and walls all around the city. In the old days, they functioned in order to protect the people of Utrecht from danger from outsiders. Nowadays there are enough charming bridges that can take you everywhere, including inside and outside of the city. These bridges are all special in their own way and often have very green borders of the canals around the city too. There are also some city parks situated around the city canals, for example, Lepelenburg or Zocherpark.

Utrecht, historic city with beautiful courtyards and hidden city gardens

Furthermore, close to the Oudegracht (in the picture above) you can find Andreashof:

Utrecht, historic city with beautiful courtyards and hidden city gardens

This is truly an adorable little courtyard featuring many aspects of the architect of Utrecht!

1. Subcultures

(Board Games)

Afbeelding met winkel, Detailhandel, gebouw, Etalage

Automatisch gegenereerde beschrijving

There are four lovely game stores in Utrecht, but my absolute favourite is Subcultures! This wonderful store is filled with the most magical games you can find. I might be a little biased here as it was the first game store I discovered when I moved to Utrecht.

Spellenwinkel Subcultures: board and cardgames

The inside of the store is uniquely qualified to enhance the magical atmosphere that you want to encounter when you are looking for a new game. And behind the large stack of games at the end of the store, there is a secret passageway downstairs where they often host free game nights!

3. Dorstige Harthof

Utrecht, historic city with beautiful courtyards and hidden city gardens

The Dorstige Hartsteeg has already been present in Utrecht since the 1300s. It is a rather small street filled with typical tiny Dutch houses where people still live. The street can be found when you want to cross from the Oudegracht to the Lange Nieuwstraat. The name of the street comes from an old inn called De Drie Dorstigen Harten, which means The Three Thirsty Hearts. Between 1659 and 1774 there was also a church in this courtyard but unfortunately, they broke it down sometime after. However, there still are a few monumental buildings in this courtyard.

4. Pandhof Domkerk

(Garden of the Domchurch)

Utrecht, The Netherlands | Top things to do in Utrecht Holland

The Dom Church is probably one of The Netherlands’ most famous (and oldest) churches. The ‘Pandhof’, loosely translated as ‘Building Court’ is stationed next to the church and it’s an oasis of peace, greenery and beauty. On a good weather day, it is one of the best places to sit on a bench and read a book.

5. Brutenhof

IMG_0834

Bruntenhof can be found close to the ‘Bevrijdingsboom’ (which means ‘Tree of Freedom’) and Park Lepelenburg. It’s a lovely courtyard with beautiful small houses where people are still residing.

6. Pandhof St. Marie

Wat moet er gebeuren met pleintje bij Pandhof Sinte Marie? | De Utrechtse  Internet Courant

The Pandhof St Marie is next to the Conservatorium and close to the lively Mariaplaats with all its restaurants and bars. It’s accessible via the street called Mariahoek, and it is a rare quiet space in the city. The garden is filled with a wide array of beautiful flowers and plants, and the best time to visit is definitely during the spring. Something to keep in mind is that although this Pandhof is open daily from 8 am, due to security reasons, it closes in summertime around 8 pm and in winter around 6 pm.

7. Abraham Dolehof

ABRAHAM DOLEHOF | Van de Hof naar de Abraham Dolesteeg | Willem Geijssen |  Flickr

The Abraham Dolehof and its adjoining Abraham Dolesteeg (“Abraham Dole-alley”) are part of the Sint Ursula Monastery. Nowadays most of the old monastery buildings are gone, but you can still see the old chapel which has been used since 1745 as a Luther Church and is accessible via Hamburgerstreet 9. This one won’t be easy to find if you are just wandering the city, it is only known by true insiders!

8. Trajectum Lumen

Top things to do in Utrecht: Trajectum Lumen | Your Dutch Guide

Discover Utrecht after dark by following the artistic path through the historical city centre: Utrecht Lumen. The path leads from Vredenburg to Nieuwegracht past several installations by light artists. Most of these artworks are really subtle and have a special and significant story to them. You can take a tour with a guide or download the route to take the walk by yourself!

9. Louis Hartlooper Complex

Top things to do in Utrecht, The Netherlands: Louis Hartlooper Complex | Your Dutch Guide

From the outside, it may look like a very boring building, but that couldn’t be more untrue! It’s a monument that was built in 1927, in Amsterdamse School style. The vertical lines and tainted glass windows are stunning. It used to be a police station, but after excessive renovation became a a cinema for art house films. Go check out what the inside looks like!

10. Molen De Ster

Molen De Ster (photo by Stephanie Versteeg) | Your Dutch Guide

Last but not least, did you know you can visit a real Dutch windmill right here in the middle of the city? Utrecht actually has more than one windmill near the city centre, and of one them, is rather easy to visit: Molen de Ster; in the popular Lombok neighbourhood, just a few minutes walk from the central station. The windmill was built in 1739 and restored beautifully. You can have a drink in the little café attached to it. 

Bonus: Utrecht free tours

As a final touch, if you want to explore Utrecht to its fullest, here is an amazing tip for you! Did you know that you can book a free walking tour? Yes, you read that correctly, free! You don’t even have to book a time slot or reserve your spot. You can just show up! There is a free tour every Saturday at noon! For more information, you can check out their website: http://www.utrechtfreetours.nl/

Written by Rose Özüm

Edited by Matthijs Uleman

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