Visiting Utrecht

Daniëlle shows us around Utrecht, a city in the Netherlands.

Hallo, Daniëlle.
Thanks so much for helping us learn more about Utrecht.
Dank je wel. / Thank you.

Graag gedaan. / You are welcome.

OK… First, I will tell you…
what do I know about Utrecht.
It’s a fourth largest city in the Netherlands.
A city with a long history…
Founded more than 2,000 years ago by Romans.
As a fortress, next to the river crossing.
Now a University town… many students live there.
I also heard that it’s a multicultural city.
One third of the population are the immigrants,
or their descendants.

Yes, that’s right.

Utrecht during the Koningsdag / King’s Day in March. Image by inyucho at Flickr, CC-BY

OK… So, what makes Utrecht different…
from other cities in the country?
People? Any local traditions?

I used to live in Utrecht for a while.
You know, what strikes me most…
I am thinking about the differences
between Amsterdam and Utrecht…
In Amsterdam, there are people everywhere…
tourists, students, local people.
The tourist season seems to be on all year round now.

So, does it feel different in Utrecht?

Yes, in Utrecht, there are way less tourists…
although students are more easily spotted over here.
Another difference is the way strangers are treated.
When you visit a shop in Amsterdam,
don’t expect employees to greet you.
But when you are in Utrecht…
people seem more welcoming.
You could have a casual conversation with bus drivers…
or other people you’ve never met before…
these things are way more common in Utrecht.

Image by fredrte at Flickr, CC-BY

I see… How far is Utrecht from Amsterdam?

Not that far.
About 50 kilometers.
A half-hour train ride.

So, in your own impression…
does Utrecht feel like a big city or a small town?

To me, it feels like a small town.
I think it’s because the city center isn’t very big.

I can see so many canals in Utrecht.
Does the canal side feel noisy or quiet during the day?

It depends on the weather.
If it rains, it’s rather quiet.
If it’s warm and the sun’s out,
well, expect lots of people enjoying a drink somewhere…
or sitting in a boat.

Oh… I have another question.
Does walking the canals…
in Amsterdam and Utrecht feel different?

Ha… ha… I do have to say that the canals in Amsterdam…
there are just a lot more of them…
and they are a lot longer than those in Utrecht.
So you could spend your whole evening
wandering only the canals in Amsterdam…
but not so much in Utrecht.

Image by inyucho at Flickr, CC-BY

Can you walk around the city centre in less than an hour?

But you’d miss out on a lot of awesome stuff
if you’d do it.

OK… The street markets in Utrecht.
Do they work every day?

No. A street market is only open one specific day a week.
I’ll mention the most well-known street markets in Utrecht.
On Saturdays, there’s a flower market…
at the Oudegracht and the Janskerkhof.
At the Vredenburg, there’s a street market three days a week…
Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Got it. What are the best items to buy there?

You can buy all kinds of things…
fruits and vegetables, clothes, fresh fish, Dutch cheese.
Oh… and something I’d especially recommend — stroopwafels!
Another street market is the ‘Lapjesmarkt’.
It does feel quite special.
At the Lapjesmarkt, you can buy all kinds of fabrics and supplies
to make your own clothes.
This type of street market can be found in other cities as well.
For example in Alkmaar… but only one day a year.
But do you wanna know what’s so special about it?
The one in Utrecht…
It’s been there every Saturday morning since 1597!

A street market in the Netherlands. Image by destreekmarkt at Flickr, CC-BY

OK… Is there any place in the city that locals visit often,
but foreigners don’t know about?

If you dig ice cream, visit ‘IJssalon Luciano’ .
Nobelstraat 215.
They have the best… and in all kinds of flavors!

I am wondering…
is there a significant difference in the cost of living…
between Amsterdam and Utrecht?

Yes. For sure.
The rent in Amsterdam is sky high.
In Utrecht, it’s only really high.
If you however think your rent is too high,
let the Huurcommissie check the price!

Image by provoost at Flickr, CC-BY

OK… So, Utrecht has a large student population.
What do young people usually do after a day of studies?

A lot of students are members to
what we call ‘studentenverenigingen’.
Studentenverenigingen are like sororities and fraternities in the US,
but they’re mixed.
Except UVSV (sorority) and USC (fraternity).
When the college day is over,
some go out to their ‘sociëteit’…
it’s like a clubhouse of a studentenvereniging,
or just go to a bar or a club,
some stay at home and have a drink with friends,
and some hit the gym.

A University campus in Utrecht. Image by naberacka at Flickr, CC-BY-SA

Are there places with cheaper shopping,
accommodation, entertainment for students?

Well, Utrecht’s a real student town…
there are a lot of shops that offer discounts…
usually 10% off…
way too many of those places…
not easy to point out any specific ones.
So don’t forget your university card when you’re shopping!

Are open-air cafes common in Utrecht?

Yes, very common.
You should take a look at the Oudegracht.
You can sit outside and have a drink at near water level,
or if you don’t have strong sea legs, 2 meters higher.

Image by mikecogh at Flickr, CC-BY-SA

Yes, the city does look fantastic.
Thanks again, Daniëlle…
Very interesting story.

You are very welcome.

Head image by maartendanial at Flickr, CC-BY