Forget Amsterdam, Utrecht is the place to be in the Netherlands for a city trip! I am one of the biggest Utrecht fans in the world, and I have plenty of tips on how to have a great city trip on a budget.
Utrecht is, like Amsterdam, known for its canals. It is very nice (and completely free) to walk down the canals and explore the city in this way. There are “de oudegracht” and “de nieuwegracht”, the first one is where all the shops are and the latter one is a bit more quiet and peaceful. It is also possible to rent a canoe and take a canoe trip through the canals, this will cost you 5 euros per hour. Even more cool is to take a tour by night, since all the bridges are lit up!
The highlight of Utrecht is the Dom tower. You can enjoy it from below or climb it for 7,50 when you show your student card and enjoy the view from the top. Next to the Dom tower is a small garden that is also worth a visit, it is an oasis of peace. Across of the Dom tower you can find the Dom church, which you can visit for free. At the church is also a beautiful garden located. It is a great place to shoot your pictures for social media.
Besides the places mentioned above Utrecht does not have many must-see highlights. The best way to enjoy Utrecht is just to walk around and enjoy the architecture and vibe. Utrecht also has plenty of museums, with the most different one being “Nijntje museum”. Nijntje, Miffy in English, was designed by an artist from Utrecht and there is a whole museum filled with Nijntje objects. It is however aimed at children, but if you want to bring out your inner child a ticket will only cost you 2,50!
The Netherlands are not really known for their great food, yes they have some great specialties like cheese and licorice but not really great dishes. If you want to try some typical Dutch food, go to HEMA (the most Dutch shop ever) and buy “stroopwafels” (thin waffles with caramel in between) and “drop” (licorice). Moreover you can also have dinner at HEMA, they serve meals between 2,50 and 5 euros. If that isn’t budget friendly, I don’t know what is anymore.
Restaurants in The Netherlands are in general not very cheap, but Utrecht still offers some good options when you want to go out for dinner on a budget. A great place is ‘t Gras van de Buren. This easy, low-key restaurants is popular amongst students/young people since it is so cheap, you can get lunch for 5 euros or a three course dinner for 15 euro’s. ‘t Gras also turns in to a bar at night, and it attracts mostly older students and people in their late twenties.
If ‘t Gras van de Buren is full, you can also go to Bar Walden. They almost have the same concept, lunch for 6 euros and a three course dinner for 12 or 15 euro’s. So as you might expect this place is also filled with students.
Utrecht also has several great burger places. First off all there is Pickles Burgers and Wines, and as you might have guessed from the name they specialize in burgers and wine. For about 15 euro’s you will have a burger, and you will be full for the rest of the night. If you more about getting a burger on the go and eat it in one of the parks or at the side of one of the canals go to Meneer Smakers. They have all types of burgers that will satisfy anyone, and for about 8 euro’s you will have a burger so no big budget needed here!
One of the unique aspects of Utrecht is the restaurants located in the cellars at the canals. One of the best cafés is ‘t Oude Pothuys. When the weather is nice you can sit outside at the canals, but you can also sit inside and enjoy the live music that is played every night. They also serve budget friendly food here, but it is not the best.
Another cool café is Olivier. This café is located in an old church and it has an unique vibe. Olivier is known for its beers, and it is a great place to try one of the local Utrecht beers (Pandora or Brutus). When drinking in an old church is not really your style, go to Lebowski. This café has an extremely cool interior, you can even find a life-size giraffe here. Many students and young people go here, and it is, in my opinion, the most unique café in Utrecht.
After you are done drinking in one of the cafés, there are multiple clubs and places you can go to for partying/dancing. The biggest place is TivoliVredenburg. It was recently built and is one of the most modern buildings in Utrecht. The venue has 5 concert halls and it is one of the hotspots for students and young people. Every Thursday night is students’ night (free entrance when you show your student card), and on Fridays and Saturdays are all different types of parties. The parties that are organized here are budget friendly and so are the drinks!
If you are not really about the big clubs, Utrecht has enough small bars where you can dance. You can go to either de Neude or Janskerkhof, two squares with many smaller clubs/bars or to Nobelstraat a street filled with bars. All these places are filled with students and make sure to bring a student card because at some places you need to show it in order to get in.
Where to stay
The city center of Utrecht isn’t that large, but try to stay as close to the center as you can. The public transport at night isn’t good in Utrecht, since everyone uses a bike. So unless you have a bike it is smart to stay within walking distance of the center (taxis are NOT budget friendly) if you have big party plans. During day time there are plenty of busses to take you anywhere you want.
The best areas to stay are Binnenstad (center), Wijk C, Breedstraatbuurt, the area around Janskerkhof/Neude/Domplein, Nieuwegracht-Oost. All these areas are located near the canals and therefore are close to all the action. However you cannot always find budget friendly hotels/apartments/hostels here.
If you want to spend a little less money it would be smart to go to Vogelenbuurt, Pijlsweerd, Wittevrouwen or Watervogelenbuurt. These are still located close to the city center, but you will probably find that accommodation is a bit more budget friendly here.
These were my tips on how to have a great city trip on a budget in Utrecht! I hope you enjoyed the blogpost and if you have any tips youself please share them!