Having spend nearly 5 years in or around Utrecht I was and still am constantly in search of new interesting places to spend time, eat, drink, and get in contact with interesting people. Overall I think Utrecht is still an often underestimated city, next to the more well known dutch cities Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Den Haag. Nevertheless Utrecht has an increasingly international face, with one of the biggest student populations per capita in the Netherlands and internationally well regarded higher education facilities, it attracts many expat and exchange students from allover the world. (And by the way also the reason I came to live in this lovely city)
In order to spread the word I decided to share some of my favorites. In the first part I will give a brief overview of my favorite areas in the city, hopefully soon to be followed by parts about food, drinks, nightlife and
Voorstraat begins at one of Utrechts most popular squares and cuts diagonally wave formed through to Wittevrouwenstraat, which is similar to the name for the surrounding area. Once Utrechts street with the highest crime rate and home to red lights, tattoo parlors, coffeeshops and squat houses, it has become a somewhat hip area with increasing numbers of little cafes and boutiques opening their doors between long established places, creating a vibrant alternative culture.
When crossing the singel one is also leaving Voorstraat and entering Biltstraat, which is mostly a bit quieter and attracts a slightly more settled crowd, often young families with kids with its Restaurants, organic food shops and my absolute favorite place for a late breakfast, Bagels & Beans.
Neude, Janskerkhof and Dom Square
Neude, Janskerkhof and Dom Square are the three most central and populated squares in Utrechts old town. All three are offering a broad range of bars, pubs and bistros for all types of people. Neude as probably the ,most vibrant of the three is often used as location for different national music or film festivals and is nearly completely turned into a beer garden during the warmer summer days. In this time of the year its the perfect point to have a seat and watch city life pass by, while while having a drink with friends. the next square, Janskerkhof is just down the road from Neude and is much more calm during daytime with just the flower market and a few bistros and cafes, whilst in the evening and night ours the nightclubs and bars are mostly attracting younger crowds. Very nice eyecandy during the winter month are the light installations of Trajectum Lumen of which some of the nicest are to be found on or around Janskerkhof.
Lombok is Utrechts cultural melting pot. Here immigrants from Africa and Asia, as well as growing numbers of international students are mingling peacefully with dutchies. With a newly build big mosque at the beginning of Lombok west and a noisy street marked on sundays, one could almost think to be in a middle eastern town; if there wasn’t the rainy weather and the rather less orientally appealing red brick architecture that is typical for the Netherlands. But if its one thing, then definitely the place to get some fresh groceries, for often less than the bigger super markets in Holland offer. Also Lombok features a wie variety of snack bars with al kinds of ethic backgrounds. Therefore its great for the ones amongst us that like to explore new and exotic foods or maybe just a less exotic Döner or Lahmacun, still definitely better and approximately half the price as in the rest of the city.
Oude Gracht, the old waterway that crosses the cities medieval old center of Utrecht once from north to south and offers restaurants of all imaginable cuisines and a few smaller night clubs attractive space directly on water level. This is also what makes the Oude Gracht unique in the Netherlands, since its different from its famous and often tourist crowded relatives in Amsterdam, are the terraces on both sides that used to be used to unload cargo from ships that would supply the city with food and other goods. Nowadays its one of the best spots to enjoy a good dinner and a few drinks outsides during the summer. On the street level on the other hand one can really see that the canal crosses the whole city center once, accordingly the areas surrounding the oude gracht range from rather quite living areas in the north to crowded shopping streets in the center, to old dutch pubs and bars around the “vis markt” as well as a quieter shopping street with little boutiques and food shops, ending at ledig erf square with its very recommendable bars and the arthouse cinema Haartloper Complex. .
The missing marked places on the title image will be following in part two of this article. I hope you enjoyed reading this first part and you’re looking forward to part two already.