This week we are heading to Utrecht, in the Netherlands, a place new to me, but one I now want to visit! It is easy to reach Utrecht as a day trip from Amsterdam, but it deserves at least a few days for exploring. This week, we have Rina Mae Acosta of Finding Dutchland sharing the best things to do in Utrecht with kids!
Utrecht is arguably the Netherlands best-kept secret, a charming, quaint Dutch city with a preserved medieval historic city center. It might be one of our favorite places to visit in Europe with kids.
It is only thirty-five miles from Utrecht to Amsterdam. At one point, Utrecht was designated by BBC Travel as one of the world’s happiest places in the world.
What makes Utrecht stand out from all the other Dutch cities is that it is the only one that has canals with wharves – canal-level platforms that allow boats to dock alongside the canal and dock. Many of these wharves have restaurants and cafés with terraces, outside tables and chairs to enjoy the lively canals.
And for those who love cycling, Utrecht is home to the largest biking garage in the world.
What to Do in Utrecht
For the adventurous family with little ones who love to climb everything, consider heading towards the Dom Tower. Located in the heart of Utrecht’s city center, the Dom tower is the highest church tower in the Netherlands, standing tall at 112 meters. Bring plenty of water and take in the breathtaking views as you enjoy the pride and joy of Utrecht.
Miffy (Nijntje) Museum
Beloved throughout the world, the fluffy white bunny Nijntje (in Dutch) or Miffy (in English) has her very own museum in Utrecht.
With ten rooms consisting of different themes, the Nijntje museum brings to life the miniature world created by Dutch illustrator Dick Bruna. Due to its popularity, reservations are required.
The Spoorweg museum is a favorite for many kids, exploring 175 years of railways and trains in the Netherlands. There are both inside and outside exhibits so make sure to dress in layers.
And keep in mind that since there is so much to do, an average visit will take about 3.5 hours.
Boat ride on the Canals
A trip to Utrecht isn’t complete unless you go on their famous canals, most notably the Oudegracht. You can take an organized cruise, rent a kayak, or your own boat and enjoy some tapas.
Utrecht Terrace Culture
To really get a sense of Utrecht’s spirit, head over to one of the many restaurants and cafe’s lining the Oudegracht. Perhaps the best time to go would be an early dinner on a Saturday, enjoying the golden hour and waving to all the boats and kayaks passing by.
If you are with young children, I recommend either going really early in the morning before the large crowds, or on a Sunday morning when the city wakes up only at 12:00 pm (stores open later on Sundays).
For a calm, relaxed time, consider visiting only visiting one of the museums, stroll around the historic city center and eat at the wharves. Consider getting the kids involved in travel planning so they have a vested interest. Whatever you and your family decide to do, I wish you a wonderful time in Utrecht.
Looking for other fun things to do in Netherlands? Don’t miss our post about the best things to do in Netherlands with teens. And if you’re traveling overseas from the US, we highly recommend TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. It makes travel so much easier.
Rina Mae Acosta is the co-author of “The Happiest Kids in the World, How Dutch Parents Help Their Kids by Doing Less” and blogger at Finding Dutchland. You can get a glimpse of her Dutched reality by following her on Instagram or her Facebook page.
Europe Travel Tips
Book Your Flights
You can find discounted fares using sites like Momondo or Skyscanner. If you want to keep an eye on discount fares, we suggest signing up for Scott’s Cheap Flights, a daily newsletter with flight sales around the world.
If you travel frequently, consider investing in a Priority Pass for airport lounge access. It’s nice to have a space where you can relax before your flight.
Book Your Accommodation
We regularly use Expedia.com and Hotels.com to find lodging when we travel. It’s a great way to compare vacation rentals, hotels, and resorts.
If your family knows they want to stay in a vacation rental, we recommend looking at VRBO and Plum Guide.
Book Your Transportation
For rental car agencies, try Rentalcars.com. We tend to use Hertz simply for the quality of service.
When traveling in Europe, we use AutoEurope to make our bookings. They find the best rates and allow you to compare different car rental agencies. Europcar is another option.
If you would prefer to travel by train in Europe we recommend Eurail who offers discounted packages for rail travel.
Book Your Tours and Travel Photos
We regularly used companies like Viator and GetYourGuide to book tours when we travel. Both have great communication and a large variety of activities that work for all ages.
If you’re visiting a city with multiple attractions, be sure to check out a discount pass, such as CityPASS or Go City. Both are worthwhile investments.
Context Travel is another option and they offer more educational based activities. The former teacher in me loves their tours.
One of our favorite things to do annually is take photos with Flytographer. They have photographers around the world and we’ve used them on four separate occasions. This is our favorite travel souvenir.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
With the state of travel these days, it’s important to have some type of travel insurance to cover any unforeseen accidents, illnesses, threat or cancellations. We always travel with insurance and would recommend SquareMouth, Travelex, or Medjet as good options. And if you want to compare different insurance options, use Travel Insurance Master to find the best policy for your group.