A Walking Tour of Utrecht for New Visitors (Part 1)

When I first moved to Utrecht almost two years ago, I knew almost nothing about the city besides it not being as noisy or hectic as Amsterdam (phew), it was quite a sight to behold with its canals and greenery and that I was butchering the pronunciation of its name. My first day here was a mad rush, having to quickly dump my luggage at home and then make my way to Stadsplateau by foot for a bank appointment. A blessing in disguise, I’d say because this was what gave me a nice glimpse of interesting monuments and spots along the way – all but a tease and fraction of what this city really has to offer. 

The next following weeks, in part because of my curiosity and also thanks to my helpful neighbours who provided some pointers, I started discovering the weekly markets, the oldest shopping street in Utrecht, gorgeous parks, the flower market and a whole lot more. Since cycling here still seemed daunting to me, I lied to myself by saying that walking was a healthier and more apt option for someone like myself. For some context, back in my home country, I wouldn’t even walk to my apartment’s guardhouse from my unit. So quite honestly, I was pleasantly surprised that I willingly and absolutely enjoyed wandering around the city by foot. 

When friends or family came to visit, I’d ask them to put on their best walking shoes and get ready for a journey through some of my personal favorite spots. The feedback was positive, so I’ve mustered up the courage to now share this “Utrecht Walking Tour” for whoever may also find it useful. This route will cover some my favorite markets, shops, parks, museums and interesting attractions along a distance of roughly 7km starting and ending at Utrecht Centraal. I will also be splitting this up into three parts because I tend to yap a lot. Here’s a preview of the entire journey:

So, have you got your favorite pair of walking shoes on? Is your phone or camera fully charged? You’re not made of sugar, are you? Alright then, let’s get to it.

Utrecht Centraal Station to Domplein (Distance: 1km)

You will of course most likely start your journey at Utrecht Centraal. Opened in 1843, it isn’t only the biggest train station in the Netherlands but also is home to the largest bicycle parking station in the world! Yes, this place starts getting interesting from the get-go.

Just outside the station is the entrance to Hoog Catharijne – Utrecht’s signature mall, where you’ll find plenty of clothing stores, restaurants, boutiques and supermarkets such as Jumbo and Amazing Oriental, the largest Asian supermarket chain in the Netherlands. I used to live in a city which has more than 20 malls (unnecessarily), so I personally treat this as a “by the way” while we make our way towards the more interesting stuff.

If you’re here on a Wednesday, Friday or Saturday, you’re in luck because as you make your way to the ground floor of the mall and head outside, you’ll be greeted by the Vredenburg Market. Here, you’ll find a variety of delicious local snacks (try the kibbeling if you haven’t already), regional produce, fresh fish, butchers, all types of cheese, bread and even seasonal clothing. My recommendation if you’re slightly hungry? Try the hotdog from the ‘Beretrek’ stand. I used to gobble these up every single week for a longer period of time that I’d like to admit. I can almost guarantee you the man will bid you a good day or weekend as you collect your hotdog.

Now, we’ll slowly walk along Oudegracht towards the Domplein area. I’m going to point out Betsies Kookwinkel on your left which has been around since 1991 and has a wide range of cooking appliances and gadgets and kitchenware. What I won’t forget about this place was when I just moved here and wanted to get a bunch of stuff for the kitchen but was not able to carry it all back home by foot, one of the ladies actually offered to cycle and send it over to me. Little did I know, I was catching a glimpse of what the people of Utrecht are like – always a smile on their faces, warm and welcoming and ever ready to help!

Just beside it, you’ll find Aleph Books, a second-hand bookstore running since 1986, initially starting as a market stall on one of the bridges in the city. The bookstore specializes in art, literature, philosophy and antiquarian books.

The St. Martin’s Cathedral / Dom Church

Visiting Utrecht and not making your way to the Domtoren (Dom Tower) at the heart of the city may very well be considered blasphemy. It is the symbol of the city, aging back to 1382, having taken 60 years to complete. Since then, the tower has gone through quite a lot (more information can be found here and is currently undergoing its second big restoration. As of this year though, the top of the tower is finally visible!

Just opposite it, you’ll see the Domkerk, a Roman Catholic Church in all its gothic revival style splendor. As with all monuments in Utrecht, it’s rich in history and definitely warrants a visit should you have the time.

Domplein to Griftpark (Distance: 1.2km)

Next, we’ll be cutting through Janskerkhof to make our way to Griftpark. Ready for some greenery and canals? Thanks to my fellow flower-loving neighbour, I was introduced to the flower market at Janskerkhof which takes place on Saturdays. Since then, this has been the go-to place for seasonal plants, lovely fresh flowers and the occasional cup of coffee.

Janskerkhof Flower Market

Once you’ve had enough of flowers, we’ll walk past the Utrecht University on your right into Voorstraat. This shopping street is filled with restaurants, cafes, fashion and vintage stores and so much more. My recommendation? The Village Coffee & Music. It actually took me a while to finally make my way here and it has been hard to resist ever since. As their name aptly suggests, they cover two things many like myself enjoy – a good cup of coffee complemented by some really good tunes and lovely people.

On our way to the café, we’ll pass by a really cool cultural hub called ACU, a venue where live music, open mic sessions, concerts, film screenings and all types of art forms take place. You can even volunteer here if you like.

The Culture Boat

Now, armed with your nice cup of coffee or beverage of choice, we move onwards towards a rather unique shop on a boat. While the volume of coffeeshops in Utrecht pale in comparison to the likes of Amsterdam, this city does play home to a rather unique one called Culture Boat. Its cafe in which you can chill out and enjoy some of the drinks they serve with some tasteful music playing in the background is highly popular among visitors. You might even notice the old prison of Wolvenplein right across from where you’re seated.


Just ahead of Culture Boat (perhaps strategically) is Griftpark, a nice place for nature lovers and kids alike thanks to its playground and the Griftsteede petting zoo. This is also where events and festivals like the TREK food festival takes place – something I’m definitely going for again this year!

Ready for Part 2 of the Utrecht Walking Tour? This is where we’ll resume our journey from Griftpark and make our way to Utrecht’s oldest shopping street, Twijnstraat!

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