Our day trip to Utrecht was wonderful as we met up with a close relative on my Dad’s side, Eva! She acted as our tour guide and showed us all the sights, which was enjoyable and so beautiful. Utrecht is a university town with a 14th century bell tower and a cathedral older than Canada. It differs from Amsterdam in one major way that was instantly noticeable – their canals are easily accessible! Restaurants have terraces right by the water, and many residences back onto the canals. There are quiet streets full of quaint shops, and delicious Dutch food. Here are some of the highlights!
The Dom Tower
The Dom Tower is a giant bell tower in the central square that dom-inates the skyline (heh heh, see what I did there?) and is a sight to behold. You can choose to climb the tower to the top, all 465 steps, but we admired it from the ground. It’s the highest church tower in the Netherlands, and the bells sound are very staccato and jovial! It acts as a meeting place, and a landmark that you can see from anywhere in the city, to orient yourself.
St. Martin’s Cathedral
This beauty was the first cathedral that we visited on our European tour and is a Gothic masterpiece, with soaring columns and richly hued stained glass. The decor is understated on the inside, with unique floor tiles and minimal wood benches. We wandered around in silence, in awe of the cathedral is older than Canada, and was built in the 1200’s. Exploring architecture of such impressive age is rather unbelievable.
The Pandhof Garden
Hidden between St. Martin’s Cathedral and Utrecht University Hall, the Pandhof Garden is an idyllic scene that is not to be missed! Full of ornamental plants, herbs, and a central fountain, the symmetry of the box hedges surrounded by Gothic arches is breathtaking. Gargoyles overlook the garden, reminding me of The Hunchback of Notre Dame!
Wander the side streets
We continued our tour up and down a few side streets, full of adorable little shops overlooking the canals. We stopped into a cheese shop and picked up some really old Gouda, slightly less old gouda, and a soft cheese full of cranberries.
A paddle boat tour of the canals
Along the canals, you’ll find paddle boat rentals! For a lovely hour or two on the water, rent a paddle boat and see the city from a whole different viewpoint. We paddled for an hour and it was perfect. You’ll pass families sitting on the terrace along the canal, restaurants with docking points, and you’ll paddle under bridges and through a few small archways.
Things to eat? Apple tart. Gouda. Croquettes. We had lunch on a patio in the sunshine with Eva’s son Menno, and Nathan drank a quadrupel beer. Overall, it was a beautiful day trip in Utrecht! We made our way back to Eva’s place for a delicious home cooked dinner of lasagne and tiramisu with another close relative, Kees, and stayed up til’ the wee hours of the morning catching up and laughing until our sides ached. There’s nothing like family to make you feel like home!