Utrecht, the village city of the Netherlands

After meeting Senna in Penang, I decided to follow her shortly afterwards to stay in Utrecht with her and travel Europe. Upon arrival, and spending so long in Asia, I was instantly reminded of European culture, and the cold bitter air. I did not appreciate all that Utrecht had to offer at first, in fact my main excitement came from tasting real ale for a change (a year of piss water Chang and Leo had numbed my taste-buds). It didn’t take long for the homely charm to take effect. 
 

 

How can they call this a city?

With such a small population, 330,000 roughly, the city’s development seems to have gone rather unchanged in comparison to other, larger European cities. This means it has kept it ancient rural charm, with flowing canals between small village roads and tiny connecting bridges everywhere to little locally owned shops and bars. In fact the actual station and main business hub are so small and un-noticeable in comparison to the rest of the city, that you really do feel somewhere else. The usual European cathedral and many churches dot the area, and even one bar inside of a church (which is called: Olivier) is to be found, an apt place to enjoy a beverage or six.

Hidden treasures

Aside from the many museums, architecture and hidden woodland bars, my favorite thing about Utrecht is the many festivals and events held all year around. Music festivals, beer festivals and cultural ones too. They all have such a loose feel, but yet so organized. The large student population ensures good times will be had by all, yet families and elderly people all attend an array of whats on offer. Amsterdam is a twenty minute train ride away, although a travel pass is a must, and Belgium takes two hours to reach. You have a quiet, rural setting with parties and major cities within a stones throw (if your Freddie Flintoff).

Night time spectacle

Utrecht by night is spectacular, with its glistening canals reflecting the many lights from the surrounding buildings. Romantically wander around in awe at its beauty, or simply sit on the wooden decks and wish the world away. Small boats will ponder by and the stillness of the water is almost calming. Utrecht by night is this place in all its glory. With many beer bars, I recommend ‘Kafe België’, you can wander the night or even one of the parks, hand in hand you can’t go wrong. Eating is difficult, as the wide range of restaurants available requires real decision making, but me and Senna prefer to purchase a cheap stick of bread and oil and sit in the park with a few beers and relax, although wrapped up warm in the colder months.

Woodland wandering

As with many cities in Holland, Utrecht has many woodland walks to discover ancient castles or hidden cottages usually serving beer and pancakes. Found by canals, surrounded by trees and listening to the birds sing, these many hidden gems make for a lovely afternoon of drinking and relaxation, after all we cannot adventure all the time. One such place is the Theehuis Rhijnauwen, sat by the canal, aside from the parks, you can sit and enjoy the tranquillity with a nice strong glass of beer to charm you even more. You are never too far from culture or calm, but rent a bicycle just in case.

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