10 hidden gems of Utrecht
Are you new to Utrecht? Or already been here for a while and starting to get bored of your usual surroundings? Summer is a season like no other to get out and explore, so it’s time to look around our favorite city and check these 10 amazing off the beaten path locations. Whether you want to go out and dance till the sunrise or looking for a cheap and delicious lunch or for a place for a chill Sunday stroll - we’ve got you covered!
You might already know, Dutch are incredibly creative with using their spaces. We live in one of the most densely populated country in Europe - no wonder you have to get all the value out of every piece of land there is! Utrecht, unlike other major Dutch cities like The Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, is located a fairly long distance from the seaside (I see a grin on the faces of my fellow Russians when they read Dutch and long distance in one sentence). However, the city still has its very own beach to show off! Soia Strand Oog in Al is located on the Leidsche Rijn river shore, complete with some sand, an outdoor seating and a nice bar and bites. Overall, it’s a perfect summer hangout and the city’s major hotspot for Sunday.
Address: Kanaalweg 199
Buurten in de Fabriek
As an avid fan and resident of Lombok neighborhood, I couldn’t resist writing about all the amazing things it has to offer. A vibrant multicultural district, just minutes away from the Central Station, is populated with a lively mix of students, yuppies, families of immigrant origin and Utrecht families who have been living here for generations. It has some of the city’s best and cheapest bakeries, butcheries, fruit and vegetable shops, as well as amazing authentic restaurants, cafes and bars. One of them is Buurten in de Fabriek. Located in the former seed oil factory, which almost completely burned down back in 2010, this bar and restaurant has an industrial chic design and a cozy terrace with a view over the canal and Lombok. Try their cocktails and bubbles - a great way to relax after the long day of studying!
Address: Kanaalweg 91
As I already wrote, Utrecht lacks a seaside but not creativity, therefore here is another urban beach on the list. This one has a rather unorthodox location - a former prison. Until September, you can chill in the hummocks under the sun while enjoying a cold drink. If you were always wondering how life is in Dutch more alternative locations, that’s the perfect place for you to visit. The corridors, yards and cells will give you a fascinating view of a different side of living in the Netherlands. Don’t worry - you are still free to leave at any time! Curious fact - in the country’s crime rates are so low that the prisons are currently closing down and therefore becoming available to a public view, so look out for more interesting projects around the country opening up in place of former prisons.
Address: Wolvenplein 27
After some time spent in Utrecht, the city’s nightlife might start feeling a bit monotonous. With most of the student population evenly distributed between the city’s most popular clubs - Poema on Tuesday, Tivoli on Thursday, some of the more alternatively inclined soules might feel like they don’t have much to choose from. Don’t hop on the train to Amsterdam just yet, Utrecht does have a place to fulfil your deepest darkest techno desires - club Was. It’s located in Zuilen, rather unremarkable and distant neighborhood, where by unfortunate coincidence I’ve spent my first few very forgettable months in Utrecht. Don’t let the distance to scare you away though, club ambiance, music and crowd are definitely worth a bike ride it takes. The club is only open once a month, so look closely so you don’t miss The Night!
Address: Tractieweg 41
Another rather alternative place on the list, ACU is a former squat, which is currently a political cultural center. The venue is still run by volunteers to keep ACU an independent place which welcomes a new upcoming talent. The location also hosts concerts, political debates, poetry nights, among its many more activities. ACU is known for its welcoming and accepting environment, popular among different kinds of activists; feminists, vegans, LGBTQ+ community. Would not advise to wear your best clothes, though, as cheap drinks from the bar tend to always find their way to the floor and people around. Keep in mind that
ACU is one of the few places in Utrecht which doesn’t accept cards.
Address: Voorstraat 71
This one on the list is not quiet hidden. In fact, it’s located out in the open - right in front of the Central station. At first Vapiano in Utrecht seems like any other Vapiano around the country. However, it has a unique for Utrecht city center feature - a rooftop terrace. Enjoy your freshly prepared in front of you pasta or pizza or a have a glass of wine overlooking newly renovated Central Station and Rabobank headquarters and contemplate in what exciting time we got to live in, with new places opening up around the city as often as mushrooms grow after the rain.
Address: Stationsplein 4
A perfect inexpensive lunch place in the city center serving Vietnamese cuisine. Having lived in Utrecht for a year, I’ve quickly started to run out of cool affordable places to spend a lunch break in close proximity from our office. However, since I found Kimmade, my search for food was for most of the part finished. The cafeteria serves amazing Vietnamese street food, such as rolls, soups, rice dishes and and traditional coffee. Don’t forget to try their amazing bubble tea!
Address: Mariastraat 2
Molen de Ster
The historical 18th century windmill De Ster is located just minutes away from the Central Station in Lombok neighborhood. It’s a perfect place for a chill stroll around, with small zoo with pigs, llamas, roosters and goats, waterfront and a small cafe to enjoy a cup of coffee and gezellig vibes. Also, if by some amazing coincidence you’re to have a wedding, you can do it here too. In the warm time of the year, Molen de Ster organizes variety of events, such as festivals, music performances, supping classes (cuz what’s more fun than paddleboarding around Lombok canals, right!). But most important, of course, is the Windmill itself. There is even a National Mill Day in the Netherlands in May. While Molen de Ster is no Zaanse Schance, it’s still well worth a visit.
Address: Molenpark 3
Roost aan de Singel
Another place on the list where you can enjoy oh-so-delightful Dutch sun - Roost aan de Singel. It’s located on the Utrecht’s newest canal, which until few years ago was a very wide and short motorway “from nothing to nowhere”, which now is a beautiful addition to the city’s landscape. In Roost, you can enjoy their “braai” barbeque - traditional South African barbeque made on a special stove. They also have a nice covered terrace for less sunny times, lunch and diner menu and snacks.
Address: Paardenveld 1
Time Space is an Utrecht way to get your studying done in the best environment. For a small fee, you get access to study at the best co-working companies, fully equipped with Wi-Fi, comfortable study spots and outlets. Special benefit - unlimited coffee and tea is included in the price! However, Time Space is not just a study spot, it’s a place where you can connect - online platform of Time Space’s partner Seats2Meet.com allows you to see who is around you, what their knowledge and skills are and to connect to the people who are interesting to you. Also, you can ask your questions to the worldwide network and even look for a job or project! Located in 4 locations around the city - 3 in the city center and one on the Uithof campus.
Address: Vredenburg 40, Moreelsepark 65, Godebaldkwartier 20, Padualaan 8