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Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in utrecht (city)
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Utrecht is a central Dutch city with a long history. With 250,000 inhabitants it's the fourth largest city in the Netherlands.
Utrecht Centraal Station is the major train hub in the Netherlands. It forms the hub of the Dutch rail network, and so it easily assessable directly or almost directly from everywhere in the Netherlands. Utrecht has an almost direct connection with Schiphol airport, change trains in Duivendrecht. Beware the so called "Schiphollijn" is a pickpocket hangout. In addition, German ICE and French TGV trains service international destinations through Utrecht Central. The train station is physically located right on the outskirts of the old city, a 5 min. walk through the Hoog Catharijne shopping center (follow signs to "Centrum") will connect you from the station to the city.
The train station is also the central bus station. There are buses that travel from other cities to Utrecht, but taking a train is usually easier and faster. For information about the bus' timetables etc. check the GVU (http://www.gvu.nl/) website, this is the company that provides public transport services in Utrecht.
If you are coming in by car, park your car in one of the many parking garages around the city (follow the signs) and walk from there. Electronic signs display the number of parking spaces available in any given lot as well as directions to the lot, and if the sign says "Vol" it means the lot is full.
Walking or renting a bike can get you a long way if the weather is on your side. A good alternative is taking the bus, which goes nearly everywhere. Utrecht Centraal Station serves as the main bus hub for Utrecht as well as the main train hub for the Netherlands. Buy tickets at vending machines or ticket booths at Utrecht Centraal, as this is much cheaper than buying them on the bus.
To use the bus in the Netherlands, you need a strippenkaart. You can buy these on the bus station level at Central Station. One trip on the bus is 2 or 3 strips of the card, which start at 10 strips. Buying tickets in the bus is probably more expensive, unless you don't want to use the busses more than once.
Seeing Utrecht by car is not recommended. The city planners have made it as difficult as possible to navigate the city center, to try and discourage cars there. If you want to come by car it is recommended to park at the stadium Galgenwaard, where there is a cheap shuttle bus service into town.
- De Dom (http://www.domkerk.nl/) is a large Gothic cathedral that was built between 1254 and 1520. It features the tallest church tower (112 meters or 367 feet) in the Netherlands, which can be seen from all over Utrecht.
- Oude Gracht - A canal going through the heart of the city, with shops and restaurants on both sides.
- The Vismarkt (Fishmarket, a lovely street in the plain centre).
- Centraal Museum (http://www.centraalmuseum.nl/). The oldest municipal museum in the Netherlands. It has a large art collection including the world's largest collection of Rietveld designs and a permanent exhibition on Dick Bruna.
- Museum Catharijneconvent (http://www.catharijneconvent.nl/) has a large collection of historic Christian items. The main part is closed for renovation until Spring 2006.
- Nationaal Museum van Speelklok tot Pierement (http://www.museumspeelklok.nl/) is a museum on all kinds of mechanical music, including carillon clocks, musical boxes, pianolas, belly organs and much more.
- Nederlands Spoorwegmuseum (http://www.spoorwegmuseum.nl/) is the Dutch Railway Museum. It reopened in June 2005 after a intensive renovation
- Aboriginal Art Museum (http://www.aamu.nl/).
- Moluks Historisch Museum (http://www.museum-maluku.nl/). A museum on the history of the Moluccas.
- Utrecht Universiteit Museum (http://www.museum.uu.nl/) is the museum of Utrecht University.
- De Uithof, which is the campus of Utrecht University on the outskirts of Utrecht, near the stadium of FC Utrecht. There are several buildings here that are designed by famous modern architects as well as a beautiful botanical garden.
- Stadsschouwburg (http://www.utrecht.nl/stadsschouwburg/). The city theatre.
- See the famous floating Hookers of Utrecht! Far superior to the tourist fare they serve up in Amsterdam's red light district. Even if you are not interested in sampling their wares a strolling along the path next to their barges and 'window shopping' is an eye opening experience.
- See FC Utrecht (http://www.fc-utrecht.nl/) play soccer at their home stadium.
- Watch a movie at one of many cinemas. With the exception of some animated movies (and even those are usually available in the original language as well), all movies are subtitled and not dubbed, so you should be able to enjoy all the standard Hollywood fare in the original English.
- Climb the Dom tower, a full 112 meters high. You can climb to near the top.
- Take tour with the tour boat or:
- Rent a canal bike and pedal your own way around the canals.
- Try a locally brewed beer at Stadskasteel Oudaen (http://www.oudaen.nl/), which is a 13th century city castle turned restaurant.
- Utrecht University (http://www.uu.nl/), which will soon celebrate its 370th anniversary, has developed into one of Europe's largest and most prominent institutes of research and education. With 49 Bachelor's programmes and 109 Master's programmes in English, Utrecht University offers the broadest spectrum of English language disciplines available in the Netherlands and innovative research and liaises with universities and research centres all over the world. Recently ranked the Best University in the Netherlands, the 4th best University in Europe, and the 39th best in the world. Utrecht University is home to many prominent academics among whom Buys Ballot, Donders, Rudolf Magnus, Van Unnik and Freudenthal. The list also includes Nobel Prize Winners such as Gerard 't Hooft (1999) from the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy.
- El Beso (http://www.el-beso.com/) At Nobelstraat there is an excellent Wine, life and style shop, called El Beso (Spanish for Kiss). On Saturdays you can just walk in and try a wine, no buying obligations. International crowd.
- Hoog Catharijne (http://www.hoogcatharijne.nl/hc/) is a is large indoor shopping area connected to the central hall of Utrecht Centraal Station, the main railway station of Utrecht.
- Geek gear. There are half a dozen stores at the part of the Oudegracht (Old Canal) south of De Dom that sell board games, card games, wargames, roleplaying games, fantasy and science-fiction books and/or comics (ie. Piet Snot, Elf Fantasy, the Joker and Neverneverland). Keep your eyes peeled; some of these stores are easy to miss.
- Other books. Broese (http://www.broese.net/) is a large bookstore at Stadhuisbrug 5. They have a fair selection of English books. Nearby De Slegte (http://www.deslegte.nl/), at Oudegracht 121, has a wide selection of second hand books. Bijleveld (http://www.bijleveldbooks.nl/html/boekwinkel.html) at the Janskerkhof is an old bookstore with beautiful wooden show windows.
- Music. Plato (http://www.platomania.nl/) at Steenweg 13 has a fair selection at reasonable prices. There are several stores operated by the large chain Free Record Shop (http://www.freerecordshop.nl/) all over the shopping area. Near the Vredenburg the Revenge has a fair selection of vinyl.
- On Saturdays there is a large open air market on a square called Vredenburg.
- At Vredenburg 29 there is a give-away shop, open Tuesdays 1400-1800 and Saturdays 1400-1700.
- Cannabis: Sarasani (http://www.sarasani.nl/), opened in 1968, is the oldest coffee shop in the Netherlands. Located at Oudegracht 327 a/d werf, which means it is on the canal level, and physically sits under the main street.
- Stadskasteel Oudaen (http://www.oudaen.nl/), at Oudegracht 99, is a 13th century city castle turned restaurant.
- There are several Flemish snackbars outside of Hoog Catharijne that sell wonderful thick fries with mayonnaise. Try it; it's not as bad as John Travolta's character seems to think in Pulp Fiction.
- Pancakes at 'De Oude Muntkelder'
- Excellent spare ribs at restaurant Broadway.
- A dinner salad at Le Connoiseur (2nd dinner half the price before 1800).
- A hip and trendy dinner at Luce restaurant, located on Visschersplein.
- For cheap tapas go to El Mundo at Voorstraat or Mimadre at Oudkerkhof.
- To try something dutch visit one of the snackbars and order a "Kroket". A good one is behind City Hall, it is called "Broodje Plof". A lot of dutch people visit this place after a good night of binge drinking.
- For a more multi-ethnic view of Utrecht, walk away from the old city from the bus station/central station, walk under the train tracks, and follow the bus route (straight ahead) about 200 meters. Try some affordable rotisserie style chicken on the left side of the Kanaalstraat, get a Moroccan style bagel across the street at one of the many middle eastern bakeries, and stock up on way-affordable (the cheapest in Utrecht) fruit and veggies at one of the many produce markets.
- Stadskasteel Oudaen (http://www.oudaen.nl/), at Oudegracht 99, is a 13th century city castle turned restaurant. They have their own theatre and more importantly their own brewery, where they brew the local beers Ouwe Daen, Jonge Daen en Linteloo Gold. Highly recommended.
- Cafe Belgie, on Oudegracht 196. Good music and a selection of 198 different beers. Try the Celis White if you like white beer.
- The main venue for concerts and for dancing is Tivoli (http://www.tivoli.nl/)
- A smaller, more intimate venue, is political-cultural centre ACU (http://www.acu.nl/). They host a large variety of things, such as a small cinema (smoking allowed), art exhibitions, cafe literature, concerts, disco, gay-events, and they serve vegetarian and vegan food.
- Stairway to Heaven (http://www.stairway.nl/) is a large rockcafe at Mariaplaats 11-12.
- Hostel Strowis (http://www.strowis.nl/), a lovely hostel run by a group of clever ex-squatters who bought their building to start this initiative.
PUSCII (http://www.puscii.nl/when.shtml) is a free internet workplace at Ganzenmarkt 26, open 14:00-19:00 on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
Utrecht as a student city is quite safe, although there are some neighbourhoods in the outskirts that you probably don't want to visit. As always, don't flash your wallet at markets and have a natural caution for pickpockets in the city centre.