What You Need To Know
Utrecht is the capital and most populous city in the Dutch province of Utrecht. It is located in the eastern corner of the Randstad conurbation and is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands. Utrecht is a city in the central Netherlands that has been a religious center for centuries. It has a medieval old town, canals, Christian monuments and a venerable university. The iconic Domtoren, a 14th-century bell tower with city views, stands opposite the Gothic Cathedral of St. Martin on central Domplein square. The Museum Catharijneconvent shows religious art and artifacts in a former monastery
Area: 38.35 mi²
Population: 311,367 (2011)
Currency used in Utrecht is Euro. There are 8 coins; 1, 2 and 5 cent, 10, 20 and 50 cent, 1 and 2 Euro coins. Then there are the bills of 5, 10, 20 and 50 Euro, 100, 200 and 500 Euro notes. Not many places will accept the 500 Euro note however. Most of the small shops including supermarkets do not accept 100 and 200 bill as well. Generally, 50 Euro bills remain the most convenient denominations.
- Utrecht experiences a temperate oceanic climate similar to almost all of the Netherlands. Utrecht weather delivers warm and pleasant summers (June to September), and winter temperatures which seldom fall below the freezing point (December to March). In autumn (October to November) and spring (April to May), weather in Utrecht sees average temperatures that range from 9°C and 16°C during the day. Rainfall is a frequent occurrence throughout the year in Utrecht.
- Utrecht remains pleasantly warm and humid enough during summer, from June till September. The average high temperature climbs to 22°C while the minimums often drop to low teens. The city gets a moderate level of rainfall throughout the year, as July; one of the wettest months of the year, receives around 80mm of precipitation. June is considered as the sunniest month of the year with more than 200 hours of sunshine. In fact, it the best season to visit this stunning city of the Netherlands.
- Throughout the winter months, climate in Utrecht becomes chilly and somewhat unpleasant, for the average high temperature drops to 4°C. Moreover, it gets abundant of rainfall as December, the wettest month of the year, gets more than 100mm of rainfall. You may feel uncomfortable having very poor level of sunshine during the winter months. December and January get not more than 40 hours of sunshine each. Although temperature in January, the coldest month of the year, drops to -2°C, it does not stay long.
People in the Netherlands speak Dutch. There are also some recognized provincial languages and regional dialects. Most Dutch people can speak and understand English quite well.
Utrecht is one of the 10 most unsafe cities in the Netherlands. There are several neighborhoods in the outskirts that are best avoided in the evening or at night.
As always, don’t flash your wallet at markets and have a natural caution for pickpockets in the city centre. Unfortunately, bike thefts are a common nuisance, so if you travel by bike, make sure you have good locks and try to bolt your bike to a lamp post or bridge railing if possible. There are also some free bike parking places with surveillance in the city center and near the train station.
Gay people often face harassment in the outskirt neighborhoods.
Car burglary is common, also in the city center. Park your car in a guarded parking place and remove valuable items.
The following neighborhoods are defined as “probleemwijk” (one of 40 neighborhoods in the Netherlands with serious issues) by the national government:
- Zuilen Oost
These neighborhoods should be considered as unsafe or at least less safe.
In general, the center of Utrecht is pretty safe.
Walking is the easiest way to travel in the city of Utrecht.
Using a bike is also an easy way to travel in the city center if the weather is on your side, but can be dangerous for inexperienced cyclists. There are many bicyleshops located near the train station where you can rent bikes. Do make sure that you have good locks on your bike, as bike thefts are unfortunately quite common in the city centre. Also it’s a good idea to make use of the free bike parking areas provided by the city council. They are usually guarded and are a safe place to park your bike.
By bus: A good alternative is taking the bus, which goes often and will take you nearly everywhere. Utrecht Centraal Station serves as the main bus hub for Utrecht as well as the main train hub for the Netherlands. Most buses run from early morning (around 6am) until just after midnight.
By Tram: In Utrecht there is a tram line from central station to southern suburbs Nieuwegein and IJsselstein. For tourists, only the the first stops will be interesting, Westplein and Graadt van Roggeweg. These are located next to the Turkish neighbourhood and the main convention centre respectively.
By car: 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. Driving around can be frustrating as the center is fraught with bus-only lanes, one-way streets, traffic lights and terribly expensive parking spaces. If you want to come by car it is recommended to park at one of the P+R (Park and Ride)  places, and take a cheap shuttle bus or tram service into town. There are also several parking garages closer to the center, but they are more expensive.