Utrecht – Amsterdam’s cool little brother

I could name many highlights of our trip to Holland. Amsterdam was not one of them.

Maybe I’m doing it injustice and it was only an unfortunate combination of events that led to my disappointment. From our early morning trek around the Nieuwmarkt district desperately tring to find a decent breakfast things took a turn for the worse. We might have been too early for breakfast but we were at least couple of days too late for any of the museums we wanted to visit. Crowds waiting at each of them looked more like Apple aficionados queing for the latest gadget and not people trying to see the Van Gogh sunflowers. The rain was just the final straw. One can only drink so many overpriced coffees contemplating whether to brave the drizzle and wind a while longer or just give up and return to the hotel. After our third pit stop we decided for the latter and escaped back to our home base Utrecht.

The warm glow of early evening sun that greeted us when we parked in front of our hotel felt as Utrecht’s slap in our face. There was this lovely city right on our doorstep and we had to go to Amsterdam, because that’s what you do when you visit Holland. And now it looked as if Utrecht was mocking us for being so naive. We could have had a perfect day but instead we decided to blindly follow the well-trodden paths of tourists. OK, maybe I overimagine things and the burst of sunshine was just a coincidence. Nevetheless, we liked Utrecht much more than Amsterdam. Let me show you why:

  1. Its canals are picturesqe enough to convey the feel of a city on water yet far less busy than anything you might come across in Amsterdam. Plus, the old wharves below street level right next to the water were converted into busy restaurants. They may be a tourist trap, but the atmosphere is great.

  2. The huge city cathedral, an over-optimistic construction project started in the 13th century, was never finished due to lack of funds. Its Domtoren (cathedral tower) was separated from the rest of the church when the nave collapsed in a strom in 1674 and was never rebuilt. In fact, the ruins remained right there for about 150 years, that’s how dire the financial situation was. Some things just never change…


  3. When you look down over the city from the high Domtoren the neat streets look like a scenery from a model railway.


  4. Even though the Dutch food is nothing to write home about we had one of our best meals at the Pickles Burgers & Wines restaurant in a narrow street branching off Oudegracht canal.


  5. Do you need another proof of how cool Utrecht is? How about this: The Domtoren houses an impressive carillon with 50 bells. The lady in charge of playing those bells doesn’t only stick with the classic repertoire (if there is such a thing for carillon performances). She likes to strike up a rock tune now and then. Can you think of another church playing Rolling Stones?