18 Things to See, Do, Taste, and Experience in Utrecht

klmmapI’m always singing the praises of Utrecht and encouraging people to visit this beautiful, historic, and vibrant city, so it only seems right that I make a handy map of some of the places and things visitors should see. So here’s a map of 18 places in Utrecht that you should see, including museums, sculptures, parks, restaurants (which, of course, includes Vino Veritas), and historic points of interest. It is, by no means, a complete listing and hopefully I’ll be able to add on to it as the spirit moves me. Did I leave out one of your favorite must-see spots in Utrecht? Tell me what you think is a must-see.

Thanks to KLM for doing the technical creation of this map for me, while letting me use my own words and photos. They were kind enough to let me focus on Utrecht, instead of Amsterdam, after I pointed out how quick and easy it is to get to Utrecht from Amsterdam. Fly into Schipol Airport with KLM and hop on one of the many trains to Utrecht. You’ll be here in just half an hour!

Art Meets Construction in Utrecht

One of the many nice things about living in Utrecht is that when plywood walls go up during restoration or renovation of a property, they often become points of visual interest in their own right. Certainly, when some of the university buildings along the Drift were undergoing renovation last year, the decorations that went up made an eye-catching and fun graphic story.

This time, walls are going up in the area behind the new Vredenburg music palace, where the old Hoog Catharijne shopping center is going under massive renovations and reconstructions.
Construction and Art
Edging the western side of the large square where the outdoor markets are held Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, this bit of urban art gets the kind of viewership numbers artists (and bloggers) dream about. After all, location, location, location!

Looking at each of the images and panels, there are some great characters and visuals to catch your imagination. One of the most famous is the red-hatted gnome on the far right. That’s Utrecht’s own KBTR (kabouter/gnome) who pops up in various spots around town for the past six or seven years. The rest of his out-of-this-world companions can be seen from right to left and represent a few other Utrecht symbols and institutions, such as the Nederland Film Festival and, of course, Nijntje. Any others you recognize?
KBTR VredenburgVredenbearsVredenburg KunstVredenijntjeVredenburg action shotvredenburg liftoff

Nijntje and Miffy

Nijntje/Miffy
The weather is still cold and grey, although the rain has held off for most of the day. Small blessings. However, I did notice this colourful window near the Stadhuis this afternoon, featuring Nijntje (AKA Miffy), the little rabbit created by Utrechter Dick Bruna. The weather may not be smile-inducing, but this window display above a children’s book/toy store certainly was.

Lamps, A Rabbit, and Missing Art

I’ve got a couple of blog post ideas, but they require a bit of research and I’m not in the mood after the editing I’ve been doing. Maybe this weekend I’ll be feeling more inclined. Instead, today, you get a few follow-up comments on some of the stuff I’ve mentioned recently.

For example, here’s a photo of one of the first Pyke Koche lamps to be renovated in the Domplein. The glass is now clear, instead of the frosted yellow it used to be, and yes, the red and white Utrecht shields are in full colour!

Pyke Koche

More embarrassingly, when I posted about the missing nave and the trompe l’oeil painting of the nave, I should have looked more closely at my recent photos. I might have noticed that the painting isn’t there anymore.

Where Did The Art Go?

Talk about taking something for granted! I started going through my old photos to try to figure out when it was removed, but I can only narrow it down to sometime between January and October 2011. Yeah, last year. As I said, embarrassing! I’m hoping someone else can help me out and let me know when it came down, just for curiosity’s sake. I think they should put it back up, though.

Finally, hartelijk gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag, Nijntje! (Happy Birthday, Nijntje/Miffy!) The little rabbit, who was the creation of local artist Dick Bruna, is celebrating her 57th birthday this weekend. She’s become famous around the world since then, and has her own square (Nijntje Pleintje) here in Utrecht. If you’re in town, I’m sure there are festivities at the Dick Bruna Huis across from the Centraal Museum.
Nijntje

Check out the Utrecht Events Calendar for some of the events going on this weekend. I’m about to update it with tips for architectural events, the 200th anniversary of a street, and a human peace sign.

Happy Birthday, Nijntje!

Birthday Girl
On this day in 1955, Nijntje made her debut. Drawn by Utrecht native, Dick Bruna, she’s gone on to feature in numerous books and cartoons and has become well-known around the world. She’s better known as Miffy to most of the world, since Nijntje is a bit of a puzzle for those not familiar with Dutch. For what it’s worth, Nijntje is a shortened, diminutive form of the word konijn, which means rabbit.
Nijntje Pleintje
She’s got quite the presence here in Utrecht. She has her own square (Nijntje Pleintje as seen in the above photo). She’s also the symbol used for some of the walk/don’t walk lights here in town. She’s being used on some directional signs here in Utrecht, and of course, she plays a huge part in the Dick Bruna Huis, which is a part of the Utrecht Centraal Museum.
Dick Bruna Huis
MuseumWeekend [Day 102/365]
She’s a charming little bunny and a nice thing to have associated with Utrecht. Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag, Nijntje!
Nijntje

Should Have Bought an Umbrella

Today, we went to Gamma, a major hardware store, in search of paint for the bedroom. We ended up finding — with the help of someone in the store — a basic white paint and what will hopefully be a nice green paint for the accent wall. It’s surprising just how difficult it can be to buy paint when you don’t know the language. Despite the many many gallons of paint I’ve bought in the past, when you miss a few key words, it becomes incredibly difficult. Luck was with us once again and we had a friendly, helpful, English-speaking store employee helping.

As we stood in line to get our paint mixed up, it turned out that the woman next to us was getting a very similar color. In fact, our color was one of the two to which she had narrowed her choice down, and her color was one that we had considered. Perhaps a sagey green is popular right now.

It has been raining on and off since last night, but when we left the house, we decided against taking the umbrella. Perhaps not the wisest choice. Within moments of leaving Gamma, paint cans in hand, it started to rain. It’s wasn’t a heavy rain, but it was a consistent rain and within minutes, I was drenched. Drowned rat, to be precise. Suddenly what we had referred to yesterday as being not much more than a leisurely walk turned into a long, wet, chafing slog. Still, there was quite a bit of laughter about it all.

On the plus side, I got to see Nijntje Pleintje and walk across one of the canal locks, and I found a record shop I had seen photographed on Flickr, and also saw the house that we almost bought on Breedstraat. Quite a lot of sight-seeing in one relatively short journey.