Explore the captivating wonders of Utrecht on our Best of Holland & Belgium itinerary. With its canals and street cafés, this Dutch city is reminiscent of Amsterdam. However, the intimate haven lies off the beaten path and boasts its own unique history and appeal.
Utrecht’s Split-Level Canals
In the Middle Ages, Utrecht thrived as the cultural center of the Netherlands, as the Rhine River once flowed through the town. However, during the 12th century, the locals decided to change the course of the river, and thus the Oudegracht (Old Canal) was born. Eventually, this canal area was built up with shipyards and vast cellars to conveniently store ship parts at water level. Over the centuries, Oudegracht’s shipyards transformed into shops, restaurants and homes, creating a “split-level” canal formation. With this unique structure, people can sit at cafés next to the water or stroll by shops and homes a level above.
A Castle Out of a Fairytale
Just outside the city is the picture-perfect Castle de Haar. Straight out of a storybook with turrets, moats and drawbridges, the castle is the biggest and most luxurious in the Netherlands. It is so large that when it was built in 1822, the entire village of Haarzuilens had to be moved to make space for its walls. Today, the historic monument plays host to guided tours and lavish events. The grounds hold an expansive park and lush gardens covering 135 acres. Among the most beautiful are the Rose Garden, with over 1,200 roses in 79 different varieties, and the Roman Garden, featuring ponds, canals, bridges and more. Our included visit to De Haar allows guests to explore the castle grounds and luxurious interior.