Running through the centre of the old city are Utrecht's pair of canals - the Oude Gracht and the Nieuw Gracht (old and new). In addition to the canals the old city boundary still has its water filled moat looping in a rough semicircle on the western side.
The old city centre is pretty much traffic-free and so wandering the canal and moat banks makes for a pleasant way to get a feel of the place. The canals are built below street level and have their own walkways which during the summer bustle with cafes and restaurants. On my autumn visit on a midweek morning I had the double bonus of the place being virtually tourist-free and the trees in their resplendent seasonal foliage which my camera took full advantage of - see travelogue below: Some "arty" Photos
You can walk along the lower part of the canals. Although you might feel like your trespassing..you're not. But you might walk along people who use this part as their 'balcony'.
If you decide to do a canal bike tour, you will pass this spot as well.
Utrecht's canals have pedestrian walkways on either side. Check out the two main north to south running canals (the Old Canal and the New Canal - though remember that even the new one dates from the 14th century). There are plenty of cafes along the way, if you feel in need of a pit stop
We did this once with the company i worked for. I must admit i thought it would be horrible but even though i already lived in Utrecht for about 5 years then, i saw this whole new Utrecht. It is so strange to see a city from the waterline (other than the terraces). I loved it. And i will do it again some day for sure. Though not on a very hot day, since the peddling is very hard work
Taking a cruise on the canals will set you back 7.95 euro's. The cruises depart from Oudegracht and when the weather permits, they open the roof. There is a guide on board that will inform you of the area that you are cruising through and give you quite a bit of information. Duration is one hour and the boats depart every hour on the hour from 11 am to 5 pm.
The thing that we enjoyed most was being able to eat along the canals. There are numerous restaurants and you really have a varied choice. Everywhere we ate, the food was good, and the atmosphere is amazing. There is nothing quite like watching a boat row right past your table while you enjoy a delicious meal or a duck coming to ask for a titbit.
We rented a canal bike, a pedal boat that holds up to four people. Our kids volunteered to pedal while the old folks sat in back.
It was a very entertaining way to see Utrecht's canals, cruising serenely under brick bridges with names like Maartensbrug, and looking at the artists' studios and residences along the water's edge. When it started to rain (we hadn't known enough to ask for a canopy, and the cashier at the Canal Bike stand hadn't offered), Kelly and I held umbrellas over the kids' heads while they pedaled. It would have made a good photo if any of us had had a free hand! Their legs still got drenched, but that was part of the fun.
50 euros deposit, refundable, plus 5 euros per person, per hour. If it's an overcast day, ask for the canopy.
while in utrecht make sure to enjoy a meal at a restaurant along one of the many canals. Downtown there is a main stretcht of places, and there is tons of variety. The food is good, and the atmosphere is amazing. There is nothing quite like watching a boat row right past your table while you enjoy a delicious meal.
There are many student-filled cafes and bars alongside the canals of Utrecht. In particular, these are located alongside the edge of the Oudegracht (old canal) that runs through the heart of the city.
In some areas, the city is built on two levels. At street-level there are shops and houses. But then there are steps down to the canalside, where there are bars and restaurants, and small boats for hire.
During good weather you can take a boat ride in the canals in Utrecht. Make sure to take advantage of this, as it's far less expensive than in Venice, and probably more romantic, as there are less tourists.
The Oudegracht is the aorta of Utrecht it runs right through the city and is the busiest and most interesting part too. You can find lots of terraces here, shops and restaurants. I visited on a sunny day and the whole gracht was booming. There was live music at a few locations, artists doing paintings of the city's sights, and people peddling water bikes forward. Also make sure to check out the aboriginal museum which is also located on Oudegracht.
Utrecht is one of the oldest towns, with a lot of historical buildings, most of them in the centre of the town.
It is easy to walk around, or rent a bike, but walking is the best way tp see this town.
Oudegracht is a canal going through the heart of the city, with shops and restaurants on both sides.
This canal is unique because of its many pittoresque cellars on water level. Centuries ago they were used for storage and commerce. Nowadays, many of them host fine restaurants and pubs. In the summer you can find nice terraces at the water here.
During late spring and summer a nice and alternative way to experience Utrecht canals is by canoe! you can rent canoes or boats at the Botenverhuur de Rijnstroom and starting from there you can go either to the historical city center or more to country. We went to the green country around Utrecht and after paddling for a couple of hours we stopped at Theehuis Rhijnauwen B.V. for a pancake. This is a pancake house right on the canal, so you can step out and leave your canoe on the bank.
The Oude Gracht is the main canal in the old city center of Utrecht. It's one street you will explore during your Utrecht visit as most activity is located on and around the canal.
The Gracht has its origin as a part of the Vecht river and was transformed into a Gracht around 1275.
Take your time to see the canal houses and their gables and visit the wharfs at the waterside as well.