Surrounding area, Utrecht
Kastel de Haar is one of hollands small secrets. i had been living in holland for around 6 months when i received a "gift card" from work for christmas where i could choose an activity or item for a certain value. A Day trip to the castle was what i chose. Having always been interested in history and historical places this was certainly up my street.
From the outside it looks stunning and has some really wonderful gardens where you can happily spend hours and hours walking around. There are small enclosures of deers around, lots of shady areas and a large lake. Almost sometime like a fairy tale. The Castle itself has high turrets and a moat around it. Originally built as a defensive building, it was refurbished in the 18th centrury. Parts of the castle are now being refurbished again but you can still walk around it and see a number of the originally decorated rooms.
Unfortunately you are only allowed inside the castle under the watchful eyes of a tour guide. These are done at various times of the day, and you are allocated a time slot when you purchase your tickets. there are tours in both the native dutch tongue and english. naturally as a brit we went for the english version and it was very good. The guide was very imformative regarding the history of the castle and explained in detail about every room. Sadly due to the restauration, there were a few rooms we didnt get to see which are on the normal tour, but she explained that instead we would see some other rooms which you dont normally see. please note once you are on the tour, there is no toilet stop. The tour itself lasted around an hour and we saw around 7 rooms. No photos are allowed inside either unfortunately but i believe you can buy postcards of the interior.
tickets are i think 9 euros for an adult into the grounds and the tour and a lot less for kids. you can also just buy a ticket for access to the grounds as well if you dont feel like seeing the inside :)
Form central station you can take busses into the rural area's around Utrecht.
One of my favorites is bus 41 to Wijk bij Duurstede. It takes 35 minutes...and there are very nice places along the way.
Bunnik, Oud Amelisweerd
Here you can visit a lovely teahouse with homemade cakes and organic garden. You can walk back alongside the Kromme Rijn, following the river, that turns into the citycanal. (2 hours)
There is a big pancake house and hostel at this stop.
Cothen is a very tiny village. Nothing much to do, but very dutch. It has a windmill and castle. There are some lovely houses if you follow the road into the village and after the roundabout turn left into the sandroad and walk towards the small castle.
Wijk bij Duurstede, Steenstraat - Centrum
Wijk bij Duurstede is an old place, going back to the viking raids. It has a windmill, churches, citywall, grachten and an old castle. It is also the home of one of the Dutch princesses.
You can take walks along the riverdikes, walk back to Utrecht (20 km) along a special 'nature' trail alongside the Kromme Rijn river.
I would only go on a sunny day...
Perhaps if you are based in the centre the best description is to walk from Centraal museum into Venuslaan road there should be a way to access the canal walk from there some paths you can cycle on and some are only for walkers or runners. You pass the Utrecht stadium as well as the university campus. On the other side of the canal there is a place to rent boats and canoes.
Its not long before you are walking in forested area which is really pleasent especially if the sun is beating down. We stopped for at the information centre for a cup of tea and a well deserved break. The teahouse will make a blend for your pot if you so wish and if you want real milk just ask. The teahouse also had their own organic garden and they use their products in their food. There was a selection of quiches, breads as well as sweet treats all homemade. The teahouse will appear as a separately under my restaurant tips as the Veldkeuken. There is also a pancake house a little further along the river.
There are several walking guides for Utrecht. It's worth it to find one. You can walk every single day and see something different, or be suddenly amazed. The other day I ran across the home of Mr. Roentgen the inventor of the X-Ray machine. Today I saw a sign in the sidewalk, Mozart slept here (in Dutch of course). All the buildings that are important have signs on them, sadly once again all in Dutch. Take along a Dutch friend or a wireless device with a translator. Most of the things you'll see are old cloisters converted into schools or hospitals.
Utrecht was basically started as a fort to guard the Northern border of the Roman empire. So, the later city is built on Roman ruins. Recently more and more places are digging into their basements and exposing the Roman ruins beneath, many of which put plexiglass over the top so you can see them. Central Utrecht is not that big. Start at the Dom and work your way out. Pay attention to the little signs over the doors. Today I was in a shop that has been there since 1744. It was appropriately an antique shop.
The canals make This Quarter a VIBRANT place...
These days you can drift along in a small boat or dine at restaurants housed in the WHARFS' cwellars.
That used to be different: in the old days, the docks were a bustling workplace....
Of course you don't want to miss the special spots in the M.Q.
That's why we organize guided walking and boat tours through the city!
But you can also discover this M.Q. on your own initiative: the maze of narrow alleys and streets, hidden gardens, small courtyards and canals beckon you to discover this wonderful part of interesting, atmospheric UTRECHT.
The number of forts testifies of the famous history of this province. Some of them you can visit all the year round, including the fort near Rijnauwen in Bunnik, this is the biggest fort of the Netherlands.
In September, the “Utrechtse Fortenmaand”, all the forts will open there doors for public. Also some special activities will take place during this month, like art-exhebitions, guided tours and you can spend the night and enjoy a solders-breakfast.
East of Utrecht you find low hills that are actually remainings of the glacial periods. They are covered with woods and there are many villas and castles there.
The area north-east of Utrecht is also worth a bike trip. I went here several times.
The area is varied, with forests, fields, villages and stately homes