Illustrated City Guide: Utrecht
Laetitia from the popular French lifestyle blog Vert Cerise asked me to put together a small city guide for my hometown Utrecht (the Netherlands), and share my top ten tips with you, which I happily agreed to do. My tips and illustrations are now live on her blog, and you can read it here in French, or here in plain old English (or just skip ahead below and read all about my city)!
Utrecht Strand West is design paradise. Situated in the age old city castle of Drakenburg (12th century), this beautiful concept store sells both expensive, brand-name design furniture and work by young and upcoming designers, a lot of them local. Upstairs you’ll also find a design agency, and an exhibition space. Worth a visit, but leave your wallet at home.
Neude 2, Utrecht
Being nearly 30, I’ve reached this sad place in life where I can’t really afford great wines, but I’ve certainly grown out of supermarket plonk. Fortunately, there’s Levebvre. Located on the big ‘party square’ of Utrecht, this stylish winebar is fun and affordable, but has a great selection of wines. My friends and I love to meet up here after a long week, drink wine, nibble on the vegetarian kroketten (!), and pretend we’re all grown up.
STAN & CO
Ganzenmarkt 16a, Utrecht
Stan & Co is popular amongst local bloggers, and as soon as you walk in, you’ll understand why. The decor is hip, in a New York kind of way, and they serve any kind of lattefrappomacchiato thing you want. They also have good food, though, and it’s a relaxing and informal place to just hang out with friends, or by yourself with a book. The staff will take care of you.
Nobelstraat 143, Utrecht
Everyone knows that simple yet stylish Meneer Smakers has the best burger in town, and the place is always packed, especially on Saturday night. The burgers are named after the fictitious family Smakers, and my favorite is the Mevrouw (Lady) Smakers – tasty tasty! Also, if you can handle it, order some fries on the side, with mayonnaise, of course. PS: There is a delicious vegetarian option on the menu as well.
Oudegracht 218, Utrecht
Emma B is a cute little store along the Oude Gracht (the main canal), home of Scandinavian Design. Every time I walk in there, I want to just rent a truck and buy everything there. Another place to go into sans wallet, but oh so pretty. Also – once you’re on the canal, take a look ‘downstairs’, where the old store houses along the water have been turned into houses, shops, and cafes. Makes for a fun, cool, walk in summer and a romantic stroll in fall.
When the old city wall was torn down (for the most part), the area was turned into a city park. My husband and I love running along the many footpaths, but even more than this, we enjoy hanging out in the bit of the park called Lepelenburg. What was once home to Utrecht’s main defensive towers, now is a lovely sun-flooded stretch of grass in the middle of the city and in summer you’ll see students, families, and circus folk (no kidding) light up their portable BBQ and sip on beer and rosé.
BurgemeesterReigerstraat 25, Utrecht
Local, fresh, and organic – that’s what’s on the menu of Hooi. A great place for breakfast or lunch, I personally absolutely adore their high tea menu full of home made sweets, glutenfree bread, great coffe, and salty little pastries. A great bonus is the fact that much of the art on the walls, and fun interior design details, were done by local artists!
CENTRAAL MUSEUM & NIJNTJE MUSEUM
Nicolaaskerkhof 10, Utrecht
Even though I could do an entire city guide on Utrecht’s cultural wealth, I just couldn’t go without mentioning the Centraal Museum and, the adjoining, Nijntje (or Miffy) Museum. Whereas the Nijntje Museum mostly draws in kids and Japanese tourists (and ok, me), the Centraal Museum has a fascinating collection of historical art (and especially Utrecht masters), and a great variety of contemporary exhibitions on fashion and industrial designers.
LOUIS HARTLOOPER COMPLEX
Tolsteegbrug 1, Utrecht
Most Friday nights, you’ll find me here. The Louis Hartlooper Complex, named after a local guru in Utrecht film history, is my favorite art house cinema in town. I love having a quick bite inside the remarkable building (the old police station), or if weather permits, outside overlooking the Tolsteeg Square, before heading off to see a movie. Don’t rush finishing that beer, as you’re allowed to take your drinks with you into the theater, where one of the staff will give the audience a quick introduction about the film you’re about to see (questions are allowed).
Briljantlaan 5, Utrecht
Urlaub is a concept store by Ellen Vesters, illustrator, entrepreneur, and all-round inspiring lady. Though located just outside the city centre, this illustration and art-filled walhalla is worth the detour. She’s filled the place wall-to-wall with work by young designers and artists, and you’ll see creative folk sprawled about, working on their latest project. Urlaub also hosts workshops (www.immerurlaub.com) on illustration, screen printing, design, and on how to set up and run a creative business. PS: Klein Berlijn downstairs offers refreshments and food in a great, Berlin-esque atmosphere.