Walks around the city— one of the things that keeps me from going insane in these times of COVID-19. I’ve been a good girl, and I spend most of my days indoors. I practice social distancing. But a couple of times a week, I go out for a stroll to stretch out my legs (that are basically turning into huge lumps of jelly held together by skin) and get some fresh air.
To make my walks interesting, I’ve been trying to pick a different neighborhood to explore each time. This is SOOOO satisfying. Each time I leave my apartment on one of these walks, I feel a sense of calm and a flood of happiness. Utrecht is so beautiful!
I cannot stop describing how beautiful the city is to my friends back in the US. Some of them are familiar with Amsterdam, so I have some kind of reference point with them. I can simply say something vague like, it’s a mini version of Amsterdam, but a bit cleaner. Most of my friends who aren’t really familiar with the Netherlands probably just think that I either live in a field of tulips or in the Red Light District.
Just in case you’re wondering, no, I don’t live in a tulip field or in the Red Light District.
Right now I live in the City Center, which is absolutely gorgeous, but I’m the kind of person who also likes the “feel” of different neighborhoods in the city. I find that there is always a lot to do in the center, which is fantastic, but at the same time, I don’t think that this is the ideal neighborhood for me long term. Because, well, does the center even count as a “neighborhood”?
My partner Sara and I are hoping to buy a small house or apartment in the next year or two. So for fun, we like to play a little game of “where do we see ourselves living” in the future in Utrecht. It’s quite fun, and these days of course, we’re playing this game All. The. Time. There are a limited number of things we can do outside right now…
And if you’re visiting Utrecht, this list could be a great way for you to visit the less touristy parts of the city. So let’s get to it!
This is my current favorite neighborhood in Utrecht. The Volgelenbuurt is just north of the center, and you can walk to it in about 10 mins from the train station. It is absolutely tiny, but each time I walk through it, I am newly surprised by how cute and pretty it is!
My two favorite things about the neighborhood are that there is a very old, very Dutch looking windmill right in the middle of it. It’s just so cute! The second really awesome thing is that although there are several bigger canals in Utrecht, in the Vogelenbuurt, you can find a few really narrow, tiny streams!
These cute streams are really unreal (see what I did there?). I haven’t seen any streams quite like these in Utrecht in other places near the center, so that’s special to see here.
It’s also really nice to go through a walk in this neighborhood because it’s all so very GREEN! Lots of trees that grow on the streets, which of course, also have the tiny cute houses and apartment buildings that I love about Dutch architecture. I can totally see myself living there, and it would be probably be a great place for Sara and me to raise our kids.
I can safely say that if you’ve been to Utrecht, but not to Lombok, you’re missing out! I’ve loved hanging out in Lombok even before I moved to Utrecht, and I can’t recommend it enough for either a walk or to visit a cafe or restaurant there.
This neighborhood reminds me of where I lived in the US, in Philadelphia. I’m not saying the neighborhood LOOKS like Philly, it’s more that it’s one of the few places near the center where I see a mix of people from different backgrounds. That is one of my favorite things about the area— it’s not boring!
The main street in Lombok has many little different shops selling all kinds of things, from cheap groceries to clothing to stuff for your pets. It’s also a great place to basically find any spices you’re looking for. When I first needed to make Indian food here in the Netherlands, I went to Lombok to buy some spices.
If you’re a tourist, I can recommend two funky places that I like in the area. One is called the Kebap Factory, and it’s literally in a mosque. Although, to be fair, you can’t really tell that from the inside of the place. The Kebap Factory does have really good falafel wraps too, if you’re vegetarian, and I have heard my meat-eater friends RAVE about their kebaps.
So check it out! When we’re allowed to go to places again, sigh.
Another place that I can truly recommend is Cafe Lombok. This is an old “brown” cafe that has quite a few proper lunch options and cheap beer! Sara and I have been there a few times because we just love the vibe, and our absolute favorite lunch item there are their vegetarian croquettes. Ah, if only I could have some right now.
Anytime that I’m in Lombok, I also make sure to walk along the water, which is lined with whimsical houses that are so cute and quirky at the same time. You have to visit to know what I’m talking about. And of course, walking along the water with little green parks is just something that can brighten up any day.
This neighborhood literally has the weirdest name ever. “Wittenvrouwen” in English translates to “white ladies”. Don’t ask me why it’s call that, I have no freaking clue! But the weird name aside, this place is full of hipsters, and along with hipsters, come hipster things.
And not all hipster things are bad. Some of them are fantastic, like hipster cafes, restaurants, and dare I say it, hipster houses? There are actually just SO MANY restaurants and cafes here though, that I go there anytime I feel like I want to try finding a place I like without having to plan ahead of time.
The difference between going to a cafe in the Wittenvrouwen neighboorhood and a cafe is in the center is that I don’t need to be worried about not finding a place to sit. This is can be a real problem in the center when I’m hunting for the cafe atmosphere on days when I’m working from home or simply working on some projects (like this blog!) on the weekends.
I’ve had the best experiences working in cute, modern cafes in this area. And if you’re just passing by, this is also where they have good coffee and nice lounge chairs for you to relax in. For instance, I’ve loved my time at Cornelis Koffietentje, just to name one of the several places that are lovely to hang out in in the area.
If you’re looking for a good restaurant, this neighborhood also has so many different kinds of foods that you can choose from, from Indonesian to French. If you’re looking for a small bite, you can also go to one of the many cafes I raved about before.
But of course, when the sun is out, everyone can be found hanging out by the parks or green spaces by the water. This is definitely one of the perks of walking through the Wittenvrouwen area.
And if you just want to look at several cute Dutch houses in the row, you’ve found the place to do JUST THAT. The neighborhood is full of hipster couples with babies in cute little houses. The best part is that because the Dutch don’t like to shut their curtains (and some lack curtains all together), it makes for a great opportunity to get a glimpse into how these people live. Yes, I’m creepy and I know it.