Utrecht’s Christmas Spirit

December 23, 2014

Utrecht is one of Holland’s most famous cities, with a uniquely gothic style that has made it one of the country’s favourite destinations for scholars and students. Based almost entirely around the Dom Tower, the town centre is small enough to walk around and is lined with canals in a typically-Dutch fashion.

Utrecht’s Spoorwegmuseum (Railway Museum) has recently been restored extensively to its original 19th century appearance. The grand station hall and the waiting rooms are as elegant and striking as any building in Europe, and each winter the museum adds the Winter Station, an indoor ice skating rink surrounded by old train carriages, festive decorations and a carousel. There are even open fires outdoors where visitors can roast marshmallows.

Throughout the festive period, Holland plays host to vans and stalls selling a number of traditional Dutch treats, such as gooey roasted marshmallows, fried dough balls, poffertjies (mini pancakes) and much more. Utrecht is no stranger to these vans and stalls, and they pop up around the city’s Christmas markets and events, so be sure to grab yourself some classic Dutch food while you hug a mug of gluhwein.

You can find the main Christmas market on the city’s largest shopping street, Twijnstraat, but it is by no means the only place to visit during the festive season. The handmade market, (or Zelfgemaakte Markt as it’s known locally) takes over Mariaplaats on 13 and 14 December, giving you the opportunity to stock up on any last-minute gifts for those at home.

Just a short distance from the city by bus or car lies Kasteel de Haar, a fairytale castle which hosts a Country & Christmas Fair on its grounds. The fair is attended by more than 200 exhibitors, selling gifts, toys, local food and produce and much more, perfect for Christmas gifts. There are also fire pits where you can huddle round for warmth with some local delicacies.

Each Christmas the city is decorated with festive lights, which can be seen as part of the Winter Quest Trajectum Lumen tour. The lights go on at dusk and stay on until midnight, and there’s an app with a map that you can download if you’d prefer to wander and discover them yourself at your own pace.

Christmas in Holland wouldn’t be complete without Sinterklaas and Utrecht is no different. Watch Sinterklaas’ arrival in the city up the Odengraacht, or his parade on his horse Amerigo each Christmas. For more information on Sinterklaas, check out our Sinterklaas blog!

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