Amsterdam is known worldwide for its pretty canals, old houses and art.
The smaller city of Utrecht is sometimes featured as 'one of the best-kept secrets of Amsterdam'. A large travel guide company called it 'bizarrely under-visited'. This is about to end, so visit before it gets too crowded.
The city center has about 2.5 miles of canals running past medieval streets. Some are better than those in the capital, as many film makers know. One of the most famous Dutch movies is called 'Amsterdamned'. The best parts of the speedboat chases were filmed in Utrecht.
2. The Dom Tower
Utrecht has the largest church tower in the entire country. It measures 368 feet, offers a great view of the city and adapts to all occasions: adopting the colors of the Belgian flag after terrorist attacks and playing David Bowie after his death.
A lot of Amsterdam's charms have been blurred by tourism. There are lots of traps and restaurants serving "dog food" at sky rocket prices. Utrecht is still under-visited, so in any restaurant you can sit among locals and enjoy genuine cuisine.
Unique in the world are Utrecht's wharfs: the regular streets and shops lie high above the water, but in Utrecht you can relax and dine right next to the water. When the sun is out, the wharfs are filled with terraces. You can eat most anything from Thai to Dutch pancakes while watching vessels, canoes and paddle boats float by.
Utrecht can't compete with the number of Van Goghs and Rembrandts in Amsterdam, but its got ten great museums that cater to all tastes. Apart from modern and aboriginal art, you can watch a mechanical music box with a metal Van Gogh painting sunflowers in the Museum of Self-Playing Musical Instruments. Or ride a horse coach past the 18th century city in the Utrecht Archives.
6. Grand City
Utrecht is the fourth largest city in The Netherlands. It is also one of the oldest. It received medieval town privileges in 1122. Amsterdam didn't get these until 1306. It is also the smartest city with the largest number of people with a higher education. Thanks to its University, the best in the country, it is also a relatively young city in a greying world.
7. Lasting Memories
Don't you want to take a little piece home after you've visited an impressing place? This is possible! In the city center lies Dom Square. Everyone can adopt one square meter from its Medieval cobbled stones. You'll get an official certificate and you can add a personal story about the meaning of the city's hot spot, for the entire world to read.
As all men and women know: Size does matter. Utrecht has the culture and festivals of a big city, but is still small enough to do everything on foot. No hassling with the local bus system, Dutch time tables and getting tickets. It saves money as well. As for the festivals; there are more than you can imagine. During the day you can sip a cup of tea at a tea festival and a few hours later you can dance the night away at a party. If you like beer, comics, early music, food trucks or literature, there are festivals for you. The trade and exhibition center also hosts vacation-, bicycle- and walking fairs.
There is more history in Utrecht than you can swallow. The city was founded by Romans and Spanish soldiers, destroyed by Vikings, rebuilt by an English bishop, frequented by French kings and provided headquarters for Germans. The city basically unites all of Europe. It actually did so at the Treaty of Utrecht. And of course the only Dutch Pope ever, was born here.
Since it is still under-visited, the prices are better than those in the capital.