One day in Utrecht - Rietveld Schröderhuis & more (Netherlands)

This article first appeared in My Travelogue by Bhushavali
 
TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN UTRECHT IN ONE DAY - THE ULTIMATE UTRECHT GUIDE

The third time's a charm, always... I did try to visit Utrecht twice already and the first time was the mishap on the way in the train and the 2nd time, a thunder showers and storm made me cancel the trip. Third time, I really had my fingers crossed, and then luckily I went and returned back safely on this day-trip to Utrecht. So, here's my Utrecht Travelogue so you can have a virtual tour of Utrecht!
   
This is the primary reason why I ventured to Utrecht. Rietveld Schröderhuis Utrecht is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Netherlands and one of the top places to see in Utrecht. Like Van Nelle Fabriek, at the first glance, it looks no different than any other contemporary building, may be just a bit more quirky & colorful. But.... designed in 1924 by Gerrit Rietveld for Truus Schröder, this house is an epitome of clever designing and an architectural marvel.

De Stijl is a Dutch design movement that began in 1917. Its characteristic features are the use of primary colors and emphasis on verticals & horizontal and minimal design. The Gerrit Rietveld Schröder house is a perfect example of De Stijl Art movement. 

Everything in this house has an element of surprise. The self-guided audio tour begins at the kitchen. The windows of the kitchen, open out to the garden and its shutters also serve as food tray! The shelves and cupboards are basic with black, white blue and yellow. Most of the doors are split in 2, to use them either as a window or a door! As mentioned earlier, the emphasis of this art-movement is on lines and dimensions - even the lights and furniture belong are just vertical and horizontal lines & planks! This particular light is referred to as Rietveld lampen or Rietveld licht.
The staircase to go to the first floor, is hidden behind a sliding door, which is operated by a lever. In the first floor, all there is, is a single large room - but not really! It has 3 sliding walls!!! Originally, the city didn't give permission for sliding walls in 1st floor, so this was labelled as an attic! During the day, the walls were slid-in to make it one large room and at nights, they were slid-out to provide complete privacy for all the 3 children of Ms.Schröder. As everywhere else, this whole space is a explosion of red, blue & yellow balanced with white, black & grey!
There's a funnel speaker near the window, which connects to the garden. Someone from garden could talk softly to a person in 1st floor! Beside it is the storage shelves, which is just boxes stacked in a unusual, quirky way! Here, beside the window is the famous red & blue chair which is now considered the symbol of De Stijl movement. This is made of 15 slats and 2 rectangular panels of beechwood. The windows are huge and open outside, and without a panel at the corner, thus blending interiors & exteriors! Skylight is given importance as well and the bathroom & toilet are cleverly hidden!
The spot where the Red & Blue chair is, was Ms.Schröder's favourite spot. She loved looking at the polders from here. Sadly in the 1960s 4-way motorlane was built across the lawn and Mr.Rietveld considered destroying the house for the loss of the view. Luckily he didn't and this house has still survived for us to see. 


How to visit Rietveld Schröderhuis: Since this was an actual functional house (till 1985), obviously there can only certain number of people can be in it at any given point of time. So tickets with time-slots has to be booked prior. Only 28 tickets are available everyday and only 2 visitors are let inside every 15 minutes.
Rietveld Schroderhuis tickets: €18.00. Needs to be pre-booked in their official site.
Rietveld Schröderhuis hours: 10:00AM to 3:00PM (last entry at 2:15PM)
How to reach Rietveld Schröderhuis from Utrecht Centraal: 3km. Buses & trams are available. 
  
Rietveld Schroder house things to do in Utrecht

Rietveld de stijl red blue chair

Utrecht canals

Utrecht canals
   
Canals of Utrecht very much reminded me of the canals of Amsterdam, just that this network is smaller and less crowded! The basic 1hr tour in this canal is a definite, must-thing to do in Utrecht. Its 1 hr long and with the audio-guide it gives a good overview of the city, esp., with stories of its history and historical buildings. Apart from that, there are several other options for things to do in the Utrecht's canals including kayaking, pedal boats, stand-up paddles etc, for a much more hands-on experience.

Utrecht canal tour tickets: €13.95 for 1 hr tour
Utrecht canal tour hours: 11:00AM to 6:00PM
How to reach Schuttevaer Boat Cruise from Utrecht Centraal: 450m (5 mins walk)

With a whooping 112m height and 465 steps, this is the tallest church tower in Netherlands. Though we say its a 'church' tower, it is technically away from the church and is standing alone all by itself! Why? Well, the Dom Church (Domkerk), along with this tower and a nave connecting the church & tower were built in 1321 and 1382. But due to lack of funds, this monumental project was never completed and in 1674, the nave collapsed. Since this, this is a free-standing tower, with a open space between it & the church called the Dom Square (Domplein)!
There are 5 levels in this tower. It can be accessed only with a guided tour. The first level is St. Michael’s Chapel. This is inaccessible, but can be hired for the perfect destination wedding in Netherlands in a historical site! The next level is Egmond's Chapel. This room was the home of the tower guard and his family until 1901. The humongous chandelier here definitely reminded me of the one in Aachen Cathedral. The tower guard was also responsible for the working & maintenance of the bells & carillon. 
The next stop is the magnificent belfry with a super-narrow entrance. There are 14 bells here and together they weigh 30000kgs. This is the 2nd heaviest in Europe, following Cologne Cathedral. It needs 26 people to ring it all together, which happens only few times a year. The next stop is the Carillon and from here is the climb through a narrow spire and atop that is the magnificent view of the city!
Nothing is allowed to be carried inside the Dom except a waterbottle, phone and camera. But the good thing is there are free-lockers available at the Utrecht Tourism office located very closeby. Also currently (as of Aug 2020), restoration of the tower is going on and it would take atleast another 4 years for it to be completed. Till then, while it is safe to climb the tower, the exteriors of the tower cannot be enjoyed as it is covered with scaffolding. 
   
Domtoren Dom Tower Utrecht
Pic Courtesy: Michielverbeek  via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

Domtoren Dom Tower Utrecht

Domtoren Dom Tower Utrecht

View from Domtoren Dom Tower Utrecht
   
Street Art in Utrecht (Installations): While enjoying the view from atop the Domtoren, you'd spot 2 unusual things - a giant tea-kettle & a UFO! Well, in 2013, Utrecht played host to an event called 'Call of the Mall' during which 25 artists from all over the world, displayed their art-installations all over the city. In course of time, they were removed, except these 2!

Dom Tower Utrecht tickets: €10 for regular tour by stairs. €17.50 for elevator tour directly to the spire (operates only in summers). Should be pre-booked online on the website of Utrecht Marketing
Dom Tower Utrecht opening hours: 11:00AM to 5:00PM for regular tour. 5:00PM to 9:00PM for elevator tour (only in summers)
How to reach Dom Tower (Domtoren), Utrecht from Utrecht Centraal: 650m (7 mins walk)

Its the same Dom, but to see it from below! Basically, it was this very point, where the Dom Tower &  Dom Square exist today, that formed the historic site where this city was born in 45 CE, as the ancient Roman site called castellum Traiectum. Domunder is an underground tour of the archaeological sites below Dom Tower, Dom Square & Dom Church. 

DOMunder tickets and hours: Currently guided tours are available only in Dutch (however most Dutch speakers, manage a decent English). Only 3 tours are conducted per day on specific days. Each tour has a capacity of only 6 people and it lasts 1.5hrs. Check the official website of DOMunder for timings & tickets.
How to reach DOMunder, Utrecht from Utrecht Centraal: 700m  (8 mins walk)

Like Amsterdam's Defense Line with its forts, Utrecht also has a defense line and its own set of forts. Amsterdam's Defense Line is the Old Dutch Waterline which includes the fortifications at Pampus island fort, Muidenslot etc which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Netherlands. From Muiden, the New Dutch Waterline begins and it goes southwards all the way to Gorinchem and on the way is Utrecht. There are a whopping 46 fortresses, 6 fortifications and 2 castles in this line. This New Dutch Waterline is currently in the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 
2 of the 46 fortresses are located within Utrecht - Fort Aan de Klop and Fort de Bilt. 2 of the largest forts in this New Dutch Waterline are Fort Vechten and Fort Rijnauwen which are located very close to Utrecht. The unusual, picturesque forts in this line are Fort Honswijk and Lunet aan de Snel which are almost island-like, located in the banks of De Lek and their moats are actually channels cut from the river! These 2 are located very close to each other, but are about 30 minutes south of Utrecht, by train. 
   
Domunder archaeological site Utrecht

Places to see and things to do in Utrecht

Places to see and things to do in Utrecht

New Dutch Waterline Fort Honswijk and Lunet aan de Snel
Pic Courtesy: Google Maps
   
St. Michael’s Chapel in Domtoren is a perfect indoor wedding venue, very charming & traditional in the centre on the city. On the other hand, the fort of Lunet aan de Snel is a quirky, unusual wedding venue in Utrecht with a rustic charm for the outdoorsy couple.

A perfect one day itinerary of Utrecht could start with visiting Rietveld Schroderhuis, then boating in the canal,  and after lunch climb the Dom Tower OR get into Domunder, and finally visit a couple of forts & castles along New Dutch Waterline (Defense line of Utrecht).
A perfect 2 day itinerary of Utrecht would be Rietveld Schroderhuis, boating, Domtoren & Domunder and Trajectum Lumen on Day 1 and exploring as many forts as possible in the New Dutch Waterline.

With kids - Miffy Museum (yes, Utrecht is the birthplace of Miffy)
At night - Trajectum Lumen (It is a light-art trail of 2.5km. One of the interesting things to do in Utrecht at night)
Museums - Spoorweg museum, Speelkok Museum 


Utrecht is 30 mins by train from Amsterdam making it one of the best day-trips from Amsterdam. Utrecht is well connected with public transport with buses & trams. Infact so much, that it is possible to see the real-time location of the bus/tram that you're waiting for, on Google Maps! Even real-time location of replacement vehicles when a tram-line goes under maintenance can be seen on Google Maps!
Utrecht day ticket for public transport: €6.20. This is an OV chip card and cannot be bought online.

Being a city, Utrecht hostels and hotels in Utrecht are available at all price points. Larger hotels chains like NH Hotels, Hampton by Hilton Utrecht, Ibis Utrecht, Inntel hotels Utrecht etc are available as well. Some adorable, luxurious, boutique hotels Utrecht include Grand Hotel Karel V and Mary K Hotel. Personally I don't have a review of any Utrecht hotels as I visited the city on a day-trip. 

P.S: I was invited by Visit Utrecht to experience the region for review purposes, however the opinions are my own and this post does not to advertise the product/service.
  
Rietveld Schröderhuis UNESCO Utrecht Pinterest  One day in Utrecht Pinterest

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

12 comments:

  1. Now iam in total envy of you Busha...Schroder house is one of my favorite works of architecture. This house is in our lessons in architecture school.

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    1. Haha. Why envy Ashok?! Pls don't do that! Haha... But yes, I can relate to your feeling about getting to see something which we studied about - I was so jubilient in Greece because of that!

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  2. So cool I came across this post about Utrecht. I was here last year and had such a fun time. I only had one day here though which I think is far too little time, I wish I could have stayed longer. The Mondriaan Rietveld cycling route is really my type of activity, and it is such a bike friendly city as well.

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  3. Wow your entire description of Utrecht is replete with intrigue and anticipation. I’m literally thinking what’s next, like the way you begin with the masterpiece architecture of the schroderhuis, to conceptualise a wall cum door is quite forward looking for that time! The art description too is vivid. Hopefully next time I have more time in hand when visiting Amsterdam and can make a day trip to Utrecht.

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  4. I adore Utrecht! We were actually just there in May but sadly many of hte museums were still closed due to C19. Would have loved to go to Dom Under but so happy we were able to kayak the canals...so charming!

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  5. I got lost in that Rietveld place - sliding doors, hidden cabinets, windows that double up as doors....totally fascinating. The canals are a definite must-visit in Utrecht. And I sure would love to visit the Dom tower. Climbing up will be so rewarding with that view.

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  6. Wow! Finally, your trip pushed through. I have heard about Rietveld Schroderhuis and I agree with you that it's product of great architecture and design. This is something that I would like to consider in our home. I like the idea of the staircase hidden behind a sliding door and the sliding walls. It is just the perfect way to maximize space. How I wish I can explore the house personally. Thank you for sharing about your visit.

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  7. For example, if your child enjoys tofu sandwiches, then adding tofu to stir fries, and even chopped up into sticks, should also meet with success. kids bento box

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  8. I have been to Netherlands only once and have never to Utrecht. I wish I had known about this place as I was in Netherlands for a few days where I did not go anywhere as such so I could have used the days to see Utrecht. Anyway I will definitely go back and see it.

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    1. Btw I loved the canals in Amsterdam and I am sure the canals in Utrecht will be as beautiful as the ones in Amsterdam 😍.

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  9. I have heard of Utrecht but never actually checked it out. It's great to read the post as an overview of what to see there. The Schroderhuis sounds completely interesting and would be on my list when I am in the vicinity.

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  10. After all, with all fingers crossed and prayers, you finally made it to Utrecht. Utrecht's canals really look like canals of Amsterdam. Also as you said, there are two street arts left from the Call of the mall event - giant tea-kettle & a UFO, I would love to see them. Climbing up Dom Tower would be interesting here and thanks for your tips that we can carry only mobile, purse and camera. Good they have lockers there to store our extra stuff.

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