Wondering where to live in Utrecht? DutchReview sets out to find you the best neighbourhoods (and yes, also some ‘meh’ but cheap neighbourhoods in Utrecht).
Congratulations, you’re moving to Utrecht! With its gorgeous townhouses, a flower market along the canal on Saturday and more bicycles than you can handle, Utrecht can feel like you’re living the Dutch dream. Although the city is much more petite than Amsterdam or Rotterdam, there are still a lot of different neighbourhoods in Utrecht to choose from. So where to live in Utrecht? DutchReview has all the pro’s and con’s of Utrecht’s neighbourhoods for you.
Neighbourhoods in Utrecht: the city centre
This area basically offers everything people imagine the Netherlands is made off: narrow streets, townhouses, markets, canals, little bars and a lot of history! And we really mean a lot of it.
The city centre of Utrecht was founded by the Romans and most people don’t realize that it’s a lot older than Amsterdam, Leiden or Delft. On a few square kilometres, you can time travel from the Roman era to the defining Middle Ages and onwards to early Jugendstill or ugly 1970’s architecture.
No matter how historical Utrecht centre may be, it is by no means a dead part of town. Utrecht University and Hogeschool Utrecht both take care that there is a big influx of young and fresh students every year. So you know what that means, right? A huge number of (coffee)bars, hip restaurants, and quirky shops. The place is buzzing all year round. It also has TivoliVredenburg – a venue which has made Utrecht a regular stopover for upcoming (Indie) artists.Another big advantage of living here is being close to one of the major transportation hubs in the Netherlands: Utrecht Central Station. Regular trains will take you to Rotterdam, The Hague, Amsterdam, Zwolle, Arnhem, Amersfoort or Den Bosch within an hour. So for business travellers and corporate expats, Utrecht city centre is also perfect to live in!
Are there any downsides? Well, you can guess that living here does not come cheap (which might also be less of an issue for corporate expats). You have to be careful where to pick your spot as some streets and squares can be very noisy at night.
Notable locations: Oudegracht, TivoliVredenburg, Domtower and church, Centraal Museum, Neude, Ledig Erf, Utrecht central station.
Neighbourhoods in Utrecht: Wittevrouwen, Oudwijk, Vogelenbuurt &Tuinwijk/dorp
If the city centre is a bit too busy for you, but you still fancy the old and want to be in walking or cycling distance of the centre? Move to the posh areas surrounding the city centre on the north-east side: Wittevrouwen, Oudwijk, Vogelenwijk and Tuinwijk or -dorp.
Wittevrouwen, Vogelenwijk and Oudwijk were built before 1900. Oudwijk mostly consists of cute and small arbeidershuisjes, while big townhouses make up the most of Wittevrouwen and Vogelenwijk. Tuinwijk and –dorp was built later, around the 1930s. It boasts some beautiful spacious houses from those days and the streets are greener.
The neighbourhoods became popular in the 1990s with families and yuppies. That’s still the main crowd here, mixed with students. Bakfietsmoeders at coffee bars are a pretty common sight. Corporate expats also fit right in these neighbourhoods of Utrecht! But you’ll also find some good deli’s, bakeries and butchers here.
Two big pros: the popular Wilhelminapark in English landscape style and the more modern and spacious Griftpark.
Notable locations: shops and café’s at the Nachtegaalstraat, Burgermeester Reigerstraat and Biltstraat, Wilhelminapark, Griftpark, Rietveldhuis, Badhu and Theater De Paardenkathedraal.
Neighbourhoods of Utrecht: Lombok & Oog in Al
On the other side of the central station, you’ll find the multicultural area of Lombok. This neighbourhood of Utrecht, mostly made up of small houses and apartments made for the working class, is popular now but it wasn’t always that way. In the ’70s, workers from Turkey and Morocco were housed cheaply here in not the best conditions. Shopkeepers left and the neighbourhood declined. Renovations in the ’90s and the proximity to the train station caused gentrification of the area. You’ll find an interesting mix here of people with a Moroccan or Turkish background, yuppies, students and real Utrecht-families who have been living here for generations.
The Kanaalstraat is the place to be in Utrecht to shop for fresh and cheap fruit and vegetables. It also has some good Mediterranean bakeries and fish shops.
You’ll also find one of the best (Asian) restaurants of Utrecht in the Kanaalstraat: Jasmijn & ik. Be sure to book ahead if you feel like dining here on the weekend.
A bit further, the Leidse Rijn, Molen de Ster and the sluizen really is just stunning. Take a stroll along the water or light up your BBQ here, as this place turns into a busy hotspot during summertime.
Notable locations: Molen de Ster, Jasmijn & ik, park Oog in Al, cheap shops at the Kanaalstraat, café Lombok, sluizen.
Neighbourhoods in Utrecht: Utrecht Zuid
The area south of the city centre is made up of the neighbourhoods Hoograven, Tolsteeg and Rivierenwijk. The city centre sprawls out to the northern part of these neighbourhoods and more hotspots are opening up here. From vegan hipster places like Broei to the most popular restaurant of Utrecht, based up in an old water tower.Who lives here is basically everyone that makes up Utrecht: migrants, yuppies, students, families and the traditional real ‘Utrechters’. Housing is diverse and available in a lot of price ranges. You can rent a cheap studio here, but you can also buy a big and expensive family home with a garden.
The main areas Hoograven and Rivierenwijk are divided by a canal and the pretty Jutfaseweg.
Notable locations: WT Urban Kitchen, restaurants along Oosterkade and Westerkade, Klein Berlijn, Rotsoord.
Neighbourhoods in Utrecht: Leidsche Rijn
If all you have ever dreamt of is the ultimate suburban life in one of the more sleepy neighbourhoods of Utrecht, then move to Leidsche Rijn! This area was built just about ten years ago, across the Amsterdam-Rijnkanaal and the A2.
It has new, affordable and big houses, loads of schools, playgrounds and big supermarkets. Right in the middle of Leidsche Rijn is Maxima Park – the ideal place to go jogging, skating, cycling, walk your dog or play with your kids.Ok, you get it: mostly families live here because houses are cheaper and more spacious than in the old city. Another big advantage is that you are close to the A2 and you can drive to places like Amsterdam or Gouda within half an hour. It also has two train stations on the line to Utrecht, Gouda and Woerden.
Notable locations: Maxima Park, Cinemec, Castellum Hoge Woerd
Neighbourhoods in Utrecht: Kanaleneiland
So where to live in Utrecht when you don’t have money and you don’t really care about old stuff? Go for Kanaleneiland. It’s mostly apartment blocks from the ’60s and ’70s here, which aren’t the prettiest, to be honest. But the upside is that there are a lot of cheaper fruit and veggie shops here. Big pluses are the green areas along the Amsterdam-Rijnkanaal and Park Transwijk. There’s also the Prince Claus Bridge, designed by the same person who designed the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam! Can you see the similarities?
But the biggest pro? Kanaleneiland still is within 15 minutes cycling of the city centre and train station. So you are still close to all the hotspots in town, without spending a fortune on your house.
Notable locations: Park Transwijk, de Kantien, Ikea.
Finding a house in Utrecht
So you’ve decided on where to live in Utrecht? Great! Sadly house hunting in Utrecht is not easy these days. With Utrecht being buzzing, its central location and loads of students looking for housing, both house prices and rents in the private sector have skyrocketed in the past years.
Going to work in Utrecht and need a proper place? It can take a while to find something and when you’re in Utrecht for business or a corporate expat you want to find someplace in Utrecht to live quick it can be a problem. We worked together on this guide to the neighbourhoods of Utrecht with the good people of ServicedApartments.nl. They’ve got a nice and handy listing of houses in Utrecht which are immediately available for rent. Perfect for those who just landed a job in Utrecht and need a place to stay immediately or when you’re a corporate expat and want to live close to Utrecht Central Station!
These great apartments are already furnished and got that one thing nobody can do without in their working lives already in place: wifi! (but all the other utilities as well!) Another good thing about them is that they look incredible as well:
So that’s it for now with this guide for the neighbourhoods of Utrecht. Know any other places when it comes to the question of where to live in Utrecht? Feel free to pitch in!
Feature Image: 0805edwin/Pixabay
Editor’s note: Originally published in August, 2017 and updated in October, 2019.