You may think that when something becomes history we let it be lost to the seas of time, but nothing could be less true for Utrecht. A city (and coincidentally also a province) filled with castles, forts & ruins that can bring you back to Roman times. Though that hasn’t stopped it from becoming the modern heart of the Netherlands either. Here the past meets the present, and through this tour, you will do the same!

Getting ready to travel through time

No time traveller can cross through space and time without a machine, right? Well, neither can we! So our journey will start at the greatest place to start a journey through time, or space, namely Utrecht Centraal. Here our journey will slowly progress from the heart of the city, through the new & old districts, to the outskirts from which we will have a lovely hike through nature! 

Utrech centraal station
Utrecht Centraal – Photo by Martin Woortman in Unsplash

After trekking across fields shaped by the feet of the many travellers that have passed through the years, we slowly start to get swallowed whole by the many trees that form the forests surrounding our first step into history.

Castle De Haar

As we cross a small bridge, we enter the grounds of the oldest castle in the Netherlands, Castle De Haar. As you step through the gates you are greeted by gardens that would not look out of place in a fairy tale. With roses that would make Sleeping Beauty turn green from envy, and sculptures Versailles may not even have. While the gardens are THE place to be for a romantic walk that can have you roaming for hours. The true beauty is the castle that slowly dominates the view as you cross the gardens. Surrounded by water and towering over all the trees nearby it becomes a true sight for sore eyes.

The splendour of it is not limited to the outside, as upon entry you are embraced by endless pillars and hallways, with each room expanding upon the next, and every tunnel leading to a new view that can take away your breath. Slowly you can feel yourself turning into a medieval noble exploring the halls & enjoying the splendour of life.

Now we must buckle up for our next journey through time that will bring us back much further.

Castle de haar from the top
Castel De Haar – Photo from Kastel de Haar

Castellum Hoge Woerd

We bring Latin back to life and walk towards a fortress meant to keep out the people now manning it! This museum is the only life-size fortress left in the Netherlands (we might have a grudge from being on the other side of the fort). This museum & general meeting ground has one of the richest archaeological collections of the Romans in this region. 

Walking past ships, weapons & gold almost draws out the sounds of gladiators fighting and wine being poured into casks. Whatever treasures the past might hold, they’re yours to discover behind these fortified walls.

Like a true Roman fortress, it can’t be lacking in culture. Because of this, the museum also contains a podium space which hosts grand performances and spectacles of storytelling. So no matter what time of day, you’re sure to have your heart to be conquered and turned into a part of the Roman empire’s treasures!

Such travelling through time does bring about a certain hunger; mere meals can’t still. Therefore we must travel to a time of robberies and gold.

the museum of castellum hoge woerd
Castellum Hoge Woerd – Photo from Beleef Leidsche Rijn

Zware Jongens Utrecht

Gold has for a long time in history dictated how the world goes around, and even today it does. Luckily for us, it won’t take a bag of gold for us to enjoy an amazing meal in the old Muntgebouw. Where once work was put into turning gold into coins, now ingredients get turned into a golden experience for the mouth. 

An experience any old-fashioned bank robber would have dreamt of. Being greeted by the aromatic scent of freshly made food, and the beautiful decorations that go from the floor to the high ceiling. While your wallet may not sustain the offensive this experience has on your senses, the food itself is fully sustainable and a challenge to other restaurants to think about the planet while feeding the world!

Even if we are time travellers, we should still take care of ourselves! Since science says that walking after a meal can help us survive a bit better, let’s warp ourselves into a new time!

zware jongens in utrecht
Zware Jongens – Photo by Dez Ware Jongens


What could be better than entering Medieval times once more and discovering the forests filled with mystery, adventure & treasure? You’re right, absolutely nothing! 

That’s why our next adventure draws us into the historic nature of Amelisweerd, a beautiful piece of nature on the outskirts of the city of Utrecht. With country houses dating back as far as the thirteenth century and one of the biggest fortresses in the Netherlands. No place can be better for our after-dinner adventure, whether it is to slay a dragon, or to avoid the dangerous cyclists that are unavoidable in the Netherlands!

While we love to enjoy nature, it has often been an ally, or enemy, in our fight to survive. So what better can a journey through time show than one of the finest examples of this?
Exactly! Nothing would be a better closing to our tour.

amelisweerd in utrecht
Amelisweerd – Photo by Visit Utrech Region

Waterlinie Utrecht

A nation is strangely enough never formed through peace, or so it would appear, the same goes for the Netherlands! So our final journey through time brings us the Waterlinies, a UNESCO world heritage that unites nature and military defences. This is not a singular location and spans 350 kilometres of Dutch ground from Purmerend to Dordrecht. While the defences are no longer active, they do paint a picture of a nation at war through many forts, bunkers, dikes and canals. Most of these locations have been turned into parts of nature, history or culture. The trip itself is like time travelling through the far past, more recent tragedies and modern society all in one. With frequent pop-up events & artists making use of the endless trail to showcase our past or mourn those that never got to move past their final moments.

With that being said we slowly make our way back to our own time, where you are left with the choice to delve deeper, or kick your feet up and close your eyes to let your journey sink in.

Utrecht may not have been at the top of your list, but it will now never be forgotten again. Looking forward to running into you in-between gladiator fights and ball gowns.

waterlinie in utrecht from the top
Waterlinie Utrecht – Photo by Fietsen123

Now that you know a little bit more about Utrecht, it is time to make you a proposal.

Are you currently in Utrecht and want to find people to explore these places with you? You can make friends with diverse locals and newcomers in the city by joining SPEAK as a buddy. Who knows, you might just find your time-traveling partner through this experience. 

If you’re not in Utrecht, do you want to make local friends before your future visit? Join SPEAK Utrecht as a buddy to meet people in the city virtually. The friends you make through your this experience will welcome you with open arms when you finally visit their city.   

Also, if you want to know the benefits of learning in a multilingual and multicultural group, you can read ‘Multicultural Groups: Top Tips for Buddies

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of SPEAK 

Article by Jens van der Duim

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