Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands and has lots of things to do and see when visiting with kids. We have been living in Utrecht for a few years now and with our boys explored many parks, museums, gardens and attractions in and around the city. In this post I would like to share our favourite places to visit and things to do in Utrecht with kids.
In the list of places to visit I included museums, which can be visited all year around, parks for outdoor fun and also a few places a bit outside of Utrecht city but still accessible by public transport or a short drive by car.
Museums and Castles:
Railway museum (Het Spoorwegmuseum)
The Railway Museum is located at the former railways station – Maliebaan station – in Utrecht and is a really cool place to visit with children. It will be interesting to children of different ages as the museum has plenty of activities to do and exhibits to see. They have real coaches, locomotives and trains on the displays, a techlab for kids to learn and get hand-on experience with how trains work, model trains, an outdoor playground with a mini railway and train ride, and much more. We have been in the museum many times and our boys always had a lot of fun there.
Address: Maliebaanstation 16, Utrecht
Price: € 17.50 Adults and Children; children under 4 y.o. are free. Free with Museum Card.
National Military Museum
Another really cool museum, which we have visited several times, is the National Military Museum. It’s actually midway between Utrecht and Amersfoort but can be reached from Utrecht by public transport in 40-60 minutes (or 30 mins drive by car). The museum is for young and old to visit. They have tanks, planes, armor and weaponry on display. Latest addition in the museum is an interactive area where kids can go on a flight simulator, ride a horse (simulator) and try other interactive exhibits. There is also a cafe and a playground outside (with water features in summer time).
Address: Verlengde Paltzerweg 1, Soest (take a Sprinter train from Utrecht Central to Soest Zuid station, and from there take a bus #575)
Price: € 15 Adults, € 7.50 Children 4 to 12 y.o., children under 3 y.o. are free. Free with Museum Card.
Castle De Haar (Kasteel de Haar)
Largest castle in the Netherlands, Castle De Haar is a really nice place to visit. It’s located just outside Utrecht and is easily reachable by bus, car or bike.
You can go inside the castle and explore it on your own, or take an audio tour or a guided tour. View the rooms, furniture and interior, let the kids imagine themselves in a fairy tale. Go outside and see beautiful gardens of De Haar, rose garden, rows of flowers in front of the castle, romantic bridge, moats and lakes, and a huge park. Let the kids find their way in the bush maze, go watch reindeers in the park, have an ice-cream or a soft drink in the small cafe by the castle, or have a meal at the bigger cafe at the coach house.
Address: Castle De Haar, Kasteellaan 1, Utrecht (20 minutes by bus from Vleuten train station)
Price for park visit only: € 6 Adults, € 4 children. Free with Museum Card.
Price for park and castle visit: € 17 Adults, € 11 children. Free with Museum Card.
Waterline Museum and Fort bij Vechten
Another place where you can combine museum and outdoor experiences is Fort Vechten and the Waterline Museum. Fort Vechten was built in the 19th century to protect Utrecht and stands on a lake island. It’s now freely accessible so you can enjoy exploring it with kids.
There is also a relatively small Waterline Museum on the site where you can learn how water was used in a defense in the Netherlands, play a game of using waterline to defeat the enemy and even experience flying on a parachute in virtual reality.
Address: Achterdijk 10, Bunnik (Bus 41 goes there from Utrecht Central station)
Price: € 9.5 Adults, € 6 children (under 4 y.o. are free)
Website: https://fortvechten.nl/ (Dutch only) and https://waterliniemuseum.nl/en/
Castellum Hoge Woerd
Castellum has been built on the place where Roman fort stood during Roman times and where a lot of archaeological remains have been found in our days. Besides other artifacts, the remains of a Roman ship have been found there, and it is now on display in the Castellum.
Castellum Hoge Woerd is a place to learn about Roman history in the small museum, walk on top of the fort walls and wander around the re-built Roman Watch Tower. There is also a pet farm on the site and a child-friendly cafe.
If you have a whole day, combine the visit to the Castellum with a walk in the nearby Maxima park (see below on the details about the park).
Address: Hoge Woerdplein 1, Utrecht (take Bus #4 from the Utrecht Central)
Miffy Museum (Nijntje Museum)
If you have been to a souvenir shop in the Netherlands, perhaps you noticed lots of souvenirs and toys of a small rabbit Miffy. ‘Who is Miffy’ you may wonder? Well, Miffy (or Nijntje in Dutch, which is short for konijntje – ‘little rabbit’ ) is a very popular in the Netherlands book and cartoon character created by Dutch artist Dick Bruna.
Miffy Museum in the center of Utrecht is dedicated to the little rabbit and designed for smaller kids (I would say under 5 y.o. is the right age to visit the museum). The museum is more like a set of indoor playgrounds, each in a room dedicated to a different subject (e.g. house, zoo, city, etc.), where kids can play and have fun in those miniature worlds.
Keep in mind that tickets to the museum are tied to a timed slot. It’s better to order tickets online in advance to ensure you get the time slot you want. You can also buy tickets when you arrive (in the Utrecht Central museum across the road), but the chances are that all nearest time slots are sold off and you will need to wait for the next available slot (in this case, check my two tips below on how to spend the waiting time).
Tip: If you visited Miffy museum (or waiting for the next available time slot to visit) and need some outdoor time for the kids, there is a nice small playground just outside the museum. Take the little ones to Het Kleine Bos (the little forest) playground to spend some energy outdoors.
Another tip: Another place nearby, which kids will appreciate, is an ice-cream shop on Twijnstraat – IJs & Zopie – they serve all kinds of flavors of ice-cream for young and old.
Address: Nijntje museum at Agnietenstraat 2, Utrecht
Price: € 6.5 Adults and children from 7 y.o., € 10 children under 6 y.o. (under 2 y.o. are free). Free with Museum Card.
Molen de Ster (Windmill)
Visiting a working windmill with a guide showing and explaining how it works was a total hit with our boys (and not just the boys, we loved it too). Molen de Ster is a working windmill in Utrecht and it’s open to the public every Saturday afternoon. They have volunteers on Saturday afternoon, who can guide you through the windmill, tell its history and explain how it works. When we went there we were the only English-speaking visitors and so we’ve got our very own dedicated guide who explained everything in English (majority of Dutch people speak excellent English). It was a very interesting and informative visit for adults and kids alike to learn about the windmill.
There is also a cafe and a tiny playground with few animals for smaller kids on the location.
Address: Molenpark 3 (entrance via Floresstraat), 10 min walk from Utrecht Central station.
Price: Free, donation is appreciated.
Parks and outdoor:
Griftpark is a park not far from Utrecht city center with a playground, skate park, cafe and an animal farm. Children farm is a nice feature in the park in addition to green areas and playgrounds where smaller children can have some fun petting bunnies, donkeys or goat kids.
Address: Griftpark (can be reached by bus #1 and #4 from Utrecht Central station)
Maximapark is our favourite and the biggest park in Utrecht, where you can find activities for the whole family. You will find there lots of green space for a picnic or a stroll, lake with swans and other birds, observation tower with panoramic views to the park around. There is a big playground for children and a cafe right next to it for the parents to relax while kids playing. Also gardens, multiple canals and rivers with bridges over them and our boys favourite – Trekpontje – tiny ferry over the canal, which you have to pull manually.
Address: Maximapark, Vleuten
Botanic Gardens (Botanische Tuinen)
Utrecht Botanic Gardens are open from March to December. You can find there different gardens, kids will enjoy a tropical house with butterflies, bee house, discovering all kinds of flowers and other plants. There is also a cafe in the gardens where you can enjoy a meal or a drink sitting outside.
Address: Budapestlaan 17, Utrecht
Price: € 8.5 Adults, children under 12 y.o. are free. Free with Museum Card.
Another city park with lots of things to do with kids is Park Transwijk. Lots of green space, big playground with water features (in warm season) and an animal farm makes it a nice place to go with children.
Address: Vreugdenhillaan 31, Utrecht
Down Under lake and beach
Even though Utrecht is not located on the seashore you can still go to the beach! To the lake beach. Down Under in Nieuwegein municipality of Utrecht has it all – a lake to swim in, a sandy beach, a playground in the middle of a big green area and a cafe – everything to make a nice day out for the whole family in summer time.
Address: Ravensewetering 1, Nieuwegein (can be reached by bus #247 from Utrecht Central station, or 20-25 minutes by bike)
Price: € 4 Adults, € 2.5 children
Website: https://www.downunder.nl/ (in Dutch)
Strandzone Haarrijn lake and beach
Another nice lake and beach in Utrecht is located just outside of Maximapark – in Haarrijnseplas park. Strandzone Haarrijn beach is a bit further from the center but the entrance is free and it has a swimming area, sandy beach and a cafe on the beach. If you want to cool off at the summertime – Haarrijnseplas is the place to go.
Address: Haarrijnseplas, Utrecht (take bus #5 from Utrecht Central station)
When you are walking in the city with kids buying some yummy snacks is inevitable (at least this is the case with my kids 🙂 ) and I would recommend trying some Dutch sweets.
Stroopwafel (Waffles with syrup) is a traditional Dutch sweet food. Two thin waffles with a caramel filling in the middle make a popular Dutch dessert. You can buy them in any supermarket in packs. But you can also buy them freshly baked on a stalls of pop-up markets and in some specialised kiosks.
There are variations – with honey filling instead of caramel, with chocolate on top, with sprinkles and other sweet stuff. But the classic one and most delicious in my opinion is plain traditional Stroopwafel with caramel syrup filling.
While pancakes are not originated in the Netherlands, Dutch pancakes (Pannekoek) are a very popular food here. There are many cafes around the Netherlands that serve mainly pancakes – Pannenkoeken bakkerijen (pancake bakeries) or restaurants.
Big thin pancakes can be ordered with different fillings – from bananas with chocolate syrup to ham and cheese – so you can have them as a snack or a treat or as a main lunch dish.
There is a restaurant in the center of Utrecht where you can eat delicious Dutch pancakes – Pannenkoekenbakkerij De Muntkelder at Oudegracht aan de Werf 112 (go down the stairs to the canal for the entrance to the cafe).
If you visit the Netherlands around New Year time you will have a chance to try another traditional Dutch sweet food – Oliebol(len) (literally, Oil ball(s)). Oliebollen are deep fried doughnut balls sprinkled with sugar icing and traditionally sold in the Netherlands in winter around New Year time. Buy them in one of the mobile kiosks/stalls around the city and eat them fresh and warm with your choice of flavor – icing sugar, chocolate syrup or raisins.
Practicalities: If you are planning to visit many museums in the Netherlands it might be worth buying Dutch Museum Card – it gives you a free entrance to hundreds of museums across the country and it is valid for a year. However, if you’re visiting just 1-2 museums it’s not worth buying the museum card as it costs around 65 euro for an adult and 33 euro for a child.
You can buy Museum Card online at their website (in Dutch) or at one of the museums.
If you want to check what else are there to see in the Netherlands check my post on What to see in the Netherlands.