When the Clouds Come: Rainy Day Activities in Utrecht

Every resident of Utrecht knows the feeling: your last class of the week was yesterday, you’ve done just enough coursework to be able to place university far to the back of your mind, and you are ready to celebrate with a full day of fun and whimsy. You open your curtains and- oh no!- disaster strikes: the sky is dark and ominous, needle-sharp rain drops lash your window, and the trees are pushed almost horizontal by the win. Fear not! The inclement weather is no reason to spend the day watching Netflix in bed. We at ESN have a few suggestions for resisting the temptation of stasis and getting out of the bedroom on rainy days (of which Utrecht has its fair share):


Okay, okay- museums are not everyone’s cup of tea. They are places of quiet contemplation, the absorption of knowledge, historical richness. But no-one wants to be the person who goes home having been to a hundred bars and not a single museum. Utrecht has several museums well worth making the trip for:

  1. Museum Speelklok: Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00-5:00, this eccentric little museum’s collection is all about self-playing musical instruments. Where else in the world could you be able to say you spent a day learning about the intricacies of music boxes and self-playing orchestras?
  2. Centraal Museum: Open Tuesday to Sunday from 11:00-5:00. Founded in 1838, Centraal is the main museum of Utrecht’s rich history. The Rietveld Schroder house, a wonder of modern architecture, is also annexed to the museum, although prior booking is needed.
  3. AAMU: Museum of Contemporary Aboriginal Art:  Open Tuesday to Friday from 10:00-5:00 and on weekends from 11:00-5:00. As an Australian, I was amazed this existed in Utrecht. The Aboriginals are the first inhabitants of Australia, and are possibly the most ancient race of people. Their art is at once simple yet extraordinarily complex and symbolic. If you want to learn more about Australian culture, this is the place to start.
Source: Go To The Blog.

Hoog Catharijne

It’s entirely possible that some people haven’t yet walked through the Hoog Catharijne, despite it being the largest shopping centre in Utrecht. Accessible from the Centrumzijde of Utrecht Centraal station, the Hoog somehow fits over 150 stores in a space not immediately obvious from the street. In addition to the shopping, the Hoog also boasts a Wolff cinema and one of the best views of Utrecht (barring the Domtoren, of course), courtesy of the second floor of the V&D Department Store’s cafe, La Place.

Source: Visit Utrecht.


Utrecht is spoiled for choice when it comes to cinemas. There is the aforementioned Wolff Catharijne, and another Wolff located at Voorstraat in the city centre. The Pathe Rembrandt, near Neude Square, is certainly one of the nicer cinemas I’ve laid eyes on. Finally, the Lois Hartlooper Complex, at the southern end of town, deviates from the standard fare of superhero movies and remakes/ sequels by showing foreign films and quirky indie flicks. Lois Hartlooper also features a charming little bar and a restaurant, to really make a day of it.

Coffee Shops

Just like museums, this is also not everyone’s cup of tea. However, if you know where to look, there are truly some quirky, interesting coffee shops scattered around town.

  1. Coffeeshop Andersom: Probably the first coffeeshop anyone sees in Utrecht, courtesy of its location under the Domtoren, Andersom also has board games, music and a rustic, cluttered sort of smoking area. Oh, and an actual coffee machine for a pick-me-up.
  2. De Boot: or, the Culture Boat. I’ve written about de Boot before, but only because it is one of the most enchanting places in Utrecht. Nestled in a canal curve a short ride from Biltstraat, I probably needn’t mention this coffeeshop is on an actual boat. One that feels like it belongs on the Mississippi in the 19th century, which just adds to the charm.
  3. Hi/Lo: Out the back of Utrecht Centraal, past Jaarbeurs, there is a coffeeshop with a nondescript front called Hi/Lo. Designed by interior design form Workshop of Wonders, upon going downstairs you are greeted by a sleek, sultry space, with hanging beads, whole alcoves of dark leather couches, and just so many pillows.
Hi/Lo. Source: Workshop of Wonders.

So, hopefully next time Buienradar is forecasting a day of grim downpour, your first reaction won’t be to reach for the laptop but rather to reach for your umbrella, to brave the weather and still see some of what this beautiful city has to offer.


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