Utrecht, a kid’s paradise
2019-07-01 | By Dainahara Polonia
With the summer vacation upon us, finding things to do with kids in a city can be challenging for parents. Luckily, Utrecht leads the way in child-friendly hotspots that keep kids busy and parents happy.
Utrecht, a city for kids of all ages
Utrecht city centre is packed with cosy and fun hangouts for both kids and their parents. Many cafés and restaurants welcome children and have even created spaces specifically for the smaller ones.
Jozef, located on the Mariaplaats, a lovely square in the beating heart of Utrecht, has a little living room with comfy seating corners, and behind the restaurant a huge area made for the little ones to have fun and play.
Just a few minutes’ walk through the city centre along the canal and past the Dom Tower is De Rechtbank on the Korte Nieuwstraat. This hotel and restaurant has an enormous square protected by a gate where kids can run wild without parents worrying about traffic, and alongside the terrace a playground. De Rechtbank also organises kids’ events, occasionally with a giant bouncy castle that will make parents wish they were kids again.
On the other side of town along the Weerdsluis, Meneer Peer, is one of the cutest kid cafés in Utrecht. While children find it tough to leave the play corner, parents are also reluctant to depart because Meneer Peer has some of the tastiest cakes in town.
Experience the museums
While exploring the city centre of Utrecht, be sure not to miss the Nijntje (Miffy) Museum, Spoorwegmuseum and Museum Speelklok, with their innovative, interactive exhibitions that are both fun to look at and play with
Kids of every age should find something here; little ones will enjoy Miffy’s playhouse, and older kids can explore the old train stations and trains at the Spoorwegmuseum. For something a little different, try Museum Speelklok, which takes visitors on a journey through the world of self-playing musical instruments, but be prepared for music to leap out from every corner…
Explore the neighbourhoods
Leaving behind the bustling city centre finds further child-friendly treats, like Rocking Chair on Willem van Noortstraat, a small but cool coffee place perfect for a few hours of playful fun and a bite to eat.
Situated in the same neighbourhood, Bij Guusjes has a special kids’ menu and a good selection of toys and board games. Bij Guusjes–a real neighbourhood café where locals love to go for coffee–is also only a short walk from the Torteltuin, a hidden gem of a playground where kids can play safely.
Utrecht’s richly diverse neighbourhoods offer unique atmospheres. One favourite area is Lombok, which is full of surprises such as the Molen de Ster, a well-preserved old mill. Be sure to also visit their petting zoo and look out for open-house days to experience the mill in action. The mill’s café serves organic juices for the kids and locally-brewed beer for the grown-ups, and has a canal-side terrace with charming views. A great place to rest after all that milling and animal-petting.
Not far away, a restaurant housed in an old toothpaste factory, Buurten in de Fabriek, has a great play corner and a huge terrace where kids can run around and play hide-and-seek.
Summer with kids in Utrecht
Fort Ruighoek holds events and open days throughout the summer
Discover the secrets of the universe at Museum and Sterrenwacht Sonnenborgh, all summer long
The Dom Tower organises a tour especially for the little ones to admire the beautiful tower and views across Utrecht.
Go on a hunt at castle De Haar. Kids will get a map to track down all the treasures in and around the castle.
Discover Utrecht’s past underneath the Domplein. Take the stairs down below to explore the history of the Dom Tower and loads more.
Enjoy the parks, estates and forts
Sometimes kids just need to burn off all that energy. Utrecht’s Julianapark and Griftpark have enough to offer the most energetic child. Think monkey bars, zip lines, cool swings and enormous sand boxes, and for quieter moments vegetable gardens and even fuzzy farm animals and birds.
Utrecht’s historic forts and their surroundings are great for outdoor activities. Set in the forest between Zeist, De Bilt, Utrecht and Bunnik, Fort Rijnauwen is a cultural and historical monument and valuable natural habitat where you can walk along its footpaths immersed in nature and history.
All that nature and history can be exhausting, so stop for a pancake lunch at Theehuis Rhijnauwen, where they seem to have thought of every pancake combination possible, sweet, savoury, or both! Or pick cherries in the lovely cherry orchard and eat them (after you have paid of course) while watching canoers on the charming river flowing past.
Less than 15 minutes by bike from the Dom, down a lovely route past beautiful boathouses with gorgeous gardens, Fort de Klop is great for a visit on a sunny day. Nearby, Lunet 1, part of the four Lunetten forts, is a smaller fort, but no less fun. Both are perfect for a day spent absorbed in nature and Dutch history.
How does greenery with a lunch café sound? Somewhere to pick fruit and herbs while taking a break from jumping around on a playground? You can do all at De Moestuin and even spoil yourself with high tea while your kids make new friends. A great way to spend the day.
Summer in the city with kids
Summer vacation can be a blessing and a curse for parents, as kids need to be kept occupied while grown-ups need their interest sustained too. Cities, like Utrecht, can offer the solution, with plenty to do for people of all ages. Keep up to date with local newspapers and city websites for child-friendly events and hotspots in Utrecht, and your city, this summer.
About the author
Dainahara Polonia runs the online magazine, exploreutrecht.com, an insider’s guide to the best places to eat, drink and explore in Utrecht, whether you’re a local looking to check out the hottest restaurants, or a traveller trying to make the most of your stay.