I'll have 3 days solo while my husband is working outside of Amsterdam. Are there any must sees in Utecht or within a reasonable (1 hour) train ride? I'd be open to day tours or guided tours. I'm primarily looking for options other than in Amsterdam. Thanks for any recommendations.
Hi Nicole. I visited The Hague (Den Haag) as a day trip from Amsterdam and enjoyed it. The Mauritshuis Museum is amazing - it has Vermeer's "View of Delft" and "Girl with a Pearl Earring", if you like 17th-century Dutch art.
Provided the weather is cooperating, you could go to Kinderdijk, a grouping of old windmills and a Unesco World Heritage site. Easy to get to from Utrecht via bus. http://www.kinderdijk.com
Caution, "Girl With A Pearl Earring" is currently in Atlanta, GA, while the Maurtishuis is under renovation. When we were in The Hague, there was a big sampler show up in another local museum. Utrecht is a nice city. It has several fine special-interest museums, like the mechanical music machines, which is quite impressive. Amersfoort, a quick train ride is a very picturesque, heavily renovated medieval town. It's so nice I've been there a few times. Leiden is even nicer than Utrecht. Den Haag and Rotterdam both have far more than you could see in a day.
For me, the Hague is mostly about the museums. As said above, the Mauritshaus is closed for renovation. So, look at the other museums in town to see if they appeal to you. I loved Utrecht and Leiden. Rick has little info on the former and none on the later, so I had to supplement his book with others. In Utrecht, I liked the Music Box and Fairground Organ Museum Tim mentioned, as well as the Centraal Museum and the railway museum. It also has unusual bi-level canals. I went to Leiden first to get the bus to Keukenhof Gardens. But the town itself was lovely. Of the three "college towns" in Holland that I saw (Delft, Utrecht, Leiden), Leiden was the only one with a visible student presence and feel. I took a canal cruise, and went to the science and medicine museum (where I learned that EKG's and renal dialysis come from the Netherlands). I also found Rotterdam fascinating, but be aware that it's as far from a "typical Dutch town" as you can get. This, for me, was the fascination. If you go, pick up the architecture walking tour brochure at the tourist office, for two reasons. First, it's a free map, and they otherwise charge for maps. Second, it's a great way to see some of the city's unusual architecture. The Cube Houses and Erasmus Bridge are particular hightlights. continued..
continued.. I was not as taken with Delft as Rick Steves (or most others), but it's easy to combine with a visit to the Hague. I didn't get to the Hoge Veluwe Park (where you get around by free loaner bikes, and which containes the Kroller Muller museum with the second largest collection of Van Gogh in the world), or to the Open Air Museum near Arnhem (contains traditional houses with "villagers" recreating Dutch life in earlier times). These do sound interesting, and are easier to access from Utrecht than from Amsterdam. Full transit details (not at all simple without a car) are in the RS book. If you're seeing more than a few museums in the Netherlands, a museum card will pay off. It's about €45, good for a whole year, and covers many museums in the whole country.
"Are there canal cruises in Utrecht?" I'm not sure, but I don't remember seeing any. The canal system in the old area of the city didn't appear to be very extensive.
Thank you all (and sorry for my tardy reply). Are there canal cruises in Utrecht? I will not have a car, so I will need to get around via train. Is The Hague fairly easy to get to from Utrecht? Someone else recommended Zaanse Schans, but I am thinking it is probably too far and likely too touristy? http://www.zaanseschans-museum.nl/eng/home.php
There are canal tours in Utrecht but the boats are smaller than what you find in Amsterdam. There are even Venetian gondolas available: http://www.visit-utrecht.com/en/content/canal-cruises
There certainly are canal cruises in Utrecht (I took them on both my visits, in 1990 and 2012). Since Utrecht gets far fewer tourists than Amsterdam, there are fewer cruises, in smaller boats, and they only leave from one location. There are also canal cruises in Delft and Leiden, which I took in 2012 (Leiden actually had two companies offering cruises, from different docks).