I already told you guys that I had considered the university of Maastricht for my last year of studies. What I haven't told you yet, is that I've also thought about moving to Utrecht, the Netherlands for a year.
The university there also has a master program on cultural studies that seemed pretty interesting at the time, but as with Maastricht, I first wanted to check if Utrecht was a city I could see myself living in.
A day in Utrecht
So on a not so sunny day, I convinced my parents to go on a family trip. We didn't do a lot of research beforehand, but Utrecht turned out to be a very walkable city full of signs showing you the way to interesting sights and museums.
I especially liked walking by the canals.
You can even grab a bite or quench your thirst by the water in one of the many restaurants or bars.
One of the city's many must-sees is Dom Square with the Dom Tower on one side and the Dom Church on the other.
On the Dom Square, you can also find the university's Academy building
Besides for sightseeing, Utrecht is also great for shopping. There all the small streets around the Dom, the department stores by the Oudegracht and the daily markets.
Nope, I didn't…
Although Utrecht still has much more to offer than what I've mentioned here, I didn't move there. For several reasons I decided to spend my last year as a student in Antwerp and I've never regretted that decision.
Where to stay in Utrecht
I've stayed in two very different places in Utrecht, which I can both recommend.
The Grand Hotel Karel V in Utrecht
The Grand Hotel Karel V isn't just any hotel. It's located just a 5-minute walk from Utrecht Central Train Station and located right on the edge of the historical center of the city.
The hotel itself is housed in buildings dating back to the 14th century. It was once a convent and the seat of the Knights of the German Order and welcomed Karel V as a guest, hence the name of the hotel. If you'd like to learn more about the history of the hotel, it's possible to do a guided tour.
Grand Hotel Karel V is a 5-star hotel – and it shows. When you arrive, you're welcomed by the always smiling concierge who'll gladly take care of your luggage and offer you a cup of tea or coffee to go when you're in a rush in the mornings. Reception personnel is friendly and helpful and room personnel offers a non-intrusive turn-down service.
This actually got me pretty excited. The first night I got back to the hotel, I found my sheets open on the bed, inviting me in and the drapes closed to keep the night dark out. The second night I got back a little earlier and was already in the room when someone knocked the door. Did I require anything special from the turn-down service? Oh thank you, but I didn't. Maybe I wanted a little chocolate then? Well, okay then!
Let's face it, we all like to be treated as a princess or prince once in a while and I have to admit this kind of accommodation suits me way better than a hostel dorm or tent!
Another thing that got me really excited was the massive desk in my room. I love it when a hotel room has a proper desk for me to work on at night. Bonus points if there are decent tea and coffee making facilities as well (and there were) and plugs right by the desk (there were).
The rest of the room wasn't too small either. I could perfectly do a little dance in the bathroom (with separate bathtub and shower) and there was plenty of space between the desk and the bed for me to practice my pilates moves.
As I was in Utrecht for a trade fair, I, unfortunately, didn't have a lot of time to enjoy everything the Grand Hotel Karel V has to offer. I did have a quick look at the indoor heated swimming pool and the gym and took a walk through the courtyard garden.
I was also so lucky to see one of the beautiful event rooms as friends of mine had organized a tweet-up there. They told me they had their own servant for the evening and were served the most delicious food. Seeing their satisfied faces, I took their word for it.
The one thing I did get a chance to fully enjoy, was the breakfast. Breakfast at the Grand Hotel Karel V consists of a buffet and à la carte options. I ordered the pancakes topped with red fruits – twice – and created my regular breakfast buffet mix of yogurt, fresh fruit, and oatmeal with nuts.
Darn, this talking about food is making me hungry! Let me quickly wrap up.
I definitely had a positive experience at Grand Hotel Karel V and have already recommended the hotel to my parents as I'm sure it's something they'd like. Especially as dinner there is supposed to be really good as well (or so my friends told me) and they're quite the gourmants.
(You can also watch this video directly on YouTube.)
Now, I know what you're thinking. “5 stars, that must cost quite a bit.” Actually, that's pretty okay. Room prices start at around €180 per night, which is quite a regular price for a hotel at such a top location and especially for the service that's being offered. If you want to treat yourself to more than a basic room for your city trip to Utrecht, I can highly recommend staying here.
Check availability, prices and reviews on Booking.com.
StayOkay Utrecht, hostel ambiance with private rooms
StayOkay Utrecht Center is a hostel for solo travelers, friends, families, and couples with both private and dorm rooms. It also has its own restaurant and bar, a lounge area and workspace with lots of electricity plugs and free wifi. It's right at the edge of Utrecht's shopping district.
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