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What makes Utrecht a great city for cyclists

Completed all 80 miles of cycle lanes in Cambridge? Why you should go Dutch for a better biking experience

Monday 05 November 2018 11:15 GMT

Ancient Utrecht is a dream destination for cyclists – and it’s only a three-and-a-half hour drive from Calais. The fastest-growing city in the Netherlands is already a breeze to explore on two wheels, but a progressive local plan aims to push this even further by making it the most bicycle-friendly city in the world by 2020.

In the UK, only Cambridge can compete. But even with 80 miles of cycle lanes and a dynamic cycling culture of its own, it still lags far behind Utrecht in terms of infrastructure and investment. If you really want to discover how pleasing pedalling around a city can be, there’s only one thing for it: go Dutch.

Vibrant old town

Discover the city's traffic-free streets (Alamy)

Founded by the Romans, under-the-radar Utrecht is one of the Netherland’s most appealing cities. It’s dominated by the Gothic-style Dom Tower, with views as far as Amsterdam if you can brave the 465 steps. Radiating outwards is the well-preserved medieval quarter, bisected by the pretty Oudegracht and Nieuwegracht canals. Uniquely in the Netherlands these are flanked by cellars right on the water’s edge, many now converted into lively cafés and bars.

Car-free heaven

Parking's no problem in cycle-friendly Utrecht (Alamy)

This historic core is a mostly car-free zone, and a stroll along its tree-lined waterways is one of Utrecht’s chief pleasures. That said, you can pack a lot more in by getting on your bike, so start with a gentle guided tour of the highlights with a local company such as Utrecht Travelcafé. It’s an ideal way to see the sights, and if you’re new to urban cycling you’ll also learn how to navigate trams and pedestrians like a pro – a necessity in this city of 125,000 cyclists.

Pedal-powered side trips

Now you’re saddle-savvy, you can venture further afield. There are plenty of bike rental places in town and a whopping 245km of bike paths to explore. Weave your way through peaceful Griftpark and Wilhelminapark, along cobbled streets lined with slender merchant’s houses and over shapely arched bridges shaded by tall elms. Parking’s no problem either, with the opening of the biggest bike parking garage in the world last year.

De Haar Castle is just a short ride away (Alamy)

Alternatively, stop for a caffeine fix at Blackbird coffee on Oudegracht before heading out of town. Right on a national bike route, the showstopping De Haar Castle is the largest in the country and only a 14km ride from central Utrecht.

In the other direction, Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park offers a rural escape in a landscape of forest and dunes, with an added rarity around these parts: hills. Survey the scene from the highest point at Amerongen ridge.

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Put your bikes on the car and travel from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. Find out more, and book, at

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