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Utrecht City – the real Diagon Alley?

We like to offer something a bit different here at BI WORLDWIDE, and on our list this month is Utrecht, in the Netherlands. When we ran an event there for one of our clients earlier this year, we were struck by the stark contrast between the city's approaches and the heart of it.

Walking out the back of the hotel, really was like walking through Diagon Alley – where we left the grey, dullness of the city to find a hidden treasure of cobbled, quaint streets populated with cyclists and beautiful canals, while at the same time being the biggest student town in Holland. It has to be seen to be believed!

Utrecht itself is 45 minutes from Schiphol airport, the same distance as Amsterdam, and it is sort of like a mini-Amsterdam. On approach, you will be greeted by dull, grey buildings covered by construction work. They are currently in the process of modernising the city, and we’re sure it will be lovely once finished – but at the moment it’s not much of an inspiring view. However, once within the city you will find the Karel V hotel, which could be described as a resort in the middle of a town. It’s a former monastery so it’s like a museum inside with lots of artefacts and history. The building was also a military hospital at one point, so there is a lot to explore even within the hotel. This is really the only hotel worth considering if running an event in Utrecht, and it won’t let you down! It’s a great conference hotel with the added bonus of being a lot cheaper than Amsterdam and if lots of delegates are driving you don’t have the price of parking to worry about like you do in Amsterdam. The facilities offered are the same standard, if not better than Amsterdam and it offers something different to the norm. It also has a large garden, which is unusual for a property in the middle of a town, but it certainly adds to the mystery of the area.

But what of Diagon Alley?

If you were to walk out the back of the hotel, away from the dull roar of construction, you would be met by quaint, cobbled streets as if you’d been transported back in time and to a completely different city. Filled with cyclists and canals you forget about the face of the city and immerse yourself in this picturesque hidden treasure.

Our events team suggests its ideal for a pan-European conference for up to 120 delegates. When researching this event, Amsterdam was provided as a gateway but we wanted to offer an alternate, more cost effective solution, and Utrecht was the perfect answer. Although small, there are plenty of things to see in Utrecht as well and you could easily build a two or three day programme around the city.

Some of the things to do on a visit:

  • Sonnenborgh - Museum & Observatory - a public astronomical observatory and museum open to the public
  • Dom Tower - tallest church tower in the Netherlands
  • Bicycle tour – take a tour of the city the traditional way
  • Canal boat excursion - voted the #1 thing to do in Utrecht

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