While the lifestyle options in Utrecht may not be on the same level as larger European cities, expats living here are often surprised to find that there is quite a lot on offer in terms of shopping, eating out and nightlife. Expats who enjoy the outdoors will be in their element when it comes to exploring the countryside that surrounds Utrecht.

Shopping in Utrecht

While Utrecht may not compare on scale to the shopping experience in the country’s capital, Amsterdam, expats moving here won’t be disappointed when it comes to getting their fix of retail therapy.

In the city’s charming old centre, shoppers will have a grand selection, from the leading Dutch department stores to small boutiques, trendy retail concepts and bustling markets. Head to the antique stores located along the Oudegracht or in the Museumkwartier to find unique second-hand gems. The best places for bespoke fashion can be found in Voorstraat and Schoutenstraat where many young fashion designers are based. Expats looking for home decor should check out the stores on Zadelstraat.

Most shops in Utrecht are open seven days a week. When the bad weather strikes, shoppers can head indoors to Hoog Catharijne, one of the largest indoor shopping malls in the Netherlands which is connected to Utrecht’s Centraal Station.

Eating out in Utrecht

Expats moving to Utrecht won’t be disappointed when it comes to dining out. The city offers an array of international restaurant options and eateries to suit a spectrum of palates. From French, Italian, Chinese, Thai and Indian cuisines to restaurants serving experimental dishes and vegan delights, expats in Utrecht won’t struggle when it comes to finding a place to eat.

Being a student town, many restaurants have weekly specials which allow diners to eat out on a budget. Utrecht is famous for its pubs where expats can mingle with locals while enjoying a good quality steak and a beer.

Nightlife in Utrecht

As you’d expect from a city that is home to a massive student population, the nightlife in Utrecht is buzzing. That said, it’s not all about students' bars and raging nightclubs. Expats will also find live music venues, jazz cafes and intimate theatre performances.

A popular place for nightlife in Utrecht is the area known as Neude Janskerkhof en Domplein. This area is teeming with young crowds enjoying drinks and live music every weekend. Ledig Erf is also popular with locals in Utrecht thanks to its outdoor terraces which provide a great spot for sundowners, especially in the summer months.

Sports and outdoor activities in Utrecht

Active expats who enjoy being outdoors will enjoy living in Utrecht. The city is small and the city centre can easily be navigated on foot or, of course, by bike. The locals love to cycle and besides the daily commute, recreational cycle routes abound.

Runners will also enjoy being out and about in Utrecht – each year the city plays host to the Singelloop Utrecht, or Canal Run, which is described as one of the world's fastest 10km races.