Hip industrial city
Where: Duisburg, Germany
Distance: 1 hour and 50 minutes from Utrecht
The old factories of the German Ruhr area have been refurbished and turned into cultural places. The city of Duisburg is a good example of a place in the Ruhr area where modern and industry come together.
In the old snail mountains Heinrich-Hildebrand-Höhe, for example, you will find the famous Tiger & Turtle Magic Mountain: a construction in the form of a roller coaster that you can walk on. This roller coaster sculpture is beautifully lit at night.
A little further on in the Landschaftspark Duisburg Noord, industry and nature find their way together. Here you will find one of the most important industrial monuments in Europe, a former steel factory where iron ore was processed. Climb Blast Furnace 5 and enjoy a view of Duisburg and part of the Ruhr area from a height of 70 meters. In the port area you can clearly see how the former industrial area has been transformed into a busy hip entertainment district. Numerous bars and restaurants overlooking the water create a unique atmosphere.
Venice of the North
Ⓒ photo Visit Bruges | Jan D’Hondt
Where: Bruges, Belgium
Distance: 2 hours and 40 minutes from Utrecht
Strolling along the canals and enjoying a Brugse Zot and praliné in between: welcome to the Belgian city of Bruges. This bustling city looks even more romantic in the fall due to the striking autumn colors and the falling leaves. Historic Bruges originated around the year 900 and grew into a prosperous and rich Hanseatic city. Since 2000, the entire center has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Not for nothing, the cozy city center has an overdose of old sights, from the Grote Markt to the world-famous Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk.
With the many canals and elegant bridges, a cruise cannot be missed when visiting the Venice of the North. Prefer something more active? Climbing the Belfry is literally the highlight of your city trip. This 83-meter-high tower has no fewer than 366 steps. Your climb will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of Bruges and its surroundings.
Beer lover? Then you cannot skip the De Halve Maan brewery, where the famous Brugse Zot beer is brewed.
Longest ski hall in the world
Where: Bottrop, Germany
Distance: 1 hour and 50 minutes from Utrecht
It is still uncertain what the next winter sports season will look like, but you can already get in the mood at Alpincenter in Bottrop. The longest ski hall in the world has a length of 640 meters and was built on an artificial hill made of coal waste from the Ruhr area. The hall is suitable for both experienced and inexperienced winter sports enthusiasts. For example, there is a separate section with a drag lift for beginners and for the advanced skiers a long slope with two curves and a slope of 24 percent. With a one-day ski pass, equipment and unlimited drinks and food are included.
Done with the winter fun? Take a ride on the toboggan run or have a beer in the Biergarten. There is also an indoor in the Alpincenter skydive. The number of people allowed in the ski hall is limited due to corona, reservations must be online. A mouth mask is not mandatory on the slopes and in the lift, but it is in the catering area.
Impressive cave system
Where: Ardennes, Belgium
Distance: 2 hours and 45 minutes from Utrecht
The Belgian Ardennes with endless forests, many rivers and small villages are beautiful in the autumn. For example, visit the famous Caves of Han, created millions of years ago when the river Lesse penetrated a limestone hill. The water dissolved some of the limestone, resulting in the huge cave system. A colorful tram takes you from the village center to the caves where the tour starts.
In the Ardennes you will also find Durbuy, the ‘smallest town in the world’. The medieval town consists of picturesque streets with fine restaurants and shops. The combination of romance and dynamism makes Durbuy a perfect destination for autumn.
On the sporty tour? Near La Roche-en-Ardenne – known for its archaeological sites and a feudal castle – you will find a wildlife park about two kilometers from the center and many departure points for kayaking and rafting. There is also a lot to discover in the culinary field with well-known regional products.
Do you want to see more of the Ardennes and do you have more time? Then take a nice road trip.
Archaeological Park Xanten
Ⓒ Photo Axel Thünker, DGPh
Where: Xanten, Germany
Distance: 1 hour and 40 minutes from Utrecht
An outing for the whole family is the Archaeological Park in Xanten, just across the border from Nijmegen. In the Roman open-air museum you will find ruins and impressive reconstructions of buildings from Roman times; old city gates, an inn, a huge bathhouse, an amphitheater and even some houses and city walls built with stones from the Roman era.
Time left? Combine a visit to the Archaeological Park with an activity around the lake opposite the park. You can cycle, walk, swim, fish, dive, water ski, sail and canoe.