Centrally located in the lower portion of the Netherlands is the college town of Utrecht. With over half a million people in the metropolitan area, the town is a commuter city into Amsterdam, the Hague, Rotterdam and Arnhem. All trains go in and out of Utrecht, making it an ideal place to spend some time and explore the area.
The city center has many buildings from the early Middle Ages and has been a religious center since the 8th century. There are dozens of churches of all faiths and the Dutch are widely known for religious tolerance. A side note is that the Pilgrims left England due to religious persecution and settled in Utrecht before returning to sail to America. Utrecht has been occupied by the Romans, missionaries of all kinds, the Spanish, and then occupied by the Germans in WWII. This influenced the rich cultural heritage of the area.
Utrecht University, the largest in the Netherlands, and several other colleges are located in town – hence a younger population.
While we were in Utrecht, we visited both the National Railroad Museum (the first train ran to Amsterdam in 1843!) and then took a side trip out to the excursion railroad in Leiden which was a fun, informative day.
While rents in the rest of the country are quite high in cities, we found several one-bedroom flats in residential neighborhoods in the $1,000 range. Homes vary in price, mostly dependent on whether they are rural or suburban or urban. We found a newer 3 bedroom house with 1200 square feet for $420,000 near the college. Utilities, depending on the time of year, run around $250. Restaurants are comparable to what you would spend in America.
Utrecht is known as an artist town with dozens of galleries, sculptures in public places, new works exhibits and traditional works by the Dutch masters. There is a music festival and a film festival and a really fine classical music hall. There are venues for street artists, street musicians and cultural events for children.
If you were to retire in Utrecht, Netherlands you will find an interesting city with parks, beautiful canals and bridges and a cultural identity all its own. And don’t forget the great train service that will take you anywhere in Europe!