Unique to Utrecht is its tree-shaded wharf, 5m (16 ft.) below street level, along Oudegracht, a canal that winds through the Old Town. Restaurants, stores, and sidewalk cafes have replaced the hustle and bustle of the wharfside commercial activity of former times, when Utrecht was a major port along an arm of the Rhine -- the adjacent sunken Nieuwegracht canal follows a former course of the river -- and these quays were used for offloading into the vaulted storage cellars. Much of the Old Town has been transformed into a pedestrians-only zone, with many secondhand bookstores and antiques dealers.
One-hour cruises on Utrecht's canals are available year-round from Rederij Lovers (tel. 030/231-6468; www.water-taxi.nl), with boats departing from Nieuwekade at Oudenoord, and Rederij Schuttevaer (tel. 030/272-0111; www.schuttevaer.com), with boats departing from Oudegracht at the corner of Lange Viestraat. Tours are daily every hour on the hour from 11am to 5pm, and are 7€ ($11) for adults, 5.50€ ($8.80) for seniors and children ages 4 to 12, and free for children 3 and under. From mid-May to September, there are cruises on the Vecht River to the pretty village of Loenen aan de Vecht, with a stop to visit the Terra Nova estate. Another cruise goes along the Kromme Rijn to the Rhijnauwen estate.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.