It is the final week before school starts again (can I just say we all are very happy for back to school in our house?) so Maebh and I made plans to visit Primark and Miniso in the Hoog Catharijne Utrecht to get a few things before school started. As Den Bosch doesn’t have a Primark, we’ll take the train up to Utrecht no problem, but I thought why not do something fun in the city while we were there with both kids. Less than a month ago, I visited Utrecht and climbed the Dom with Funs – which was amazing but nothing that I’d like to do with the kids alone. So I thought why not take advantage of our Museumkaarts and visit the Spoorweg Museum while we were in Utrecht.
As I’ve mentioned many times before, if you live in the Netherlands [with or without kids], I can’t recommend enough that you get yourself a Museumkaart. The Spoorweg Museum is one of more than 400 museums that you enter with it. You just have to attend a few times a year and it pays for itself.
HOW WE GOT THERE
At first I was just planning on taking the 10:08 train from Den Bosch Central to Utrecht Central and walking to the museum (I read it was about a 20 minute walk). But I read there was an old fashioned station at the museum and that you can arrive by train – leaves every hour at 31 past the hour – so we adjusted our schedule a bit. We took a train about 20 minutes earlier than previously planned in order to arrive into the Malibaan Station – I thought it would be fun and it was.
The museum is located at:
3581 XW Utrecht
Tickets are €17.50 per person over age 3 but Museumkaart holders are FREE.
After we walked back from the museum first the Jewish monument outside. It was a wall of names of the Jewish victims of the Second World War from Utrecht. The memorial wall is made from the sandstone that was also used for the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. In front of the wall was a plinth with a receiver on it. Ten Jewish men wear the shofar.
When you arrive by car or walk up to the museum, you enter through the impressive Maliebaan Station built in 1874. The station is quite impressive and it is there were you buy your tickets at a lovely old-fashioned ticket booth. You’ll feel like a passenger from that bygone era. As we arrived via the Special NS train we went left into the museum and opt’d to visit the Maliebaan Station on the way out. You could easily miss the station if you were to come in and out from the special NS train back to Utrecht Central which departs at 4 minutes to the hour throughout the day with the exception of the last train which departs at 17:11.
WHAT IS MUSEUM ALL ABOUT?
Trains, trains and more trains. It is one the city’s most renowned museums and makes for a great day out – especially for kids and of course any rail enthusiasts.
The museum is divided into the following sections:
1. The Great Discovery – Take a short but fascinating audio tour (Dutch, English or German) around the beginnings of the steam age in the Netherlands. The first railway line was Amsterdam-Haarlem which opened in 1839 using De Arend steam locomotive. It includes a mock-up of Amsterdam station from the time and a working replica of De Arend.
2. Dream Journeys – Discover how the well-to-do from the 19th century travelled in style by railway – such as taking a trip on the Orient Express from Paris to Constantinople (Istanbul) and on to Cairo. On show is a fine display of railway posters and leaflets from the time – including many advertising ferry/rail services between England and Holland.
3. Steel Monsters – A mechanical ride (max 4 persons per car) which takes you through the dark with the Gommers family, 3 generations who worked on the railways. You will experience close encounters with some giant steam trains. The narration is in Dutch only and the ride itself is a little tame.
4. Trains Through Time – Large exhibition hall which houses a comprehensive collection of old locomotives and carriages – from steam trains (19th century/early 20th century) to a variety of electric and diesel units from the 20th century. There is also various railway memorabilia on show and some models of Dutch trains.
SPECIAL EXHIBITION – TOASTIES TRUFFLES TRAINS
There is a long history of food and drinks being served at the station and aboard trains. Luxurious restaurant cars in international trains served caviar and truffles to the elite. So the Railway museum put together an exhibition showcasing just that. They restored a historic restaurant car from 1951 and brought together a number of other fine restaurant cars, including several from Germany. Together with never-before displayed items from the collection such as china, platform trucks, menus, photos and posters they created ‘Toasties Truffles Trains’ . It was fun to walk through each train to see what it was like “back in the day” – some were more “retro than others”. The kitchens were tiny – not sure how they made it work but they did.
There is a dining tram in Rotterdam called the “RotterTram” which looks cool, which maybe one day we’ll do. It’s quite pricy at €80 per person, so needs to be for a really special occasion to ride around a tram eating for that price. I know loads of great places where we could eat for that (for two!).
We had a lot of fun playing with the phone booth.
OUTSIDE PLAY AREA
Another highlight of the museum for kids is the outside play area. There is a little floating boat which goes back and forth to a small island with a lighthouse…. our kids did it once but this along with the slides/caves are really great for kids who are 4-6. That is the perfect age for this museum. At 10 & 12 our kids were a bit old, but they always enjoy playing outside so did it. There is also a little train that goes around which you have to queue for a while to get on. With COVID, they have extra measures with less people so our kids skipped it due to the line, but they would clearly be the oldest on it.
All in all they enjoyed the museum. I’m glad we got to visit the museum and spend the day together as the three of us, but we don’t have to rush back any time soon as we saw all that we wanted. I would, however, recommend for any train lovers – especially kids who are fans aged 3-6 to certainly go and visit!!
Update: After doing a survey just now, I saw we mist a lot of hands-on stuff, so we’ll go back again in the near future!
WALKING AROUND UTRECHT
As we walked, I showed the kids a bit of Utrecht. Not that I’m a pro, but Funs and I were just there a few weeks back – see post “Day Out In Utrecht” so I had a good idea of things to show them – including the Letters of Utrecht which they thought was cool. They saw the Dom all wrapped in scaffolding and had a drink in the BadaBing before walking over to Hoog Catharijne to visit Primark. Unfortunately being late August, this store has not yet done the switch over so most of their stuff was still summer. Unlike other shops focusing on back to schools hopping, here was a mixture and nothing much of interest. So we ended up only getting her a Billy Eilish t-shirt and pair of jeans – which she is excited to wear the first day of school.
After the tiny bit of “shopping” if you call it that – I took them to Dunkin Donuts.
They were thrilled to be able to get a donut each – which they could pick from a large variety (different ones than what we have back home. I am not a big fan of DD, but they are and I knew they’d love it. They were thrilled and loved the little to go boxes for their €2.25 donut. Check out those outrageous prices for Dunkins 🙂
While I’m not quite sure they both found Utrecht as nice of a city as I think it is, but they are getting there. Both still think Groningen is nicer – despite Utrecht being a larger student city. Oh Soren went into the comic stores on the corner and came out 20 minutes later telling me he’d like to get into comics and then when he saw the pedal boats, he was very interested in those. I reminded him of his boating skills and how he could be a skipper here as his part time job and showed him a photo of the trash boat which came down the canal while he was inside the comic shop.
Maebh and I found it pretty cool – he had some great skills reversing the vessel. Soren, well he was not interested – said he’d rather be on a Whale Watch boat on Cape Code for the summer. Good for me as I can visit one of my favorite places, Provincetown!