Four Hours In: Utrecht

With its tree-lined canals and candy-colored houses, this small, scenic city in the central Netherlands could be Amsterdam's little sister. It's also home to one of Europe's largest and best universities, giving it a distinctly hip, youthful feel.

Visit the Gothic Domkerk, the city's best-known cathedral, and climb the 465 steps for breathtaking views of the center below—if you can hack it.

Eat a homemade stroopwafel, a decadent novelty of wafers and caramel, at the bustling open-air Vredenburg market, where shoppers can find clothing, jewelry, artwork, electronics and more (open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday).

Shop at the train-station center Hoog Catharijne, and peruse dozens of Dutch designers such as Marcel Wanders, Piet Hein Eek and Tord Boontje at one-stop shops like De Bijenkorf.

Watch FC Utrecht, the beloved local football team, in action at their home stadium, Stadion Galgenwaard (

Rent a kayak, canoe or water bike—a wobbly four-seat paddleboat for a ride along the Oudegracht. Don't mind the titters of those dining at the waterfront caf? as you paddle haphazardly on by.