Info Area Utrecht
Utrecht is almost 2000 years old.
Stroll down the streets and along the canals in the Utrecht Museum Quarter, the cultural treasury in the very heart of the city, to sample the pleasant, intimate atmosphere for which Utrecht is famous.
In the Middle Ages, Utrecht was the ecclesiastical centre of the Netherlands and its skyline was dominated by dozens of church towers. Today, the city has eight medieval churches. With a height of 112 metres, the Dom tower is the highest church tower in the Netherlands and the eye-catcher of the ‘Dom city’, which functions as a landmark throughout the city.
Around 47 AD, the Romans built the Trajectum castellum (fortress) to reinforce the northern border of their empire along the Rhine where the Domplein is now located. Late 7th century, the English missionary Willibrord designed the fortress as a mission and a small town developed. Over the next centuries, Utrecht developed into a religious establishment and trade underwent unprecedented growth through the construction of a medieval harbour complex of canals, wharves and wharf cellars. Utrecht remained the largest and most important city in the Netherlands until the 16th century.
The Dom tower is the pride of Utrecht; as was the Dom cathedral, until a tornado swept away the nave on the summer evening of 1 August 1674!
How could this happen? In order to collect money for the construction of the cathedral, clergymen travelled through the diocese of Utrecht to sell indulgences for absolution or moderation of sins. After the construction of the current Dom church (1254-1517) and Dom tower (1321-1382), there was no money left and the nave was ‘finished’ without flying buttresses, with shortened buttresses and a level wooden ceiling instead of stone vaults. Was this construction the ‘culprit’? Historians assume it was bad luck; the whirlwind caused lower pressure in the church and thus brought about the collapse of the nave. The contours of the nave are depicted in the black cobbles on the Dom square. The high trees represent the then walls and covering.
Dom church Utrecht
The Dom church draws large crowds daily for a guided tour or a moment of silence and peace. The free Saturday afternoon concerts (3.30 pm) have been a household word in Utrecht for over thirty years.
Utrecht, the undiscovered Edinburgh of the Netherlands
After Amsterdam, Utrecht is the city with the second largest number of listed buildings in the Netherlands, but is sometimes referred to as the ‘Dutch second but better’ for a reason: the city has a clearer layout, is more personal, friendly and – with its 2000-year old
history – significantly older.
With 300,000 inhabitants, of all the Dutch cities Utrecht has the largest number of cultural treasures per square kilometre, functions as the central shopping city, is a true culinary paradise and is home to the largest and best university in the country. Utrecht is also home to icons such as Dick Bruna and his Miffy, architect and furniture maker Gerrit Rietveld and the design brand Pastoe. The old yet innovative city is ready to be explored by anyone who has a taste for the delights of this Dutch ‘Edinburgh’!
Utrecht Art City
Utrecht is the city with the largest density of cultural treasures in the Netherlands, which is why this city is one of the participants in the Holland Art Cities event. Ten top museums in Utrecht, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague present their largest art collection per km2 in the world.
Friendly outdoor café life
At the wharf outdoor cafés along the Oudegracht canal, candle flames flicker on the tables and the gentle buzz of voices and clinking of tableware resonates. Utrecht has plenty of friendly places for a drink or bite to eat in the open air. At the Neude are many cafés and
more intimate venues are found at ’t Wed, the Janskerkhof and the Domplein. Somewhat further out, the sunny Ledig Erf is very popular among inhabitants of Utrecht.
Utrecht is paradise for shopaholics! From Utrecht CS, walk right into Hoog Catharijne; the covered shopping heart of the Netherlands with trendy boutiques, art galleries, delicatessen and exclusive gift shops at each street corner and in each alleyway in the city centre.
The best markets
The flower markets at the Oudegracht and the Janskerkhof and the rag market at the Breedstraat (Saturdays) are an experience in itself. Enjoy the market merchants loudly commending their goods.
Utrecht from the water
Sailing through Utrecht is the perfect way to admire the historic canalside houses and the ancient wharves with the countless friendly outdoor cafés. Take an exploratory expedition by pedal boat, canoe or motorboat and moor at a sunny spot in the park. In Utrecht, the city and the countryside alternate in an unusual manner.
How do you get to Utrecht?
By car: Utrecht is located at the A2, 40 km southeast of Amsterdam, 125 km from Antwerp and 175 km from Brussels.
By train: the Utrecht main railway station is a European train junction, where international trains from all over Europe arrive daily: www.nshighspeed.nl.
By plane: there is a direct connection to Utrecht (30 minutes) from Schiphol airport