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Utrecht is the capital and most populous city in the Dutch province of Utrecht. It is located in the eastern corner of the Randstad conurbation and is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands with a population of 330,772 in 2014.
Utrecht's ancient city centre features many buildings and structures several dating as far back as the High Middle Ages. It has been the religious centre of the Netherlands since the 8th century. It lost the status of prince-bishopric but remains the main religious center in the country. Utrecht was the most important city in the Netherlands until the Dutch Golden Age, when it was surpassed by Amsterdam as the country's cultural centre and most populous city.
Utrecht is host to Utrecht University, the largest university in the Netherlands, as well as several other institutions of higher education. Due to its central position within the country, it is an important transport hub for both rail and road transport. It has the second highest number of cultural events in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam.
|POPULATION :||• Municipality 330,772|
• Urban 489,734
• Metro 656,342
• Randstad 6,979,500
|TIME ZONE :||• Time zone CET (UTC+1)|
• Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
|AREA :||• Municipality 99.21 km2 (38.31 sq mi)|
• Land 94.33 km2 (36.42 sq mi)
• Water 4.88 km2 (1.88 sq mi)
• Randstad 3,043 km2 (1,175 sq mi)
|ELEVATION :||5 m (16 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||52°5′N 5°7′E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 49.6%|
• Female: 50.4%
|AREA CODE :||030|
|POSTAL CODE :||3450–3455, 3500–3585|
|DIALING CODE :||+31 30|
Utrecht is known as a student city with a large population of single young people. This results in a booming nightlife with many places to have a quick meal, some drinks or a dance.
Utrecht city has an active cultural life, and in the Netherlands is second only to Amsterdam. There are several theatres and theatre companies. The 1941 main city theatre was built by Dudok. Besides theatres there is a large number of cinemas including three arthouse cinemas.
Utrecht has several smaller and larger museums. Many of those are located in the southern part of the old town, the Museumkwartier.
The city has several music venues such as TivoliVredenburg, Tivoli De Helling,ACU, EKKO, DBs and RASA. Utrecht hosts the yearly Utrecht Early Music Festival – Festival Oude Muziek Utrecht. In Jaarbeurs it hosts Trance Energy. Every summer there used to be the Summer Darkness festival, which celebrated goth culture and music. In November the Le Guess Who? festival, focused on indie rock, art rock and experimental rock, takes place in many of the city's venues.
Origins (until 650)
Although there is some evidence of earlier inhabitation in the region of Utrecht, dating back to the Stone Age(app. 2200 BCE) and settling in the Bronze Age (app. 1800–800 BCE), the founding date of the city is usually related to the construction of a Roman fortification (castellum), probably built in around 50 CE. A series of such fortresses was built after the Roman emperor Claudius decided the empire should not expand north. To consolidate the border the limes Germanicus defense line was constructed along the main branch of the river Rhine, which at that time flowed through a more northern bed compared to today (what is now the Kromme Rijn). These fortresses were designed to house a cohort of about 500 Roman soldiers. Near the fort settlements would grow housing artisans, traders and soldiers' wives and children.
In Roman times, the name of the Utrecht fortress was simply Traiectum, denoting its location at a possible Rhine crossing. Traiectum became Dutch Trecht; with the U from Old Dutch "uut" (downriver) added to distinguish U-trecht from Maas-tricht. In 11th-century official documents it was Latinized as Ultra Traiectum. Around the year 200, the wooden walls of the fortification were replaced by sturdier tuff stone walls, remnants of which are still to be found below the buildings around Dom Square.
From the middle of the 3rd century Germanic tribes regularly invaded the Roman territories. Around 275 the Romans could no longer maintain the northern border and Utrecht was abandoned. Little is known about the next period 270–650. Utrecht is first spoken of again several centuries after the Romans left. Under the influence of the growing realms of the Franks, duringDagobert I's reign in the 7th century, a church was built within the walls of the Roman fortress. In ongoing border conflicts with the Frisians this first church was destroyed.
Centre of Christianity in the Netherlands (650–1579)
By the mid-7th century, English and Irish missionaries set out to convert the Frisians. The pope appointed their leader, Willibrordus, bishop of the Frisians. The tenure of Willibrordus is generally considered to be the beginning of the Bishopric of Utrecht. In 723, the Frankish leader Charles Martel bestowed the fortress in Utrecht and the surrounding lands as the base of the bishops. From then on Utrecht became one of the most influential seats of power for the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands. The archbishops of Utrecht were based at the uneasy northern border of the Carolingian Empire. In addition, the city of Utrecht had competition from the nearby trading centre Dorestad. After the fall of Dorestad around 850, Utrecht became one of the most important cities in the Netherlands. The importance of Utrecht as a centre of Christianity is illustrated by the election of the Utrecht-bornAdriaan Florenszoon Boeyens as pope in 1522 (the last non-Italian pope before John Paul II).
When the Frankish rulers established the system of feudalism, the Bishops of Utrecht came to exercise worldly power as prince-bishops. The territory of the bishopric not only included the modern province of Utrecht (Nedersticht, 'lower Sticht'), but also extended to the northeast. The feudal conflict of the Middle Ages heavily affected Utrecht. The prince-bishopric was involved in almost continuous conflicts with the Counts of Holland and the Dukes of Guelders. The Veluwe region was seized by Guelders, but large areas in the modern province of Overijssel remained as the Oversticht.
Several churches and monasteries were built inside, or close to, the city of Utrecht. The most dominant of these was the Cathedral of Saint Martin, inside the old Roman fortress. The construction of the present Gothic building was begun in 1254 after an earlier romanesque construction had been badly damaged by fire. The choir and transept were finished from 1320 and were followed then by the ambitious Dom tower. The last part to be constructed was the central nave, from 1420. By that time, however, the age of the great cathedrals had come to an end and declining finances prevented the ambitious project from being finished, the construction of the central nave being suspended before the planned flying buttresses could be finished. Besides the cathedral there were four collegiate churches in Utrecht: St. Salvator's Church (demolished in the 16th century), on the Dom square, dating back to the early 8th century. Saint John (Janskerk), originating in 1040; Saint Peter, building started in 1039 and Saint Mary's church building started around 1090 (demolished in the early 19th century, cloister survives). Besides these churches the city housed St. Paul's Abbey, the 15th-centurybeguinage of St. Nicholas, and a 14th-century chapter house of the Teutonic Knights.
Besides these buildings which belonged to the bishopric; an additional fourparish churches were constructed in the city: the Jacobikerk (dedicated to Saint James), founded in the 11th century, with the current Gothic church dating back to the 14th century; the Buurkerk (Neighbourhood-church) of the 11th-century parish in the centre of the city; Nicolaichurch (dedicated to Saint Nicholas), from the 12th century and the 13th-century Geertekerk (dedicated to Saint Gertrude of Nivelles).
City of Utrecht
The location on the banks of the river Rhine allowed Utrecht to become an important trade centre in the Northern Netherlands. The growing town Utrecht was granted city rights by Henry V in 1122. When the main flow of the Rhine moved south, the old bed, which still flowed through the heart of the town became evermore canalized; and the wharf system was built as an inner city harbour system. On the wharfs storage facilities (werfkelders) were built, on top of which the main street, including houses was constructed. The wharfs and the cellars are accessible from a platform at water level with stairs descending from the street level to form a unique structure. The relations between the bishop, who controlled many lands outside of the city, and the citizens of Utrecht was not always easy. The bishop, for example dammed the Kromme Rijn at Wijk bij Duurstede to protect his estates from flooding. This threatened shipping for the city and led the city of Utrecht to commission a canal to ensure access to the town for shipping trade: the Vaartse Rijn, connecting Utrecht to the Hollandse IJssel at IJsselstein.
The end of independence
In 1528 the bishop lost secular power over both Neder- and Oversticht – which included the city of Utrecht – to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Charles V combined the Seventeen Provinces (the current Benelux and the northern parts of France) as a personal union. This ended the prince-bishopric Utrecht, as the secular rule was now the lordship of Utrecht, with the religious power remaining with the bishop, although Charles V had gained the right to appoint new bishops. In 1559 the bishopric of Utrecht was raised to archbishopric to make it the religious center of the Northern ecclesiastical province in the Seventeen provinces.
The transition from independence to a relatively minor part of a larger union was not easily accepted. To quell uprisings Charles V was struggling to exert his power over the citizens of the city, who had struggled to gain a certain level of independence from the bishops and were not willing to cede this to their new lord. The heavily fortified castle Vredenburg was built to house a large garrison whose main task was to maintain control over the city. The castle would last less than 50 years before it was demolished in an uprising in the early stages of the Dutch Revolt.
Republic of the Netherlands (1579–1806)
In 1579 the northern seven provinces signed the Union of Utrecht, in which they decided to join forces against Spanish rule. The Union of Utrecht is seen as the beginning of the Dutch Republic. In 1580 the new and predominantly Protestant state abolished the bishoprics, including the archbishopric of Utrecht. The stadtholders disapproved of the independent course of the Utrecht bourgeoisie and brought the city under much more direct control of the republic; which shifted the power towards its dominant province Holland. This was the start of a long period of stagnation of trade and development in Utrecht. Utrecht remained an atypical city in the new republic with about 40% Catholic in the mid-17th-century, and even more among the elite groups, who included many rural nobility and gentry with town houses there.
The fortified city temporarily fell to the French invasion in 1672 (the Disaster Year); where the French invasion was only stopped west of Utrecht at the Old Hollandic Waterline. In 1674, only two years after the French left, the centre of Utrecht was struck by a tornado. The halt to building before construction of flying buttresses in the 15th century now proved to be the undoing of the central section of the cathedral of St Martin church which collapsed; creating the current Dom square between the tower and choir. In 1713, Utrecht hosted one of the first international peace negotiations when the Treaty of Utrecht settled the War of the Spanish Succession. Since 1723 Utrecht became the centre of the non-Roman Old Catholic Churches in the world.
Modern history (1815–present)
In the early 19th century, the role of Utrecht as a fortified town had become obsolete. The fortifications of the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie were moved east of Utrecht. The town walls could now be demolished to allow for expansion. The moats remained intact and formed an important feature of the Zocher plantsoen, an English style landscape park that remains largely intact today. Growth of the city increased when, in 1843, a railway connecting Utrecht to Amsterdam was opened. After that, Utrecht gradually became the main hub of the Dutch railway network. With the industrial revolution finally gathering speed in the Netherlands and the ramparts taken down, Utrecht began to grow far beyond the medieval centre. In 1853, the Dutch government allowed the bishopric of Utrecht to be reinstated by Rome, and Utrecht became the centre of Dutch Catholicism once more. From the 1880s onward neighbourhoods such as Oudwijk,Wittevrouwen, Vogelenbuurt to the East, and Lombok to the West were developed. New middle class residential areas, such as Tuindorp and Oog in Al, were built in the 1920s and 1930s. During this period, several Jugendstilhouses and office buildings were built, followed by Rietveld who built theRietveld Schröder House (1924), and Dudok's construction of the city theater (1941).
During World War II, Utrecht was held by the Germans until the general German surrender of the Netherlands on 5 May 1945. Canadian troops that had surrounded the city entered it after that surrender, on 7 May 1945. After the end of World War II, the city has grown considerably when new neighbourhoods such as Overvecht, Kanaleneiland, Hoograven andLunetten were built. Around 2000 the city the Leidsche Rijn housing area was developed as the next extension of the city to the west.
The area surrounding Utrecht Centraal railway station and the station itself were developed following modernist ideas of the 1960s, in a brutalist style. This led to the construction of the shopping mall Hoog Catharijne, music centre Vredenburg (Hertzberger, 1979), and conversion of part of the ancient canal structure into a highway (Catherijnebaan). Protest against further modernisation of the city centre followed even before the last buildings were finalised. In the early 21st century the whole area is being redeveloped. The redeveloped music centre opened in 2014 where the original Vredenburg concert and rock and jazz halls are brought together in a single building.
Utrecht experiences a temperate oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb) similar to almost all of the Netherlands.
|Record high °C (°F)||15.1|
|Average high °C (°F)||5.6|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||3.1|
|Average low °C (°F)||0.3|
|Record low °C (°F)||−24.8|
|Source #1: Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute|
Production industry constitutes a small part of the economy of Utrecht. The economy of Utrecht depends for a large part on the several large institutions located in the city. It is the centre of the Dutch railroad network and the location of the head office of Nederlandse Spoorwegen. ProRail is headquartered in The De Inktpot (The Inkpot) – the largest brick building in the Netherlands (the "UFO" featured on its façade stems from an art program in 2000).Rabobank, a large bank, has its headquarters in Utrecht.
A large indoor shopping centre Hoog Catharijne is located between Utrecht Centraal railway station and the city centre. The corridors are treated as public places like streets, and the route between the station and the city centre is open all night. In 20 years from 2004, parts of Hoog Catharijne will be redeveloped as part of the renovation of the larger station area. Parts of the city's network of canals, which were filled to create the shopping center and central station area, will be recreated. The Jaarbeurs, one of the largestconvention centres in the Netherlands, is located at the west side of the central railway station.
The city of Utrecht is subdivided into 10 city quarters, which all have their own neighbourhood council and service center for civil affairs.
- (1) Binnenstad – (2) Oost – (3) Leidsche Rijn – (4) West – (5) Overvecht – (6) Zuid – (7) Noordoost – (8) Zuidwest – (9) Noordwest – (10) Vleuten-De Meern
- Free wifi is available at the whole city centre and some parks and shopping areas outside the centre (Griftpark, Julianapark, Wilhelminapark, Beatrixpark, Maximapark, Burg. Reigerstraat and Nachtegaalstraat, Adriaen van Ostadelaan etc.)
- Half an hour of free Wifi is available at the Starbucks in the Central Station, and possibly outside as well.
- It is also possible to get access to the internet in the public library which is situated at Oudegracht 167.
- At the Coffee Company (Vismarkt 5) you get free WiFi access with your coffee.
- Wzzrd is located at Vismarkt 21 and open daily from 12:00 to 23:00 and Friday and Saturday until 01:00.
- Some Internet browsing centers are available on Kanaalstraat for affordable prices (1.5 euros per hour). It is a 10 minute walk from Utrecht Central Station.
Prices in Utrecht
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||€1.15|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||€5.00|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||€30.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||€60.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||€|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||€7.50|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||€3.30|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||€4.00|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||€7.00|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||€20.00|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||€0.10|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||€6.20|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||€1.40|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||€90.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M )||1||€38.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas )||1||€99.00|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||€2.50|
59 € per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
257 € per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
Utrecht is connected to two neighboring towns by a high speed tram line. At the edge of the city, close to the A12 and A2 motorways, you will find Transferium Westraven. It's a good idea to park your car there and to take the tram into town. The last two stop is at Utrecht Centraal Station. You will need to cross the train station and the shopping center Hoog Catherijne to get to the inner city.
€5.00 will allow you to park your car all day and to travel into the city with a maximum of five people. Visiting Utrecht by car doesn't come cheaper than this.
Utrecht Centraal Station forms the hub of the Dutch rail network, and is easily accessible directly, or with one change of train, from almost every station in the Netherlands. For instance, there are frequent direct connections from Amsterdam and Schiphol Airport (even at night), both taking 30 minutes and for about €8 one-way. The high-speed train ICE to Cologne, Frankfurt and Basel stops in Utrecht every two hours.
There are also connections with the daily CityNightLine trains to Berlin,Warsaw, Zurich, Munich, and Innsbruck (seasonal). You can book tickets using the NS Hispeed or DB portals (they use different prices). There is no longer a Euronight train to Moscow; you will need to change in Berlin or Warsaw for this train.
The train station is located at the western edge of the old city. A 5 minute walk through the Hoog Catharijne shopping center (follow signs to “Centrum”) will take you from the station to the city or the bus station.
The bus station is located next to the train station. International buses depart from the western side of the train station ('Jaarbeurszijde'), while the regional and city buses depart from separate stations on the east and west side of the train station. The regional buses are much slower than the trains. For information about the city buses, check the U-OV website [www], this is the company that provides public transport services in and around the city of Utrecht. Buses to the smaller towns around Utrecht are run by BBA, Arriva and Connexxion. Time schedules for train and bus can be found at: [www].
If you are coming in by car, park your car in one of the many parking garages around the city (follow the signs) and walk from there. Electronic signs display the number of parking spaces available in any given lot as well as directions to the lot, and if the sign says Vol it means the lot is full. Expect to pay around € 2,60 per hour at any of the garages in the center. Parking on the curbside is also possible, but even more expensive. Expect to pay € 4 to € 5 an hour in advance at the meter. Parking fines are around € 70 and frequenty enforced, so make sure to get back to your car before the ticket expires. It’s best to avoid driving into central Utrecht. Instead, leave your car at the city perimeter and take a bus or tram into the center.
There are 2 transferiums (westraven & papendorp) where you can park your car for the day at a flat rate of around € 4,00, including transit to the city center by bus or tram for up to 5 passengers. One is on the southern side of the city, very close to the A12 highway exit number 17. The Nieuwegein-Utrecht tram line has a stop at this transferium and departs 8 times an hour daytime, 4 times an hour evening and weekends. Going back you can take a tram bound for either Nieuwegein or IJsselstijn, the last one departs at about 0.30 AM. The other transferium is near the football stadium, and connected to the city center by bus. Frequency of the bus service is comparable to that of the trams.
Transportation - Get Around
Walking or using a bike is the easiest way to travel in the city of Utrecht. To use the public transportation in the Netherlands, it is recommended to buy an OV-chipcard. You can buy these on the central bus station (lower level of Utrecht Centraal Station), at kiosks inside the central train station or at some book stores and grocery stores. The OV chipcard is valid for bus, train and tram and works like a debit card that you must first charge with an amount. Buses do take cash though.
Using a bike is the easiest way to travel in the city center if the weather is on your side. There are many bicycle shops located near the train station where you can rent bikes. Do make sure that you have good locks on your bike, as bike thefts are unfortunately quite common in the city centre. Also it's a good idea to make use of the free bike parking areas provided by the city council. They are usually guarded and are a safe place to park your bike. Also recommended is to do a bike tour. There are several bike tour companies offering guided city tours. There are also cycle routes starting in the centre of Utrecht, which you can download for free: Utrecht Forts Cycle Route.
A good alternative is taking the bus, which goes often and will take you nearly everywhere. Utrecht Centraal Station serves as the main bus hub for Utrecht as well as the main train hub for the Netherlands. Most buses run from early morning (around 6AM) until just after midnight. City center rides cost ~2,50 euros
In addition, there are several so-called nightlines. These cost 5 to 6 euros and can’t be paid for using strips or OV-chipcard.
Seeing Utrecht by car is not recommended. The city planners have made it as difficult as possible to navigate the city center, to try and discourage cars there. Driving around can be frustrating as the center is fraught with bus-only lanes, one-way streets, traffic lights and terribly expensive parking spaces. If you want to come by car it is recommended to park at one of the P+R (Park and Ride) [www] places, and take a cheap shuttle bus or tram service into town. There are also several parking garages closer to the center, but they are more expensive.
In Utrecht there is a tram line from central station to southern suburbs Nieuwegein and IJsselstein. For tourists, only the first stops will be interesting,Westplein and Graadt van Roggeweg. These are located next to the Turkish neighbourhood and the main convention centre respectively.
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Most shops are located in the city centre, concentrated around the Oudegracht, Vredeburg and Neude. There is also a large shopping centre extending east from the city centre in the direction of the Wilhelminapark. For general shop info and their openings hours you can visit openingstijden.nl [www] it shows an overview of the most popular shops.
- Hoog Catharijne. Is a is large indoor shopping area connected to the central hall of Utrecht Centraal Station, the main railway station of Utrecht.
- Books. Broese is a large bookstore at Stadhuisbrug 5. They have a fair selection of English books. Bijleveld at the Janskerkhof is an old bookstore with beautiful wooden show windows. And last but not least de Rooie Rat, at Oudegracht 65 (next to Augustine's church), which is the oldest collectively run political bookstore of the Netherlands.
- Music. Plato at Voorstraat 35 has a fair selection at reasonable prices.Boudisque at the Drieharingenstraat (near Vredenburg) the largest record store in Utrecht. Jazz, Classical music, Pop music and DVDs all have their own store. There are several stores operated by the large chain Free Record Shop all over the shopping area. Near the Vredenburg the Revenge has a fair selection of vinyl, focusing on electronic music.
- Markets. On Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays there is a large open air market on the Vredenburg square. On Saturdays you can find a plant market on the Janskerkhof and a flower market on the Oudegracht. The Breedstraat houses a large fabric market (lapjesmarkt) on Saturdaymornings (09:00-13:00).
- At Stationsplein 7 there is a give-away shop, open Tuesdays 14:00-18:00 and Saturdays 14:00-17:00.
- El Beso. At Nobelstraat there is an excellent Wine, life and style shop, called El Beso (Spanish for Kiss). On Saturdays you can just walk in and try a wine, no buying obligations. International crowd.
- Cannabis. Sarasani, opened in 1968, was the oldest coffee shop in the Netherlands. Located at Oudegracht 327 a/d werf, which means it was on the canal level, and physically sat under the main street. Sarisani closed down in 2007. On Wednesdays and Saturdays Joepi makes a round through the center of Utrecht to deliver food and beverages with a little ‘extra’, mainly psychedelics, cannabis and energetic herbs.
There are half a dozen stores at the part of the Oudegracht (Old Canal) south of De Dom that sell board games, card games, wargames, roleplaying games, fantasy and science-fiction books and/or comics (e.g. Piet Snot, Elf Fantasy, the Joker and Neverneverland). Keep your eyes peeled; some of these stores are easy to miss.
- Blunder has a large collection of “mainstream comics” on street level and an even bigger collection of the newest American comics and Manga/Anime in the basement. The address is Oudegracht 203.
- Piet Snot is a normal comic shop. They also have a big collection of second hand comics. Vismarkt 3 (It’s a small part of the Oudegracht that for some dark reason has been given a different name...)
- Strip & Lectuurshop. Lots of comics located at Oudegracht 194
- Labyrinth is all about fantasy games. They have furniture, weapons, clothing, jewelry and lots of roleplaying books. It is located at Oudegracht 207.
- The Joker. Games, games and (much) more games. From your normal family games to the German type games and the American wargames and everything in between. They also have lots of Collectible Card games and scenariobooks for RPGs. In the basement it’s possible to play the games. It is located at Oudegracht 230a.
- Neverneverland, like The Joker, has a large selection of boardgames and RPGs. It is located at Oudegracht 202.
- Subcultures is well... about subcultures. Specialized in miniature wargames, RPGs and designer toys. The address is Oude Gracht 194, but the store is a werfkelder. This means that when on street level you have to take the stairs down to the canal.
Many restaurants can be found in the city center. Especially near the canals there is a huge choice of places to eat, each with their own style of kitchen, like Italian, Thai, American, etc. Ask the locals for which places are recommended as not every restaurant offers the same quality.
- Cafe 't College, Mariastraat (Close to the dom), .mo: 10AM-7PM,tu-th:10AM-01am,fr-sa: 10AM-2PM,su 12AM-7PM. Cozy jazz-blues restaurant with good simple food: steaks, salads, sate. The kitchen closes at 9PM, but you can get bitterballen, spring rolls, etc. after that. main: €14.
- Stadskasteel Oudaen, at Oudegracht 99, is a 13th-century city castle turned restaurant.
- There are several Flemish snack bars outside of Hoog Catharijne that sell wonderful thick fries with mayonnaise. Try it; it’s not as bad as John Travolta’s character seems to think in Pulp Fiction.
- Bigoli, Schoutenstraat 12. Serves delicious Italian sandwiches. Be prepared to wait in line at lunch time though. €3-5.
- Broadway, Oudegracht aan de werf 139, . is an excellent spare ribs restaurant. mains €15–20.
- Luce, Visschersplein 75, . is a hip and trendy restaurant. Very trendy atmosphere with exclusive and delicious food.mains €–.
- For cheap tapas go to El Mundo at Voorstraat or Mimadre at Oudkerkhof.
- To try something Dutch visit one of the snackbars and order a Kroket. A good one is behind City Hall, it is called Broodje Plof. A lot of Dutch people visit this place after a good night of binge drinking.
- For a more multi-ethnic view of Utrecht, walk away from the old city from the bus station/central station, walk under the train tracks, and follow the bus route (straight ahead) about 200 meters. Try some affordable rotisserie style chicken on the left side of the Kanaalstraat, get a Moroccan style bagel across the street at one of the many middle eastern bakeries, and stock up on way-affordable (the cheapest in Utrecht) fruit and veggies at one of the many produce markets.
- ACU, Voorstraat 71. In this squatters cafe cheap vegan food is served on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
- Meneer Smakers, Nobelstraat 143. This small burgerjoint is by far the best in town, serving ten different burgers and delicious home-made fries.
- El Greco, Ganzenmarkt 28. This Greek snackbar serves some of the best pita gyros sandwiches in Utrecht.
- Mario, Oudegracht 130-132. This place sells Italian rolls in Utrecht, simply called Broodje Mario. They are famous among people from Utrecht; there's even a rap song about it by the local band Stropstrikkers. €3.
- De Oude Muntkelder, Oude Gracht a/d Werf 112, . 12:00-21:00 daily. Traditional Dutch pancake restaurant. They have a lovely setting beside the small canal. They have a wide varieties of pancakes, even quirky ones like the Norwegian pancake. On Mondays and Tuesdays all-you-can-eat pancakes for students for only €9.75 (valid student card required). €10-15.
- Indonesia Asli, Biltstraat 56-58. mo-sa 12-20. Authentic (ie, spicy) Indonesian restaurant and take-away. €7-11.
- LE:EN, Heuveloord 140. Best described as Asian tapas, LE:EN (pronounced "lain") is a bit of a walk from the center, and it's not the cheapest in town, but a lot of locals think it's worth it anyway!
- Keuken en Deli, Oosterkade 30, , e-mail:[email protected]. Located on the monumental Oosterkade just outside the center. A restaurant that uses organic produce and sustainable seafood with the MSC label. An open kitchen with a unique atmosphere. A 3-course meal for 2 people including a bottle of house wine costs about 70 euros
- Humphreys, Stadhuisbrug 3, e-mail: [email protected]. Located under the city hall, on the Oudegracht. The restaurant is marked by a sign and menu. The entrance is tiny and under the stairs, but the restaurant itself is huge with multiple halls each in their own retro style. Modern Dutch cuisine with a fixed price for a three course meal. €24,95 for three course meal (fixed).
Sights & Landmarks
Around the Domplein
- Dom van Utrecht(Domkerk), Achter de Dom 1.May-Sep Mo-Fr 10:00-17:00, Sa 10:00-15:30, Su 12:30-16:00; Oct-Apr Mo-Fr 11:00-15:00, Sa 10:00-15:30, Su 12:30-16:00. The Gothic Dom church (built between 1284 and 1520) is the major religious building in the city. It was a part of a larger cathedral which was partially destroyed by a severe storm while under construction. When a hurricane hit the town in 1674, the badly constructed nave collapsed, which is the reason that today the Domtoren (Bell Tower) and the church itself are separated by the Domplein (Dom Square). The interior of the church was stripped down of every sculpture during Reformation, but the exterior remains a lavishly decorated example of Dutch Gothic architecture.
- DOMunder, Dom Square (Domplein). guided tours Tu-Su 10.30 / 11.30 / 12.30 / 13.30 / 14.30 / 15.30 / 16.30. An interesting museum/guided tour under the Dom Square about the Romans in Utrecht. €11.
- Pandhof Domkerk (cloister garden) (at the South side of the Dom church). Just sit down, relax, and listen to a Saturday morning carillon concert.
- Domtoren (Dom Tower). only by guided tours (1h) Tu-Sa 10:00-17:00, Su-Mo 12:00-17:00. 112 meter tall, it is the highest church tower in the Netherlands. It is also the highest building in the city by municipal mandate. Climbing up the stairs to see the magnificent view on the top is highly recommended, but beware of the narrow, steep stairs. On clear days you can look as far as Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Home to the second largest set of bells in Europe (after Cologne), and a carillon which is often played by musicians at the weekend. €9; tickets could also be booked online.
- Pieterskerk. Consecrated in 1048.
- Stadhuis (City Hall), Korte Minrebroederstraat 2 (at the Oudegracht).It has a rather imposing look.
It is a major canal going through the heart of the city, with shops and restaurants on both sides. This canal is unique because of its many picturesque cellars on water level. Centuries ago they were used for storage and commerce. Nowadays, many of them host fine restaurants and pubs. In the summer you can find nice terraces at the water here.
- Stadhuisbrug. Perhaps it's the most famous bridge over the Oudegracht. It was created in 1547 by vaulting a space between the older two bridges: the Huidenbrug and the Broodbrug, thus creating one of the major squares in the old town.
- Kalisbrug. It's another bridge over the Oudegracht which make a small square between Steenweg and Vismarkt. In the middle of the 16th century older 2 bridges – the Kalisbrug (or Visbrug) and Corduanierbrug – were connected together making the current Kalisbrug.
- Rietveld Schröderhuis(Rietveld Schröder House), Prins Hendriklaan 50 (bus line 8 (direction Wilhelminapark), stop De Hoogstraat; or 20 min on foot from the Centraal Museum alternatively a bike could be rented (sic!) there), , e-mail:[email protected]. Tu-Su 11.00-17.00 (11.00; 12.00; 14.00; 15.00; 16.00); visits only by a prior booking. The house, designed by Gerrit Rietveld, was built in 1923-1924 in Utrecht. The structure of the house is completely in line with the ideas of the art movement De Stijl (The Style). The house was designed and built for Truus Schröder-Schräder, who lived there from 1924 till her death in 1985. It can only be visited under supervision of a tour guide. In 2000 the house was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. € 15.50 (also includes admission to the Centraal Museum, on the same day).
- Postkantoor Utrecht(Hoofdpostkantoor), Neude 11.The former Main Post Office is an outstanding and surprising building. The Utrecht main Post Office is a great example of Dutch Art Deco architecture. The Post Office, located on the Neude Square, was designed by the architect J. Crouwel and completed in 1924. The barrel-vaulted ceiling is made up of glazed yellow-brick ribs alternated with diagonal glass panes that fill the hall with natural light. The black-and-white floor is set off by five carved black statues set in the walls, each representing a continent. America is a stylized American Indian with two buffalo at his feet. Over the main entrance are magnificent stained glass windows. Currently it's a meeting venue.
- De Uithof (campus of the Utrecht University). It is a rather strange mix between grey concrete buildings and buildings here that are designed by famous modern architects, like the Educatorium designed by Rem Koolhaas, the University Library and the Minnaert building. There is also a beautiful botanical garden that is 8 acres big, houses 6 thousand different sorts of plants and a Napoleonic fort. Also worth a look: the bicycle track at the Heidelberglaan which is broad enough to function as a two-way car-track. The university campus can be reached from the Central Station by taking the Line 11 or 12 bi-articulated buses, an experience on its own.
- De Inktpot. A notable building with a flying saucer (UFO) on its roof. The saucer itself is a remnant of the Utrecht art exhibition Panorama 2000, designed by Marc Ruygrok .
Museums & Galleries
Museumkaart is accepted at the city's museums.
- Centraal Museum, Nicolaaskerkhof 10. 11-17, closed on Mondays.The oldest municipal museum in the Netherlands. It has a large art collection including the world’s largest collection of Rietveld designs and a permanent exhibition on Dick Bruna. There are usually several temporary exhibitions as well, an overview of which you can find at their site. €9.
- Museum Catharijneconvent, Lange Nieuwstraat 38. 11-17. a large collection of historic Christian items. €11.50.
- Nederlands Spoorwegmuseum. Tue-Sun 10-17. the Dutch Railway Museum. It reopened in June 2005 after a intensive renovation. It is possible to go directly to the Spoorwegmuseum from centraal station with a special train. €14.50.
- Nationaal Museum van Speelklok tot Pierement (Speelklok Museum). a surprisingly pleasant museum on all kinds of mechanical music, including carillon clocks, musical boxes, pianolas, belly organs and much more.
- AAMU (Museum voor hedendaagse Aboriginal kunst). Aboriginal Art Museum is fairly large museum dedicated exclusively to Aboriginal art.
- Universiteitsmuseum, Lange Nieuwstraat 106, . 10am-5pm. the museum of the Utrecht University. €8.
- Oude Hortus (Botanical Garden).
Things to do
- Have a drink at one of the terraces at the lower docks of Oudegracht
- Climb the Dom tower, a full 112 meters high. You can climb to near the top.
- Take a tour with a boat through the canals
- Take a bicycle tour through the old city centre
- Find out the stories behind the buildings in a free tour
- Rent a canal bike and pedal your own way around the canals. [www]
- Try a locally brewed beer at Stadskasteel Oudaen, which is a 13th-century city castle turned restaurant.
The Wilhelminapark, Park Lepelenburg and the Julianapark are nice places to chill out in summer.
- Stadsschouwburg (City Theatre), Lucasbolwerk 24. The building itself is a city's landmark. It was designed in 1937 by the famous architect Willem Dudok. Almost all theatre performances are in Dutch, but there are also dance and music performances. There are two halls inside the Stadsschouwburg, the Douwe Egberts Zaal (Douwe Egberts Hall) and the Blauwe Zaal (Blue Hall). Students can buy tickets 30 minutes before the start of a show for a reduced fee (€9 for shows in the Douwe Egberts zaal, €7 for shows in the Blauwe Zaal), provided the show is not sold out yet.
- Theater Kikker, Ganzenmarkt 14 (close to the City Hall). A small theatre. Every month they have a Kikker Koopje, a performance by beginning artists for €7 [www].
Watch a movie at one of many cinemas. With the exception of some animated movies (and even those are usually available in the original language as well), all movies are subtitled and not dubbed, so you should be able to enjoy all the standard Hollywood fare in the original English. As any large city, Utrecht has its share of cinemas showing Hollywood movies:
- Pathé Rembrandt Utrecht, Oudegracht 73 (on the route from the Central Station to Neude). One large and two small theatre rooms. This cinema, or at least the main theatre room, is the largest, and generally considered most pleasant, of the chain cinemas in the city.
More interesting are the three independent cinemas, these specialize in art house movies and also are ideal places to get a drink or have dinner:
- Filmtheater 't Hoogt, Hoogt 4 (between Neude and Janskerkhof), , fax: 030-2312940, e-mail:[email protected].
- Louis Hartlooper Complex, Tolsteegbrug 1 (all the way down the Oudegracht), , fax: 030 232 04 51, e-mail:[email protected]. Film and culture centre, housed in a former police station.
- Springhaver, Springweg 50 (between the Central Station and the Oudegracht), , fax: 030 231 0968, e-mail:[email protected].
Festivals and events
- Visit the Gaudeamus Muziekweek 2–9 September 2012. This is the internationally celebrated annual festival for young composers and new music. Apart from the annual festival they also organize a monthly series of new, contemporary music.
- The yearly Utrecht Festival of Old Music, called Festival Oude Muziek, lasting 26 August - 4 September 2011, brings to Utrecht some of the best artists in the world of authentic performance, but reserves some space for future talent as well. Concerts of all sizes are scattered over some of the city's most beautiful churches, with major performances held at Vredenburg Leidsche Rijn and the old Dom Church and a nice central lounge. There are over 60 free 'fringe' concerts and a set student price of €7.
- Visit the Parade, a yearly open air summer festival with theatre, comedy, dance, music and much more. De Parade is a traveling festival that visits Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam and the Hague every summer.
- Koningsdag (Kingsday). Visit the festivities for the Dutch royal house on 26th of April 18:00 till 27th of April 18:00 in the city center (dress code is bright orange).
- Dutch Movie Festival. Usually in the 2nd half of September. For ten days, Utrecht is the Mekka of the Dutch film.
- In November every year the indie rock festival, Le Guess Who, takes place in Tivoli Oude Gracht, Tivoli De Helling, Ekko, DBs and other locations.
As the population of Utrecht contains a lot of students, naturally there are a lot of places where you can spend the day or night having some drinks and a dance. Most are located in the city center. Main hubs for drinks are Neude, Janskerkhof, Mariaplaats and Ledig Erf.
- The terraces at Neude, Janskerkhof or Ledig Erf
- The lower docks near the canal Oudegracht
- The cafe's at the street Lucasbolwerk
- Stairway to Heaven is a large rockcafe at Mariaplaats 11-12.
- Olivier at the Achter Clarenburg. A Belgian cafe with some thirty beers. Located in an old church.
- Theatercafé De Bastaard, Jansveld 17. Students, artists, the occasional local celebrity. There is a pool table in the back.
- Jan Primus, Jan van Scorelstraat 27 - 31. It’s a little out of the centre of the city near the Wilhelmina Park. No music, no slot machine, no nothing. Just 160 beers. 10 draught and 150 bottled.
- httP://www.dezaak-utrecht.nl/ Café De Zaak is a very nice terrace for drinks. Located at the Korte Minrebroederstraat, next to the city hall, the pink house. Food? Bring your own!
Along the Oudegracht
The Oudegracht is home to a lot of bars, both in- and outdoors, and both at street and at water level. From north to south:
- Stadskasteel Oudaen, Oudegracht 99, . is a 13th century city castle turned restaurant. They have their own theatre and more importantly their own brewery, where they brew the local beers Ouwe Daen, Jonge Daen en Linteloo Gold. Highly recommended.
- De Witte Ballons, Lijnmarkt 12 (On the west side of Oudegracht, halfway the city center. From the Domplein, walk under the Domtoren, straight ahead, over the Oudegracht, first left, on your left after 20 metres), . is a small and cosy café
- Café België, Oudegracht 196, . has good music and a selection of 198 different beers of which 20 are draught. Also serve nice food for a reasonable price. Try the Celis White if you like white beer and try the Trock Banaan if you want to try a beer that tastes just like the banana sweets you probably ate when you were a kid (Most likely you are going to get a question from the bartender like “Are you sure you want to have this??”).
- Ledig Erf, Tolsteegbrug 3 (located at the very south tip of the Oudegracht), . at the south end of the Oudegracht has a large outdoor seating area which is packed whenever the sun is shining.
- The clubs near the square Janskerkhof provide a great dancing opportunity for young people (Filemon, Pakhuis, Hofman).
- The clubs at the street Oudkerkhof provide a great dancing opportunity for everyone (Havana, Dikke Dries).
- Other cafes, recommended for students, are Beurs (at Neude), Zussen and Hemmingway (near Janskerkhof).
- The main venue for pop concerts and for dancing are Tivoli Oude Gracht, Tivoli de Helling, Ekko, Kargadoor, De Vloer and DBs (close to the train station Zuilen).
- The club for techno fans is Club Poema.
- ACU, Voorstraat 71, , e-mail: [email protected]. This is a smaller, more intimate venue and political-cultural centre. They host a large variety of things, such as a small cinema (smoking allowed), art exhibitions, cafe literature, concerts, disco, gay events, and they serve vegan food every Tuesday to Saterday.
- Derrick is a (small) disco in the old meaning of the word. Only 70s, 80s, and 90s music.
- 't Oude Pothuys, Oudegracht 279 (On the west side of Oudegracht, a bit south of the city center), . is a cafe in a basement, with live music almost every night.
Safety in Utrecht
Utrecht as a student city is quite safe, although there are some neighbourhoods in the outskirts that you probably don't want to visit. As always, don’t flash your wallet at markets and have a natural caution for pickpockets in the city centre. Unfortunately, bike thefts are a common nuisance, so if you travel by bike, make sure you have good locks and park your bike at a bike parking spots. Parking your bike in the city centre is easy as Utrecht has it owns bike parking route. Parking lots for bikes are located under the Vredenburg (entrance between Zara and The Sting), the Neude (Neudeflat), Zadelstraat, under the City Hall, under the stairs at the Stationsplein West or the Jaarbeursplein.
You are unlikely to have any business in the lower-income and immigrant neighbourhoods such as Kanaleneiland and Overvecht south-west and north of the city center. While serious crime rarely takes place, they are best avoided unless you want to tempt fate. If for some reason you do end up in these neighbourhoods it is strongly advised to keep your mobile phone and camera concealed. The youth in this area is known to act aggressively if they suspect they are being filmed or photographed.