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Utrecht is one of the Netherlands’s oldest cities, with a history that spans over 2,000 years. A medieval city, small in size with yet so large heritage and history! Utrecht is a walkable city that allows visitors to explore every inch of it simply by walking – can you think of a better way to get to know a destination that consists of canals and picturesque bridges? Book your flights to Utrecht and you will find myriads of museums, interesting galleries, architectural gems and historic castles, all dating back to the 16th century, Utrecht’s grandest era. And when you think you’ve seen it all, there is always a world class festival, a concert or a performance that will keep you busy every time of the year. Smaller than Amsterdam but of equal interest, Utrecht is famous for its relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere, youthful spirit due to its large student population and many choices of cheap accommodation in the city centre of Utrecht. In Utrecht, you feel always welcome!
Utrecht is situated where the roman castle Traiectum was founded in 47 A.D., a fortification of the empire’s northern borders, across River Rhine. It was in the 7th century, when English missionary Willibrord redesigned the castle from scratch and used it as a missionary base, to bring Christianity to the Netherlands.
The centuries that followed, Utrecht was transformed into a major religious centre. The construction of an extended canal system lead Utrecht to further development, until 1579, when the Treaty of Utrecht was signed, making the city an official member of the north Dutch provinces.Modern Utrecht remains a city with its own charm, the fourth largest city of the country and second liveliest after Amsterdam! The canals, the atmosphere, the art, the nightlife, it’s all there, minus the touristic craziness of the capital. Once you’re in the Netherlands, be sure to check Utrecht out!
Amsterdam’s international airport (Schiphol Amsterdam Airport) is Utrecht’s nearest airport, 50 kilometres north of the city centre. From there, trains to Utrecht depart regularly. The trip lasts 40 minutes and fares start at 8.50€.
Getting around Utrecht
Utrecht’s public transportation system consists of buses and trams, but it’s easy to get around the city by bike or walking. Fares start at 2.50€ and minimum taxi fare is 2.65€.
Utrecht is a small city, so the best way to get to know it is on foot.
Start your day in Utrecht at Domplein, the city’s central square. That is where Utrecht’s most popular and significant landmarks are to be found, the Cathedral (Domkerk) and its bell tower (Domtoren), both constructed in the 14th century.
The Domtoren is particularly impressive, as it has a height of 112 metres, making it the tallest religious structure in the Netherlands! Its construction was completed in a period of 300 years and, on a clear day, once you go up its 465 stairs, you can even see as far as Amsterdam.
A rather unfortunate event happened in 1674, when a violent wind storm from the North Sea caused the Cathedral’s nave to collapse. The empty place of where the nave once stood, now is named Domplein!Feel free to wander around Domtoren’s area, or follow one of the guided tours inside the cathedral, down the treasury (Schatkamer) and across the cathedral’s garden (Kloostergang).
Within short distance, you can find side by side three of the city’s most important and entertaining museums:
- The Catharijneconvent Museum, housed in an imposing gothic building once used as a monastery, will guide you through the cultural and religious history of the Dutch society in Utrecht, with extensive collections of religious art.
- The Centraal Museum features historical and archaeological collections from across Utrecht, 17th-century art exhibitions and special examples of Utrecht Caravaggism artwork.
- The National Railway Museum tells the story of the most popular means of transportation in the Netherlands and in Europe: trains! Collections include historic trains, steam engines and old carriages, miniatures, designs and documents.
You cannot leave Utrecht without seeing De Haar, the city’s most famous castle! Fully refurbished, it now houses marvelous decorative collections, furniture, Persian carpets and a beautiful garden often called “Little Versailles”.Dutch is the official language, but in Amsterdam - and certain other municipalities of the Netherlands - English is also recognised as an official language. Either way, you can communicate in English, Dutch, French or German with practically every resident of the city.