Welcome to UTRECHT
Utrecht is best viewed from the very tip of its legendary Dom Tower, where it becomes clear that is a city divided neatly into past and present. The Old Town is a charming huddle of early medieval architecture, wharves, canals, and coloured houses clinging to the edges of the ribbons of water like a Northern Venice.
Then there is the dramatic, linear side of the city, built in the Sixties and Seventies in the Modernist style, and now undergoing significant refurbishment.
Utrecht is small but determined, bursting with culture and artistic endeavour. It’s a young city, filled with students of the ancient university, crammed with bars, cafes and galleries and yet steeped in the past and bathed in the pure, painterly light of the Dutch masters.
Built on the water, Utrecht is ringed by the Oudegracht, a canal which follows the curve of the old Rhine, and is lined by the historic wharf-basement structures unique to Utrecht, creating a two-level canalside street.
Creative and energetic, artistic and historic, Utrecht pulls off the tricky feat of being both elegant and vibrant. It’s best seen from a boat or a bike- and that’s a sincere compliment.
EAT & DRINK
Utrecht is a haven of cosy cafes and elegant restaurants- the Old Town is a great place to spend an evening wandering the little bars. We recommend:
CAFÉ OLIVIER Which has just been awarded the accolade of ‘best bar in the Netherlands.’ Situated in an old church, it’s both atmospheric and lively, with over 70 Belgian beers and a tasty menu of mussels and bar snacks.
LE FEBVRE (Neude 2 Utrecht, Netherlands 3512 AD 030 200 0225) Good wines, a charming terrace and knowledgeable staff make this wine bar as popular with locals as with tourists. Set in a pretty square in the Old Town, this is a lovely spot for an early evening drink.
DEEG This chic restaurant offers low lighting, stylish contemporary decor and beautifully cooked modern Dutch food, presented like tiny art installations. Friendly, multi-lingual staff and interesting combinations of fresh, seasonal ingredients make it worth the price. (Lange Nieuwstraat 71)
WINKEL VAN SINKEL This delightfully named grand homage to Art Deco was a first department store, then a bank- and was converted to a restaurant, nightclub and bar almost twenty years ago. The Grand Café within is a perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine, with its glittering mirrors, high ceilings and Deco styling, and on sunny days, there’s an outdoor terrace which overlooks the canal.
DEN DRAECK (The Dragon) A former canalside warehouse converted into a cellar restaurant with a terrace that extends to the water. The Dragon’s oldest corners date back to medieval times, and the food is informal, well-made and affordable.
The city centre of Utrecht is car- free which makes it a perfect place to walk and cycle.
Utrecht holds regular ‘cultural Sundays’, when theatres, museums and galleries offer free entry and reduced admission, and exhibitions are held to showcase the work of amateur and up and coming artists.
The city has a different market every day- try the cloth market on a Saturday morning, or the glorious flower market.
Travel-lovers should head for the Railway Museum, a charming celebration of trains from the age of steam onwards.
Utrecht is full of green spaces- on a sunny day, enjoy a walk in Wilhelminapark, or Lepelenburgpark or the beautiful botanical gardens.
Rietveld Schroder house - Lovers of architecture should see the house designed by Gerrit Rietveld in the famous ‘de stijl’ style of space and colour, made famous by Mondrian, and a monument on the UNESCO World Heritage List.