User:Ruud Koot/Sandbox/Utrecht

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The Oudegracht. In the centre the Dom Church tower.

Utrecht [1] is a central Dutch city with a long history. With 300,000 inhabitants it’s the fourth largest city in the Netherlands. The history of the city goes back to 47 AD when the Roman emperor Claudius ordered his general Corbulo to build a defensive line along the river Rhine which was the northern most border of the empire. One of the strongholds (or Castella) along the river was build at a crossing in the river and was called Traiectum (which means crossingplace). In the local language this became Trecht, Uut-Trecht (lower-Trecht) and later Utrecht. On the place where once the castellum stood now stands the Domchurch built in the 13th century.

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.


Get in[edit]

By train[edit]

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 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 and Frankfurt stops in Utrecht. For the adventurous traveller, there is a direct EuroNight [2] train connection to Moscow via Berlin, Warsaw and Minsk.

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.

By bus[edit]

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 side of the train station. The reqional buses are much slower than the trains. For information about the city buses, check the GVU website [3], 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 [4], Arriva [5] and Connexxion [6]. Time schedules for train and bus can be found at: [7].

By car[edit]

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.

By tram[edit]

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 [8]. It's a good idea to park your car there and to take the tram into town. The last two stops are both at Utrecht Centraal Station.

€4.00 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.

Get around[edit]

pedestrian street

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.

By bike[edit]

Using a bike is the easiest way to travel in the city center if the weather is on your side. There are many bicyle 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 guided bike tour. There are several companies offering a city tour.

By bus[edit]

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 [9]. These cost 5 to 6 euros and can’t be paid for using strips or OV-chipcard.

By tram[edit]

In Utrecht there is a tram line from central station to southern suburbs Nieuwegein and IJsselstein. For tourists, only the 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.

By car[edit]

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) [10] 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.


City centre[edit]

De Dom at Dawn
  • Dom church [11], Domplein, open Mo-Fr 10am-5pm (October-April 11am-4pm), Sa 10(11)am-3.30pm, Su 2pm-4pm. The Gothic Dom church (built between 1284 and 1520) is the major religious building in the city. 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.
  • 112 meter tall Domtoren [12] is the highest church tower in the Netherlands. 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. Open daily, climbing of the tower only through guided tour, admission charge.
  • Next to the Dom church, the cloister garden is ideal to sit down and relax, and listen to a Saturday morning carillon concert.
  • In addition, due to being the Netherland's centre of catholic religion for centuries, many very old churches (19+) are scattered around the city centre. You'll find a list of them at the Dutch Wikipedia.
  • Oudegracht – A 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.
  • The Vismarkt (Fishmarket, a lovely street in the plain centre).
  • Stadsschouwburg [13] Lucasbolwerk 24, the city theatre. 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.
  • The City Hall [14] Korte Minrebroederstraat 2, close to the Oudegracht, has a rather unique look.
  • Close to the city hall is Theater Kikker [15] Ganzenmarkt 14, a small theatre. Every month they have a Kikker Koopje, a performance by beginning artists for €7 [16].


Rietveld Schroder House
Minnaert-building on the Uithof university campus
  • The defining building of Utrecht is the 13th century Domchurch, part of a larger cathedral which was partially destroyed by a severe storm while under construction. The main tower is the highest building in the city by municipal mandate.
  • The 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.
  • Rietveld Schröder House Prins Hendriklaan 50 Tours organised by Centraal Museum for €16, which includes travel from Centraal Museum, Entry to Museum, Tour of House and Rietveld designed apartment, and a tea/coffee at museum. See website [17] for full details. The Rietveld-Schröderhuis, designed by Gerrit Rietveld, was built in 1923-1924 in Utrecht. The structure of the house is completely in line with the 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.
  • The Stadsschouwburg Lucasbolwerk 24 was designed in 1937 by the famous architect Willem Dudok.
  • De Uithof, which is the campus of Utrecht University on the outskirts of Utrecht, near the stadium of FC Utrecht. De Uithof is a strange mix between grey concrete buildings and buildings here that are designed by famous modern architects, like the Educatorium [18] designed by Rem Koolhaas, the University Library [19] and the Minnaert building [20]. There is also a beautiful botanical garden [21] 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.



  • Enjoy the nightlife
  • 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. [22]
  • Try a locally brewed beer at Stadskasteel Oudaen [23], which is a 13th century city castle turned restaurant.


  • 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. More interesting are the three independent cinemas: Louis Hartlooper Complex [24], 't Hoogt [25] and Springhaver. These specialize in art house movies and also are ideal places to get a drink or have dinner.


  • Visit the Gaudeamus Muziekweek [26] 2 September - 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 [27], 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 [28] 16 july - 1 august 2010, an open air festival with theatre, comedy, dance, music and much more.
  • Koninginnedag [29] Visit the festivities for the Dutch royal house on 29th of April 18:00 till 30th of April 18:00 in the city center (dress code is bright orange).
  • Dutch Movie Festival [30], usually in the 2nd half of September. For ten days, Utrecht is the Mekka of the Dutch film.
  • Summer Darkness [31], international goth festival in July.
  • 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.


  • Utrecht University [32], which has just celebrated its 375th anniversary, has developed into one of Europe’s largest and most prominent institutes of research and education. With 49 Bachelor’s programmes and 109 Master’s programmes in English, Utrecht University offers the broadest spectrum of English language disciplines available in the Netherlands and innovative research and liaises with universities and research centres all over the world. Recently ranked the Best University in the Netherlands, the 4th best University in Europe, and the 39th best in the world. Utrecht University has been home to many prominent academics, among whom Buys Ballot, Donders, Rudolf Magnus, Van Unnik and Freudenthal. Currently Nobel Prize Winner Gerard ’t Hooft (1999) is affiliated to the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy.


A ton of service positions exist in the ancient city centre. However, they usually have low wages and require fluent Dutch.


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 [33] it shows an overview of the most popular shops.

  • Hoog Catharijne, [34] is a is large indoor shopping area connected to the central hall of Utrecht Centraal Station, the main railway station of Utrecht.
  • Books. Broese [35] is a large bookstore at Stadhuisbrug 5. They have a fair selection of English books. Nearby there is also De Slegte [36], at Oudegracht 121, which has a wide selection of second hand books. Bijleveld [37] at the Janskerkhof is an old bookstore with beautiful wooden show windows. And last but not least de Rooie Rat [38], at Oudegracht 65 (next to Augustine's church), which is the oldest collectively run political bookstore of the Netherlands.
  • Music. Plato [39] at Voorstraat 35 has a fair selection at reasonable prices. Boudisque [40] 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 [41] 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, [42] 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 [43] makes a round through the center of Utrecht to deliver food and beverages with a little ‘extra’, mainly psychedelics, cannabis and energetic herbs.

Geek gear[edit]

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 (ie. Piet Snot, Elf Fantasy, the Joker and Neverneverland). Keep your eyes peeled; some of these stores are easy to miss.

  • Blunder [44] 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 [45] 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 [46]. Lots of comics located at Oudegracht 194
  • Labyrinth [47] 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 [48] 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.

  • Stadskasteel Oudaen [49], 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.
  • 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.


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 [50] 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 [51], 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.


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:


  • 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 [52], Tivoli de Helling, Ekko [53], Kargadoor, De Vloer and DBs (close to the train station Zuilen).
  • The club for techno fans is Club Poema [54].
  • A smaller, more intimate venue, is political-cultural centre ACU [55]. 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 vegetarian and vegan food.
  • Derrick [56] is a (small) disco in the old meaning of the word. Only 70s, 80s, and 90s music.


Utrecht, like any big town, has its fair share of business hotels of the big chains.


The city's campsite (De Berekuil, on the east side of the city) has been a huge mess for a couple years now, and it is uncertain what will happen to it in the future. There are few other campsites, though some farmers also have small scale camping on their land. For instance Camping de Boomgaard, 8km from Utrecht city.





  • 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 [57] 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.

Stay safe[edit]

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 try to bolt your bike to a lamp post or bridge railing if possible. There are also some free bike parking places with surveillance in the city center and near the train station.

You are unlikely to have any business in the lower-income and immigrant neighbourhoods such as Kanaleneiland and Overvecht south and west 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 adviced 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.

Go next[edit]

  • Soest (Netherlands) - home to the biggest dune area in Utrecht
  • Soesterberg — home to the Dutch national air force museum
  • Haarzuilens — a small village which is home to the Castle De Haar
  • Wijk bij Duurstede — a typically old dutch town on the Rhine river; dikes galore!
  • Rhenen — played a key-role in the WWII Grebbelinie defense. Beautiful forests and a great zoo
  • Rhijnauwen — take a walk in the forests between the Uithof and Bunnik
Routes through Utrecht
AmsterdamMaarssen  N NL-A2.png S  CulemborgMaastricht
The HagueWoerden  W NL-A12.png E  VeenendaalArnhem
AlmereHilversum  N NL-A27.png S  GorinchemBreda
END  S NL-A28.png N  AmersfoortGroningen