5 reasons why Utrecht is a great city
There are so many amazing things to say about Utrecht. It’s an instantly likeable city, from its obvious beauty to the relaxed atmosphere that is almost impossible to describe.
The fourth largest city in the Netherlands
It’s a city that is both small and lively, ancient and innovative, always maintaining its historical centre and at the same time constantly updating itself. Utrecht, the fourth largest city in the Netherlands, is an amazing city and here are five reasons why:
Utrecht's compact size
The city is relatively small in size, despite its population of around 345.000. You can navigate the whole city easily on foot. There’s an extensive pedestrian-only zone making up most of the city centre, which makes it even easier to stroll around. Even though Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands, it is compact in size and therefore very easy to get a broad sense of the city in a short space of time.
Unique Utrecht canals
Utrecht’s inner-city canals have a unique appearance because they have wharves. If you’re at the Oudegracht (Old Canal), you’ll notice a lower level to the canal where you can find bars and restaurants a few metres below the street, almost at water level. This was where merchant ships used to drop off goods back in the 13th century, and these goods were stored in the warehouses along the wharf.
Nowadays, restaurants, bars, shops and even night clubs have come to inhabit these former warehouses, and the former offloading pavements are now seating areas and pedestrian walkways, so the streets have an unusual split-level character.
The same wharf structure exists on the Nieuwegracht (New Canal), although this street is mostly residential with a few small businesses operating there, so the Nieuwegracht wharves are a lovely place to take a stroll and see your surroundings from another point of view.
The largest university in the Netherlands
With around 30.000 studying at Utrecht University, it’s larger than any other university in the country. Many people are unaware of this fact, although it’s not difficult to notice that the student population is disproportionately large compared to the neat size of the city. Utrecht University is also one of the oldest in the Netherlands, established in 1636, and is renowned for major breakthroughs in science over the centuries.
The hub of the Dutch rail network
Utrecht has the busiest train station in the Netherlands, being at the centre of the country, with an average of about 900 train journeys departing from Utrecht on a working day and many more passing by. If you live near the hub of such a rail network, you can really benefit from it.
From Utrecht, you’re less than half an hour away from Amsterdam and Schiphol airport, and it’s equally as easy to get to cities in the east, like Arnhem, as it is to get to Rotterdam or The Hague in the west, with an average journey time of 38 minutes to each of these three cities. At Utrecht Central Station, you can also hop on the ICE train to German cities like Dusseldorf, Cologne and Berlin.
A historic city centre
Utrecht is a historic city with intact Medieval buildings. It has been an important centre of Christianity since the 8th century and was actually the most important city for hundreds of years. During the Dutch Golden Age, this honour was passed onto Amsterdam and the capital city's prominence has remained ever since.
On a day visiting the sites of Utrecht, there are more Medieval churches than you could possibly count. The famous Dom tower is the focal point of Utrecht, right in the heart of the city centre. It was once connected to the cathedral of Saint Martin, but that portion of the building was damaged and never rebuilt - which is why, nowadays, the tower stands all by itself, overlooking the city and its surrounding areas.
One of the world’s first ever peace negotiations took place in Utrecht. In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht put an end to the long-running war with the Spanish.
Utrecht is a beautiful and dynamic little city with a lot to offer. Although often compared to other Dutch cities, especially Amsterdam, Utrecht has its very own unique character and remains popular with tourists, but to a less overwhelming degree.
Have you ever visited Utrecht? Or have you recently moved and have something to share? Let us know in the comments.