Utrecht’s City Center
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 center 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 center and most populous city.
- Dom church, 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 of all sculpture during Reformation, but its exterior remains a lavishly decorated example of Dutch Gothic architecture.
- 112 meter tall Domtoren 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. 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.
- Between the church and the tower at Dom Square is the entrance to DomUnder, an underground interactive exibition under the Square between the stone remains since Roman times.
- 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. A poem in the pavement runs along Oudegracht (from house number 279 onwards): the ‘Letters of Utrecht’. Every Saturday at 1pm the next letter is hewn from the next stone and added to a poem without end. Year markers for the coming decades and centuries up to 2300 are embedded in the pavement further along.
- The Vismarkt (Fishmarket, a lovely street in the plain centre).
- Stadsschouwburg 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 Korte Minrebroederstraat 2, close to the Oudegracht, has a rather unique look.
- Close to the city hall is Theater Kikker Ganzenmarkt 14, a small theatre. Every month they have a Kikker Koopje, a performance by budding artists for €7.