For the last two weeks of my time in Holland I have put together a list of places to see and things to do. Utrecht was an easy decision. Only 30min on the train from Amsterdam and a very pretty town. I had been here for a business trip many years ago, but spent the little free time I had watching a Ludwig Ehrhard docu. Now I had the time to get lost in the streets & canals … and so I did amidst pure sunshine.
It was a sunny day and I left it a little late to leave Amsterdam, but got to Utrecht before 11am. I had booked a free walking tour, but this one didn’t take place and the improvised second tour didn’t fit my schedule. So off to see the town on my own. A few highlights:
- Mueseum Speelklok: It was the only museum I visited given the nice weather. It displays all sorts of automatically playing music instruments. I liked most the one that plays a violine automatically (originally designed as coin operated machine to play in casinos). They offer free tours for adults and kids and have several corners for kids to get busy while seeing the museum. Even today, you can see some of the music machines on Dutch streets (like I did in Gouda & Amsterdam).
- Utrecht cathedral & Dom tower: Utrecht has always been the religious center of Holland and its Gothic cathedral (Saint Martin) was the largest for a long time. However, the collapse of the nave changed that and left the tower standing free. Now, the 112m tower is the landmark of the city. While I was visiting, the cathedral had a photo exhibition on display showing portraits of incureable ill people taken by several artists sponsored by LEVENXL foundation (https://www.vereeuwigd.nu/). Inspiring and a nice alternative way to utilise the large church space. I also encoutered my first contactless donation station …
- Canals: Utrecht, as most Dutch cities, has plenty of water about. Originally used for trade and transport, they are now a firm part of how locals & tourists spend their spare time. Very exnjoyable are the little cafe’s canalside where you won’t find it hard to relax and recharge.
- Utrecht university: The university is one of the oldest in Holland (est. 1636) and a major factor for the economy with a budget of cEUR800m, some 30,000 students and 5,500 staff. It ranks no1 university in Holland and 13th in Europe. I have to admit that I certainly didn’t have such a nice buolding to study in as the students in Utrecht do! And also nowhere near as centrally located.
“Sol Iustitiae Illustra Nos” [Sun of Justice, shine upon us.]
– University of Utrecht motto
Utrecht overview: Utrecht is a town with 350k inhabitants (and counting) that is the religious center of Holland since the 8th century. It’s city center boasts loads of old and well preserved houses some dating back to the middle ages. In the Dutch golden age, Utrecht was the most important city surpassing Amsterdam. It remains a large cultural center for Holland (2nd most cultural events after Amsterdam), hosts serrval educational facilities and is a transport and trade hub due to its central location (the railway headquarters are based here).