Utrecht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. Founded by the Romans in 48 A.D. as 'Ultrajectum', meaning; end of the road , because it was here where the roman empire stopped at the shore of the Rhine river. it grew to be the largest Dutch city in the 12th-14th century. At that time the city was the religious center end contained over 50 churches and chapels. Many of them were destroyed when a hurricane hit the town in the 17th century. It was briefly capital of The Netherlands in 1808.
With a hefty medieval feel still dominant in the city, Utrecht practically drips with history, while the city centre is a maze of complexity overseen by the Dom, a tower that protrudes more than 100 meters into the city skyline.
Climbing to the peak of the Dom, in fact, offers sensational views over this compact little city, though it’ll take you more than 400 steps to reach the 50 bells overlooking the city at the top. Utrecht is also known for its delicate sunken canals, many of which are lined with shops that date back beyond living memory, housed in the basements of crumbling, picturesque buildings and each sporting a petite tulip in the window. The real must-see in Utrecht, though, is the medieval quarter, which is home to still more ancient allure, and continues its 13th century theme with attractions like the Museum Het Catharijneconvent, both a gothic convent and the home of religious relics dating back 800 years.
It wouldn’t be Utrecht (or Holland, for that matter) without tulips, which can be bought in chocolate form as a perfect souvenir, or – in spring – explored for field after field of incredible technicolor on bicycle and enjoyed ‘in captivity’ at the Keukenhof Gardens, where more than seven million burst into bloom every year.
In truth, Utrecht seems a small place – a tiny province in Northern Holland utterly dominated by the ancient city of the same name. The quirky attractions and historical tinge pull the city together (check out the brick ‘Inkpot’ building now home to an artistic UFO hovering precariously over the street, or the home of ‘Miffy’ artist Dick Bruna, complete with a tiny, comic statue outside).
Utrecht falls some way short of the international prestige of Amsterdam or the hardened industrial allure of Rotterdam, but in showcasing the more delicate and traditional of Dutch attractions, it’s every bit as vital to your trip.
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