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Utrecht ( ) city and municipality is the capital and most populous city of the Dutchmarker province of Utrechtmarker. It is located in the eastern end of the Randstadmarker, and is the fourth largest city of the Netherlandsmarker, with a population of 300,030 in 2007. The smaller Utrecht agglomeration including adjacent suburbs and annexed towns is home to some 640,000 registered inhabitants, while the larger region contains up to 820,000 inhabitants.

Utrecht's ancient city-centre features many buildings and structures from its earliest origins onwards. It has been the religious centre of the Netherlands since the eighth century. Currently it is the see of the Archbishop of Utrechtmarker, the most important Dutch Roman Catholic leader. Utrecht is also the see of the archbishop of the Old Catholic church, titular head of the Union of Utrecht , and the location of the offices of the main Protestant church. Until the golden age, Utrecht was the city of most importance in the northern Netherlands (the present-day country of the Netherlands, excluding Belgium and Luxembourg), until Amsterdam became the cultural and populous centre of the Netherlands.

Utrecht is host to Utrecht University, the largest university of the Netherlands, as well as several other institutes for higher education. Due to its central position within the country it is an important transportation hub (rail and road) in the Netherlands. It has the second highest number of cultural events in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam.


Origins (Until 650)

Although there is some evidence of earlier inhabitation in the region of Utrecht, dating back to the Stone Age (app. 2200 BCE) and settling in the Bronze Age (app. 1800–800 BCE), the founding date of the city is usually related to the construction of a Roman fortification (castellum), probably built in around 50 CE. These fortresses were designed to house a cohort of about 500 Roman soldiers. Near the fort a settlement would grow housing artisans, traders and soldiers' wives and children.A line of such fortresses was built after the Roman emperor Claudius decided the empire should not expand further north. To consolidate the border the limes Germanicus defense line was constructed. This line was located at the borders of the main branch of the river Rhinemarker, which at that time flowed through a more northern bed compared to today, along what is now the Kromme Rijn.

In Roman times the name of the Utrecht fortress was simply Traiectum denoting its location on the Rhine at a ford. Traiectum became Dutch Trecht. The U comes from Old Dutch "uut" meaning downriver. It was added to distinguish from the other Tricht, Maas-tricht. In 11th century official documents it was then Latinized as Ultra Traiectum. Over time the two parts of the name would merge and evolve into the current name "Utrecht".In the second century, the wooden walls were replaced by sturdier tuff stone walls, remnants of which are still to be found below the buildings around Dom Square.

From the middle of the 3rd century Germanic tribes regularly invaded the Roman territories. Around 275 the Romans could no longer maintain the northern border and Utrecht was abandoned. Little is known about the next period 270-650. Utrecht is first spoken of again in the 7th century when the influence of the growing realms of the Franks led Dagobert I to build a church devoted to Saint Martin within the walls of the Roman fortress. In ongoing border conflicts with the Frisians the church was however destroyed.

Centre of Christianity in the Netherlands (650-1579)

By the mid 7th century, English and Irish missionaries set out to convert the Frisians. The pope appointed their leader, Willibrordus, bishop of the Frisians; which is usually considered to be the beginning of the Bishopric of Utrecht. In 723, the Frankish king bestowed the fortress in Utrecht and the surrounding lands as the base of bishops. From then on Utrecht became one of the most influential seats of power for the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands.The see of the archbishops of Utrecht was located at the uneasy northern border of the Carolingian Empire. Furthermore it had to compete with the nearby trading centre Dorestadmarker, also founded near the location of a Roman fortress. After the downfall of Dorestad around 850, Utrecht became one of the most important cities in the Netherlands. The importance of Utrecht as a centre of Christianity is illustrated by the appointment of the Utrecht-born Adriaan Florenszoon Boeyens as pope in 1522 (the last non-Italian pope before John Paul II).


When the Frankish rulers established the system of feudalism, the Bishops of Utrecht came to exercise worldly power as prince-bishops. The realm of the bishopry included not only the land of the modern province of Utrecht (Nedersticht, 'lower Sticht'), but also extended to the northeast. However, the feudalist system resulted in conflict between the different lords. The prince bishopry had its conflicts with the Counts of Holland and the Dukes of Guelders. The Veluwemarker region was soon taken by Guelders, but large areas in the modern province of Overijssel remained as the Oversticht.

Clerical buildings

The clergy built several churches and monasteries inside, or close to, the city of Utrecht. Most dominant of these was the gothic Cathedral of Saint Martinmarker, inside the old Roman fortress. The construction of this cathedral started in 1254 after an earlier romanesque cathedral had been badly damaged by fire. When the choir and transept were finished from 1320 the ambitious Dom towermarker was built. The central nave was the last part to be constructed from 1420. By that time, however, the time of the great cathedrals had ended and declining finances prevented this ambitious cathedral from being finished, resulting in the construction of the central nave being suspended before finishing the planned flying buttresses.Besides the cathedral there were four additional collegiate churches in Utrecht: St. Salvator's Church (demolished in the 16th century), on the Dom square, dating back to the early 8th century. Saint John (Janskerk), originating in 1040; Saint Petermarker, building started in 1039 and Saint Mary's church building started around 1090 (demolished in the early 19th century, cloister survives).Besides these churches the city housed Saint Paul abbey. The 15th century beguine monastery of Saint Nicholas, and a 14th century chapter house of the Teutonic Knights.

Besides these buildings which were part of the hierarchy of the bishopric; an additional four parish churches were constructed in the city: the Jacobichurch (dedicated to Saint James), founded in the 11th century, with the current gothic church dating back to the 14th century; the Buurkerk (Neighbourhood-church) of the 11th century parish in the centre of the city; Nicolaichurch (dedicated to Saint Nicholas), from the 12th century and the 13th century Geertekerk (dedicated to Saint Gertrude of Nivelles).

City of Utrecht

The location on the banks of the river Rhine allowed Utrecht to become an important trade centre in the Northern Netherlands. The growing town Utrecht received city rights in 1122.When the main flow of the Rhine moved south, the old bed, which still flowed through the heart of the town became evermore canalized; and a unique wharf system was built as an inner city harbour system. On the wharfs storage facilities (werfkelders) were built, on top of which the main street, including houses was constructed. The wharfs and the cellars are accessible from a platform at water level with stairs descending from the street level to form a unique structure. The relations between the bishop, who controlled many lands outside of the city, and the citizens of Utrecht was not always easy. The bishop, for example dammed the Kromme Rijn at Wijk bij Duurstedemarker to protect his estates from flooding. This threatened shipping for the city and led the city of Utrecht to commission a canal to ensure access to the town for shipping trade: the Vaartse Rijn, connecting Utrecht to the Hollandse IJssel at IJsselsteinmarker.

The end of independence

In 1528 the worldly powers of the bishop over both Neder- and Oversticht, including the city of Utrecht, were transferred to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, who became the Lord of the Seventeen Provinces, (the current Benelux and the northern parts of France). This transition was not an easy one and Charles V wanted to exert his power over the citizens of the city, who had achieved a certain level of independence from the bishops and were not willing to give this power to their new lord. Charles decided to build a heavily fortified castle Vredenburgmarker to house a large garrison whose most important task would be to maintain order in the city. The castle would last less than 50 years before it was demolished in an uprising in the early stages of the Dutch Revolt.

Republic of the Netherlands (1579-1815)

In 1579 the northern seven provinces signed the Union of Utrecht, in which they decided to join forces against Spanish rule. The Union of Utrecht is seen as the beginning of the Dutch Republic. In 1580 the new and predominantly Protestant state abolished the bishoprics, including the one in Utrecht, which had become an archbishopric in 1559. The stadtholders disapproved of the independent course of the Utrecht bourgeoisie and brought the city under much more direct control of the Hollandmarker dominated leadership of the republic. This was the start of a long period of stagnation of trade and development in Utrecht, an atypical city in the new state, still about 40% Catholic in the mid-17th century, and even more so among the elite groups, who included many rural nobility and gentry with town houses there.

The city, which was held against its will in the states of the Republic, failed to defend itself against the French invasion in 1672 (the Disaster Year)

The lack of structural integrity proved to be the undoing of the central section of the cathedral of St Martin church when Utrecht was struck by a tornado in 1674.

The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 settled the War of the Spanish Succession.

Since 1723 (but especially after 1870) Utrecht became the centre of the non-Roman Old Catholic Churches in the world.

Modern history (1815-now)

In the early 19th century the role of Utrecht as a fortified town had become obsolete. The fortifications of the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie were moved east of Utrecht. The town walls could now be demolished to allow for expansion. The moats remained intact and formed an important feature of the Zocher plantsoen, an English style landscape park that remains largely intact today.

1960s style architecture at the Jaarbeursplein

Growth of the city increased when, in 1843, a railway connecting Utrecht to Amsterdam was opened. After that, Utrecht gradually became the main hub of the Dutch railway network.

In 1853 the Dutch government allowed the bishopric of Utrecht to be reinstated by Rome, and Utrecht became the centre of Dutch Catholicism once more.

With the industrial revolution finally gathering speed in the Netherlands and the ramparts taken down, Utrecht began to grow far beyond the medieval center from the 1880s onward with the construction of neighbourhoods such as Oudwijk, Wittevrouwen, Vogelenbuurt to the East, and Lombok to the West. New middle class residential areas, such as Tuindorp and Oog in Almarker, were built in the 1920s and 1930s. During this period, several Jugendstil houses and office buildings were built, followed by Rietveld who built the Rietveld Schröder Housemarker (1924), and Dudok's construction of the city theater (1941).

During World War II, Utrecht was held by the Germans until the general German surrender of the Netherlands on 5 May 1945. Canadianmarker troops that surrounded the city entered it after that surrender, on May 7, 1945.

Since World War II, the city has grown considerably when new neighbourhoods such as Overvecht, Kanaleneilandmarker, Hoogravenand Lunettenmarker were built. Additionally the area surrounding the central station, and the station itself have been developed following modernist ideas of the 1960s, in a brutalist style. This led to the construction of the shopping mall Hoog Catharijne, music centre Vredenburg (Hertzberger, 1979), and conversion of part of the ancient canal structure into a highway (Catherijnebaan). Protest against further modernisation of the city centre followed even before the last buildings were finalised. In the early 21st century the whole area is being redeveloped.

Currently the city is expanding once more with the development of the Leidsche Rijnmarker housing area.



Utrecht experiences an oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb) similar to almost all of the Netherlands.


Inhabitants of Utrecht are called Utrechter or more rarely Utrechtenaar.

Utrecht city had a population of 296,305 in 2007. Utrecht is a growing municipality and projections are that the city's population will surpass 350,000 by 2017.

In Utrecht 52% of the population is female, 48% is male.Utrecht has a young population, with many inhabitants in the age category from 20 and 30 years, due to the presence of a large university.

Population in Utecht
Female Age Male
22761 15% 0-14 23994 17%
44732 30% 15-29 36165 26%
36444 24% 30-44 39434 28%
15574 10% 45-54 15996 11%
11899 8% 55-64 11484 8%
8317 6% 65-74 7457 5%
9374 6% 74+ 4764 3%

The majority of households (52.5%) in Utrecht is a single person household. About 29% of people living in Utrecht are either married, or have another legal partnership. About 3% of the population of Utrecht is divorced.

About 69% of the population is of Dutch ancestry. Approximately 10% of the population consists of immigrants from Western countries, while 21% of the population is of non-Western origin (9% Moroccan, 5% Turkish, 3% Surinamese and Dutch Caribbean and 5% of other countries).

With 9% of its population being of Moroccan heritage, Utrecht contains the largest proportion of people of Moroccan descent of any Dutch municipality.

Like Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The Hague and other large Dutch cities, Utrecht faces social problems. About 38% percent of its population either earns a minimum income or being dependant on social welfares (17% of all households). Boroughs such as Kanaleneiland, Overvecht and Hoograven consist primarily of high-rise housing developments, and are known for relatively high poverty and crime rates, as well as a high percentage of non-Dutch inhabitants (Kanaleneiland: 83%, Overvecht: 57%).

Population centres and agglomeration

Besides the city of Utrecht, the municipality of Utrecht also includes Vleuten-De Meernmarker, which was a separate municipality until 2001. Vleuten-De Meern in turn included the villages of Haarzuilens and Veldhuizen. Thus the municipality of Utrecht includes several population centres:

Utrecht is the centre of a densely populated area, which makes concise definitions of its agglomeration difficult, and somewhat arbitrary. The smaller Utrecht agglomeration counts some 420,000 inhabitants and includes Nieuwegeinmarker, IJsselsteinmarker and Maarssenmarker. It is sometimes argued that the municipalities De Biltmarker, Zeistmarker, Houtenmarker, Vianenmarker, Driebergen-Rijsenburgmarker (Utrechtse Heuvelrugmarker), and Bunnikmarker should also be counted towards the Utrecht agglomeration, bringing the total to 640,000 inhabitants. The larger region, including slightly more remote towns such as Woerdenmarker and Amersfoortmarker counts up to 820,000 inhabitants.


The Oudegracht ca. 1890.
View on the Oudegracht from the Dom tower
Utrecht's cityscape features the Dom Towermarker, belonging to the former cathedral (Dom Churchmarker). An ongoing debate is if any building in or near the centre of town may surpass the Dom Tower in height (112 m). Nevertheless, some tall buildings are now being constructed that will become part of the skyline of Utrecht. The second highest building of the city, the Rabobankmarker-tower, will be completed in 2010 and will stand 105 m tall. Two antennas will increase that height to 120 m. Two other buildings were constructed around the Nieuw Galgenwaardmarker stadium (2007). These buildings, the 'Kantoortoren Galghenwert' and 'Apollo Residence', stand 85.5 and 64.5 metres high respectively. Finally, there are controversial plans for a 262 m high skyscraper in the newly built neighbourhood of Leidsche Rijn: the 'Belle van Zuylen' tower.

Another landmark is the old centre and the canal structure in the inner city. The Oudegrachtmarker is a curved canal, partly following an old arm of the Rhinemarker. It is lined with the unique wharf-basement structures that create a two-level street along the canals. The inner city has largely retained its Medieval structure, and the moat ringing the old town is largely intact. Because of the role of Utrecht as a fortified city,which restricted construction outside the walls, until the 19th century the city has remained very compact. Surrounding the medieval core there is a ring of late 19th and early 20th century neighbourhoods, with newer neighbourhoods positioned farther out. The eastern part of Utrecht remains fairly open. The Dutch Water Line, moved east of the city in the early 19th century required open lines of fire thus prohibiting all permanent constructions until the mid of the 20th century on the east side of the city.

Due to the past importance of Utrecht as a religious centre, several monumental churches have survived. Most prominent is the Dom Churchmarker. Other notables churches include the romanesque St Peter's and St John's churches, the gothic churches of St James and St Nicholas, and the so-called Buurkerk, now converted into a [[Museum Van Speelklok tot Pierement|museum for automatically playing musical instruments]].


Because of its central location Utrecht is well connected to the rest of the Netherlands, and has a well-developed public transport network.

Public transport

Rail connections

Utrecht Centraalmarker is the main railway station of Utrecht.There are also some smaller stations in the suburbs:

There is also a museum station for the Dutch Railway Museummarker, at Utrecht Maliebaan railway station.

From Utrecht Centraal there are:

Utrecht Central Station

A light-rail line runs from Utrecht Centraal station, through the neighbourhoods of Lombok and Kanaleneilandmarker to Nieuwegeinmarker and IJsselsteinmarker. This line is operated by Connexxion.

Besides being an important node in the transportation system Utrecht hosts the headquarters of both the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railroads), the most important train company in the Netherlands, and ProRail, the state owned company that is responsible for building and maintenance of railroad tracks throughout the Netherlands.

Bus transport

Utrecht Central railway station also operates as the main local and regional bus station. The bus network of Utrecht includes

Utrecht Centraal's bus station is the busiest in the Netherlands.

The Utrecht Central railway station is also frequented by the pan-European Eurolines bus company. Furthermore, it acts as departure and arrival place of many coach companies serving holiday resorts in Spainmarker and Francemarker and during winter in Austriamarker and Switzerlandmarker.

Other transport


Utrecht is well connected to the main roads in the Netherlands. Two of the most important major roads cross near Utrecht: The A12 [The Hague - Arnhem - Germany] and the A2 [Amsterdam - Maastricht - Belgium]. Other roads are the A27 [Almere - Breda] and the A28 [Utrecht - Groningen]. Due to the increasing traffic, traffic congestion is a common phenomenon in and around Utrecht. This has led to the city being seriously contaminated with particulate dust.


Utrecht also has a medium-sized industrial port, located on the Amsterdam-Rhine Canalmarker, which is connected to the Rhinemarker river. The CTU container terminal has a capacity of 80,000 containers a year. In 2003, the port facilitated the transport of four million tons of cargo; mostly sand, gravel, fertilizer, and fodder.

Additionally some tourist boat trips are organised from various places on the Oudegracht.


The economy of Utrecht depends for a large part on the several large institutions located in the city. Production industry has a relatively small influence in Utrecht. Rabobankmarker, a large bank has its headquarters in Utrecht.
The Inkpot
Utrecht is the center of the Dutch railroad network and the location of the head office of the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railways). NS's former head office 'De Inktpot' in Utrecht is the largest brick building in the Netherlands (the "UFO" disfiguring its facade stems from an art program in 2000). The building is currently used by ProRail.

A large indoor shopping center called is located between the central railway station and the city center. The corridors have been considered public places like streets, and the main route from station to city center is therefore open all night. Over the next 20 years (counting from 2004), parts of Hoog Catharijne will disappear as a consequence of the renovation of the Station-area. Parts of the city's network of canals, which were filled to create the shopping center and central station area, will be recreated.

At the west side of the central railway station can be found the Jaarbeurs, one of the largest convention centers of the Netherlands.

One of Europe's biggest used car markets is located in the Voordorpmarker district. It is open every Tuesday except on official holidays. With thousands of second-hand vehicles on sale the market is a special point of interest for customers from Eastern European countries who even organize special one-way bus tours for shopping there.


View on the Uithof campus of Utrecht University
Utrecht is well known for its institutions of higher education. The most prominent of these is Utrecht University (est. 1636), the largest university of the Netherlandsmarker with 26,787 students (as of 2004). The university is partially based in the inner city as well as in the Uithofmarker campus area, on the east of the city. According to Shanghai Jiaotong Universitymarker's university ranking in 2007 it is the 42nd best university in the world. Utrecht also houses the much smaller University of Humanistics (estimated at a few hundred students).

Utrecht is home of one of the locations of TiasNimbas, focused on post-experience management education and the largest management school of its kind in the Netherlands. In 2007, its executive MBA program was rated the 11th best program in the world by the Financial Times.

Utrecht is also home to two other large institutions of higher education: the Hogeschool Utrecht (30,000 students), with locations in the city and the Uithof campus, and the HKU Utrecht School of the Artsmarker (3,000 students).

There are many schools for primary and secondary education; allowing for different philosophies and religions as is inherent in the Dutch school system. There is some concern about segregation in the primary schools (which is a common problem in many large cities in the Netherlands). This is caused by Dutch parents wanting to send their children to schools with a large proportion of other Dutch children, ending in a spiral where schools with a large proportion of immigrant children attract fewer and fewer Dutch children.


Miffy statue at the Nijntjepleintje in Utrecht.
city has an active cultural life, in the Netherlands second only to Amsterdam. Utrecht aims to become cultural capital of Europe in 2018.

There are several theatres and theatre companies. The 1941 main city theater was built by Dudok. Besides theatres there is a large number of cinemas including three arthouse cinemas. Utrecht is host to the Netherlands Film Festival.The city has an important classical music hall Vredenburg (1979 by Herman Hertzberger), which acoustics are considered among the best of the 20th century original music halls. Young musicians are educated in the conservatory (a department of the Utrecht School of the Artsmarker). There is a specialised museummarker of automatically playing musical instruments. Located at the OudeGracht is the rock club Tivoli (which has a second location just outside the centre). There are several other venues for music throughout the city.

There are many art galleries in Utrecht. There are also several foundations to support art, and artists. Training of artists is done at the Utrecht School of the Artsmarker. The Centraal Museummarker has many exhibitions on the arts, including a permanent exhibition on the works of Utrecht resident illustrator Dick Bruna, who is best known for creating Miffy.Utrecht also houses one of the landmarks of modern architecture, the 1924 Rietveld Schröder Housemarker, which is listed on UNESCO's world heritage sites.
1924 Rietveld Schröder House

To involve the city population as a whole (rather than the elite alone) in the cultural riches of the city, Utrecht city, in collaboration with the different cultural organisations, regularly organise cultural Sundays. During a thematic Sunday several organisations create a program, which is open to everyone without, or with a very much reduced, admission fee.Furthermore there are many initiatives for amateur artists; e.g. in the performing arts, painting and sculpture. The city subsidises an organisation for amateur education in arts aimed at all inhabitants (Utrechts Centrum voor de Kunsten), as does the university for its staff and students. Additionally there are also several private initiatives. The city council provides coupons for discounts to inhabitants who receive welfare to be used with many of the initiatives.

Utrecht is home to the premier league (professional) football club FC Utrecht, which plays in Stadium Nieuw Galgenwaardmarker. It is also the home of Kampong, the largest (amateur) sportsclub of the Netherlands (4,500 members), SV Kampong. Kampong features fieldhockey, soccer, cricket, tennis, squash and jeu de boules. Kampong's men and women top hockey squads play in the highest Dutch hockey league, the Rabohoofdklasse.


Utrecht has several smaller and larger museums. Many of those are located in the eastern part of the old town, which is called MuseumQuarter.


Utrecht hosts the yearly Utrecht Early Music Festival - Festival Oude Muziek Utrecht

In Jaarbeurs it hosts Trance Energy too.

Notable people from Utrecht

See also the category People from Utrecht

Over the ages famous people have been born and raised in Utrecht.Among the most famous Utrechters are:

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Utrecht is twinned with:

See also

External links




  1. Het ontstaan van de stad Utrecht (tot 100), Het Utrechts Archief (in Dutch)
  2. Nicoline van der Sijs (2001), Chronologisch woordenboek. De ouderdom en herkomst van onze woorden en betekenissen, blz. 100, Uitgeverij L.J. Veen, Amsterdam/Antwerpen, ISBN 9020420453 (in Dutch)
  3. All other canal cities in The Netherlands (such as Leiden, Amsterdam and Delft) have the water in canals bordering directly to the road surface
  4. Wayne Franits, Dutch Seventeenth-Century Genre Painting, p.65, Yale UP, 2004, ISBN 0300102372
  5. The term Utrechtenaar has become a profane expression for homosexual after the 1730-31 sodomy trials, and has fallen into disuse since. This distinction, however, is not always known by Dutch speakers from outside the region, who may use the term Utrechtenaar without being aware of the specific connotation.
  7. Historische Atlas van de stad Utrecht. ISBN 90-8506-189-X
  8. Wandelplatform-LAW. Waterliniepad (in Dutch) 1st edition, 2004. ISBN 90-71068-61-7
  9. Kerken Kijken Utrecht | Home
  10. UrbanRail.Net > Europe > Netherlands > Utrecht Sneltram / Light Rail
  11. 404 Pagina niet gevonden › NS reizigers
  13. Ublad Online > Peter de Haan promoot Utrecht als culturele hoofdstad van Europa

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