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Utrecht Altstadt 32.jpg
Utrecht Altstadt 07.jpg
Sol Lumen.jpg
Utrecht Altstadt 14.jpg
Utrecht Altstadt 21.jpg
Photographs of the city, with the Dom Tower of St. Martin's Cathedral in the centre
Utrecht gemeente wapen.svg
Coat of arms
Map - NL - Municipality code 0344 (2009).svg
Location in Utrecht
Coordinates: 52°5′N5°7′E / 52.083°N 5.117°E / 52.083; 5.117 Coordinates: 52°5′N5°7′E / 52.083°N 5.117°E / 52.083; 5.117
Country Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands
Province Utrecht (province)-Flag.svg  Utrecht
  Body Municipal council
   Mayor Jan van Zanen (VVD)
  Municipality99.21 km2 (38.31 sq mi)
  Land94.33 km2 (36.42 sq mi)
  Water4.88 km2 (1.88 sq mi)
   Randstad 3,043 km2 (1,175 sq mi)
5 m (16 ft)
(Municipality, August 2017; Urban and Metro, May 2014; Randstad, 2011) [2] [4] [5]
  Density3,658/km2 (9,470/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Utrechter(s) [nb 1]
Time zone UTC+1 (CET)
  Summer (DST) UTC+2 (CEST)
3450–3455, 3500–3585
Area code 030
Website www.utrecht.nl

Utrecht ( /ˈjuːtrɛkt/ ; Dutch pronunciation: [ˈytrɛxt] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen )) is the fourth-largest city and a municipality of the Netherlands, capital and most populous city of the province of Utrecht. It is located in the eastern corner of the Randstad conurbation, and in the very centre of mainland Netherlands, and had a population of 345,080 in 2017.

Netherlands Constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Europe

The Netherlands is a country located mainly in Northwestern Europe. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve separate provinces that border Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean Sea—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba— it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch, but a secondary official language in the province of Friesland is West Frisian.

Provinces of the Netherlands first-level administrative division in the Netherlands

There are currently twelve provinces of the Netherlands, representing the administrative layer between the national government and the local municipalities, with responsibility for matters of subnational or regional importance.

Utrecht (province) Province of the Netherlands

Utrecht is a province of the Netherlands. It is located in the centre of the country, bordering the Eemmeer in the north-east, the province of Gelderland in the east and south-east, the province of South Holland in the west and south-west and the province of North Holland in the north-west and north. With an area of approximately 1,400 square kilometres (540 sq mi), it is the smallest of the twelve Dutch provinces. Apart from its eponymous capital, major cities in the province are Amersfoort, Houten, Nieuwegein, Veenendaal, IJsselstein and Zeist.


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 centre of the Netherlands since the 8th century. It lost the status of prince-bishopric but remains the main religious centre 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 centre and most populous city.

High Middle Ages period in European history from 1000-1250 CE

The High Middle Ages, or High Medieval Period, was the period of European history that commenced around 1000 and lasted until around 1250. The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and were followed by the Late Middle Ages, which ended around 1500.

Prince-bishop bishop who is a territorial Prince of the Church

A prince-bishop is a bishop who is also the civil ruler of some secular principality and sovereignty. Thus the principality or prince-bishopric ruled politically by a prince-bishop could wholly or largely overlap with his diocesan jurisdiction, since some parts of his diocese, even the city of his residence, could be exempt from his civil rule, obtaining the status of free imperial city. If the episcopal see is an archbishopric, the correct term is prince-archbishop; the equivalent in the regular (monastic) clergy is prince-abbot. A prince-bishop is usually considered an elected monarch.

Dutch Golden Age Historical period of the Netherlands from 1575 to 1675

The Dutch Golden Age was a period in the history of the Netherlands, roughly spanning the 17th century, in which Dutch trade, science, military, and art were among the most acclaimed in the world. The first section is characterized by the Eighty Years' War, which ended in 1648. The Golden Age continued in peacetime during the Dutch Republic until the end of the century.

Utrecht is host to Utrecht University, the largest university in the Netherlands, as well as several other institutions of higher education. Due to its central position within the country, it is an important transport hub for both rail and road transport. It has the second highest number of cultural events in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam. [6] In 2012, Lonely Planet included Utrecht in the top 10 of the world's unsung places. [7]

Utrecht University university in the Netherlands

Utrecht University is a university in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Established 26 March 1636, it is one of the oldest universities in the Netherlands. In 2016, it had an enrolment of 29,425 students, and employed 5,568 faculty and staff. In 2011, 485 PhD degrees were awarded and 7,773 scientific articles were published. The 2013 budget of the university was €765 million.

Rail transport Conveyance of passengers and goods by way of wheeled vehicles running on rail tracks

Rail transport is a means of transferring of passengers and goods on wheeled vehicles running on rails, also known as tracks. It is also commonly referred to as train transport. In contrast to road transport, where vehicles run on a prepared flat surface, rail vehicles are directionally guided by the tracks on which they run. Tracks usually consist of steel rails, installed on ties (sleepers) and ballast, on which the rolling stock, usually fitted with metal wheels, moves. Other variations are also possible, such as slab track, where the rails are fastened to a concrete foundation resting on a prepared subsurface.

Road transport collective term for all forms of transport which takes place on roads, exept railroads

Road transport or road transportation is a type of transport by using roads. Transport on roads can be roughly grouped into the transportation of goods and transportation of people. In many countries licensing requirements and safety regulations ensure a separation of the two industries. Movement along roads may be by bike or automobile, truck, or by animal such as horse or oxen. Standard networks of roads were adopted by Romans, Persians, Aztec, and other early empires, and may be regarded as a feature of empires. Cargo may be transported by trucking companies, while passengers may be transported via mass transit. Commonly defined features of modern roads include defined lanes and signage. Within the United States, roads between regions are connected via the Interstate Highway System.


Origins (until 650)

Willem Blaeu's 1652 map of Utrecht Traiectum - Wttecht - Utrecht (Atlas van Loon).jpg
Willem Blaeu's 1652 map of Utrecht

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), [8] the founding date of the city is usually related to the construction of a Roman fortification ( castellum ), probably built in around 50 CE. A series of such fortresses was built after the Roman emperor Claudius decided the empire should not expand north. To consolidate the border, the Limes Germanicus defense line was constructed [9] along the main branch of the river Rhine, which at that time flowed through a more northern bed compared to today (what is now the Kromme Rijn). These fortresses were designed to house a cohort of about 500 Roman soldiers. Near the fort, settlements would grow housing artisans, traders and soldiers' wives and children.

Stone Age Broad prehistoric period during which stone was widely used to make implements

The Stone Age was a broad prehistoric period during which stone was widely used to make implements with an edge, a point, or a percussion surface. The period lasted roughly 3.4 million years and ended between 8700 BCE and 2000 BCE with the advent of metalworking.

Bronze Age Prehistoric period and age studied in archaeology, part of the Holocene Epoch

The Bronze Age is a historical period characterized by the use of bronze, and in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the three-age Stone-Bronze-Iron system, as proposed in modern times by Christian Jürgensen Thomsen, for classifying and studying ancient societies.

Roman Empire Period of Imperial Rome following the Roman Republic (27 BC–395 AD)

The Roman Empire was the post-Roman Republic period of the ancient Roman civilization. Ruled by emperors, it had large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Caucasus. From the constitutional reforms of Augustus to the military anarchy of the third century, the Empire was a principate ruled from the city of Rome. The Roman Empire was then divided between a Western Roman Empire, based in Milan and later Ravenna, and an Eastern Roman Empire, based in Nicomedia and later Constantinople, and it was ruled by multiple emperors.

In Roman times, the name of the Utrecht fortress was simply Traiectum , denoting its location at a possible Rhine crossing. Traiectum became Dutch Trecht; with the U from Old Dutch "uut" (downriver) added to distinguish U-trecht from Maas-tricht. [10] [11] In 11th-century official documents, it was Latinized as Ultra Traiectum. Around the year 200, the wooden walls of the fortification were replaced by sturdier tuff stone walls, [12] remnants of which are still to be found below the buildings around Dom Square.

Traiectum (Utrecht)

Traiectum was a Roman fort, or castrum, on the frontier of the Roman Empire in Germania Inferior. The remains of the fort are in the center of Utrecht, Netherlands, which takes its name from the fort.

Old Dutch set of Franconian dialects spoke in the Low Countries during the Early Middle Ages

In linguistics, Old Dutch or Old Low Franconian is the set of Franconian dialects spoken in the Low Countries during the Early Middle Ages, from around the 5th to the 12th century. Old Dutch is mostly recorded on fragmentary relics, and words have been reconstructed from Middle Dutch and Old Dutch loanwords in French.

Tuff Rock consolidated from volcanic ash

Tuff, also known as volcanic tuff, is a type of rock made of volcanic ash ejected from a vent during a volcanic eruption. Following ejection and deposition, the ash is compacted into a solid rock in a process called consolidation. Tuff is sometimes erroneously called "tufa", particularly when used as construction material, but properly speaking, tufa is a limestone precipitated from groundwater. Rock that contains greater than 50% tuff is considered tuffaceous.

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. [9] Little is known about the next period 270–650. Utrecht is first spoken of again several centuries after the Romans left. Under the influence of the growing realms of the Franks, during Dagobert I's reign in the 7th century, a church was built within the walls of the Roman fortress. [9] In ongoing border conflicts with the Frisians, this first church was destroyed.

Franks people

The Franks were a collection of Germanic peoples, whose name was first mentioned in 3rd century Roman sources, associated with tribes on the Lower and Middle Rhine, on the edge of the Roman Empire. Later the term was associated with Romanized Germanic dynasties within the collapsing Roman Empire, who eventually commanded the whole region between the rivers Loire and Rhine. They then imposed power over many other post-Roman kingdoms and Germanic peoples, and still later they were given recognition by the Catholic Church as successors to the old rulers of the Western Roman Empire.

Dagobert I Frankish king

Dagobert I was the king of Austrasia (623–634), king of all the Franks (629–634), and king of Neustria and Burgundy (629–639). He was the last king of the Merovingian dynasty to wield any real royal power. Dagobert was the first of the Frankish kings to be buried in the royal tombs at Saint Denis Basilica.

Frisians ethnic group

The Frisians are a Germanic ethnic group indigenous to the coastal parts of the Netherlands and northwestern Germany. They inhabit an area known as Frisia and are concentrated in the Dutch provinces of Friesland and Groningen and, in Germany, East Frisia and North Frisia. The Frisian languages are still spoken by more than 500,000 people; West Frisian is officially recognised in the Netherlands, and North Frisian and Saterland Frisian are recognised as regional languages in Germany.

Centre of Christianity in the Netherlands (650–1579)

The Dom Tower seen from Downtown Utrecht. The remaining section of the Cathedral of Saint Martin is not connected to the tower since the collapse of the nave in 1674 due to a storm. Dom in Utrecht - panoramio.jpg
The Dom Tower seen from Downtown Utrecht. The remaining section of the Cathedral of Saint Martin is not connected to the tower since the collapse of the nave in 1674 due to a storm.

By the mid-7th century, English and Irish missionaries set out to convert the Frisians. Pope Sergius I appointed their leader, Saint Willibrordus, as bishop of the Frisians. The tenure of Willibrordus is generally considered to be the beginning of the Bishopric of Utrecht. [9] In 723, the Frankish leader Charles Martel bestowed the fortress in Utrecht and the surrounding lands as the base of the bishops. From then on Utrecht became one of the most influential seats of power for the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands. The archbishops of Utrecht were based at the uneasy northern border of the Carolingian Empire. In addition, the city of Utrecht had competition from the nearby trading centre Dorestad. [9] After the fall of Dorestad around 850, Utrecht became one of the most important cities in the Netherlands. [13] The importance of Utrecht as a centre of Christianity is illustrated by the election 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. [9] The territory of the bishopric not only included the modern province of Utrecht (Nedersticht, 'lower Sticht'), but also extended to the northeast. The feudal conflict of the Middle Ages heavily affected Utrecht. The prince-bishopric was involved in almost continuous conflicts with the Counts of Holland and the Dukes of Guelders. [14] The Veluwe region was seized by Guelders, but large areas in the modern province of Overijssel remained as the Oversticht.

Clerical buildings

Several churches and monasteries were built inside, or close to, the city of Utrecht. The most dominant of these was the Cathedral of Saint Martin, inside the old Roman fortress. The construction of the present Gothic building was begun in 1254 after an earlier romanesque construction had been badly damaged by fire. The choir and transept were finished from 1320 and were followed then by the ambitious Dom tower. [9] The last part to be constructed was the central nave, from 1420. By that time, however, the age of the great cathedrals had come to an end and declining finances prevented the ambitious project from being finished, the construction of the central nave being suspended before the planned flying buttresses could be finished. [9] Besides the cathedral there were four collegiate churches in Utrecht: St. Salvator's Church (demolished in the 16th century), on the Dom square, dating back to the early 8th century. [15] Saint John (Janskerk), originating in 1040; [16] Saint Peter, building started in 1039 [17] and Saint Mary's church building started around 1090 (demolished in the early 19th century, cloister survives). [18] Besides these churches, the city housed St. Paul's Abbey, [19] the 15th-century beguinage of St. Nicholas, and a 14th-century chapter house of the Teutonic Knights. [20]

Besides these buildings which belonged to the bishopric, an additional four parish churches were constructed in the city: the Jacobikerk (dedicated to Saint James), founded in the 11th century, with the current Gothic church dating back to the 14th century; [21] the Buurkerk (Neighbourhood-church) of the 11th-century parish in the centre of the city; Nicolaichurch (dedicated to Saint Nicholas), from the 12th century [22] and the 13th-century Geertekerk (dedicated to Saint Gertrude of Nivelles). [23]

City of Utrecht

Its location on the banks of the river Rhine allowed Utrecht to become an important trade centre in the Northern Netherlands. The growing town Utrecht was granted city rights by Henry V in 1122. When the main flow of the Rhine moved south, the old bed which still flowed through the heart of the town became ever more canalized; and the wharf system was built as an inner city harbour system. [24] 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. [nb 2] [25] The relations between the bishop, who controlled many lands outside of the city, and the citizens of Utrecht was not always easy. [9] The bishop, for example dammed the Kromme Rijn at Wijk bij Duurstede 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 IJsselstein.

The end of independence

In 1528 the bishop lost secular power over both Neder- and Oversticht – which included the city of Utrecht – to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Charles V combined the Seventeen Provinces (the current Benelux and the northern parts of France) as a personal union. This ended the prince-bishopric of Utrecht, as the secular rule was now the lordship of Utrecht, with the religious power remaining with the bishop, although Charles V had gained the right to appoint new bishops. In 1559 the bishopric of Utrecht was raised to archbishopric to make it the religious centre of the Northern ecclesiastical province in the Seventeen Provinces.

The transition from independence to a relatively minor part of a larger union was not easily accepted. To quell uprisings, Charles V struggled to exert his power over the city's citizens who had struggled to gain a certain level of independence from the bishops and were not willing to cede this to their new lord. The heavily fortified castle Vredenburg was built to house a large garrison whose main task was to maintain control over 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 (1579–1806)

Lambert de Hondt (II): The Surrender of Utrecht on 30 June 1672 to the French king Louis XIV, 1672, Centraal Museum Utrecht Lambert de Hondt (II) - The Surrender of Utrecht.jpg
Lambert de Hondt (II): The Surrender of Utrecht on 30 June 1672 to the French king Louis XIV, 1672, Centraal Museum Utrecht
Prince Maurits in Utrecht, 31 July 1618 Het afdanken der waardgelders door prins Maurits op de Neude te Utrecht, 31 juli 1618 (Joost Cornelisz. Droochsloot, 1625).jpg
Prince Maurits in Utrecht, 31 July 1618

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 archbishopric of Utrecht. The stadtholders disapproved of the independent course of the Utrecht bourgeoisie and brought the city under much more direct control of the republic, shifting the power towards its dominant province Holland. This was the start of a long period of stagnation of trade and development in Utrecht. Utrecht remained an atypical city in the new republic being 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. [26]

The fortified city temporarily fell to the French invasion in 1672 (the Disaster Year); where the French invasion was stopped just west of Utrecht at the Old Hollandic Waterline. In 1674, only two years after the French left, the centre of Utrecht was struck by a tornado. The halt to building before construction of flying buttresses in the 15th century now proved to be the undoing of the cathedral of St Martin church's central section which collapsed, creating the current Dom square between the tower and choir. In 1713, Utrecht hosted one of the first international peace negotiations when the Treaty of Utrecht settled the War of the Spanish Succession. Beginning in 1723, Utrecht became the centre of the non-Roman Old Catholic Churches in the world.

Modern history (1815–present)

People celebrating the liberation of Utrecht at the end of World War II on 7 May 1945 Een uitzinnige menigte verwelkomt de Canadese bevrijders in Utrecht - An ecstatic crowd in Utrecht welcomes the Canadian liberators (4502667274).jpg
People celebrating the liberation of Utrecht at the end of World War II on 7 May 1945
Zadelstraat Lange Elisabethstraat Mariaplaats, 3511 Utrecht, Netherlands - panoramio.jpg
Contemporary map of Utrecht Utrecht-plaats-OpenTopo.jpg
Contemporary map of Utrecht

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. 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. With the industrial revolution finally gathering speed in the Netherlands and the ramparts taken down, Utrecht began to grow far beyond its medieval centre. When the Dutch government allowed the bishopric of Utrecht to be reinstated by Rome in 1853, Utrecht became the centre of Dutch Catholicism once more. From the 1880s onward, neighbourhoods such as Oudwijk, Wittevrouwen, Vogelenbuurt to the East, and Lombok to the West were developed. New middle-class residential areas, such as Tuindorp and Oog in Al, 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 House (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. British and Canadian troops that had surrounded the city entered it after that surrender, on 7 May 1945. Following the end of World War II, the city grew considerably when new neighbourhoods such as Overvecht, Kanaleneiland, Hoograven  [ nl ] and Lunetten were built. Around 2000, the Leidsche Rijn housing area was developed as an extension of the city to the west.

The area surrounding Utrecht Centraal railway station and the station itself were developed following modernist ideas of the 1960s, in a brutalist style. This development led to the construction of the shopping mall Hoog Catharijne  [ nl ], the 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 undergoing change again. The redeveloped music centre TivoliVredenburg opened in 2014 with the original Vredenburg and Tivoli concert and rock and jazz halls brought together in a single building.



Utrecht experiences a temperate oceanic climate (Köppen: Cfb) similar to all of the Netherlands.

Climate data for De Bilt
Record high °C (°F)15.1
Average high °C (°F)5.6
Daily mean °C (°F)3.1
Average low °C (°F)0.3
Record low °C (°F)−24.8
Average precipitation mm (inches)69.6
Average precipitation days (≥ 1 mm)12101191010101011121312131
Average snowy days66420000002525
Average relative humidity (%)87848175757677798486898982
Mean monthly sunshine hours 62.385.7121.6173.6207.2193.9206.0187.7138.3112.963.049.31,601.6
Source #1: Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (1981–2010 normals, snowy days normals for 1971–2000) [27]
Source #2: Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (1901–present extremes) [28]



Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
YearPop.±% p.a.
1900 102,086+1.10%
1910 119,006+1.55%
1920 138,334+1.52%
1930 153,208+1.03%
1940 165,029+0.75%
1950 193,190+1.59%
1960 254,186+2.78%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1970 279,000+0.94%
1980 236,208−1.65%
1990 230,676−0.24%
2000 233,667+0.13%
2010 307,081+2.77%
2011 312,634+1.81%
Source: Lourens & Lucassen 1997, pp. 87–88 (1400–1795)

Utrecht city had a population of 296,305 in 2007. It is a growing municipality and projections are that the population will surpass 392,000 by 2025. [29]

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. About 52% of the population is female, 48% is male. The majority of households (52.5%) in Utrecht are single-person households. About 29% of people living in Utrecht are either married, or have another legal partnership. About 3% of the population of Utrecht is divorced. [29]

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). [29] Some of the city's boroughs have a relatively high percentage of originally non-Dutch inhabitants – i.e. Kanaleneiland (83%) and Overvecht (57%). Like Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The Hague and other large Dutch cities, Utrecht faces some socio-economic problems. About 38% percent of its population either earns a minimum income or is dependent on social welfare (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 rate.[ citation needed ]

Population of the city of Utrecht by country of birth of the parents of citizens (2017) [30]
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Netherlands 227,077 (66.196%)
Flag of Morocco.svg Morocco 30,324 (8.84%)
Flag of Turkey.svg Turkey 13,826 (4.03%)
Flag of Indonesia.svg Indonesia 8,151 (2.376%)
Flag of Suriname.svg Suriname 7,789 (2.271%)
Other55,871 (16.287%)


Utrecht has been the religious centre of the Netherlands since the 8th century. Currently it is the see of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Utrecht, the most senior Dutch Roman Catholic leader. [31] [32] His ecclesiastical province covers the whole kingdom.

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 Protestant Church in the Netherlands, the main Dutch Protestant church.

As of 2013, the largest religion is Christianity with 28% of the population being Christian, followed by Islam with 9.5% and Hinduism with 0.8%.

Religions in Utrecht (2013) [33]

   Irreligion (61.0%)
   Roman Catholic (13.4%)
  Other Christian denominations (4.4%)
   Islam (9.5%)
   Hinduism (0.8%)
   Buddhism (0.6%)
   Judaism (0.1%)

Population centres and agglomeration

The city of Utrecht is subdivided into 10 city quarters, all of which have their own neighbourhood council and service centre for civil affairs.

  1. Binnenstad
  2. Oost
  3. Leidsche Rijn
  4. West
  5. Overvecht
  6. Zuid
  7. Noordoost
  8. Zuidwest
  9. Noordwest
  10. Vleuten-De Meern

Utrecht is the centre of a densely populated area, a fact which makes concise definitions of its agglomeration difficult, and somewhat arbitrary. The smaller Utrecht agglomeration of continuously built-up areas counts some 420,000 inhabitants and includes Nieuwegein, IJsselstein and Maarssen. It is sometimes argued that the close by municipalities De Bilt, Zeist, Houten, Vianen, Driebergen-Rijsenburg (Utrechtse Heuvelrug), and Bunnik 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 Woerden and Amersfoort, counts up to 820,000 inhabitants. [34]


Panorama Panorama Utrecht.jpg
Oudegracht (the 'old canal') in central Utrecht Utrecht Canals - July 2006.jpg
Oudegracht (the 'old canal') in central Utrecht
The Oudegracht in the 1890s Utrecht Oude Gracht Hamburgerbrug (LOC).jpg
The Oudegracht in the 1890s
View on the Oudegracht from the Dom Tower Utrecht Canals Aerial View - July 2006.jpg
View on the Oudegracht from the Dom Tower
Aerial view of Utrecht from the Dom Tower DomtorenUitzichtIn2009.jpg
Aerial view of Utrecht from the Dom Tower

Utrecht's cityscape is dominated by the Dom Tower, the tallest belfry in the Netherlands and originally part of the Cathedral of Saint Martin. [35] An ongoing debate is over whether any building in or near the centre of town should surpass the Dom Tower in height (112 m (367 ft)). Nevertheless, some tall buildings are now being constructed that will become part of the skyline of Utrecht. The second tallest building of the city, the Rabobank-tower, was completed in 2010 and stands 105 metres (344 feet) tall. [36] Two antennas will increase that height to 120 metres (394 feet). Two other buildings were constructed around the Nieuw Galgenwaard stadium (2007). These buildings, the 'Kantoortoren Galghenwert' and 'Apollo Residence', stand 85.5 metres (280.5 feet) and 64.5 metres (211.6 feet) high respectively.

Another landmark is the old centre and the canal structure in the inner city. The Oudegracht is a curved canal, partly following the ancient main branch of the Rhine. It is lined with the unique wharf-basement structures that create a two-level street along the canals. [37] The inner city has largely retained its Medieval structure, [38] and the moat ringing the old town is largely intact. [39] Because of the role of Utrecht as a fortified city, construction outside the medieval centre and its city walls was restricted until the 19th century. Surrounding the medieval core there is a ring of late 19th- and early 20th-century neighbourhoods, with newer neighbourhoods positioned farther out. [40] 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 middle of the 20th century on the east side of the city. [41]

Due to the past importance of Utrecht as a religious centre, several monumental churches were erected, many of which have survived. [42] Most prominent is the Dom Church. Other notable churches include the romanesque St Peter's and St John's churches; the gothic churches of St James and St Nicholas; and the Buurkerk, now converted into a museum for automatically playing musical instruments.


Public transport

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

Heavy and light rail

Utrecht Centraal railway station 2015-08 utrecht cs 02.JPG
Utrecht Centraal railway station

Utrecht Centraal is the main railway station of Utrecht. There are regular intercity services to all major Dutch cities; direct services to Schiphol Airport. Utrecht Centraal is a station on the night service, providing 7 days a week an all-night service to (among others) Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. International InterCityExpress (ICE) services to Germany (and further) through Arnhem call at Utrecht Centraal. Regular local trains to all areas surrounding Utrecht also depart from Utrecht Centraal; and service several smaller stations: Utrecht Lunetten; Utrecht Vaartsche Rijn; Utrecht Overvecht; Utrecht Leidsche Rijn; Utrecht Terwijde; Utrecht Zuilen and Vleuten. A former station Utrecht Maliebaan closed in 1939 and has since been converted into the Dutch Railway Museum.

The Utrecht sneltram is a light rail scheme running southwards from Utrecht Centraal to the suburbs of IJsselstein, Kanaleneiland, Lombok and Nieuwegein. The sneltram began operations in 1983 and is currently operated by the private transport company Qbuzz. In 2019 the new extension to the Uithof will start operating, creating a direct mass transit connection from the central station to the main Utrecht university campus. [43]

Utrecht is the location of the headquarters of Nederlandse Spoorwegen (English: Dutch Railways) – the largest rail operator in the Netherlands – and ProRail – the state-owned company responsible for the construction and maintenance of the country's rail infrastructure.

Bus transport

The main local and regional bus station of Utrecht is located adjacent to Utrecht Centraal railway station, at the East and West entrances. Due to large-scale renovation and construction works at the railway station, the station's bus stops are changing frequently. As a general rule, westbound buses depart from the bus station on the west entrance, other buses from the east side station. Local buses in Utrecht are operated by Qbuzz – its services include a high-frequency service to the Uithof university district. The local bus fleet is one of Europe's cleanest, using only buses compliant with the Euro-VI standard as well as electric buses for inner city transport. Regional buses from the city are operated by Arriva and Connexxion.

The Utrecht Centraal railway station is also served by the pan-European services of Eurolines. Furthermore, it acts as departure and arrival place of many coach companies serving holiday resorts in Spain and France – and during winter in Austria and Switzerland.


Like most Dutch cities, Utrecht has an extensive network of cycle paths, making cycling safe and popular. 33% of journeys within the city are by bicycle, more than any other mode of transport. [44] (Cars, for example, account for 30% of trips). Bicycles are used by young and old people, and by individuals and families. They are mostly traditional, upright, steel-framed bicycles, with few or no gears. There are also barrow bikes, for carrying shopping or small children. In 2014, the City Council decided to build the world's largest bicycle parking station, near the Central Railway Station. This 3-floor construction will cost an estimated 48 million Euro and will hold 12,500 bicycles. Completion is foreseen in 2018. [45]

Road transport

Utrecht is well-connected to the Dutch road network. Two of the most important major roads serve the city of Utrecht: the A12 and A2 motorways connect Amsterdam, Arnhem, The Hague and Maastricht, as well as Belgium and Germany. Other major motorways in the area are the AlmereBreda A27 and the Utrecht–Groningen A28. [46] Due to the increasing traffic and the ancient city plan, traffic congestion is a common phenomenon in and around Utrecht, causing elevated levels of air pollutants. This has led to a passionate debate in the city about the best way to improve the city's air quality.


Utrecht has an industrial port located on the Amsterdam-Rijnkanaal. [47] The 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, fertiliser and fodder. [48] Additionally, some tourist boat trips are organised from various places on the Oudegracht; and the city is connected to touristic shipping routes through sluices. [49] [50] [51]


'De Inktpot [nl
]' (The Inkpot) with fake UFO Utrecht de inktpot september 2003.jpg
'De Inktpot  [ nl ]' (The Inkpot) with fake UFO

Production industry constitutes a small part of the economy of Utrecht. The economy of Utrecht depends for a large part on the several large institutions located in the city. It is the centre of the Dutch railroad network and the location of the head office of Nederlandse Spoorwegen. ProRail is headquartered in The De Inktpot  [ nl ] (The Inkpot) – the largest brick building in the Netherlands (the "UFO" featured on its façade stems from an art program in 2000). Rabobank, a large bank, has its headquarters in Utrecht. [ citation needed ]


View on the Science Park campus of Utrecht University. The building in the centre is the library. Utrecht-Uithof, from CambridgeLaan 01.jpg
View on the Science Park campus of Utrecht University. The building in the centre is the library.

Utrecht hosts several large institutions of higher education. The most prominent of these is Utrecht University (est. 1636), the largest university of the Netherlands with 30,449 students (as of 2012). The university is partially based in the inner city as well as in the Uithof campus area, to the east of the city. According to Shanghai Jiaotong University's university ranking in 2014, it is the 57th best university in the world. [52] Utrecht also houses the much smaller University of Humanistic Studies, which houses about 400 students. [53]

Utrecht is home of one of the locations of TIAS School for Business and Society, focused on post-experience management education and the largest management school of its kind in the Netherlands. In 2008, its executive MBA program was rated the 24th best program in the world by the Financial Times . [54]

Utrecht is also home to two other large institutions of higher education: the vocational university Hogeschool Utrecht (37,000 students), [55] with locations in the city and the Uithof campus; and the HKU Utrecht School of the Arts (3,000 students).

There are many schools for primary and secondary education, allowing parents to select from different philosophies and religions in the school as is inherent in the Dutch school system.


Miffy statue at the Nijntjepleintje in Utrecht Miffy Statue in Utrecht.jpg
Miffy statue at the Nijntjepleintje in Utrecht
The Rietveld Schroder House from 1924 Rietveld Schroderhuis HayKranen-20.JPG
The Rietveld Schröder House from 1924
Caryatids at the Winkel van Sinkel Kariatiden Winkel van Sinkel.JPG
Caryatids at the Winkel van Sinkel

Utrecht city has an active cultural life, and in the Netherlands is second only to Amsterdam. [6] There are several theatres and theatre companies. The 1941 main city theatre was built by Dudok. In addition to theatres, there is a large number of cinemas including three arthouse cinemas. Utrecht is host to the international Early Music Festival (Festival Oude Muziek, for music before 1800) and the Netherlands Film Festival. The city has an important classical music hall Vredenburg (1979 by Herman Hertzberger). Its acoustics are considered among the best of the 20th-century original music halls.[ citation needed ] The original Vredenburg music hall has been redeveloped as part of the larger station area redevelopment plan and in 2014 gained additional halls that allowed its merger with the rock club Tivoli and the SJU jazzpodium. There are several other venues for music throughout the city. Young musicians are educated in the conservatory, a department of the Utrecht School of the Arts. There is a specialised museum of automatically playing musical instruments.

Prins Clausbrug across the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal Prins Clausbrug vanuit NO bekeken.JPG
Prins Clausbrug across the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal

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 Arts. The Centraal Museum 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 ("Nijntje", in Dutch). BAK, basis voor actuele kunst offers contemporary art exhibitions and public events, as well as a Fellowship program for practitioners involved in contemporary arts, theory and activisms. Although street art is illegal in Utrecht, the Utrechtse Kabouter, a picture of a gnome with a red hat, became a common sight in 2004. [56] Utrecht also houses one of the landmarks of modern architecture, the 1924 Rietveld Schröder House, which is listed on UNESCO's world heritage sites.

Every Saturday, a paviour adds another letter to The Letters of Utrecht, an endless poem in the cobblestones of the Oude Gracht in Utrecht. With the Letters, Utrecht has a social sculpture as a growing monument created for the benefit of future people.

To promote culture, Utrecht city organizes 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. There are also initiatives for amateur artists. 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.

In 2017 Utrecht was named as a UNESCO City of Literature.


Triton rowing club [nl
] team pauses with their coach by the Muntbrug, a rotating bridge built in 1887. Coachpraatje bij de Munt - WLM 2011 - ednl.jpg
Triton rowing club  [ nl ] team pauses with their coach by the Muntbrug, a rotating bridge built in 1887.

Utrecht is home to the premier league (professional) football club FC Utrecht, which plays in Stadium Nieuw Galgenwaard. It is also the home of Kampong, the largest (amateur) sportsclub in the Netherlands (4,500 members), SV Kampong. [57] Kampong features field hockey, association football, cricket, tennis, squash and boules. Kampong's men and women top hockey squads play in the highest Dutch hockey league, the Rabohoofdklasse. Utrecht is also home to baseball and softball club UVV, which plays in the highest Dutch baseball league: de Hoofdklasse. Utrecht's waterways are used by several rowing clubs. Viking is a large club open to the general public, and the student clubs Orca and Triton compete in the Varsity each year.

In July 2013, Utrecht hosted the European Youth Olympic Festival, in which more than 2,000 young athletes competed in nine different olympic sports. In July 2015, Utrecht hosted the Grand Départ and first stage of the Tour de France. [58]


Duitse Huis in April 1982 Aanzicht op de westgevel van bouwdeel 1 - Utrecht - 20234880 - RCE.jpg
Duitse Huis in April 1982

Utrecht has several smaller and larger museums. Many of those are located in the southern part of the old town, the Museumkwartier.

Music and events

The city has several music venues such as TivoliVredenburg, Tivoli De Helling, ACU, EKKO, DBs and RASA. Utrecht hosts the yearly Utrecht Early Music Festival (Festival Oude Muziek). [67] In Jaarbeurs it hosts Trance Energy. Every summer there used to be the Summer Darkness festival, which celebrated goth culture and music. [68] In November the Le Guess Who? festival, focused on indie rock, art rock and experimental rock, takes place in many of the city's venues.


There are two main theaters in the city, the Theater Kikker  [ nl ] [69] and the Stadsschouwburg Utrecht  [ nl ] [70] De parade, a travelling theatre festival, performs in Utrecht in summer. The city also hosts the yearly Festival a/d Werf which offers a selection of contemporary international theatre, together with visual arts, public art and music.

Notable people from Utrecht

Birthplace of Pope Adrian VI Geboortehuis van Paus Adriaan.jpg
Birthplace of Pope Adrian VI
See also the category People from Utrecht

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

International relations

Twin towns

Utrecht is twinned with:

Other relations

See also


  1. See Utrecht sodomy trials § Legacy for the history of these demonyms.
  2. Almost all other canal cities in The Netherlands (such as Amsterdam and Delft) have the water in canals bordering directly to the road surface

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