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Utrecht is the 4th city of the Netherlands, right in the centre of the country, with close to 300.000 inhabitants, and a big railway-hub.
The history of Utrecht goes all the way back to the Romans. In medieval times Utrecht was the biggest city of the country. Nowadays this city has a big historic well preserved inner-city with lots of museums, monumental churches and some unique canal wharfs (Old wharfing areas along the canals). Utrecht is also known for modern architecture.
Utrecht has the largest University of the country and houses around 60.000 students, including a lot of international students. The presence of the students is very well felt in the inner-city with a lot of bars, art houses, clubs and festivities all through the summer. The city has a lot of history and modern culture and a lively art galleria / theatre and music scene. It's known for it's contemporary arts, movies, musical and historic festivals.
Outside of the city there is a lot of interesting nature. On the east of the city there are hilly-forests and an area with a lot of 19th century fortresses, on the north a few lakes, on the west a big area with polders and on the south some big and some smaller rivers. There are options for water recreation, biking, hiking, and even for bird lovers there are several areas worth while for spotting.
From Utrecht there are good connections with the rest of the country by train or car. Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the Hague take about 40 minutes by train, all other cities in the Randstad (Amsterdam, Rotterdam & Den Haag) are less then 1 hour by train. More remote cities like Maastricht and Groningen take only 2 hours.
Check out the Utrecht-page on Google Maps
If you are in Utrecht on a saturday, don't forget to do the Utrecht Free Tour
Meetings & events
The community in Utrecht is active and there are a lot of different meetings:
- the monthly meeting: every last Friday of the month over 40 couchsurfers meet up in cafe Averechts. Check for more info on the meetingpage. It gets more and more common that couchsurfers meet up before the monthly meeting to have diner together, watch the Utrechtgroup for more about that. For a lot of people the real party starts only after the monthly meeting, mostly where that will be - is decided at the meeting, but sometimes it is also wise to check the Utrechtgroup for more info on this.
- Every week there are Dutch lessons in for couchsurfers in Utrecht. For more info check the Dutch lessons in Utrecht group if you sign in for a meeting at least one day in advance the adress will be sent to you.
- In 2008 Utrecht started hosting a big event on Midsummernight which was such a succes that it will probably be and annual event. If you want to help out please join the Utrecht meetings and events team.
- Utrecht-guide meetings are there for hosts to get to know their city better, but other people are of course also welcome. Maps of past tours can be found in here.
- Utrecht is the birthplace of the notorious Gigswapping, therefore if you are a musician it is very easy to arrange a gig in Utrecht. Check the gigswapgroup for more about that.
- Homediners, are always a succes, it is easy to organise one. For more info check the Veggie Cooking group.
- (board)gamesmeetings: Utrecht is full of (board)gamefreaks, mostly gamesnights are posted spontaneously on the Utrechtgroup.
Besides this there are always other opportunities to meetup; housewarmings, festivals, concerts birthdays or just spontaneously wanting to spend a good night out in town with a nice company. If you post it in the Utrechtgroup it is very likely you'll have a good meeting.
- Cultural sundays, every now and then the municipality fills the sunday with nice free cultural events, check the link for when and where.
- Every friday: skeelering/skating event in summer, from the Lucasbolwerk: u-skateparade.nl/ Skating and skeelering are really good around Utrecht, because of the smooth bikepaths, a lot of them seperate from the main road / car lanes.
- Sundays in summertime: Lazy Sunday relaxed free festivals.
- Every second weekend in summertime: a market with regional products
- Every first sunday of the month: a Camtate from Bach Cantate
- feb. Mooie woorden, literature festival
- feb Stukafest a festival in studentrooms all over the city.
- 3rd weekend of March Cafe theaterfestival, free theaterpreformances in bars all around the city.
- Spring tweetakt festival, an experimental theaterfestival for young theatermakers
- 2nd easterday: the Jaarbeursmarathon
- April 29 and April 30: Queensnight and Queensday: the whole country goes orange in the celebration of the birthday of the Queen. Utrecht is always very crowded in the night before, filled with a 2nd hand market, funfair, a lot of concerts, and people in orange going crazy.
- April Impakt festival
- April City 2 Cities A literature festival connecting 2 cities
- May 5 Liberation day, music and more
- Early may Latin American Film Festival.
- Spring Springdance festival, a festival of dance-preformance
- Spring Bluesroute Utrecht
- late may festival aan de werf a festival with theater and live music in the city
- end of may Dag van het Park; festivities in parks all around the city
- may Counter Culture, a free festival with underground culture
- June Midzomergracht, a midsummergayfestival on the canal
- end of June Jazz-a-Palooza, Jazz in Wijk C
- July The Parade, an outside theater-circus
- August Musical Boatparade, a sunday filled with music played from boats in the canals of Utrecht.
- August Summer Darkness, a 3-day festival throughout the whole city about gothic music and lifestyle.
- August De Beschaving, popmusic and more
- August / september Oude muziek, organises a festival but also concerts during the rest of the year on music untill 1750
- Sept Utrecht Uitfeest, the opening of the cultural season
- Autumn The Dutch movie festival
- Autumn Atelierroute, artists who work in a old industrial area in the west of Utrecht open their working space for the public.
- Oktober Popronde, free concerts all around the city
- Oktober Bokbierfestival, tasting 25 different brands of speical bokbier with music.
- Oktober Eastern Neighbours Filmfestival, Eastern European movies
- Autumn Smartlappen festival, a festival full of typical Dutch 'tearjerkers'
- November Le Guess who?, new music!
Utrecht is the train hub of the Netherlands, most Dutch cities are reachable within an hour. There are 3 smaller train stations. Check the timetables in [www.ns.nl here].
THE way to get around in Utrecht. Everyone uses bikes all the time (so be carefull for them!). Most hosts can teach you how to ride along on the back of them.
- A good way to see Utrecht is to rent a bike. All the guarded bikestands around the trainstation also rent bikes for around 7 euro's a day. Outside the trainstation you can rent bikes in here and here.
- Good bikeroutes through the province of Utrecht can be found in knooppuntenplanner, it is in Dutch but not hard to understand.
- Don't forget to lock your bike, stealing of bikes is a big problem throughout the Netherlands.
- All around the center there are guarded parking places for bikes. For some you have to pay after one day, some are totally free. See their locations and rates on this map.
The historic centre of Utrecht is the ideal size to walk in. If you just want to stroll around and see old buildings, go to the southern part of the medieval city, this has the best unspoiled and smallscale size. If you want to go shopping, stay on the north, this is the shopping area, just next to the big shopping streets there are streets with very cool alternative shops.
Bus and Tram
There are a lot of bus lines that cover the whole of the city. Most busses run 'till after midnight. Check the bus lines in here. A routeplanner, combining different forms of public transport can be found at ov9292.
There is just one small tramway in Utrecht. It goes from the station to Kanaleneiland, Nieuwegein and IJsselstein.
Not advisable in the city-centre. The centre has a lot of small and narrow roads and is made very hard to reach by the government. Parking can also be quite expensive in the centre. More environment friendly ways of transport work better in Utrecht. When visiting the centre it’s advised to park at Park and Rides around the city. For more information check this website.
In most of the center you have to pay for parking, check the exact zones and rates on this map.
Utrecht is quite friendly to hitchhikers, Utrecht is also a highway hub with good connections to Amsterdam, The Hague, Antwerp, Eindhoven, etc. Liftershalte is a wiki that provides a map with a good overview of places to catch a ride in Utrecht. Some other good spots can be found in here
- At the trainstation you can find blue computer that can print out routes for free
- There are several maps of Utrecht available at bookstores and tourist offices, sadly free maps are really hard to find.
- In the multicultural area's jus outside of the centre there are a lot of phonehouses that also provide cheap internetservice (about 1 euro an hour). Several can be found on the Kanaalstraat, Damstraat and Amsterdamsestraatweg.
- Wifi: in several bars in the city it is possible to go online with your laptop, some are even for free check this message, this article and map for more info (in Dutch). The best place is probably the public library (right in the centre opposite to the city hall), they have free wifi in a bar in the library.
the central office Paardenveld:
On sunday most shops are closed (except for the first sunday of the month, for a lits of shopping sundays check here). Between 16:00 and 21:00 there are several supermarkets opened though, mostly Albert Heijn's, but also smaller cornershops around the city.
Restaurants and Fast Food
- De Blauwe Kameel in de Donkerstraat is a very tiny bar with good quality fruitshakes and other organic snacks.
- De oude Muntkelder: for the typical Dutch pancakes
- Theehuis Rhijauwen, you can eat pancakes in here on a beautifull natural area, close to the university and just next to the youth hostel of stayokay. The restaurant is a perfect option when you go canooing on the 'Kromme Rijn'.
- EKKO has a very well priced vegetarian menu on thursday and friday, reservations are needed
- Olivier: a big Belgian bar in an old Church. Allthough it is big it is also really popular so it can be really crowded. For just drinking a beer it is mostly too crowded.
- De Werfkring, a nice vegetarian restaurant down by the canal.
- Badhu, a Arabic restaurant in a very atmospherical former bathing house
- Sunshine, Ethiopian food and customs in a nice non-formal setting
- The Colour Kitchen, located a little out of town, but the prices are good, the food is delicious an the restaurant's philosophy is heart warming
Utrecht houses quite a lot of couchsurfers while Utrecht is a relatively unknown city to the tourist-crowds. Therefore it is very easy to find a couch in Utrecht. A lot of people will reply to couchrequests within a few hours.
Want more guests?
Like everywhere, also in Utrecht couchsurfers are not evenly distributed over hosts. more experienced Cs-members mostly get the most guests. If you want to have more guests you can put your profile name here:
Let's say you cannot find a couch in Utrecht (we are talking theoretically here), this is the best option to go to: Strowis
For lovers of nature, right outside Utrecht, in a beautiful area with a river and forest there is also a hostel situated in a beautiful countryhouse.
When you've found out Utrecht is so cool that you actually want to live there, watch out; due to the popularity of the city housing is expensive and hard to find. Insane prices are being paid for rent.
- More info about housing for Utrecht University students can be found in here. This site is provided by Utrecht University and it has some practical informations about visas, residence permits, accommodation...whatever you want
- The SSHU is a social housing organisation that provides so called 'short stay solutions'. They own several buildings in the city where they house mostly students. Opions on them change, but they are mostly the only option.
- The "Looking for a house/room in Utrecht"-group could help finding a room, but there is no guarantee.
- There are several commercial websites that could help like kamertje.nl kamerhulp.nl and kamernet.nl. Most is in Dutch, but that doesn´t have to be hard to understand.
- Despite the ban on squatting in the Netherlands in 2010 the municipality of Utrecht is still pretty relaxed on squatters, the squatting scene is small though. For more information about squatting in Utrecht there is a so-called 'kraakspreekuur'. Which is every wednesday in cafe ACU between 20:00 and 21:00.
Since Utrecht is a city with a lot of cultural and artistic students there are always special things going on. For a actual view of nightlife in Utrecht you should always check the [www.uitloper.nl Uitloper], which is a weekly guide containing the movie schedule, concerts and other nightlife-events. The paper version is available in most bars (check close to the exit or around the toilet area, it's a long folded piece of paper usually in a stand hanging on the wall). It's Of course you could check the [www.uitloper.nl website] in advance (click Podia for nightlife events).
Bars can be found all around the city centre, some popular bars are in crowded nightlife locations like Neude, Nobelstraat and het Wed, best spots are less easy to find. The bars below are places where you'll have a big chance to meet other couchsurfers:
- Averechts, outside of the 'official' city centre, but still very close. It is a bar run by volunteers, which means a friendly atmosphere, good beer an fair prices. Every tuesday there is an open mic night. Is since years the place for the monthly meeting.
- Belgie: the biggest collection of Belgian beer ever and a relax, alternative atmosphere
- Ledig Erf: The place to be on the terrace when the sun shines, big collection of Belgian beers
- Dorstig hart: a cosy place in a quiet part of the old centre, was used in the past for couchsurf-meetings
- Tilt: a cool place with funky music and a lot of games.
- Oude Pothuis: Live music every night and a small restaurant in a small, old place.
- Tivoli: a lot of famous bands played here
- Ekko: for the indie-bands
- ACU: the anarchist-club with a lot of punk music
- Vredenburg: a big venue with a lot of classic, but also popular music
- DB's: rehearsal studio's with a small venue for mostly underground music
- RASA: a theaterstage for world music
- Averechts, Every Tuesday open mic and often singer songwriters and folk on fridays or sundays at this volunteers driven bar
- Oude Pothuis: Live music every night and a small restaurant in a small, old place.
- Cees' Place: an old basement for old Blues
- U Rock!: a very small bar that still has place for comedy and live music
- Stairway to heaven: sometimes live music in this Utrecht version of a hardrock cafe
- Stadsschouwburg: the 'official' city theater which also has some 'light' music every now and then
- Werftheater: mostly comedy, but also some music in this cozy basementtheater
- 't Hoogt: a small art house with a big bar
- Springhaver: a art house with a cosy bar & restaurant
- Louis Hartloper complex: a big art house in a historic police office
For the program of all the cinema's look here
All the concert halls mentioned above have good nights with dj's in a lot of different, mostly alternative, styles. DJ's with a more popular / commercial style are mentioned below:
- Filemon : Free entrance. Dancing on Wednesday - Saturday till late. Can be crowded and there can be a line outside! Popular music played by a DJ. Student card required on wednesday and thursday.
- Gras van de buren: Free entrance. Dancing on Friday and Saturday till late. Popular music played by a DJ.
- Nieuwe Dikke Dries: Free entrance. Thursday, Friday and Saturday from around 10 o'clock. Mostly party-music, typical Dutch folk, classic oldies and popular house. If you're up for beers, singing (or shouting) along and dancing, this is good for you.
- Hofman Cafe: Right next to Filemon. Grand Cafe during daytime, dancing at night in the weekends. Try the cocktailnight (almost every Wednesday). Several cocktails for 3,50 euros. Check the 'Agenda' section on the site to see if there's a cocktail night and what cocktails are cheap that week.
- Havana: Right across the street from Dikke Dries. Also free entrance, dancing from around 10 o'clock. Try the cocktail bar in the back, Mojito's and Long Island Ice Teas here are pretty good (about 6 euros).
- Heerenplein: DJ's on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Mondaynight is student night with beers for only 1,25 euro. You'll need some sort of student card to get in!
- De Derrick: 70's, 80's & 90's discotheque. On Thursday free entrance beers for 1,50 euro, on Friday and Saturday the entrance is 2,50 euro. When you want to score on more elder people this is your place.
Very close to Heerenplein are several bars on the Nobelstraat like De Kneus, Het Pandje and De Zotte. They can be pretty crowded and stay open till very late.
Sights and activities
Utrecht guide is a series of meetings ment for hosts in Utrecht to get to know their city better (though others are of course also welcome). route 1, the central medieval part route 2, the Museumkwartier
- The Museumkwartier (the area south of the Dom Church) is the best preserved part of the medieval centre. It has a very friendly, small scale atmosphere and is ideal to wander around in. Most monuments of Utrecht are found in this part:
- Utrecht was (according to some still is) the centre of Catholicism in the Netherlands. Therefore the centre is loaded with churches. Info about these churches can be found in here.
- The Dom Church (official the Saint Martinschurch) is Utrechts landmark. The 112,5 Dom Tower is the highest of the country and can be seen all around the city. 7,50 for climbing it can seem expensive, but it is worth it. You'll get a guided tour with a lot of info and the view from up the tower is unique. The entrance to the church is free (allthough gifts are very welcome). From the inside the church might seem small, this is mainly because half of it collapsed (separating the church and tower and creating the Domsquare). Don't forget the teahouse, you'll have a nice view to the monastry-garden in there.
- The wharfs (lower level of the canals) are unique in the world and might be world heritage in a few years. In the museumkwartier the wharfs are quiet and mostly untouched by modern times, in the centre most warf are filled with bars and restaurants.
- At the campus of the Utrecht-university there is a lot of interesting modern architecture, more about architecture in Utrecht in here
- Some districts outside of the centre are also very worth to stroll around in. The Vogelenbuurt, just north of the centre was the first district outside of the city walls, most of it looks so small scale and friendly you might forget that you left the medieval city. Best part of the district is the walk from across the Gruttersdijk, Bemuurde Weerd to the Windmill de Adelaar on the Adelaarstraat Lombok shows multiculturalism in a positive way, allthough a lot of yuppies moved in recently, the district is still known as small Turkey. The Kanaalstraat is the booming central shoppingstreet of this district. Along the Leidscheweg you'll find 19th century posh-mansions, a working windmill ending up with a great view on the Leidschekade. Wittevrouwen is know as the rich neighbourhood where mostly doctors and lawyers work in beautifull houses. Also a lot of students live in those houses and therefore on nice summerdays the central park, Wilhelminapark is full of activity. Other nice parks are Lepelburg (small but right in the centre), Griftpark (built over the waste of a old factory) and park Oog in al (in a Brittish country-style).
A lot of Dutch people know Utrecht as a good city to shop in, for a big deal this is caused by 'Hoog Catharijne'; the big shopping mall around the train station which all people from Utrecht claim never to go to, but is always crowded. Best places for shopping are to be found outside of Hoog Catharijne. Keep an eye out for the small streets just next to the big shopping streets.
- Oudegracht: on the south side of the Oudegracht there are a lot of shops known as geekshops (games, fantasy, comics, etc), but also some secondhandstores like A.R.M. and secondsas On this part of the Oudegracht there is a big shop with professional Hiking gear
- Voorstraat: this street has shown a lot of development in recent years. There are a lot of interesting Vintageshops in the nowadays [www.sussies.eu/ Sussies], Cents Modes, Label Lidwien, .
- Kanaalstraat: The centre of the multicultural district Lombok, in here you can find all the Turkish and Marrokan food you want for excellent prices. Persepolis has a great supply of Iranian products, but is a little bit less cheap than the Turkish shops. In Mortys you'll find some excellent cheeses amongst some organic products.
- Amsterdamsestraatweg was founded by Napoleon as a fast, paved, route directly to Amsterdam. The southern part of the street is now a very multicultiral shoppingstreet. Next to a lot of turkish shopws there is also a big Asian shop, Greek shops and even a Slavic/Russian shop.
- Twijnstraat on the southern end of the Oudegracht is a cosy small-scale shoppingstreet. There are some vintage-stores (like Transit), a iceshop, a cheeseshop, a organic shop, but the most famous shop is Berts Bierhuis, a small place that sells a very big supply of international (and local) Beers.
- Near Neude there is a good shop with Travel books
- The biggest market is on the central square of 'Vredenburg' on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
- Once a month there is a market with regional products called De Streekmarkt.
- As written before there are several Vintage-stores can be found in the Voorstraat, Twijnstraat and Oudegracht. Also Springhaver can be interesting for 2nd had shopping. The Vintagestores are not always cheap. Cheapest 2nd hand can be found at A.R.M. on Oudegracht and Verlengde Hoogravense weg and Emmaus on several places all around the city (for locations check the section ´vestigingen´ on their website).
Utrecht hasn't got the impressive big museums that Amsterdam offers, but still a lot of nice ones that are worth to visit.
- The Centraal Museum offers a lot of modern art (but also the remains of a Viking ship and has very good temporary exhibitions. A combi ticket is for sale with which you can also visit the Nijntjehuis and Rietveldhuis.
- Nijntje is a famous rabbit from Utrecht starring in a lot of childrens books that are very big in Japan as Miffy. Nijntje is still being drawn in Utrecht by Dick Bruna who is in his 80s now. Just next to the central museum Nijntje has it's own museum of house. The Nijntje-house is very suitable for young children and adults in a silly mood (don't forget the crazy amount of merchandise).
- The Rietveld-schroderhuis is one of the most famous creation of the 20ies modernist purist movement 'De Stijl'. The house is on the worldheritagelist and is now a museum for designer Gerrit Rietveld.
- The Aboriginal art museum not a anthropological museum but a museum about the art being created by the native inhabitants of Australia. The museum is a potential eye-opener in the way to look at other cultures.
- Utrecht is THE train hub of the Netherlands so the obvious place for a museum about the Dutch railways
- Utrecht was an important creator of coins, in the building used to make coins there is now a museum about money.
- A lot of scientific stuff is shown on the University museum
- Wijk C is a very small park of the old centre with a very special folk atmosphere, a museum tells about it's history.
- The Moluks are a part of Indonesia, aftewr the indepence-wars in the 40ies, a lot of Molukkans fought on the Dutch side and left for the Netherlands in hope for their future independance (which never came), a museum tells their story.
- Museum Speelklok tot Pierlement, about mechanical musical instruments, is located in a old church.
- There is a tourism office located in the Domplein: VVV Utrecht - Domplein 9 - UTRECHT VVV Utrecht Here you can get information about Utrecht, walking routes, tickets to climb the Dom tower, cute and nice (but not cheap) souviners, calenders and books - historical, regional, national in dutch and english.
- Utrecht your way In english too.
- Or for more info about tourism in Utrecht here
- http://utrechttevoet.nl/ has a nice collection of interesting walking paths in and around Utrecht
- Fortresses of the nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie
- Canoeing on the Kromme Rijn
The history of Utrecht goes back to the Romans. In those days the river Rhine was kind of a natural nothern barrier for the roman empire. The place where Utrecht is situated was located at a bend in the Rhine which was relatively easy to cross. Therefore on 47 AD the Romans built a fortress and called it 'Trajectum' (=crossing). The name Trajectum evolved into Utrecht. When the romans left northern Europe hardly anything was left in Utrecht.
In 670 Saint Willibrord arrived in Utrecht. He built a church on the former ground of the Roman castellum, dedicated to Saint Martin. This chuch evolved to the present Dom Church. Utrecht became a centre of Baptisement and got filled with a lot of churches and monestries. The citizens had to protect themselves against invasions of the vikings on several occasions.
Long after the treat of the Vikings, in 1122 Utrecht was granted city rights (among them the right to build a city wall). Utrecht was one of the first Dutch cities who got city rights. The walled city was relatively big because there were a lot of monastries around Utrecht who also wanted to be within the city wall.
At the end of the middle ages Utrecht was one of the biggest cities in the Netherlands. Like all big cities the city tried to impress other with building a big cathedral. In Utrecht people started with it in 1254, and built on till 1517.
At the end of the middle ages the economy of Utrecht started to decline. The water level was more and more controlled in the west of the Netherlands and was lowered to be able to reclaim more land from the sea. In Utrecht this meant the level of the canals lowered to. People in Utrecht had to build warfs at the new water level. Cities in the west had a better position for the more and more internationalising trade and took over the position of Utrecht.
The Dutch republic (1588 - 1794)
One of the starting points of the war with Spain was the treaty of Utrecht where the provinces of the North declared to stick together against the Spanish leaders. The treaty got signed in the 'Kapittelzaal' a room next to the Dom church which is now part of the university. The economic hart of the country came more and more to Holland, especially to Amsterdam. Utrecht became a university city in 1634, the second in the Netherlands, after Leiden.
The role of Utrecht as religieus centre changed quite a lot in this period. Although there was a freedom of thought in the Netherlands, it was not allowed anymore to practice Catholicism. The country was gouverned by protestants, although there were still a lot of Catholics everywhere. Utrecht was a city full of Catholics, but mainly under protestant rule. The Protestants liked to insult the Catholics. They for instance put a monument of sea hero Michiel de Ruijter on the most sacred place of the (very Catholic looking) Dom church.
The Domchurch had a hard time in this period. This already started around 1500 during the rise of the Protestantism. Suddenly building big and expensive churches was not that popular anymore. It got quite hard to gain enough money to finish the church. The builders saved money on the construction. The connection of the chuch and tower was done in aquite poor way. So poor that a storm in 1674 was able to destroy the middle part. The protestant government didn't really care and left the pieces laying on the ground, so a big part of the church became a ruin. A big scandal appeared on this spot in 1730, the authorities found out that the ruins had turned in to a meeting place for gays. After that the ruins were turned into an empty squire. This and other affairs concerning gays were the reason for a big inquisition against gays. Nowadays there is a stone an the Domsquire in which the local government tells that now gay people in Utrecht shouldn't be scared anymore to be persecuted. The city became so famous for this affair that Utrechtenaar (= to be from Utrecht) became synonymous for being gay. Nowadays people from Utrecht still refer themselves not as Utrechtenaar, but as Utrechter.
During the whole period of the Dutch republic Utrecht hardly developed. Around 1800 the cities was hardly bigger than 300 years before. Only around the 'bemuurde weerd' people were living outside of the city walls from the middle ages. Utrecht hardly profited from the huge wheath in the west in the so called 'Golden age of the Netherlands'. The only nearby influence were all the country-houses rich people from Amsterdam built in the period along the Vecht, on the north of Utrecht.
In the 19th centre Utrecht started to grow again. The old city wall was removed and turned into a big romantic park. Utrecht became a centre of the Dutch railways and therefore interesting for Dutch companies. A lot of people from the poor countryside moved to Utrecht. In this period Utrecht gets divided in rich and poor. In the middle ages the rich people were living along the rich canals and the poor on the alleyways next to them. Now the rich turned east to the higher regions, while most poor people settled on the swamplands in the west. This separation between rich and poor still largely exists.
Utrecht also became a place of military importance. The Dutch way of defending the country was with waterlines, pieces of land that would be flooded during invasions. In the 19th century a new waterline was created just to the east of Utrecht. The waterline was never used but it the reason that no houses were built on the far east of the city in this period. There are still a lot of fortresses on the east of Utrecht, a lot of them have cultural, artistic or touristic uses.
In the first half of the 20th centre Utrecht flourishes culturally. Utrecht was one of the leading cities of the modernist movement 'de stijl'. The Utrechter Gerrit Rietveld became very famous with his designs for, among others, chairs and houses. His 'Rietveld Schroderhouse' in Utrecht-east has entered the world heritage list.
A black page in the history of Utrecht, like most European places, is world war II. Utrecht was home to a lot of fascists. The Dutch Fascist party (NSB) had their headquarters in Utrecht on the Maliebaan.
Modernism and post-modernism
The city grew very fast after WOII. A lot of foreign workers were needed to do the dirty work. Utrecht became a multicultural city with a lot of people from Turkey and Morocco. Modernist architects had a chance to realise a lot of their plans in the late 50s and 60s. In Kanaleneiland and Overvecht huge area's with skyscrapers appeared. These districts weren't very popular and slowly turned into migrant-area's. There were also a lot of plans to 'modernise' the city centre. The only part that was really built was the new train station with a big shopping mall. A lot of the old city was destroyed for this, even a part of the canal surrounding the medieval city. After that there was a ever growing call to preserve what was left of the city centre. A lot of the old buildings where in decay but got renovated.
In the 60s the Dutch became a rich country. A lot of young people suddenly had money to study. The university of Utrecht turned into the biggest of the country. Utrecht became very crowded with students. all the students got a big impact on the city, Utrecht more and more turned into a culturally rich, leftish city. The university got to big for the city centre and most faculties turned to a new campus on the east of the city. After some standard modernist buildings, the university builds now mainly post-modern architectural landmarkt on the campus by famous Dutch architects like Rem Koolhaas.
A lot of ex-students stayed in Utrecht after graduation. The people from Utrecht have a relative high average education. A lot of them moved to the old 19th and early 20th century houses. Those houses were renovated and improved. Best example is the district of Lombok which was mainly inhabited with migrants, but has been Gentrified considerably. The central street of this dirstrict (Kanaalstraat) still houses mostly Turkish and Marokkan shops, but most people around are of Dutch origin.
Utrecht keeps on growing and the popularity of the city makes the houses quite expensive. On the far west a new part of the called ' Leidsche Rijn' is being built. Leidsche Rijn is a combination of a lot of architectural styles and will house around 80.000 people.
Now the city is growing and more and more people from outside of Utrecht use the Utrecht train station, the train station is getting to small. The shopping-mall around it was never popular anyway. It was a political struggle of around 15 years to decide what to do with it but now finally the work has started. It will take quite some years before the area around the train station will be organised again, but when it is finished there will be a new cultural music centre, all water in the canals will be back en there will be a lot of new apartments and offices around. Time will learn is Utrecht will really look better with it.