A Side Trip to Utrecht from Amsterdam

by Janis on June 15, 2017

One of many things we love about visiting Amsterdam is the ease and speed of traveling to other parts of the Netherlands or Belgium by train. We’ve made side trips to the Dutch cities of Leiden, Rotterdam, Den Haag (The Hague), Delft and Gouda, as well as to Antwerp, Belgium, during past trips to Amsterdam.

The Domtoren, Utrecht, The NetherlandsDuring our latest pre-cruise stay in Amsterdam, we made a side trip to Utrecht, the Netherlands’ fourth largest city, and home of its largest university.

The city center of Utrecht dates back to the Romans who founded it in AD 47 to protect a river crossing on the Rhine. Today, the city’s hallmark is its 367-ft tall Gothic Domtoren (Dom Tower) — which dates to 1382.

Amsterdam Central Station, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsTo reach Utrecht from Amsterdam, we walked from our hotel to the Amsterdam Central Station. Trains depart from here to Utrecht frequently. The ride is less than a 30 minutes, unless you take a local train with more stops.

After arriving at the modern Utrecht Central railway station, we walked through a mall until we reached an exit that led us to the city’s historic center.

The Oudegracht (old canal) runs through the Utrecht, the NetherlandsOnce we found the Oudegracht — the old canal that runs through historic Utrecht — we followed it to reach the Domtoren. Parts of the Oudegracht follow the original flow of the Rhine river.

The Oudegracht or old canal in Utrecht is different from the canals in Amsterdam. Rather than canal water reaching street level, the water flows below street level.  This dates to the 12th century, when the water level of the Rhine River in Utrecht dropped due to new dam on the river upstream at Wijk bij Duurstede. As the people in Utrecht dug the canal deeper, they used the excavated material toraise the sides of the canal, in order to reduce potential flooding. In 1275, the city of Utrecht finished a system of locks to keep the water level constant, enabling the creation of dry cellars and wharfs below street level. The warehouses that lined the canal have been converted into restaurants and cafés.

walking through the archway of 'The Dom' in Utrecht, The NetherlandsAlthough the Dom Tower of Utrecht is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands, you can walk through the archway of its base.

The Gothic-style tower was part of the Cathedral of Saint Martin, also known as Dom Church, and was built between 1321 and 1382. Due to a lack of money, the cathedral was never fully completed as planned. The nave connecting the tower and the rest of the church was unfinished, and collapsed during a storm in 1674.  The Dom has been a free-standing tower ever since.

St. Martin's Cathedral (Dom Church), Utrecht, The NetherlandsThe part of St. Martin’s Cathedral (the Dom Church) that didn’t collapse in 1674 stands nearby.

This Gothic-style church was the Catholic cathedral of the Diocese of Utrecht during the Middle Ages. It is the country’s only pre-Reformation cathedral, but was converted to a Protestant church since 1580.

interior view and organ - St. Martin's Cathedral (Dom Church), Utrecht, The NetherlandsInside St. Martin’s Cathedral (the Dom Church), there is a magnificent organ built by Jonathan Bätz between 1825 and 1831. He used a number of pipes from a previous organ, built by Pieter Jans de Swart in 1571. A complete restoration of the organ was made between 1973 and 1975 by Van Vulpen, returning the organ to its original design.

example of Beeldenstorm or "statue storm", - St. Martin's Cathedral (Dom Church), Utrecht, The NetherlandsAnother interesting site in St. Martin’s Cathedral is the altar piece with the faces broken off.  This Catholic altar piece was attacked during the Reformation iconoclasm in the 16th century. It is an example of the Beeldenstorm or “statue storm” that swept across the coastal areas of the Netherlands and Belgium in 1566. The actions were justified by the Calvinist belief that statues in a house of God were idolatrous images which must be destroyed. As a result, many of the ornaments on both the exterior and interior of the cathedral were destroyed.

boat delivering supplies - Oudegracht (old canal) runs through the Utrecht, the NetherlandsWalking along the canal, we were impressed with the boat delivering supplies to the cafes and bars that line the Oudegracht (old canal), which we imagine are quite active in the evening.

apple cake, Utrecht, The NetherlandsWe found a street level cafe to enjoy a coffee and an apple cake, while taking in the local scene from Utrecht University.

Utrecht Starbucks mug from Utrecht, The NetherlandsWhile we drank local coffee in Utrecht, we couldn’t resist purchasing a Utrecht mug from Starbucks at the train station to add to our mug collection.

Once we boarded a train at Utrecht Central, we were back to Amsterdam Central Station within about 30 minutes.

Our side trip to Utrecht took a total of about five hours away from Amsterdam. We considered it time well spent.

Have you made a day trip out of Amsterdam to explore other parts of The Netherlands? 

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If you plan to visit Utrecht, you might want to consult these resources:

Utrecht: Sights and secrets of Holland’s smartest city

City Maps Utrecht Netherlands

Utrecht Travel Guide

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