Utrecht: City Centre

The medi­eval city centre of Utrecht has a very unusual lay­out, due to the fact that the city has been a centre of Dutch cath­oli­cism ever since the 7th cen­tury. Vari­ous mod­ern build­ings have been implanted into the old town over the dec­ades, mak­ing it a dynamic mix of old and new.


In the middle ages, Utrecht was dom­in­ated by four churches, divid­ing the city into four neigh­bour­hoods. Ori­gin­ally, the city was access­ible by boat on the river Rhine, which flowed through it. Later, the river changed its course, and its old bed was trans­formed into a canal. Mer­chant houses with base­ments, grant­ing dir­ect access to the water, were con­struc­ted along Oude­gracht. At the heart of the old town stands the cathed­ral with its curi­ous free-standing bell tower. Within the ancient city struc­ture, there are a lot of mod­ern devel­op­ments – some are small-scale inter­ven­tions, oth­ers are archi­tec­tural icons.

On this tour, we visit the old town of Utrecht, includ­ing some new devel­op­ments. Find out about the archi­tec­tural lay­out of canal houses, hid­den alley­ways and court­yards, and archi­tec­ture through the ages in this young and vibrant city.

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Pro­gramme: Utrecht City Centre