Utrecht city and municipality is the capital and most populous city of the Dutch province of Utrecht. It is located in the eastern corner of the Randstad conurbation, and is the fourth largest city of the Netherlands.
Utrecht's ancient city centre features many buildings and structures from the Early Middle Ages. It has been the religious centre of the Netherlands since the eighth century. Currently it is the see of the Archbishop of Utrecht, 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 (Old Catholic), and the location of the offices of the main Protestant church. Until the Dutch Golden Age Utrecht was the city of most importance of the Netherlands until Amsterdam became its cultural and most populous centre.
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.
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.
During World War II, Utrecht was held by the Germans until the general German surrender of the Netherlands on 5 May 1945. Canadian troops that surrounded the city entered it after that surrender, on 7 May 1945.
Since World War II, the city has grown considerably when new neighbourhoods such as Overvecht, Kanaleneiland, Hoograven and Lunetten were built. Additionally the area surrounding Utrecht Centraal railway 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.
- St. Martin's Cathedral, Utrecht, or Dom Church was the cathedral of the diocese of Utrecht during the Middle Ages. Once the Netherland's largest church, dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, it is one of the country's two pre-Reformation cathedrals, along with the cathedral in Middleburg, Province of Zeeland. It has been a Protestant church since 1580. The building is the one church in the Netherlands that closely resembles the classic Gothic style as developed in France. All other Gothic churches in the Netherlands belong to one of the many regional variants. Unlike most of its French predecessors, the Dom Church has only one tower, the 112 m (368 ft) high Dom Tower, which is the hallmark of the city and the tallest church tower in the Netherlands. The tower was originally part of the Cathedral and was built between 1321 and 1382, to a design by John of Hainaut. The cathedral was never fully completed due to lack of money. Since the unfinished nave collapsed in 1674 the Dom tower became a free standing tower. The tower stands at the spot where the city of Utrecht originated almost 2,000 years ago.
- De Haar Castle. A visit to De Haar is a journey of discovery to a marvellous world. There are only a few castles in Europe that have the same ideal image of a medieval fortress with towers and ramparts, with canals, gates and drawbridges as De Haar. The castle was entirely restored and partially rebuilt in the late 19th century and it rises like a real fairy-tale castle from a park with large trees, surrounded by old gardens and ponds. Yet this enchanting oasis of harmony and peace is not far from the daily bustle of Utrecht city. The unique complex has something to offer for everyone. Young and old, for the knowledgeable art lover and the casual visitor. De Haar is an unusual and fascinating mixture of the medieval and the modern comforts of the late 19th century.
- The Rijnauwen Fort is the largest fort on the New Dutch Water Defence Line. A massive fortification that has no equal in the Netherlands as regards architectural style and soundness. In addition to a cultural/historical monument, the fort has become a valuable scenic area because it has been closed off for years. Weekly guided tours by the Forestry Commission are available from 1 April - 1 October. English tours can be pre-booked via e-mail.
- The Centraal Museum is a museum in Utrecht founded in 1838. Initially, the collection - exhibited on the top floor of the Utrecht townhall - was limited to art related to the city of Utrecht. In 1921 the collection merged with various private collections in the new 'centralised museum' (hence the name 'Centraal museum',centraal being the Dutch word for central) located in the former medieval monastery at the Nicolaaskerkhof. Currently, the collection comprises pre-1850 art, modern art, applied art, fashion and the city history of Utrecht. Amongst the highlights of the museum is the one-thousand year old 'Utrecht Ship'. The ship is part of the collection 'Stadsgeschiedenis'. The ship was found in 1930 near the Van Hoornekade in Utrecht and was put in the cellar of the 16th-century built part of museumbuilding.
- The Oudegracht, or "old canal", starts in the southeast of the city. Here the Kromme Rijn (the original main bed of the Rhine river) and the Vaartse Rijn (a medieval canal reconnecting Utrecht to the newer main stream of the Rhine, the Lek) arrive to meet the original moat of the fortified town, and the Oudegracht goes from there into the center of town. Parts of the Oudegracht follow the original flow of the river Rhine, but there is some disagreement on what parts. The northern part is most likely an early canal (app. 1000) connecting the Rhine section to the river Vecht. The southern part was started in 1122, after the water level of the Rhine in Utrecht dropped because of the new dam at Wijk bij Duurstede. The ground excavated was used to raise the sides of the canal, to reduce the chance of flooding.