Utrecht city and municipality is the capital and most populous city of the Dutch province of Utrecht. It is located in the North-Eastern end of the Randstad, and is the fourth largest city of the Netherlands, with a population of 288,535. The smaller Utrecht agglomeration is home to some 420,000 registered inhabitants, while the larger region contains up to 820,000 inhabitants.
Utrecht's ancient city-centre features many buildings and structures from its earliest origins onwards. It has been the religious centre of the Netherlands since the eighth century CE. Currently it is the see of the Archbishop of Utrecht, the most important Dutch Roman Catholic leader. Utrecht is also the see of an archbishop of the Old Catholic church, and the location of the offices of the main protestant church.
Utrecht is host to Utrecht University, the largest university of the Netherlands, as well as several other institutes for higher education. Due to its central position within the country it is an important transportation hub (rail and road) in the Netherlands. It has the second highest number of cultural events in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam.
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. Little is known about the next period 270-650. Utrecht is first spoken of again in the 7th century when the influence of the growing realms of the Franks lead Dagobert I to build a church devoted to Saint Martin within the walls of the Roman fortress. In ongoing border conflicts with the Frisians the church was however destroyed.
By the mid of the 7th century, English and Irish missionaries set out to convert the Frisian. The pope appointed their leader, Willibrordus, archbishop of the Frisians; which is usually considered to initiation of archbishopric of Utrecht. In 723, the Frankish king bestowed the fortress in Utrecht and the surrounding lands as the base of bishops. From then on Utrecht became one of the most influential seats of power for the Roman catholic church in the Netherlands. The see of the archbishops of Utrecht was located at the uneasy northern border of the Carolingian empire. Furthermore it had to compete with the nearby trading centre Dorestad, also founded near the location of a Roman fortress. The political turmoil in the Frankish realms after the death of Charlemagne, in combination with viking raids and domination lead to the downfall of Dorestad and established Utrecht as one of the most important cities in the Netherlands. The importance of Utrecht as a centre of Christianity is illustrated by the appointment of the Utrecht born Adriaan Florenszoon Boeyens to pope in 1522 (the last non Italian pope before John Paul II).
Besides these buildings which were part of the hierarchy of the bishopric; an additional four parish churches were constructed in the city: the Jacobichurch (dedicated to Saint James), founded in the 11th century, with the current gothic church dating back to the 14th century ; the Buurkerk (Neighbourhood-church) of the 11th century parish in the centre of the city; Nicolaichurch (dedicated to Saint Nicholas), from the 12th century and the 13th century Geertekerk (dedicated to Saint Gertrude of Nivelles)
In 1579 the northern seven provinces of these Low Countries 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 one in Utrecht, which had become an archiepiscopal see in 1559. The stadtholders disapproved of the independent course of the Utrecht bourgeoisie and brought the city under much more direct control of the Holland dominated leadership of the republic. This was the start of a period of stagnation of trade and development in Utrecht.
The city failed to defend itself against the French invasion in 1672, which was held against it in the states of the Republic. The lack of flying buttresses 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. Its most lasting result was the cession by Spain of Gibraltar to Great Britain. Since 1723 (but especially after 1870) Utrecht became the centre of the non-Roman Old Catholic Churches in the world.
In the early 19th century the role of Utrecht as a fortified town became outdated. The old fortifications were outdated and the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie was moved east of Utrecht. The ramparts could now be demolished to allow for growth. The water defenses remained intact and formed an important feature of the Zocher plantsoen, an English style landscape park that remains largely intact until 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.
In 1853 the Dutch government allowed the bishopric see of Utrecht to be reinstated (by Rome), and Utrecht became the centre of Dutch Catholicism once more.
With the industrial revolution finally gathering speed in the Netherlands and the ramparts taken down, Utrecht began to grow far beyond the medieval center from the 1880s onward with the construction of neighbourhoods such as Oudwijk, Wittevrouwen, Vogelenbuurt to the East, and Lombok to the West. 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. Canadian troops that surrounded the city entered it after that surrender, on May 7, 1945.
Since World War II, the city has grown considerably when new neighbourhoods such as Overvecht, Kanaleneiland, Hoograven, Lunetten, and (recently) Leidsche Rijn were built. Additionally the area surrounding the central station, and the station itself have been developed following modernist ideas of the 1960's, in a brutalist style. This lead 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
Currently the city is expanding once more with the development of the Leidsche Rijn housing area.
Utrecht city has a population of 288,395 (at 1-1-2007). Utrecht is a growing municipality and projections are that the city will grow beyond 300,000 in 2008; and beyond 350,000 in 2017.
In Utrecht 52% of the population is female, 48% is male. Utrecht has a young population, with many inhabitants in the age category from 20 and 30 years, which is due to the large university.
|Population in Utecht|
The majority of households (52.5%) in Utrecht is a single person household. About 29% of people living in Utrecht are either married, or have another legal partnership. About 3% of the population of Utrecht is divorced.
About 69% of the population is of Dutch background. About 10% of the population consists of immigrants from western countries. About 21% of the population are immigrants from non-western countries (9% Moroccan, 5% Turkish, 3% Surinamese and Dutch Caribbean and 5% of other non-western countries).
Utrecht is the centre of a densily populated area, which makes concise definitions of its agglomeration difficult, and somewhat arbitrary. The smaller Utrecht agglomeration counts some 420,000 inhabitants and includes Nieuwegein, IJsselstein and Maarssen. It is sometimes argued that the municipalities De Bilt, Zeist, Houten, Vianen, Driebergen-Rijsenburg, and Bunnik should also be counted towards the Utrecht agglomeration, bringing the total to 620,000 inhabitants. The larger region, including slightly more remote towns such as Woerden and Amersfoort counts up to 820,000 inhabitants.
Utrecht is famous for the Dom Tower of Utrecht, belonging to the former cathedral (Dom Church). The city has a minor skyline, dominated by the Dom tower. There has been long standing agreement that no building (height to rooftop) in or near the centre of town may surpass the Dom tower in height (112 m). Nevertheless some tall buildings are now being constructed that will become part of the skyline of Utrecht. The second highest building of the city, the 'Rabobanktoren', will be completed in 2010 and will stand 105 m tall. Two antennas will increase that height to 120 m. Two other buildings are currently under construction around the 'Nieuw Galgenwaard' stadium. These buildings, the 'Kantoortoren Galghenwert' and 'Apollo Residence', will be completed in 2007 and will stand 85.5 and 64.5 metres high respectively. Finally, there are somewhat controversial plans for a 262 m high skyscraper in the newly built neighbourhood of Leidsche Rijn: the 'Belle van Zuylen'. Because the location is considered sufficiently far from the centre of the city this project is exempted from the maximum height of the Dom.
Another landmark are the old centre and the canal structure in the inner city. The Oudegracht is a curved canal, due to its origins as an arm of the Rhine. It is lined with the unique wharf-basement structures that create a two level street along the canals. The inner city has largely retained its Medieval structure, and the moat ringing the old town is largely in tact. Because of the role of Utrecht as a fortified city, that did not allow construction outside the walls, until the 19th century the city has remained very compact. Surrounding the medieval core there is a ring of late 19th and early 20th century neighbourhoods; with newer neighbourhoods positioned farther out. 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 mid of the 20th century on the east side of the city.
Due to the importance of Utrecht as a religious centre in the past, several monumental churches have survived. Most prominent is the Dom Church. Other notables churches include the romanesque St Peter's and St John's churches, and the gothic churches of St James and St Nicholas, and the so-called Buurkerk, now converted into a museum.
There are also four minor railway stations in Utrecht: Utrecht Overvecht (uto), Utrecht Lunetten (utl), Utrecht Terwijde (utt), and Utrecht Zuilen (utzl). Additionally, some new railway stations are planned for the RandstadRail project. Special train services operate to the former Maliebaan station, which is now home to the Dutch railroad museum.
A light-rail (sneltram in Dutch) line runs from the Utrecht Centraal station, through the neighbourhoods of Lombok/Leidseweg and Kanaleneiland to Nieuwegein and IJsselstein. This line is operated by Connexxion.
Besides being an important node in the transportation system Utrecht hosts the headquarters of both the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railroads), the most important train company in the Netherlands, and ProRail, the state owned company that is responsible for building and maintenance of railroad tracks throughout the Netherlands.
The Utrecht Central railway station is also frequented by the pan-European Eurolines bus company. 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.
Additionally some touristic boat trips are organised from various places on the Oudegracht.
Utrecht is the center of the Dutch railroad network and the location of the head office of the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railways). NS's former head office 'De Inktpot' in Utrecht is the largest brick building in the Netherlands (the "UFO" gracing its facade stems from an art program in 2000). The building is currently used by ProRail.
A large indoor shopping center called is located between the central railway station and the city center. The corridors have been considered public places like streets, and the main route from station to city center is therefore open all night. Over the next 20 years (counting from 2004), parts of Hoog Catharijne will disappear as a consequence of the renovation of the Station-area Parts of the city's network of canals, which were filled to create the shopping center and central station area, will be recreated.
One of Europe's biggest used car markets is located in the Voordorp district. It is open every Tuesday except on official holidays. With thousands of second-hand vehicles on sale the market is a special point of interest for customers from Eastern European countries who even organize special one-way bus tours for shopping there.
Utrecht is well known for its institutions of higher education. The most prominent of these is Utrecht University (est. 1636), the largest university of The Netherlands with 26,787 students (as of 2004). The University is partially based in the inner city as well as in the Uithof campus area, on the east of the city. According to Shanghai Jiaotong University's university ranking in 2007 it is the 42nd best university in the world. Utrecht also houses the much smaller University of Humanistics (estimated at a few hundred students).
Utrecht is home of one of the locations of TiasNimbas, focused on post-experience management education and the largest management school of its kind in The Netherlands. In 2007, its executive MBA program was rated the 11th best progam in the world by the Financial Times.
Utrecht is also home to two other large institutions of higher education: the Hogeschool Utrecht (30,000 students), 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 for different philosophies and religions as is inherent in the Dutch school system. There is some concern about segregation in the primary schools (which is a common problem in many large cities in the Netherlands). This is caused by Dutch parents wanting to send their children to schools with a large proportion of other Dutch children, ending in a spiral where schools with a large proportion of immigrant children attract fewer and fewer Dutch children.
There are several theatres and theatre companies. The 1941 main city theater was built by Dudok. Besides theates there is a large number of cinemas including three arthouse cinemas. Utrecht is host to the Netherlands Film Festival. The city has an important classical music hall Vredenburg (1979 by Herman Hertzberger), which acoustics are considered among the best of the 20th century original music halls. 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. Located at the OudeGracht is the rock club Tivoli (which has a second location just outside the centre). There are several other venues for music throughout the city.
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. Utrecht also houses one of the landmarks of modern architecture, the 1924 Rietveld Schröder House, which is listed on UNESCO's world heritage sites.
To involve the city population as a whole (rather than the elite alone) in the cultural riches of the city, Utrecht city, in collaboration with the different cultural organisations, regularly organise 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. Furthermore there are many initiatives for amateur artists; e.g. in the performing arts, painting and sculpture. 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.
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 of The Netherlands (4.500 members), SV Kampong Kampong features fieldhockey, soccer, cricket, tennis, squash and jeu de boules. Kampong's men and women top hockey squads play in the highest Dutch hockey league, the Rabohoofdklasse.
Over the ages famous people have been born and raised in Utrecht. Among the most famous Utrechters are: