38 Interesting Facts About Utrecht (Facts Fully Explained)

June 29, 2021

Utrecht is a beautiful city in the middle of the Netherlands. It is rich with Dutch culture and habits, yet it has a lot of history as well. Although Utrecht is a large city, it is not yet as much of a melting pot as Amsterdam. This means the city is still quite representative of Dutch norms and values.

There is so much to learn about this beautiful city. From famous people born here to the themed museums the city houses. That's why I've listed the 38 most interesting facts about Utrecht for you! The facts will also be elaborated, so hopefully, you will learn some new things about the city of Utrecht.

1. Utrecht Centraal is the largest station in the Netherlands

Utrecht Centraal is the most important railway hub in the Netherlands, with over 1000 departures per day. Not only is the station important, but it is also very busy.

The station has sixteen platform tracks and about 195.000 passengers per day. Because of its central location in the Netherlands, you can get to pretty much anywhere in the Netherlands without having to travel an excessive amount of time.

2. The only Dutch pope was born in Utrecht

Pope Adrianus VI was pope from January 1522 until he died in 1523. In the Netherlands, he is considered to be the only Dutch pope because he was born in Utrecht. However, when he was born, Utrecht was part of the Holy Roman Empire. This is why the Germans consider pope Adrianus VI to be the seventh German pope instead of the first Dutch pope. 

3. King Willem Alexander was born in Utrecht

There isn’t one specific location where our royals are supposed to give birth. But Princess Beatrix gave birth to her three sons in a hospital in Utrecht.

On the 27th of April, 1967, the current king of the Netherlands, King Willem Alexander, was born. His brothers, Prince Friso and Prince Constantijn were born on the 25th of September, 1968, and the 11th of October, 1969, respectively.

4. The Dom tower is the highest church tower in the Netherlands

When asking any Dutch person about Utrecht, they will most likely mention the Dom Tower. The Dom Tower is what Utrecht is most famous for and it has become a true symbol of the city.

The tower is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands at a height of 112 meters, which is about 367 feet. It took several years to complete building the cathedral and its tower, and it was finished in 1382.

5. The clocks in the Dom tower all have names

At the height of 49 meters, the Dom Tower has fourteen clocks. Seven of those were made by Geert van Wou, the other seven were made by Eijsbouts.

All clocks Geert van Wou made have biblical names. From smallest to largest, they are called Maria Magdalena, Johannes Baptist, Michaël, Martinus, Maria, and Salvator.

The clocks made by Eijsbouts are called Adrianus, Thomas, Beningnus, Kruisklok, Poncianus, Agnes minor and Agnes maior.

6. The clocks in the Dom Tower weigh 32.000 kilos in total

The clocks in the Dom Tower aren’t small, and they certainly aren’t light either. With a combined weight of 32.000 kilos (70.547 lb), the clocks are pretty heavy. The heaviest clock in the Dom Tower is called Salvator, this clock weighs 8000 kilos (17.636 lb).

7. The songs played by the Dom clocks change four times a year

Besides letting us know what time it is, the Dom Tower also provides music to the city. The repertoire changes four times a year. In order to change the repertoire in the tower alone, it takes five people and a whole day.

8. Utrecht is home to quite some famous Dutch athletes

The Netherlands has delivered several sports legends in the past few years. Some of these were born in Utrecht. To name a few, soccer legend Marco van Basten was born in Utrecht.

Other soccer players from this city are Wesley Sneijder and Shanice van der Sanden. Some of the other famous Dutch athletes born in Utrecht are track and field athlete Dafne Schippers and judoka Anton Geesink.

9. Utrecht’s inhabitants are pretty young on average

Most people living in Utrecht are in their 20s or 30s, which is quite young. This is due to the fact Utrecht is a student city. Many students who attend Utrecht University or one of the other educational institutions in the city also live in Utrecht.

Besides that, it is also an appealing city for starters. Compared to other student cities in the Netherlands, there are a lot of graduates in Utrecht who stay there after graduating to start their life and perhaps even start a family.

10. Inhabitants of Utrecht have quite some nicknames

When you want to express someone is from Utrecht, there are several ways you can do this. One of the nicknames people use is "T-slikkers", (T-swallowers) in English. This is because of the dialect.

People in Utrecht don’t always pronounce the t’s at the end of words. "Sleuteldragers", which is key carriers in English, is a well-known nickname as well. Other nicknames include "Kortoren", "Langoren", and "Theerandjes".

11. The city itself has several nicknames too

Of course, you can refer to Utrecht simply as Utrecht, but just like the inhabitants, the city has some nicknames. The best-known nickname is "030", which are the standard first three numbers to dial if you want to reach someone living in Utrecht.

Another nickname is "Utereg", which is how the inhabitants call Utrecht in dialect. A third nickname is "Domstad", because of the Dom church and tower.

12. Utrecht is the city of Nijntje

Nijntje, or Miffy in English, is the most famous bunny in the Netherlands. Nijntje was created by a man called Dick Bruna, who was born in Utrecht. He wrote several books for children, starring Nijntje and her friends and family.

These books turned out to be so successful that they are known globally. They were even translated into over fifty different languages. You can imagine the city is proud of this. Utrecht shows this with the Nijntje museum, but also with a Nijntje statue and special Nijntje traffic lights.

13. There is a traffic light with a homosexual couple on it

The Nijntje traffic light isn’t the only special traffic light Utrecht has to offer. There is also a traffic light showing a homosexual couple. You can find this traffic light at the junction of Daalsesingel and Knipstraat. It was put there to show support to the LGBTQ+ community.

14. The biggest bicycle parking in the world is in Utrecht

It should come as no surprise that the Netherlands is big on cycling. Our country is known worldwide for its love of cycling, which makes it almost logical that the biggest bicycle parking in the whole world is located in our country.

At the central station, you can find this bicycle parking. It is located underneath the Stationsplein (station square) and has three levels. There is room for 12.500 bicycles and the first 24 hours are free. After this, you have to pay 1,25 euros (1,49 dollars) per 24 hours.

15. Utrecht has a poem that keeps on growing

At the Oudegracht, you can find a poem that is not yet finished. On the bricks, there are letters, forming words and sentences. Each Saturday, another letter gets added. As a result, the poem continues to grow and is sometimes called infinitive. You can buy a letter which you can add to the poem for 100 euros. The money goes to poets and charities, among other things.

16. FC Utrecht is Utrecht’s soccer club

Just like most big cities in the Netherlands, Utrecht has its own soccer club. Although FC Utrecht is not very active in the international scene, they haven’t once been degraded from the highest paid soccer competition in the Netherlands.

FC Utrecht also has its own television channel. Here you can watch their soccer games, interviews, and other fun things that are related to the soccer club.

17.  Utrecht is home to 172 nationalities

Just like Amsterdam, Utrecht is a diverse city. Although you will mainly hear the Dutch language in stores and such, inhabitants of this beautiful city come from all over the world. About one in ten inhabitants have a migration background.

The most common nationalities in Utrecht, next to Dutch, are Moroccan, Turkish, Antillean and Indonesian.

18. Utrecht University is the largest university in the Netherlands

As mentioned before, Utrecht is home to a lot of students. This is due to the many universities and colleges you can find in the city. The biggest one is Utrecht University, which is not only the biggest in Utrecht but also in all of the Netherlands.

Utrecht University was founded in 1636 and there are currently over 30.000 students studying there. The university has seven faculties and about 6.700 employees, 640 of them are professors.

19. Utrecht has 17 museums

If you like culture, Utrecht is a good city to visit. There are 17 museums, with a variety of themes. The most famous museums in Utrecht are the Nijntje museum and the Spoorwegmuseum. Those museums embody the things Utrecht is most famous for.

But there are other museums as well, such as the Centraal Museum and the Universiteitsmuseum. Here you can find a wider variety of items to admire.

20. Utrecht has a flag that is half red and half white

The flag of Utrecht is a rectangle that is divided into a red rectangle and a white rectangle. This is because, in the past, they had civic militias which were part of a guild. This guild had two departments. One of the departments had a red pennon, and the other department had a white pennon.

21. Utrecht hosts the annual Netherlands Film Festival

Every year the Netherlands Film Festival takes place in the city of Utrecht. The festival is quite a big event that celebrates everything that has to do with the film industry and lasts for ten days.

Several productions get presented, such as future films, documentaries, and television productions. The best actors, films, and directors can get awarded with Golden Calves, the biggest award an actor can win in the Netherlands.

22. Utrecht is home to the famous Rietveld Schröder House

The Rietveld Schröder House was designed by Gerrit Rietveld and is the best known example of De Stijl-architecture. In fact, it is argued to be the only building belonging to this art movement.

After Mrs. Schröder, whom the house was built for, died, the house became a museum open to visitors. It is also listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can find this house at the Prins Hendriklaan.

23. The Union of Utrecht was the first step towards the Dutch Republic

During the Dutch Revolt, the northern parts of the Netherlands fought against the Spanish. Willem van Oranje led the Dutch fighters, and eventually, he got the Dutch provinces to sign a treaty saying they would stand up against the Spanish. This union was formed in Utrecht, giving the city an important role in the history of the Netherlands.

24. The city center is divided into districts

There are several districts you can discover during your visit to Utrecht. The best-known one is the Dom Quarter, logically named this way because it’s where you can find the Dom church and the Dom Tower.

Another district is the Museum District, where you can find several museums. The Vredenburg District is worth visiting as well, as it is the perfect place for shopping since there are several local shops and food markets.

25. Utrecht has 350 restaurants and 150 cafes and pubs

If you want to grab a bite or a drink, there are plenty of places in Utrecht where you can go. Whether you are close to the shops, alongside the canals, or close to the station, with 350 restaurants and 150 pubs and cafes there is always something nearby that you like.

26. Utrecht has been named the most beautiful canal city in the world

Just like Amsterdam, Utrecht has quite some canals. The yards and wharf cellars make this city's canal district unique. The canals are there because Utrecht used to play an important role in international trade, but nowadays you can find mainly restaurants and cafes along the canals.

27. Indoor shopping mall Hoog Catharijne is one of the biggest in the Netherlands

Hoog Catharijne is a must-visit if you love to shop. This indoor shopping mall houses over 150 stores. The mall is connected to the station, making it easily accessible.

There are several places to get food and drinks as well, so you can easily spend a whole afternoon here, if not longer. Examples of stores you can find here are Bershka, Levi’s, and Lush.

28. De Inktpot is the tallest brick building in the Netherlands

De Inktpot is a brick building in the city of Utrecht. It was built in 1918 by NS, which is an important Dutch railway organization. Nowadays it is used as the headquarters of ProRail.

Ever since the building started being used by ProRail, the name became the Inktpot, which translates to the Inkwell. It got this name due to the shape of the building resembling an inkwell.

29. Utrecht used to be the capital city of the Netherlands

Even though it only lasted for about half a year, in 1808 Utrecht was the capital city of the Netherlands. This was at the beginning of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. King Lodewijk Napoleon even had a palace built but moved to Amsterdam later that year when Amsterdam became the Dutch capital city.

30. You can see big musicals at the Beatrix Theater

Utrecht is a city that is big on culture. I already mentioned there are many museums in Utrecht, but the performing arts can’t be left uncelebrated either.

There are several theaters in Utrecht where you can enjoy the most amazing shows, but the Beatrix Theater is definitely one worth mentioning. This theater is home to big musical productions such as Mamma Mia!, Chicago, and Dirty Dancing. The Bodyguard and Miss Saigon have also been playing in this theater.

31. Beer gets delivered to restaurants and cafes by boat

As mentioned before, Utrecht has several canals. Although the canals were used more intensively in the past, they still don’t go unnoticed. There are many restaurants and cafes alongside the canals, and these places need drinks to sell to their customers.

At the Oudegracht, they have found a great solution for this. Twice a week, a beer boat delivers beer to restaurant and cafe owners along the Oudegracht. The beer boat does not only deliver beer, it also delivers sodas and stronger liquors.

32. Utrecht has its own chocolates

In 1922 the Domtorentjes were invented. These chocolates are made of chocolate with a soft filling and are made and sold by a bakery called Theo Blom. This bakery can be found at the Zadelstraat.

These chocolates are absolutely delicious and they are popular with both tourists as well as locals. So if you ever find yourself near the Zadelstraat, I would highly recommend trying one.

33. More than half of the population in Utrecht has higher education

The people living in Utrecht certainly are bright. 144.980 inhabitants have had higher education, which means they went to university or college. This is 51.7 percent of all of the inhabitants. Another 28.8 percent of the inhabitants have had middle-level education and 19.4 percent of the inhabitants have had low education.

34. Utrecht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands

Around 50 A.D. the Romans founded the city of Utrecht. They started at the place where the Domplein is currently located. In 1122 Utrecht received city rights. It was the second city in the Netherlands to receive city rights.

35. The Jaarbeurs welcomes over 2.5 million visitors yearly

The Jaarbeurs is a big venue that hosts several events and conventions each year. The venue is over a hundred years old and was originally made to stimulate trade and make the city more wealthy. Nowadays you can visit a big variety of events, from small to big events and from professional to informal events.

36. In 2015, the Tour de France started in Utrecht

The Tour de France is an important cycling competition in which the cyclists cycle all the way to Paris, France. Where this tour starts differs each year, and in 2015 Utrecht had the honors of hosting the start.

They started with an individual time sprint, and the Australian Rohan Dennis won this first stage of the Tour de France. The overall winner of this year’s Tour de France was Chris Froome.

37. Utrecht got its name from a Roman fortress

In Roman times, there was a fortress located at the current location of the city of Utrecht. This fortress was named Traiectum, because of its location at the Rhine river.

Traiectum was translated to the Dutch "trecht". The "U" comes from the old Dutch word "uut", which means downriver. Utrecht can be roughly translated to "the fortress down the river".

38. The average rent in Utrecht is 17,81 euros per square meter

Utrecht is a lovely city to live in. Although it is less expensive than Amsterdam, it still isn’t cheap. If you want to rent a place, the average price is 17,81 euros (21,19 dollars) per square meter.

In the city center, you are likely to pay more. For comparison, the average rent in Amsterdam is 21,76 euros (25,89 dollars) per square meter and the average rent in Rotterdam is 15,48 euros (18,42 dollars) per square meter.

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Conclusion

Whether you want to visit Utrecht, were just curious, or wanted to confirm something you already suspected, hopefully, you enjoyed reading this article and learned some new things and facts about Utrecht.

Next time you walk along the Oudegracht you’ll know to look down and read the poem, and perhaps you will notice the Nijntje traffic light at the Lange Viestraat.

Would you like to visit Utrecht? Be sure to check out our Utrecht travel guide! It will tell you exactly which places you should visit.

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Written by

Leo van den Berg
As a Dutchman I am extremely proud of the beautiful country in which I live. My goal is to convey my passion and love for the Netherlands to as many people as possible.

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