Today’s tips ‘n trips post is about a walking tour we did recently when visiting Utrecht.
When we were in Utrecht last year, we did a walking tour of the city centre, seeing the highlights. This time we wanted to see a bit more of this beautiful city, so we went to the Tourist Information Centre of Utrecht to buy a walking tour leaflet.
We opted for the tour ‘Courtyards and chambers‘, a walking tour of about 1,5 to 2 hours which would take us to to southern city centre where there are a lot of courtyards and chambers, often hidden behind a gate or some houses.
‘Some special gardens and other interesting locations are also included. In the past, the poor and sick depended on charity and the church played a major role in this. Sometimes rich civilians constructed houses for ‘needy and impecunious’ fellow city residents. The houses were small and therefore referred to as chambers; they were called vrijwoningen, meaning that residents did not have to pay rent. Many houses were located around a garden or court; however, in Utrecht most of them are in rows beside the street. The almshouses were mainly managed by foundations. Today, residents are private persons and the almshouses and chambers fall under the Department for the Preservation of Monuments and Historic Buildings’ (source : www.visit-utrecht.com).
These little houses are still lived in, so when doing this tour it is important to mind the privacy of the inhabitants.
Our first stop was the garden of the former St-Mary Church. The church itself is demolished, but the cloister is still to be visited as is the beautiful flower and herb garden. It is a nice and quiet place in the town… as there are many we would soon discover!
On Springweg 102c is the gate of a former orphanage. We would never ever have walked through it if we would be passing by, but the leaflet we bought told us to go through the gate… we hesitated for a while as it seems priveat, but boy was I glad we did go through it as there was a lovely quite place with a beautiful garden. I did some outfit-photos overthere (as you could see in last Saturday’s post). It was such a serene place and you would never ever think you were in the middle of a busy and hectic city!
Andreashof was our next stop. There are some old and new buildings surrounding this fab little courtyard and once again we were overwhelmed by the peace and quiet.
“De zeven steegjes” (= the seven alleyways) where built in the first part of the 19th century to provide housing for poor labourers. The houses are extremely tiny and it is hard to imagine that large families lived in them. The neighbourhood was renovated in the 1990ies and is still lived in.
We crossed the Oude Gracht and took the stairs to wharf level. Apparently the river Rhine once run through Utrecht, which made Utrecht an important trade centre. Many wharfs were built next to the river. But then the main flow of the river Rhine moved south and canals where built in the city centre. To make sure the river would not overflow, the canals where built about 4 metres below street level. On that level wharf storages where built. These wharf storages and cellars are accessible via stairs descending from street level.
On that wharf level next to the canals are now heaps of outdoor terraces. They were jam-packed with locals and tourists soaking up the spring sun. When walking on street level you really heard a buzzing noise of the people talking, laughing and cheering on the lower terraces.
Continuing our walk, we passed several other courtyards, like the one near the Nicolaï Church, Bruntenhof, Flora’s Hof and the cloister garden of the Dom. Below you see lots of photos, so don’t forget to scroll all the way down 🙂
We really enjoyed this walk. As it was one of the first warm days of 2016 and a lot of people had a couple of days off because of a national holiday, Utrecht was really crowded, especially in the city centre. We like visiting cities, but we were glad to escape the crowds for a little while and enjoy Utrecht in all the peace and quiet of these courtyards and chambers.
After our walk, we enjoyed our well-deserved apéro-time on one of the outdoor terraces…
Next week I will tell you more about our evening walk!