The Canals of Utrecht

The Utrecht canals with their wharves and wharf cellars are unique in the world.

Utrecht is also  for its medieval center, Christian monuments and a venerable university. The iconic Domtoren, a 14th-century bell tower with city views, stands opposite the Gothic Cathedral .But it’s tree lined canals are one of its most special attractions.

Utrecht’s location on the banks of the Rhine allowed it  to become an important trade centre in the Northern Netherlands. When the main flow of the Rhine moved south, the old bed which still flowed through the heart of the town became ever more canalized; and the wharf system was built as an inner city harbour system.On the wharfs, storage facilities (werfkelders) were built, on top of which the main street, including houses, was constructed. The wharfs and the cellars are accessible from a platform at water level with stairs descending from the street level to form a unique structure.

The deep cellars, serving as storage spaces, ran through to below the houses. Today, the canals and shipyards are home to shops, restaurants and private residences.

The two large canals that dissect the old town are now the city’s biggest tourist attractions .Utrecht  is the 4th biggest city in the Netherlands  with a population of about 400,000. Being a big university town – 10 per cent of the population are students.