Hidden Gem Cities//Utrecht, Netherlands

For many who consider travel to the Netherlands, it’s Amsterdam that tops their “to do” list. However, Utrecht is a hidden gem worth exploring. It’s the country’s fourth largest city, and its centrally located. In fact, the ever popular Amsterdam is only about 25 minutes south. Utrecht has been around for a long time, in fact, that are parts of the city that date back to around 50BC, when Romans occupied the area. Today, this city, so rich in history, is also big on charm. Its central location makes it a prime candidate for a day (or two) trip, from any part of the country. Curious what Utrecht has to offer? We’ve put together some must-sees.

The Oudegracht

Amsterdam isn’t the only city in the Netherlands that boasts gorgeous canals. The canals here have been around a long time, with certain portions of them being built around 1000 AD. The main portion of them isn’t any spring chicken either, dating back over 800 years. During the Middle Ages, the canals were a popular place for inhabitants to do their laundry. Today, the canals are lined with museums, bridges, sculptures, stores, cafes, and homes. Boat tours are available featuring bi-lingual guides, who can point out points of interest and give visitors insight on local history.


One of the main focal points of the city of Utrecht is known as Dom Tower. It’s an old cathedral tower that was separated from the Cathedral of St. Martin after a huge storm hit in 1674. The tower is impressive in its own right. It houses 50 bells, and stands just over 112 meters high. It was built between 1320 and 1382. But, it’s what lies under Dom Tower that is arguably even more impressive still. DOMUnder is one of Utrecht’s newest attractions.

It’s a self guided tour that takes you under Dom Tower, Cathedral Square, and even the modern city streets themselves. What awaits you is a 75 minute journey that takes you through the city’s history. Armed with a flashlight, you’ll see remains of a Roman fortress, old cellars, and various ruins left behind by natural devastation. This is obviously a popular tour, so you’ll want to secure your tickets asap.

Museum Speelklok

For something decidedly unique, you can’t beat this museum. Translated to English, the name means Musical Clock Museum. Here you’ll find all things music boxes, clocks, barrel organs, and all manner of self playing instruments. You would think that with such delicate devices, that most of the contents would be hands-off. However, many displays are interactive and hands-on. Some of the pieces date back to the 18th century, others are modern day. No matter what year they came from, many of them still work and are stunning pieces of art. For the uber curious, sometimes you can ever get to see some behind-the-scenes restoration work being done.

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Гуляя по центру Амстердама, да и любого другого большого города, в этот туристический сезон мы наверняка встретим шарманщика, или как они сами себя называют, уличного органиста. Широко улыбаясь, они потряхивают медной копилкой с мелочью в такт разухабистой музычке, перекидываются словечком с прохожими и не стесняются позировать на фото – разумеется, за вознаграждение. И все довольны: туристам – колорит, шопинговой публике – развлечение, шарманщику – копеечка, а Нидерландам – сохранение традиции! ' И поэтому известия о том, что уличные органисты – отмирающий сорт весьма печальны. Но это правда: в Амстердаме сейчас всего один профессиональный шарманщик, по имени Руд Бандит, и играет он на улицах любимого района Йордаан. Бандит – это прозвище: на его органе изображен пират с повязкой на глазу. Все остальные шарманщики играют в качестве хобби по выходным или когда придется. ' И это при том, что в 1920х в Амстердаме музыку играли 30 уличных органистов, каждый в своем районе города. Но вот в 1950х народ обзавелся телевизорами и танцы на улице вышли из моды, и с тех пор шарманщики медленно, но верно вымирают. Чтоб пополнить кассу органисты с удовольствием берутся придать веселья всевозможным мероприятиям, к примеру на открытии супермаркета, лавочек и кафешек, а вот Руд Бандит даже играл свой классически-религиозный репертуар в церкви на Дамской площади в Амстердаме. ' Заработки на улице невелики: денежки в копилку подкидывают не приезжие, а местные жители. Понимают, что традицию и труд уважать надо. А вот туристы скупятся, особенно Азиатские: на фото хотят, а за удовольствие заплатить – фиг. Так что друзья, в следующий раз увидите уличного шарманщика, пособите копеечкой, надо таки поддержать вековую традицию. А на видео у нас танцевальный орган начала 20 века, огромный во всю стену, такой раньше пользовали вместо дискотеки!

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Trajectum Lumen

Though the name sounds like a spell from Harry Potter, it’s not. Channel your inner moth and prepare to follow the light. Trajectum Lumen is a light art route through the historical portion of the city of Utrecht. It features works of light art from both local, and international, light artists. Following the lights, you’ll be guided through structures, objects, streets, canals, tunnels, and more, to learn about historical events and the city itself. The light art route can be enjoyed every day of the year. It begins from the very moment the street lights turn on, until midnight. The whole thing will take you roughly 1.5 hours to complete. That is, unless you make a few stops along the way. If you want an itinerary to make sure you don’t lose your way, you can pick up a free one at the tourist office. Guided tours are also available.

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