According to the travel search engine, GoEuro, Utrecht’s canals are the most beautiful in Europe. Although Venice has long held the imagination and romance, it seems that the overwhelming tourism is causing the city to lose some of its lustre. (Though, personally, I think if you go in the off season, the stunning beauty of Venice is still quite evident.)But I’m not going to argue with Utrecht taking top ranking. We’ve got some truly picturesque canals, and the long stretches of wharves running along the Oudegracht and Nieuwegracht really do set them apart from most other cities. No matter the size and no matter the season, there’s always something to enjoy about Utrecht’s canals. The city’s beautiful buildings are often reflected in the water, and at night, many of the canals and bridges and lit up as part of the Trajectum Lumen light show. But even the small, quiet neighborhood canals offer a tranquil spot to pause and simply enjoy the scenery.
So yes, I think Utrecht certainly earns top spot when it comes to beautiful canal cities!
This was taken before the snow came, but is representative of how much of the city seemed to look. With all of the rain and mild temperatures we’d been having, everything had gone a bit green. The Domtoren was covered in mossy green splotches, and the Nieuwegracht, seen here, was starting to look like the wharves were made of grass, rather than brick. I’m not sure if the snow and freezing weather will have any impact, or if we’ll simply return to green when the white has disappeared. Still, I suppose it adds a nice touch of colour during the otherwise grey winter months.
I love the little surprises I still find wandering through the city. While showing a visiting friend around the Nieuwegracht the other week, we spotted a few unexpected sights. First up is this Secret Room that is a part of the Hotel Nieuwegracht. Actually, let me correct that. It’s the only room in the Hotel Nieuwegracht. The hotel is the smallest in Utrecht, although eventually it will have a second room. From their website:
At this current moment, Hotel Nieuwegracht consists of one room. The room has a private entrance door right at the channel, and was recently completely renovated. Room features:
- bathtub with shower;
- flat screen TV with DVD player and digital TV
- water boiler and complimentary coffee and tea;
- complimentary bottle of white wine.
For those not familiar with the Nieuwegracht, it’s one of Utrecht’s famous canals with a wharf level below street level. For example, this is the view you would have outside your door if you stayed at Hotel Nieuwegracht:
Sadly, it was overcast and a bit gloomy that day, so this doesn’t show it at its best, but it’s still a lovely view and is particularly charming when the trees are in full leaf, or when snow coats the streets and wharves.
The other unusual sight we came across just a few steps further down the Nieuwegracht was this sign pointing to heaven and hell. Interestingly, the sign is lateral rather than vertical. In this case, I have no idea if the sign has any specific significance, but it’s certainly food for thought.
This is a typical sight here in Utrecht. A view over a bridge (covered in bikes), looking along a canal (Nieuwegracht), with a variety of building styles. The Nieuwegracht is one of the canals fairly unique to Utrecht, in that it has a wharf area along the sides that sits below street level. You can catch a glimpse of it here:
When I posted the photos of Atlas yesterday, I realized I never posted the other photos of the Nieuwegracht that I took that day in December. The Nieuwegracht is beautiful, stately and charming at any time of year, but with the coating of snow, it was something special.
I saw this man walk out to the canal with a bucket and dip it in to get water, but my camera wasn’t fast enough to get the action shot, just the before and after.
It’s a long, quiet street, filled mainly with private residences and businesses, rather than a lot of shops. It’s yin to the Oudegracht’s yang, I suppose. The Oudegracht is the more obvious tourist spot, but the Nieuwegracht is definitely worth a wander if you visit. After all, both of them have the famous below-street-level wharves that are somewhat unusual.
It snowed yesterday. Not a lot, but it did snow. That’s after that glorious sunshine earlier in the week. I’m not really surprised, though. My birthday is coming up soon enough and I’ve had plenty of occasions over the years to realize that my birthday seems to coincide with truly lousy weather, including snow storms.
This picture wasn’t actually taken yesterday. It was from the real snow storm we had right before Christmas. We had walked along the Nieuwegracht a bit to enjoy the scenery and I finally noticed this rooftop display, which I’d seen in someone else’s photo on Flickr. There’s some lovely detail in the building and the rooftop with the molding and the window tracery. Still, the poor guy looks a bit chilly!
I’m still working on resumés and getting approved at various writing/freelance sites, so here’s a photo I took the other weekend at the end of the Nieuwegracht (the new canal … that dates to the 1300s) looking toward the Domtoren (the cathedral tower). It’s a lovely street to wander along, admiring all the old buildings.