Utrecht’s City Walls

620px-Traiectum_-_Wttecht_-_Utrecht_(Atlas_van_Loon)This is a map of Utrecht dating back to the 1600s and much of the city is still recognizable. Certainly the general outline of the city is recognizable, although it should be noted that the section at the top of the map is the eastern side of town and the left bit is the northern side of town. Basically, it needs to be rotated one turn to the right.

The city center of Utrecht is relatively small and it is still easy to find the borders of the ancient city, since there’s a canal that nearly completely rings the city. In fact, they’re in the process of reconstructing the missing part of the canal on the western side of town, which was turned into a highway back around the 1960s. The road is gone and the canal is coming back. I think it is ready for the water, as of recent news, though I don’t know if they’ve actually filled it in yet.

However, in addition to the canal that ringed the city, there also used to be walls surrounding the city for protection. Massive three-meter-thick walls surrounded the city and there were only three main gates (east, west, and south) that let people in or out. The walls were initially wooden but eventually built of stone. I think the walls initially began in the early 1100s, although I’m not sure if that was the wood or stone wall.

While out for a walk with Charlie one morning, as we walked along the northern edge of the city, I happened to spot this marker for the stadsmuur (city wall) from the 13th century.
stadsmuur
The walls stayed up into the 1800s, and while it’s interesting to imagine what it would look like if they were still up, ultimately, the view is much nicer now. Still, you can get a hint of some of the fortifications, particularly along the eastern side of town. When we don’t head north, we typically head south, walking along the eastern edge of the city, following the path along the canal. In one section, you can see a fragment of the old city walls. Don’t let the picture fool you. This is actually much higher than it looks, because there is earth built up in front of it and there’s a hill path that leads you up to the top. Behind the wall is a two-storey house and the roof is essentially level (or slightly lower) than the top of the wall.

Old Wall
If you keep heading south along the eastern edge, you come to one of the bastions, which is home to the Sonnenborgh Museum now. Standing next to it gives you a real sense of the perspective and just how high and imposing the walls must have seemed. If you look at the old map, this is the triangular bit on the top right, which is actually the south east corner.
11/11/11 at the Utrecht Meridian

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7 thoughts on “Utrecht’s City Walls

  1. Great post! I love the area around the Sonnenborgh.

    Is it weird that I’m hoping for videos showing the restored canal being filled? There are some interesting photos here: http://www.bouwpututrecht.nl/2015/10/11/slenteren/
    I also can’t wait to see how Hoog Catharijne changes! It’s even more dark and depressing now with the construction going on. I was there a month or so ago and there was so much water leaking from the ceiling that they had dumpsters sitting around to catch it.

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