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CYCLING CITY

Meshing the old with the new

Savithri Rodrigo was once charmed by the culture of Utrecht

It’s the quieter version of Amsterdam. Walking or cycling around Utrecht, which is a car free city, takes one back to an era when people lived simply – sitting outside on tiny porches, leisurely trundling along on bicycles or leaning over bridges to watch the Oudegracht (old canal) meander by.

The different scenes on two levels on either side of the canal are fascinating. Wharf cellars, cafes and terraces that offer the calming sight of cruising boats are ideal for wining and dining at sunset.

But Utrecht is not only about winding canals. Centuries old buildings such as the Dom Tower around which the city is built are artfully blended with modern architecture. The Rietveld Schröder House is a good example of this.

The Dom Tower is the tallest belfry in the Netherlands and the ideal compass for any site in the city. The belfry was originally part of St. Martin’s Cathedral, which was the most dominant church in this onetime religious capital.

This cathedral, an emblem of Gothic architecture, was established around 630 AD in a tiny chapel founded by the Frankish clergy. It faced many eras of destruction and there’s little left of the structure today. But when you walk inside, you’ll be mesmerised by the beautifully carved burial slabs, a medieval tomb, monumental cenotaph and the emperors’ stones.

Dom Tower plays host to Dom Square, which is surrounded by University College Utrecht, the Bishop’s Palace complex and more. On a sunny day, the infectious laughter of children blends with the sound of vendors selling candyfloss and ice cream.

Look at the National Pantheon arcade, and you’ll see over a hundred statues of Hungarian celebrities in the arts, sciences and history looking right back at you.

Spend time discovering 2,000 years of Utrecht history by delving under the Domplein Square. Take an interactive tour underground and marvel at the cathedral’s huge foundation pillars, witness the destruction of the volcano of 1674 and explore archaeological findings dating back to the Roman Empire.

St. Catherine’s Convent Museum is home to an enviable collection of religious art from the Middle Ages including works by Dutch masters. It also houses precious stone ingrained book bindings, exquisite statues, altar pieces and a 9th century chalice belonging to Saint Lebuinus.

And finally, revert to childhood at the Museum Speelklok by immersing yourself in ancient self-playing musical instruments such as clocks, music boxes and orchestrions.

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Photo by Jonne Mäkikyrö on Unsplash

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Photo by Reginar on Unsplash

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Photo by Martin Woortman on Unsplash

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Photo by Julia Solonina on Unsplash

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Photo by Robin Benzrihem on Unsplash

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