Utrecht is a central Dutch city with a very long history. With more than 318,000 inhabitants, it is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands. The history of the city goes back to 47 AD when the Roman emperor Claudius ordered his general Corbulo to build a defensive line along the river Rhine which was the most northern border of the empire. One of the strongholds (or Castella) along the river was built at a crossing in the river and was called Trajectum (which means fordcrossing place). In the local language this became Trecht, Uut-Trecht (lower-Trecht) and later Utrecht.
The Dom tower and church
On the place where once the Castellum stood, now stands the Dom tower and church. The 112 meter tall Dom tower is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands. Climbing up the stairs to see the magnificent view from the top is highly recommended. On clear days you can look as far as Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
The church was built in the 13th century. The Gothic church is the major religious building in the city. When a hurricane hit the town in 1674, the badly constructed nave collapsed, which is the reason why today the Dom tower and the church itself are separated by the Dom Square. The interior of the church was stripped of all sculpture during Reformation, but its exterior remains a lavishly decorated example of Dutch Gothic architecture.
Canals and wharves
The Oude Gracht is a canal going through the heart of the city. This canal is unique because of its many picturesque cellars on water level. Centuries ago they were used for storage and commerce. The typical wharves were constructe to allow access to the cellars under the buildings lining the canals. Nowadays, many of them host fine restaurants and pubs and in summer, you can find nice terraces at the water here. No other city in the world has comparable pedestrian quays along the water.
Utrecht is known as a student city with a large population of young people. This results in a booming nightlife with many places to have a quick meal, some drinks or a dance.