Utrecht is of ancient origin, tracing its history back to a Roman fortification in 47 AD. It served as a border fortress of the Roman Empire on the Rhine. Germanic tribes forced the Romans out around 270 AD. Utrecht had a bishop from the 8th Century, and was granted city rights in the 12th Century. In 1528 Holy Roman Emperor Charles V became Lord of the Netherlands, and the Vredenburg Castle was built in Utrecht. The Union of Utrecht in 1579 united seven provinces against the Spanish rule, and marked the beginning of the Dutch Republic. The treaty that put an end to the War of the Spanish Succession was signed in Utrecht in 1713. The first railway linking it with Amsterdam was built in 1843, and owing to its central location, Utrecht gradually became a hub of the country's railway network. Over the past few decades, the city grew considerably as a number of new neighbourhoods such as Kanaleneiland, Overvecht, Hoograven and Lunetten were built.
The historical center of Utrecht is knows as the Museum Quarter. There, you can admire the Medieval architecture, explore art galleries or relax in the cozy cafes.
The most famous building in Utrecht is the Dom Tower. With a height of 112 metres, it is the tallest church tower in the whole of the Netherlands. It was built in the 14th Century as part of Utrecht's cathedral, but a hurricane in 1674 detsroyed much of the Dom Church and it was never reconnected with the tower. Its bells are said to be second in Europe only to those in the Cologne cathedral. Guided tours to the tower top are available, and the panorama is worth the climb.
The National Museum from Musical Clock to Street Organ is one of the most interesting stops in the Museum Quarter. Its unique collection includes music boxes, musical clocks, pianolas, street organs, fairground and dance hall organs. The Railway Museum is housed in an old railway station. It is a lot of fun for children as it includes working train models and even a Jumbo Train on which parents are not allowed! In the old quarter, there are also nicely restored almshouses, once built by the rich citizens for the poor, the old and the laborers. They consisted of a single room, a tiny kitchen and a bathroom.
A network of beautiful canals is an indelible part of the town's atmosphere. They are lined with stately mansions that once belonged to wealthy merchants and craftsmen. Many of the former cellars underneath the quayside buildings have been transformed into attractive restaurants and boutiques. Cruises offer tourists an opportunity to explore Utrecht from a different perspective. There are two cruise companies whose offers include stops at interesting museums and at a beer brewery. Pedaloes are available for hire. There are even parkings for them at the quayside cafes if you decide to stop for refreshment. Rowing boats and canoes are also popular.
Utrecht boasts one of the landmarks of modern architecture, the famous Rietveld Schröder House. It was built in 1924 by the local architect Gerrit Thomas Rietveld for Mrs. Truus Schröder-Schräder, in accordance with the principles of De Stijl movement, in the typical Stijl colors: blue, red and yellow, combined with black, white and gray. The rooms are separated by sliding walls, allowing the inhabitants to change the layout as desired. The building is UNESCO World Heritage site.