Utrecht: bikes, canals and new neighborhoods
Today we travel to the Dutch countryside, and while the purpose of my visit is Utrecht, Hoorn and Zandam, it is impossible not to remember the cities that I have already written about, but without which a trip to the land of tulips is unthinkable – Rotterdam and The Hague. Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands. It attracts architecture lovers from all over the world. The Hague, on the other hand, is known for its international legal organizations.
And then let’s go to my favorite city, Utrecht, a city with a beautiful train station and the world’s largest bike-park! In terms of urbanism, Utrecht is interesting because it gets rid of roads and brings canals back into the city! Yes, many people haven’t heard about this, but in the last century the Dutch actually buried canals and made parking lots and roads in their place! Creepy? I agree!
Let’s start with Rotterdam! Rotterdam was almost completely destroyed during the war, and the best architects in the world set out to rebuild it. Since then, this is the architectural capital of Europe, the number of studios is off the charts, and every year they create something new and amazing. Stand at least the famous cable-stayed bridge of Erasmus! They say it is the biggest bascule bridge in Western Europe.
Or the De Rotterdam complex by the architect Rem Koolhaas. Considered one of the best modern buildings in the city.
A chic city train station building – in general all Holland’s train stations are as good as they come. Rotterdam Station was designed by Benthem Crouwel Architects, MVSA Architects and West 8. The station is built according to all eco-standards. Most of the interior decoration was made of wood and glass. And the third part of the station’s roof, which is not screened from the sun by the nearby skyscrapers, is covered by solar panels. They are transparent, so the whole station building is flooded with natural light during the day.
Even the bus stops look like modern works of art!
And this wonder is Markthol Market. The world’s first symbiosis of an apartment building and a food market with restaurants, a supermarket, and underground parking.
CNN listed it as one of its “10 Stunning Buildings to See in 2015.” During the year, the market won awards in national and international building and architectural competitions. And even won an award from the National Society of Archaeologists because workers excavated and preserved a medieval village at the market site.
It’s also home to many of my favorite streetcars. The streetcar tracks are segregated, with only one lane left for cars. The streetcars are all low-floor, so it’s easy to enter with a stroller or bicycle.
Now we go to The Hague. This city is important to the rest of the world because it is home to major international legal organizations, such as the UN Court, Europol, Eurojust, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. As a traveler, I remember two things about this city. First, the area where the diplomatic missions of different countries are located. These are usually luxurious mansions with a history. Even if you don’t need to get a visa or ask for political asylum, I advise you to definitely walk around this beautiful neighborhood – indulge your eyes with good architecture.
And secondly, a chic embankment with bicycle parking lots, beautiful benches and restaurants that blend seamlessly into the architecture. Nothing unnecessary – no endless rows of shops with souvenirs and consumer goods, no ice cream makers with refrigerators, no barbecues with shashliks. But there is a museum of unusual sculptures, created by the American Tom Otterness.
01. And having seen enough of these beauties, we go to Utrecht, where the beauties are not less! By the way, this was the first time I decided to get to Utrecht by car. Of course, that’s a big silly thing to do, as it’s longer and much more expensive to drive. But this time I needed to drive through the villages and I didn’t have much time.
02. You can see right away who’s in charge in Utrecht! Entering the city, we get into a street type completely incomprehensible to Russian drivers. In the center of a narrow lane for drivers and on the sides of two wide bike lanes! And what’s worse, the traffic is two-way! So you have to ride very carefully.
03. Streets like this are everywhere. It is clear that cars are not welcome here.
04. There’s no point in going downtown by car. Almost all streets are pedestrian and parking is very expensive.
05. So in the center we walk or ride a bicycle.
06. what makes Utrecht different from other cities is that the canals here are on two levels. It’s incredibly beautiful.
I personally like Utrecht canals much more than Amsterdam canals.
09. This time I came to Utrecht purely for urban purposes (you do remember that I’m in love with its bike park, right?). But apart from the canals, Utrecht is also famous for its churches, the most famous of which is Utrecht Cathedral with the Dome Tower. And of course, Utrecht is all about modern architecture. All of this I showed a few years ago.
10. Construction work is actively going on in the center of the city. Wildlife is coming back to Utrecht! Roads are being excavated, canals are being brought back, wild plants are being planted.
In the sixties the Utrecht authorities decided that the increasing automobile traffic in Utrecht would be helped by building thoroughfares in the place of the moat that surrounded the city center. But the canals were buried, the roads were built, and nothing good came of it.
But the city got a dozen or so lanes instead of water for years. Lanes that no one drove on.
Many years later, the mayor’s office admitted its mistake, and now Utrecht is gradually being restored to its former appearance.