Home / Articles / History of Utrecht

History of Utrecht

Old map of Utrecht

Utrecht in the Netherlands is the capital of the province of the same name. With in excess of 300,000 people it is also the most highly populated as well. Utrecht is a city with a rich history dating back as far as the Middle Ages. It is also home to the main offices of both the Catholic and Protestant faiths.

For many years Utrecht was viewed as the top city in all the Netherlands, later on replaced by none other than Amsterdam. Going back to its history, there is some question as to when there were first inhabitants in Utrecht. Some say it goes back to the Stone Age, earlier than 2000 BC. Utrecht was also home to legions of Roman soldiers and their families during the heyday of the Roman Empire.

Following waves of attacks from Germanic tribes the Romans eventually left Utrecht around the years 275-300. Throughout the centuries Utrecht was swarmed upon by a variety of religions, each trying to become the predominant one in the region. To say that Utrecht has its share of cathedrals, churches and religious headquarters is truly an understatement.

Utrecht is also the site, where in 1579 the seven provinces from the north of the country signed what became the Union Of Utrecht. This union called for them to unite in ousting the Spaniard rulers. While the fledgling Dutch republic went all out to abolish the iron-clad Catholic rule in Utrecht, it still remained around 40 percent Catholic well into the 17th century.

Utrecht nonetheless is still the center of the Old Catholic Churches who were not under Roman rule. Beginning in the 1800’s Utrecht slowly began to grow to the point when it was connected by railway to Amsterdam itself. Still, in spite of its massive growth as an important metropolitan city it has seen its share of misfortune along the way.

During World War II Utrecht was held by the Germans up until they surrendered the Netherlands in May of 1945, when the war was finally winding down. Since then plenty of new neighborhoods have sprouted up in and around Utrecht. To this day the city is seeing a massive increase in redevelopment projects despite protests by those who want to retain the status quo.

So, while Amsterdam has become the recognized hub and spotlight of the Netherlands, Utrecht is still seen as one of the country’s shining spots and is a huge and highly popular tourist attraction and destination.