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Dutch Provinces: Utrecht

”Discover the Netherlands, Province by Province” project – each month of 2022 is dedicated to one Dutch province.

February is the month dedicated to Utrecht province here on Amsterdamian. We’ll start our discoveries with the beautiful city of Amersfoort. Only half an hour by train from Amsterdam, Amersfoort is awaiting its visitors with open gates: there are three city gates that are still standing there for you to admire and feel like in medieval times (Koppelpoort, Monnikendam and Kamperbinnenpoort). Amersfoort was well preserved since the Middle Ages, and, apart from the gates, there are also many old buildings telling stories of times long passed. The city got its name after a ford (“a shallow place with good footing where a river or stream may be crossed by wading, or inside a vehicle getting its wheels wet” [Wikipedia]) in the Amer River (Currently Eem river). The river surrounds the city and also enters through the center, creating the canal network.

Amersfoort

Amersfoort is an old city with a young vibe. I visited on a Saturday, so the city was particularly lively, with people going out for shopping on the main shopping streets, at the market, or going for lunch and drinks in the restaurants. I love to see a city on its market day, when everyone goes around with their bike full of bags and the mandatory flower bouquet!

It was a very cold day, and filming and photographing was a bit of a struggle, but I still enjoyed this visit. I think spring would be the best time to visit Amersfoort, because I could see many green areas just waiting to sprout and dress the city walls. This visit to Amersfoort was also my first time going to the museum since the pandemic has started, and I visited not one, but two of them: Museum Flehite and Mondriaanhuis. I’ll tell you more about them in future articles.

What to see and do in Amersfoort

Amersfoort can be explored on foot; there is a 15 minute walk from the train station to the old town, where you can roam the old streets and canals at your own pace.

  • Koppelpoort land and water gate. Since this is the iconic image of Amersfoort, you can’t miss it! You can start your city walk here, taking countless pictures of the amazing gate. Built in 1425, Koppelpoort is part of the second city wall, which was built when the growing city required new defence.
Koppelpoort
  • Muurhuizen. Leaving Koppelpoort, you can continue your walk on this beautiful street. Muurhuizen means “wall houses“, and that’s literally what these houses are: when the new city wall was built, the old one was demolished and houses were built on top of it. There are many charming houses, well preserved, that can be admired on this street which surrounds the eastern part of the city, parallel with the Zuidsingel canal. It’s definitely a must-see!
  • Monnikendam gate. Smaller than Koppelpoort, but still beautiful, Monnickendam is to be found in the south of the city, surrounded by a small park. There’s a path going through the gate (or maybe I should say above it?) and a restaurant at the base.
  • Kamperbinnenpoort — a medieval gate from the first city wall. It’s right on a shopping street, so you can see it while browsing the shops.
  • Onze-Lieve-Vrouwetoren (Tower of Our Lady) is the third highest church towers in the Netherlands at 98 metres. The church was destroyed by an explosion in 1787 and only the tower survived. The tower is visible from almost every spot in the old town, standing tall over the rest of the buildings. You can climb this tower if you dare, and be rewarded with spectacular views. I didn’t do it, as I was already exhausted by fighting the high winds and all I needed was to visit one of the cosy cafés and eat apple pie next to the window.
  • Museum Flehite — is the historical museum of Amersfoort and Eemland. The museum is located in three historic houses built into the city wall during the Late Middle Ages, surrounded by a canal, and offers a wonderful taste of the city’s history. It also hosts regular exhibitions of Dutch and international art.
  • Mondriaanhuis – the famous painter Piet Mondriaan was born in this house in Amersfoort. You can visit the house and learn about his life and art.
  • Kunsthal KAdE offers exhibitions in the field of contemporary/modern art, architecture, design, and contemporary visual culture.

De Hof – the main square, where the Saturday market takes place. There are restaurants all around the square, where you can sample the local cuisine.

De Hof Market Day
  • Hofje De Armen de Pot – one of the largest hofjes (historic courtyards) in the Netherlands. this used to be run by monks caring for the sick and the poor of the city.
  • Shop on the main shopping streets, from which the Krommestraat stands out, with its lovely independent boutiques. Don’t miss Coffee Corazon and Corazon Bakery (I still dream about their apple pie).

There are other charming streets and buildings which you’ll have the pleasure of stumbling upon. I don’t need to tell you about every spot in the city, because it’s nice to have some surprises and discoveries of your own when you visit a place. If you are looking for your next day-trip in the Netherlands, put Amersfoort at the top of your list!

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