Utrecht (city)

Travel Guide Europe Netherlands Utrecht Utrecht

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Introduction

Utrecht canals

Utrecht canals

© Utrecht

The city of Utrecht is the 4th city of The Netherlands with over 340,000 inhabitants and is the capital of the province with the same name. It is centrally located in the country and functions as a crossroad of most railwaylines and highways. Although it used to be located along the Rhine, nowadays the main Rhine river does not flow here any more, only some branches like the Kromme Rijn and Oude (old) Rhine flow here. Like Amsterdam, the city has a long system of canals, along which you can enjoy a good meal or drink on one of the many terraces in the city. Take a few stairs down to the wharves along the canals. These wharves were originally made for access to the cellars of the canal side houses but nowadays most of them are restaurants and/or pubs. Utrecht is also a very lively city, both because of its multicultural mix of people (about one third is originally not Dutch) and the fact that the largest university of the country is located here since 1636.

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Neighbourhoods

The city of Utrecht is subdivided into 10 city quarters, all of which have their own neighbourhood council and service centre for civil affairs.

  • Town Centre
  • Utrecht-East
  • Leidsche Rijn
  • Utrecht-West
  • Overvecht
  • Utrecht-South
  • Utrecht-Northeast
  • Utrecht-Southwest
  • Utrecht-Northwest
  • Vleuten-De Meern

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Sights and Activities

The old city

Just walking around the compact old city is one of the highlights. Many old buildings and the cosy atmosphere along the canals will keep you busy for at least a few days. Besides this enjoyment, there are lots of churches and museums in the city as well. If you prefer to be shown the city, Utrecht City Tours offers guided walking tours through the historic city centre. In the summer months they have a specific tour schedule, but the rest of the year they can be contacted for private tours.

The Dom

Utrecht is home to the highest church tower in the country, the Domtower. Therefore, the city is also called the Dom city. The area around the Domtower and Domsquare is the old heart of the city, where Romans established themselves almost 2,000 years ago. The city itself is younger though, around 1300 years old. The Domtower itself is about 600 years old. The Dom tower is the landmark of the city, standing bang in the middle of the old part, being seperated from the church with the same name. A tornado destroyed part of the church, and since then the tower stands alone. The tower can be visited by a guided tour, which let you gradually climb most of the 112.32-metre high tower going up 465 steps. From the top there is a great view over the city, and on the square below. Tickets can be bought at the tothe urist information shop opposite the tower, the tour also starts from here.

Frozen canal, Utrecht

Frozen canal, Utrecht

© Utrecht

Apart from the Dom, also the St. Jans church is worth a visit.

A few of the main museums are:

  • Centraal Museum Utrecht - A fine collection of art through the ages.
  • Dick Bruna Huis - The work of Dick Bruna, the creator of Miffy (Nijntje) is on permanent display in the Dick Bruna Huis opposite the Centraal Museum.
  • The Rietveld-Schröderhuis - A world-famous house designed by Gerrit Rietveld. It is part of the Centraal Museum and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The house can be visited by booking a tour.
  • The Aboriginal Art Museum - Not something you would expect in Utrecht, but is is surely worth a visit.
  • The Geldmuseum (Money Museum) - To this day, lots of Dutch euro coins are made in Utrecht and you can enjoy this and a display of older coins in the Geldmuseum.
  • Spoorweg Museum (The Railway Museum). This is one of the finest museums in town, with several themes to enjoy, among which a collection of old locs.
Rietveld Garage

Rietveld Garage

© Peter

  • Another building worth a visit is Oudaen, an old fortified house along the canals. There are more examples of these houses of rich patricians from the 13th and 14th century.
  • The Winkel van Sinkel and the Old City House located next to each other on the end of the Oude Gracht (Old Canal), in a great setting, are both examples of neoclassical building styles.

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Events and Festivals

Tour de France 2015

In 2015, the Tour de France will start in the Netherlands. It is scheduled to start in Utrecht, Netherlands, on Saturday 4 July 2015, with a short time trial of about 14 kilometres. The second stage on Sunday 5 July, starts in Utrecht en ends in the province of Zeeland after 166 kilometres. It will be the sixth time the Tour de France starts in the Netherlands, after 1954 (Amsterdam), 1973 (Scheveningen), 1978 (Leiden), 1996 ('s-Hertogenbosch) and 2010 (Rotterdam). This is a record for a country that has no direct border with France.

Koningsdag (King's Day)

In 2013, the Dutch throne was passed on to King Willem-Alexander and what used to be Koninginnedag (Queen's Day) will from 2014 become Koningsdag (King's Day). The date will be changed to the 27th of April, which is the king's birthday. In 2014 however it will be on the 26th of April because the 27th falls on a Sunday. On this day the streets of almost every sizable town in the country come alive with activity. The centre of the action is in Amsterdam, but, if you prefer things a little less crowded, Utrecht is also a popular destination. Both cities have canals and it's just perfect to watch a boat parade with music while you are drinking a beer along the canal side terrace. There are also large outdoor concerts throughout the country, though the one in Amsterdam is the most popular. Several cities have night-markets which actually start the night prior to Koningsdag and last for about 24 hours.

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Weather

Utrecht weather is typical of what you get in the Netherlands, meaning mild winters with rare snow, and reasonably warm summers from June to September. Temperatures are slightly above 20 °C during the summer months, and slightly above zero during winters.

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Getting There

Check OV9292 for information about schedules for buses and trains.

By Plane

Schiphol international airport near Amsterdam is the closest airport nearby, easily reached by direct trains from the city of Utrecht in about half an hour.

By Train

Dutch Railways offers trains to and from Utrecht, which is the center of the railways in the country. Check the website for more information about prices and schedules. Most of the Netherlands can be reached within 2 hours by train from Utrecht.

Utrecht is connected to two neighboring towns by a high-speed tram line. At the edge of the city, close to the A12 and A2 motorways, you will find Transferium Westraven. It's a good idea to park your car there and to take the tram into town. The last two stop is at Utrecht Centraal Station. You will need to cross the train station and the shopping center Hoog Catherijne to get to the inner city.

€5 will allow you to park your car all day and to travel into the city with a maximum of five people. Visiting Utrecht by car doesn't come cheaper than this.

By Car

If you are coming in by car, park your car in one of the many parking garages around the city (follow the signs) and walk from there. Electronic signs display the number of parking spaces available in any given lot as well as directions to the lot, and if the sign says Vol it means the lot is full. Expect to pay around €2.60 per hour at any of the garages in the center. Parking on the curbside is also possible, but even more expensive. Expect to pay €4 to €5 an hour in advance at the meter. Parking fines are around €70 and frequenty enforced, so make sure to get back to your car before the ticket expires. It’s best to avoid driving into central Utrecht. Instead, leave your car at the city perimeter and take a bus or tram into the center.

There are 2 transferiums (westraven & papendorp) where you can park your car for the day at a flat rate of around €4, including transit to the city center by bus or tram for up to 5 passengers. One is on the southern side of the city, very close to the A12 highway exit number 17. The Nieuwegein-Utrecht tram line has a stop at this transferium and departs 8 times an hour daytime, 4 times an hour evening and weekends. Going back you can take a tram bound for either Nieuwegein or IJsselstijn, the last one departs at about 00:30. The other transferium is near the football stadium, and connected to the city center by bus. The frequency of the bus service is comparable to that of the trams.

By Bus

Eurolines offers a number of connections with European cities. The stop of Eurolines is at the Central Station (Jaarbeursplein.) Eurolines has its own busstop here. Within the Netherlands, most bus travel to and from Utrecht is in the region, that is the province and surroundings.

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Getting Around

Walking or using a bike is the easiest way to travel in the city of Utrecht. To use the public transportation in the Netherlands, it is recommended to buy an OV-chipcard. You can buy these on the central bus station (lower level of Utrecht Centraal Station), at kiosks inside the central train station or at some book stores and grocery stores. The OV chipcard is valid for bus, train and tram and works like a debit card that you must first charge with an amount. Buses do take cash though.

By Car

Seeing Utrecht by car is not recommended. The city planners have made it as difficult as possible to navigate the city center, to try and discourage cars there. Driving around can be frustrating as the center is fraught with bus-only lanes, one-way streets, traffic lights and terribly expensive parking spaces. If you want to come by car it is recommended to park at one of the P+R (Park and Ride) places, and take a cheap shuttle bus or tram service into town. There are also several parking garages closer to the center, but they are more expensive.

By Public Transport

Check the U-OV website for local bus lines. A good alternative is taking the bus, which goes often and will take you nearly everywhere. Utrecht Centraal Station serves as the main bus hub for Utrecht as well as the main train hub for the Netherlands. Most buses run from early morning (around 06:00) until just after midnight. City center rides cost ~€2.50. In addition, there are several so-called nightlines. These cost €5-6 and can’t be paid for using strips or OV-chipcard.

In Utrecht there is a tram line from central station to southern suburbs Nieuwegein and IJsselstein. For tourists, only the first stops will be interesting, Westplein and Graadt van Roggeweg. These are located next to the Turkish neighbourhood and the main convention centre respectively.

By Foot

The innercity of Utrecht is easily explored on foot.

By Bike

Using a bike is the easiest way to travel in the city center if the weather is on your side. There are many bicycle shops near the train station where you can rent bikes. Alternatively, if you have an OV chipcard you can rent an OV-Fiets for €3.85 per 24 hours at one of the rail stations. Do make sure that you have good locks on your bike, as bike thefts are unfortunately quite common in the city centre. Also it's a good idea to make use of the free bike parking areas provided by the city council. They are usually guarded and are a safe place to park your bike.

Living at the Utrecht canals

Living at the Utrecht canals

© Utrecht

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Eat

Many restaurants can be found in the city center. Especially near the canals there is a huge choice of places to eat, each with their own style of kitchen, like Italian, Thai, and American. Ask the locals for which places are recommended as not every restaurant offers the same quality.

  • There are several Flemish snack bars outside of Hoog Catharijne that sell wonderful thick fries with mayonnaise. Try it; it’s not as bad as John Travolta’s character seems to think in Pulp Fiction.

ACU, Voorstraat 71. In this squatters cafe cheap but delicious vegan food is served on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Around €10 for a main course. (updated Jul 2018 | edit)

  • Bigoli, Schoutenstraat 12. Serves delicious Italian sandwiches. Be prepared to wait in line at lunch time though. €3-5. edit
  • To try something Dutch visit one of the snackbars and order a Kroket. A good one is behind City Hall, it is called Broodje Plof. A lot of Dutch people visit this place after a good night of binge drinking.
  • Dimitri Petit (Sirtaki II), Servetstraat 4. Take-away related to Greek restaurant "Sirtaki" located opposite it. About €6 for a well-stuffed pita.
  • Food and the City, Voorstraat 30, ☎ +31 30 2683924, e-mail: info@foodandthecity-utrecht.nl. M-Sa 14:30-21:30. Hip Mediterranean take-away. Around €6 for a well-filled vegetarian pita, around €11 for a hearty strudel. (updated Jul 2018 | edit)

Mario, Oudegracht 130-132. This place sells Italian rolls in Utrecht, simply called Broodje Mario. They are famous among people from Utrecht; there's even a rap song about it by the local band Stropstrikkers. €3. edit

  • For a more multi-ethnic view of Utrecht, walk away from the old city from the bus station/central station, walk under the train tracks, and follow the bus route (straight ahead) about 200 m. Try some affordable rotisserie style chicken on the left side of the Kanaalstraat, get a Moroccan style bagel across the street at one of the many middle eastern bakeries, and stock up on way-affordable (the cheapest in Utrecht) fruit and veggies at one of the many produce markets.

Cafe 't College, Mariastraat (Close to the dom), ☎ +31 30 2319136. M 10:00-19:00, Tu-Th 10:00-01:00, F Sa 11:00-14:00, Su 12:00-19:00. Cozy jazz-blues restaurant with good simple food: steaks, salads, sate. The kitchen closes at 21:00, but you can get bitterballen, spring rolls, etc. after that. main: €14.
Stadskasteel Oudaen, at Oudegracht 99, is a 13th-century city castle turned restaurant.

  • Broadway, Oudegracht aan de werf 139, ☎ +31 30 2312643. An excellent spare ribs restaurant. Mains €15–20.
  • El Greco, Ganzenmarkt 28. This Greek snack bar serves some of the best pita gyros sandwiches in Utrecht.
  • For cheap tapas go to El Mundo at Voorstraat or Mimadre at Oudkerkhof.
  • Humphreys, Stadhuisbrug 3, e-mail: info@humphreys.nl. Under the city hall, on the Oudegracht. The restaurant is marked by a sign and menu. The entrance is tiny and under the stairs, but the restaurant is huge with multiple halls each in their own retro style. Modern Dutch cuisine with a fixed price for a three-course meal. €24.95 for three-course meal (fixed).
  • Indonesia Asli, Biltstraat 56-58. M-Sa 12:00-20:00. Authentic (i.e., spicy) Indonesian restaurant and take-away. €7-11.
  • LE:EN, Heuveloord 140. Best described as Asian tapas, LE:EN (pronounced "lain") is a bit of a walk from the center, and it's not the cheapest in town, but a lot of locals think it's worth it anyway! edit
  • Luce, Visschersplein 75, ☎ +31 30 2333008. A hip and trendy restaurant. Very trendy atmosphere with exclusive and delicious food.
  • Meneer Smakers, Nobelstraat 143. This small burger joint is by far the best in town, serving ten different burgers and delicious home-made fries.
  • De Ontdekking, Voorstraat 110 (opposite the "City" cinema), ☎ +31 30 751 47 19, e-mail: info@deontdekkingutrecht.nl. M-F 08:00-18:00, Sa Su 09:00-18:00. Many vegetarian and vegan options, dishes and decor inspired by the travel agency that used to be in this building (i.e. by countries all over the world). About €8 for breakfast, €9 for a warm lunch. Salad €8.50, soup €6.50, sandwich about €7.
  • De Oude Muntkelder, Oude Gracht a/d Werf 112, ☎ +31 30 231-6773. Daily 12:00-21:00. Traditional Dutch pancake restaurant. They have a lovely setting beside the small canal. They have a wide varieties of pancakes, even quirky ones like the Norwegian pancake. On Mondays and Tuesdays all-you-can-eat pancakes for students for only €9.75 (valid student card required). €10-15.
  • WT Urban Kitchen (Watertoren Utrecht), Heuveloord 25A, ☎ +31 30 303 1216, e-mail: info@wturbankitchen.nl. M-F 17:30-0:00, Sa Su 12:00-0:00. Located at the top of a water tower, this restaurants serves delicious food with an amazing view. €39 for a 4-course menu, €44 for a 5-course menu, €49 for a 6-course menu.

8 Karel 5, Geertebolwerk 1, ☎ +31 30 233 7555, e-mail: restaurant@karel5.nl. M-Sa 18:00-22:00. Restaurant of hotel Karel V. €72 for a 5-course meal.

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Drink

  • Luden Café Utrecht - drinks, lunch, dinner.
  • Stadskasteel Oudaen, Oudegracht 99, ☎ +31 30 231 1864. A 13th-century city castle turned restaurant. They have their own theatre and more importantly their own brewery, where they brew the local beers Ouwe Daen, Jonge Daen en Linteloo Gold. Highly recommended.
  • De Witte Ballons, Lijnmarkt 12 (On the west side of Oudegracht, halfway the city center. From the Domplein, walk under the Domtoren, straight ahead, over the Oudegracht, first left, on your left after 20 metres), ☎ +31 30-2311056. is a small and cosy café
  • Café België, Oudegracht 196, ☎ +31 30 231 2666. It has good music and a selection of 198 different beers of which 20 are draught. Also serve nice food for a reasonable price. Try the Celis White if you like white beer and try the Trock Banaan if you want to try a beer that tastes just like the banana sweets you probably ate when you were a kid (most likely you are going to get a question from the bartender like “Are you sure you want to have this?”).
  • Ledig Erf, Tolsteegbrug 3 (located at the very south tip of the Oudegracht), ☎ +31 30 231 7577. At the south end of the Oudegracht has a large outdoor seating area which is packed whenever the sun is shining.
  • Stairway to Heaven is a large rockcafe at Mariaplaats 11-12.
  • Olivier at the Achter Clarenburg. A Belgian cafe with some thirty beers. Located in an old church.
  • Café Derat, Lange Smeestraat 37 - beautiful selection of local and (inter)national beers. Typical old-style neighbourhood café, just a short walk away from the Oudegracht.
  • De Drie Dorstige Herten, Lange Nieuwstraat 47. Also a great selection of beers from both Utrecht, the rest of the Netherlands as well as other countries in Europe and even from the USA.

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Sleep

  • Hostel Strowis, Boothstraat 8, ☎ +31 30 2380280, e-mail: info@strowis.nl. Hostel run by a group of clever ex-squatters who bought their building to start this initiative. The best and most homely hostel in Utrecht. A choice of 4-, 6-, 8-,or 16-bed dorms, free internet and a relaxing shaded garden area. Free cold showers. From €20 for a 16-bed dorm.
  • Hostel B&B Utrecht, Lucas Bolwerk 4, ☎ +31 650434884, e-mail: info@hostelutrecht.nl. Check-out: 12:00. Bizarre hostel. Main room dominated by television and individuals sitting at computers. Free internet (when it works), free food (you cook on your own!), sometimes free beer. Showers take half an hour to warm up in the morning. 10-min walk from the Central Station. from €25.
  • Stayokay Bunnik. Admittedly in a very nice area, this hostel is overpriced, but not so much as other hostels in the Utrecht area. 10 km from Utrecht in Rhijnauwen. Somewhat accessible by bus. From €20 for a 10-bed dorm.
  • Bed & Breakfast de Buitenhof, Enghlaan 4, ☎ +31 30 6774526, e-mail: info@benbdebuitenhof.nl. €80-95.
  • NH Utrecht, Jaarbeursplein, 24, ☎ +31 30 2977977. Nestled away in a quiet area, close to center and the Jaarbeurs Convention Center. Meeting rooms available. From €99.
  • Hotel Oorsprongpark, F.C. Dondersstraat 12, ☎ +31 30 271 63 03, fax: +31 30 271 46 19. single room: €100, double €115.
  • Park Plaza Utrecht, Westplein 50, ☎ +31 30 29 25 200, fax: +31 30 29 25 199, e-mail: ppures@pphe.com. Great location (city center), modern style with nice meeting rooms overlooking Utrecht.
  • bnb Utrecht Tussen Molen en Munt (bnb Utrecht Between Mill and Mint), Leidseweg 71, 3531 BE Utrecht/NL (Central Railway Station & motorway A2), ☎ +31 6 5125 8669, e-mail: bnb-utrecht-centrum@lombok.nl. bnb/large apartment in a merchant's house from 1904 along the Old Rhine. Historic part of Utrecht. Centre and Central Railway Station short walk away. Motorway A2 nearby. From €95.
  • Grand Hotel Karel V, Geertebolwerk 1, ☎ +31 30 233 75 55, fax: +31 30 233 75 00, e-mail: info@karelv.nl.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

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Work

A ton of service positions exist in the ancient city centre. However, they usually have low wages and require fluent Dutch.

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Learn

  • Utrecht University (Universiteit Utrecht), ☎ +31 30 253 35 50, e-mail: study@uu.nl. Having just celebrated its 375th anniversary, it has developed into one of Europe’s largest and most prominent institutes of research and education. With 49 Bachelor’s programmes and 109 Master’s programmes in English, Utrecht University offers the broadest spectrum of English language disciplines available in the Netherlands and innovative research and liaises with universities and research centres all over the world. It has been ranked the Best University in the Netherlands, the 4th best University in Europe, and the 39th best in the world. Utrecht University has been home to many prominent academics, among whom Buys Ballot, Donders, Rudolf Magnus, Van Unnik and Freudenthal. Nobel Prize Winner Gerard ’t Hooft (1999) is affiliated to the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy.
  • HU University of Applied Sciences (Hogeschool Utrecht), Padualaan 101, 3584 CH Utrecht, The Netherlands, ☎ +31 88 481 81 81, e-mail: io@hu.nl.
  • University of Humanistic Studies (Universiteit voor Humanistiek), Kromme Nieuwegracht 29, 3512 HD Utrecht, The Netherlands, ☎ +31 (30) 239 01 00, e-mail: info@uvh.nl.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafés are not as widespread as you would expect, but you can easily find one in the popular cities. Most hostels, hotels and camp sites have several computers, so you can keep connected with folk at home. Here is a list of internet cafés that could come in handy for travellers. Otherwise, most libraries have lots of computers and prices are around the €2-3 per hour range, although sometimes it can be even more expensive.

Wireless internet access using wifi is becoming more popular and is usually available at most hotels and increasingly at train stations. Also in trains (at least in most first class wagons, but also more and more in second class) and some buses you can use wifi. Finally, places like McDonald's and Starbucks have free wifi, and smaller individual business like cafés and restaurants are on the rise too offering these services. More often than not, these service tend to be free of charge, though there might be a limited time you can use the internet.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The country code for the Netherlands is 31. The outbound international prefix is 00. The general emergency number is 112, like many other countries.
0800 numbers are toll-free and for 09xx numbers are charged at premium rates. Mobile phones have numbers in the 06 range, and calls to cell phones are also priced at higher rates.

From internet cafés, it is also usually possible to make long distance international calls. Like in other countries, telephone booths have almost disappeared, though some are still found around public transport stations, where you can use a few coins to make calls. It is only recommended for local calls.

The cellular phone network in the Netherlands is GSM 900/1800. The main providers of cell phone networks are KPN (Dutch only), T-mobile and Vodafone, who cover the whole country. Other operators, like Hollandsnieuwe, Simyo or Tele2, use one of these 3 networks basically.

It is best to buy a SIM card when in the Netherlands for use in your cellphone, as this usually works out cheaper than using the one from home. If you are planning to study or work in the country and stay for several months, buying a cellphone is the best option. A simple one, sometimes with €10 worth on it, can be bought from around €25. The simplest smartphones are around €75.

Post

The rate for sending a postcard or letter up to 20 grams within the Netherlands is €0.64 (2014). Since 2010 there are stamps available for domestic post which no longer include the value in €. Instead, there are stamps available with either a '1' or a '2' as a substitute for value. The '1' can be used for letters and postcards up to 20 grams, while 20-50 grams require you to use the '2'-valued stamps (or two '1'-valued stamps of course).

Sending items to other EU countries and the rest of the world (there is one price since 2014) will cost €1.05. Stamps are sold at post offices, supermarkets and smaller shops/kiosks; often the place where you buy your postcards can also supply you with stamps.

Sending parcels abroad is more costly. A standard-sized parcel between up to 2 kilograms will cost you €9 for destinations within the EU and €18 (both without Track & Trace) to the rest of the world. Prices with Track & Trace start at €13 and €24.30 respectively. Parcel service is available from major post offices only; standard-size boxes are on sale there as well. For sending parcels, it might be just as competitive and fast to use a company like TNT, UPS or DHL.

If you need to receive mail while moving around, you can have it sent poste restante (to be called for) to a post office of your choice, where it will be kept for a month. If you come to claim it, bring a valid ID, and make sure to have told the sender that the name on the envelope must be an exact match with that in your passport. For addresses of post offices, as well as more information, consult the TNT website.

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Quick Facts

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Population
306.184
Coordinates
  • Latitude: 52.091262
  • Longitude: 5.122748

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This is version 50. Last edited at 14:03 on May 13, 19 by Utrecht. 7 articles link to this page.

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