We all know Utrecht is ridiculously pretty. We gaze upon its beauty every single day. At a certain point you just get spoiled by the gorgeous canals and the beautiful houses. The world recognizes Utrecht by its canals. In 2015, the Australian website News.com.au said Utrecht has the most beautiful canals in the world. Utrecht beats Venice, Brugge, St. Petersburg and Amsterdam when it comes to the canals. 

 

What makes the canals in Utrecht so special?

One particularity of Utrecht that makes it stand out are the famous wharf cellars as they are unique to the city. But why are they so special?

The first wharf cellars were made in 1150 and therefore extremely old. It was made by an unknown businessman who originally wanted to create a tunnel from his home cellar to the canals of Utrecht. Others took over his idea and the tunnels got wide and that’s how the cellars turned into storages. The cellars were very convenient and saved a lot of carrying and lifting.These cellars and canals created the middle-aged city harbour of Utrecht.

Nowadays, Utrecht counts 732 of them which you may know as restaurants, shops, or if you’re very lucky, your house. 

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Why did no other city use this concept?

The water level in Utrecht is exceptionally low. This is because of a dam in the river Rijn close to Wijk van Duurstede (A neighbourhood in Utrecht).

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The evolution of the canals and wharfs

'Till the end of the nineteenth century, the wharfs in Utrecht were extremely important but when the traffic on land became more common, the wharfs were of no use anymore and were neglected. This was caused by the multiplicity of personal owners of the cellars who could not or would not pay the costly renovations that would include renovations of the wharfs. 

After the second world war, in 1948, the city of Utrecht got ownership of the wharfs and started renovating the wharfs, which made it much more attractive for owners to clean up the cellars. This is how Utrecht’s canals became the most beautiful in the world.

The renovation of today

You might have noticed that they’re still working on the canals. In 2009, Utrecht decided to renovate the canals. They had to be restored, but remain similar to their predecessors. The City council had decided to invest 35 million euros in the renovations, but  the costs have elevated up to 47,5 million euros. That seems excessive, but if you want to be and stay the most beautiful canal city in the world, you have to be willing to pay the price. 

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Modern use of a wharf cellar, on the inside. The canal can be seen on the outside.

Adriana Correia