Spotlight - A trip through Leidsche Rijn

A trip through Leidsche Rijn

There’s more to the Leidsche Rijn district than new buildings, quiet streets and shopping centres. Admittedly, it’s new, but it’s built on a historic spot. Rent a bike and spend a day discovering new and old urban gems.

By Pam van der Veen

Leidsche Rijn is the biggest new building location in the Netherlands, built on a spot that was traditionally used by market gardeners. Over 80,000 people now live here. The expansive district is perfect for an exploration of old and new architecture, bars and cafés, culture, history, water and lots of green spaces. Starting from the centre of Utrecht, we bike along de Vleutenseweg, crossing a yellow bridge into Leidsche Rijn. The trip begins in the new Willem-Alexander park. Here, on the roof of the motorway, bright flowers and special plants have been encouraged to grow wild. There’s a pick and eat area with a vegetable patch and beehives. We bike out of the park, and on to the art pavilion De Vrijstaat on Grauwaertsingel. They have regular weekend exhibitions here, but the building itself – two white ‘boxes’ placed on top of each other at right angles, sprung from the brain of artist Stanley Brouwn – is an attraction in itself. Visit restaurant De Baai next door for a cup of coffee on the water’s edge.

Next comes a quick history lesson. We continue through the Prinses Amalia park to Castellum Hoge Woerd, a spot from which the Romans used to guard the borders of their empire. Interesting archaeological discoveries have been made here. Castellum is a modern interpretation of a Roman fort, a collection point for all the treasures and knowledge that have been found. Apart from a museum, you’ll find a theatre, café-restaurant, city farm with animals and a playground. Time for a local beer? The Maximus brewery is close-by, and it has a tasting room adjoining an orchard, a huge sunny terrace and of course an extensive range of mainly local beers.

From here, we bike to one of the oldest streets in Utrecht: Groenedijk. In Roman times, this connected the castellum on Domplein to Castellum Hoge Woerd. Historical farms are cleverly alternated with new buildings. We continue eastwards on Groenedijk – feel free to do some vintage shopping at Emmaus Parkwijk along the way – and Langerakbaan onto Burgemeester Verderlaan, crossing Stadsdambrug at the and. We turn left onto Rijksstraatweg and arrive at former church/metal factory Metaal Kathedraal, where exhibitions, performances, workshops, yoga and talk shows are organised regularly. Cycling back along Zandweg and Esdoornlaan, we reach Máxima park to visit the butterfly garden (Vlinderhof) designed by the famous landscape architect Piet Oudolf. More than a hundred perennials have been planted to attract countless butterflies, bumble bees and bees, and ‘Vlinderhof’ honey is extracted. But there’s a lot more going on in this 300-hectare park: the Japanese garden, the forest playground, park restaurant Anafora and a cable ferry. A walk across the fifteen-metre high Observatory and a peek at the huge statue of Fernando Sánchez Castillo are also more than worthwhile. Crossing the park, we reach the green Enghlaan, where restaurant Dengh has been built on the site of former thirteenth-century castle Den Engh.

The long, straight, regal Rijnkennemerlaan takes us on to Berlijnplein, a square that hosts cultural events and belongs to the up-and-coming heart of Leidsche Rijn. As from May, the new collective RAUM will launch a programme of art, design and technology. A little further along, we look around Rood Noot, an old farm tucked away between all the new buildings. This stud farm dates from 1880 and now serves as a stage, studio and stables. We then return to the yellow bridge, which takes us out of Leidsche Rijn and back to the centre of Utrecht.

De Vrijstaat

Hogeweide 3

Castellum Hoge Woerd

Hoge Woerdplein 1

Maximus Brewery

Pratumplaats 2A

Emmaus Parkwijk

AB Harrewijnstraat 18

Metaal Kathedraal

Rijksstraatweg 20


Alendorperweg 44


Enghlaan 17


Rood Noot

Oude Vleutenseweg 33

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