Spotlight - Secret squares and hidden courtyard gardens

Secret squares and hidden courtyard gardens

By Dieuwke de Boer

Hidden behind the walls and houses of the historical city centre, you will find beautiful green oases where time seems to stand still. Perfect spots to escape the chaos of the city in the summertime.

We start by walking northwards along Oudegracht to Bemuurde Weerd OZ, continuing on to Keizersgracht. Go down the steps on the left to Jan van Lingtuin, a courtyard garden nestling between the houses with a view across the Vecht river. The garden was named after Jan van Ling, who ‘adopted’ this green space in the 1970s and tended as if it were his own garden. Walk back to Bemuurde Weerd OZ and if you haven’t had breakfast, pop into Meneer Peer, a cosy café reminiscent of a living room. If it’s warm, you can take your breakfast outside onto the canal-side deck.

Walk along Oudegracht to Mariaplaats. Between the two HKU University of the Arts buildings, you’ll see the entrance to Pandhof Sinte Marie. This is all that remains of the former Maria Church, which was demolished in the eighteenth century. Prepare to be enchanted, not only by the flowers, herbs and butterflies, but also by the wonderful music that floats out through the open windows of the HKU building. Mariaplaats itself has plenty of places to catch your breath, including Café Elize.

Walk into Springweg and turn right into Andreasstraat. Halfway down, turn into an alleyway between numbers 19 and 21. Go through the iron gate and you’ll get to Andreashof, a small green square enclosed by houses. Back on Springweg, turn right and then left into Lange Smeestraat. Halfway along this street, take a quick look at the Dorstige Harthof, which gives a nice view of the Dom Tower in the distance.

Zuilenstraat and Schalkwijkstraat take you to the Bruntenhof garden. This communal garden served the Bruntskameren, fifteen one-room houses that the Utrecht lawyer Frederik Brunt had built in the grounds of his own house in 1621. They were intended for poor widows, who lived there for free. The residents look after the courtyard garden themselves, and you are welcome to go in if the gate is open.

Go through Park Lepelenburg, Kromme Nieuwegracht and Achter de Dom to get to Domplein. The entrance to Pandhof Domkerk is between the church and the Academy building. This mediaeval cloister garden has a splendid view of the Dom Tower and Dom Church. Walk under the Dom Tower and turn left just before the bookshop to reach the final destination: Flora’s Hof. This courtyard garden is on the very spot where the Bishop of Utrecht’s Palace once stood. A green oasis of peace and tranquillity amid the hustle and bustle of the city. The perfect place to finish this walk.

1 Jan van Lingtuin

Bemuurde Weerd OZ, close to Keizersgracht

2 Pandhof Sinte Marie

Mariaplaats, between the HKU University of the Arts buildings

3 Andreashof

Achter Springweg, via Andreasstraat

4 Dorstige Harthof

Halfway along Lange Smeestraat

5 Bruntenhoftuin

Schalkwijkstraat, behind Bruntenhof

6 Pandhof Domkerk

Domplein, between the Dom Church and the Academy building

7 Flora’s Hof

Servetstraat, behind Steven Sterk bookshop

Take a break

Meneer Peer

Bemuurde Weerd OZ 36

Café Elize

Mariaplaats 44

Café Derat

Lange Smeestraat 37

De Drie Dorstige Herten

Lange Nieuwstraat 47

Carla’s Conditorie

Achter de Dom 6

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