The 'stadseiland' route

It’s always fun to bike along the banks of the Vecht, but there are more waterways around Utrecht. The Amsterdam-Rijn canal for instance, where you can stroll along the boulevard, and the historical Merwede canal. Follow the water for this rondje stadseiland, a route with panoramic views taking you past industrial heritage and great bars and cafés.

By Pam van der Veen

Our trip along the Amsterdam-Rijn canal starts at the Werkspoorkwartier. A few years ago, this was just another desolate industrial estate. The area is now a vibrant place where creative makers can work and generally meet up. The eye-catcher in this triangle is the enormous Werkspoorkathedraal, where railway material was manufactured until the 1970s. After undergoing extensive renovations, it became a hotspot for events and creative entrepreneurs. But the Werkspoorkwartier has more to offer than this monumental factory building. There’s the Hof van Cartesius, a creative hotbed built entirely from recycled building materials, where most of the entrepreneurs focus on circularity. It is also the place for artistic safe havens, such as De Schaverij, the Vlampijp studios, De Nijverheid and Stichting 16X. Don’t be surprised when you see a wooden mini-Eiffel Tower standing outside Stichting 16X.

Chilling on the banks
From Werkspoorcafé de Leckere, the café/bar attached to De Leckere brewery, we bike across the bridge to Keulsekade. As the huge barges glide along the Amsterdam-Rijn canal, we leave the imposing industrial heritage behind us. We bike across the Industriehaven bridge, a fabulous iron construction dating from 1920, and head for the Hogeweide bridge – better known as the yellow bridge. Biking underneath this bridge, we pass the Douwe Egberts coffee factory and leave the Amsterdam-Rijn canal to follow the bend in the Merwede canal. Right there, in the shadow of the roasting facility, is Mr. Black and The White Ox café-restaurant, where you can stop for early refreshments and sit outside if the weather allows.
We follow the water until the path swings across Spinozaweg and the Spinoza bridge, crossing the Merwede canal and taking us along Kanaalweg to reach the bank of the Amsterdam-Rijn canal. We are now at the northernmost point of the Oog in Al district, which gives us a great view of the yellow bridge and the spot where the two canals merge. You’ll find the Soia urban beach here, which is also open in the winter.

Photo: Juri Hiensch

Urban boulevard
We bike alongside the water to Richard Wagnerlaan, where we head inland for a bit. To the right, houseboats are moored idyllically in leafy surroundings, and to the left, you see the façade of the former military hospital, built in the style of the Amsterdam School. The building now serves as the headquarters of the Protestant Church.
We take a complicated bend via Den Hommel swimming pool and Kennedylaan before we see Rooseveltboulevard stretching out ahead of us alongside the robust canal. In the 1950s, this bank was a spot where the original residents of Kanaleneiland came to relax. The area deteriorated in the 1980s, but for the last five years, it’s been a great place for walking, biking and skating. The new stone promenade and the lawns, benches and playgrounds have turned it into a popular quayside.

Waterway traffic
In a former villa at the foot of the Prins Claus bridge, you’ll find Op Roose. The glass conservatory of this local restaurant is the perfect spot to watch the waterway traffic on Europe’s busiest canal while enjoying a drink and a bite to eat. We continue our journey under the Prins Claus bridge, which connects Kanaleneiland with Papendorp. Remember to stop and admire the vivid street art adorning the bare concrete here.
We follow the path along the canal until we reach the Noordersluis lock, where we turn left to complete our rondje stadseiland. Bike towards the point where the Vaartsche Rijn merges with the Merwede canal, with Liesbosch park and the ruins of the former brick factory on the opposite bank. You’ll soon see the former NV Hollandia wire mesh factory on the right bank, which now houses Op Zuid café-restaurant.

Dreaming of houseboats
Keep following the Merwede canal, past the Kanaal30 creative hotbed, which is based a former printing works (give Café Keet a try!). The next eye-catcher is Villa Jongerius. Ford dealer Jan Jongerius had this red-and-white office villa built in the late 1930s in a style that combined new objectivity with Art Deco. The building was empty for many years, but has recently been restored to its former glory.
Our trip takes us past the old Muntgebouw and the Muntsluis bridge, one of Utrecht’s finest historical places. Stop and dream about the houseboat you could moor here on the quay… The old Park Oog in Al country estate appears on the left, where we can stop for a drink at Landhuis in de Stad. Or you could choose Buurten in de Fabriek, an equally good restaurant in the former soy processing factory. Both great places to relive your rondje stadseiland.

Want to know what's playing each week?

Sign up for the Uitmail, kids mail or festival mail.

Sign up for the newsletter