Vibrant hotbeds

The Werkspoor district, the area between Cartesiusweg and the Amsterdam-Rijn canal, used to be full of factories. Until the 1970s, train carriages were still produced here. It is now a vibrant hotbed run by and for everyone, from local musicians and artists to brewers and innovative entrepreneurs. Definitely worth a visit!

By Silvie van de Laar

The Werkspoorkathedraal is one of the few factories that’s been preserved from earlier times. The huge letters at the top of the front façade make this impressive building difficult to miss, which makes it a good starting point for our route through this area. The industrial production hall used to house equipment, but is now mainly used for events. The building also has eight studios, rented by ten innovative entrepreneurs. At first glance, you wouldn’t think much was going on, but check the agenda for fun events. Behind the Werkspoorkathedraal, close to the water, you’ll find Werkspoorcafé De Leckere. This is a tasting venue for De Leckere, a 100% organic Utrecht-based brewery. You still feel the industrial vibe in the bar and on the terrace, where you can order a delicious lunch, drink or dinner, with (it goes without saying) a good glass of beer.

Circular hotspot
If you leave the Werkspoorkathedraal and head for Vlampijpstraat, you’ll find the Vlampijp studios. These studios are housed in another old Werkspoor building, the former head office. It looks a bit run-down from the outside, but that just makes it even more of a surprise when you go in. Both up-and-coming and established artists work in these studios, which are also used for courses and workshops. The Hof van Cartesius is also in this street. This is the best known circular-built workplace in Utrecht, run for and by creative, sustainable entrepreneurs. It comprises 110 Hof members, who take an active part in designing and creating the lay-out, managing the venue and devising the programmes. They are experimenting with reducing waste and waste flows at every level. Walking through the Hof, you’ll encounter all kinds of creative , sustainable buildings. There’s a 16-metre tower, constructed for 99% from circular materials, including old NS railway timetables. There’s also a workplace and DIY store for recycling materials, where workshops and other events are regularly organised.

Creative haven
Continue walking until you reach Nijverheidskade. Hidden between the business premises, you’ll see De Nijverheid cultural haven, which provides studios and creative workplaces for artists, designers and creative makers. Art exhibitions are a regular feature inside and outside. For example, on arrival I was welcomed with an outdoor exhibition of the KunstKoers, featuring several works of art by seven Utrecht-based artists. Stop for a drink or a bite to eat in the Kunstcafé, widely acknowledged to be the heart of De Nijverheid. The atmosphere is homely, with a bar made from old park benches, chairs designed by artists and a small stage. They regularly hold music nights, cultural dinners and film screenings.

On dry land
Three former brothel boats are moored on the quayside. Until 2013, these boats were on the Zandpad in Overvecht, which used to be a waterside red light district. These days, EXboot is a gallery. One of the rooms has been left intact and serves as a mini-museum recounting the history of the Zandpad. Another room is used for exhibitions of work by budding artistic talent. The second boat is a beer bar: Boot 122 brews its own beer and also has a fridge full of beers from across the world. The third boat, the Kadeboot, is used for workshops, meetings and parties.

Hanging around
The brand-new Galerie Larik, just a stone’s throw from De Nijverheid, opened its doors late last year. This is also a largely self-built, circular building. After visiting the exhibition, you can settle yourself down in NAR – Café der Kunsten. Although this is the perfect place to hang around for the rest of day, you could consider watching a film at De Nijverheid or Hof van Cartesius, or going back to Boot 122 or De Leckere for a beer. Or go dancing in WAS., a club situated in the former washroom of the Werkspoorkathedraal. Check the agenda before you go because the club isn’t open every week.


The Werkspoor district is easy to reach, both by car and public transport. If you’re travelling by train, get out at Utrecht Zuilen, where you can hire an OV bike or explore the area on foot. If you’re coming by car, park at the Werkspoorkathedraal. We’d recommend planning your visit on a Saturday as that’s when most of the hotspots are open.

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