By Fleur Zantvoort
Winter in the Netherlands can be rough. As the temperature plummets and the days grow shorter, bursting the bubble becomes even more of a challenge. The best way to deal with this season appears to be curling up under a blanket with some hot chocolate and waiting it out. However, Winter in Utrecht is also the holiday season the time of lights, chimes and fuzziness. From November until January, Utrecht will stage the fifth edition of ‘Winter Utrecht’, a 9-week festival with over 100 wintery events to get you out and about and lift your mood. For an overview of all the events taking place, see http://www.visit-utrecht.com/winterutrecht. This article will give you just some of the highlights.
- Knüss Winterfest
Knüss Winterfest is the largest event of Winter Utrecht. Taking place from December 9-11, it provides you with the perfect study break. Events being staged during this weekend include the Fonteyn Festival at the Janskerkhof, a wine festival with more than 80 varieties of wine offered by local winehouses and winecafés (entrance is free), and the Allerhande Festival, a food and cooking fair organised by our favourite supermarket Albert Heijn, located at the idyllic Spoorwegmuseum. There will also be several Christmas markets throughout the city to indulge all your Christmassy desires including two markets specialised in homemade Christmas presents and local produce (Mariaplaats) and a general market (Twijnstraat). For more information see www.knuss-winterfest.nl.
Top tip: if you can’t get enough of Christmas markets and are looking to truly burst the bubble, take a trip to Dordrecht between December 11-13. This beautiful historic city is worth a visit anytime, but in this period it hosts the largest Christmas market in the Netherlands, with over 200 stalls and a variety of performances.
- Evening tours DOMunder
For the historians among us, or anyone interested in finding out more about the history of the city in which they study, DOMunder is hosting special evening tours every Tuesday from November 11 – December 23. Located underneath the Dom square, DOMunder takes you through the 2000-year history of the square, Utrecht and the Netherlands, and is one of Utrecht’s most popular attractions. Students pay €10 for the evening tours, including Glühwein and a treat.
- “Wintersferen” in Bergse Bossen
Did you know that the Netherlands has National Parks, and that one of them is located right next to Utrecht? For those of you who love being out in the open, the mystical Utrechtse Heuvelrug is the perfect place for some wintery explorations. You can download free walking and cycling routes from the website or app of the Grand Café Bergse Bossen (www.bergsebossen.nl), which is also the perfect place to warm your feet.
- “Lichtjesroute” (lightsroute) Utrecht Oost
End finals week with a heart-warming bang and get to know the neighbourhood (Utrecht Oost, where UCU is located!) and the story of Christmas with this free walking route past thousands of lights, wintery tunes and hot beverages. The perfect way to get those Christmassy feels! The walk takes place on December 16th between 18:00-20:00.
- Winter at Louis Hartlooper Complex
For those of you allergic to the cold, during the month of December the Louis Hartlooper Complex is celebrating the holiday season with a selection of “golden oldies” and some excellent new releases. Snuggle up in the movie theatre with hot wine or a special beer and enjoy a movie that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. They also have organic meals on offer. For more information see www.hartlooper.nl.
Not specifically related to “Winter Utrecht”, ice-skating is an essential part of the Dutch winter experience. Although the last time that the ponds and canals froze over sufficiently to ice-skate is a distant memory, perhaps this year we will be luckier. If not, then there is always the Vechtsebanen where you can enjoy both the indoor and outdoor ice rink. Entrance is €8,50 and renting skates €6,00. For more information, see www.vechtsebanen.nl.