HISTORY

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LUXURY APARTMENT HOTEL

LOFT 188 Luxury Apartment Hotel located on the Oudegracht, the true heart of the city of Utrecht, is an architectural masterpiece that combines a historic wharf cellar with graceful, contemporary design. The medieval wharf cellar from 1450 has been transformed into a stylish luxury apartment hotel of 80 m2. With all amenities, comfort, atmosphere and enormous space.

 

With respect for the past, where box makers, bacon butchers and bakers were active and in the last century a clothing store, bicycle shop and piano and organ shop were established.

The LOFT 188 team offers its guests the ultimate experience of this great city. Hospitality literally flows through our veins and we do everything we can to ensure you have an unforgettable stay.

 

Discover it for yourself and enjoy to the fullest!

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LOFT 188
BUSTLING WHARVES
A MEDIEVAL PORT IN THE HEART OF UTRECHT

The canals of Utrecht are unique in the world. They are part of an ingenious medieval dockland development with wharves and cellars connected under the streets with the huge storage cellars of the canal houses. This harbour came into being some seven hundred years ago when the merchants of Utrecht made a clever use of the difference in levels between the canals with their mooring stages and the street with its houses a few metres higher up.

 

For centuries to come the canal with its heavily laden ships, its rotating cranes, sweat-drenched workers and calls of market vendors, was a hive of activity. Wine, linen, fish, corn, vegetables, fruit, wood, peat and cattle – all kinds of goods were stored and sold here. It was only at the start of the twentieth century, after shipping had ceased to be so crucial to the city, that transport by water to and from these storage depots disappeared.

 

The wharves however are still there and the Oudegracht, which was the centre of the historical port, remains the bustling heart of the city to this day. With its many restaurants and pavement cafes, shops and market vendors, the canal and its wharves continue to be of vital economic importance. What is more, ships still moor here, even if they are now mainly round-trip boats and pleasure launches or the occasional boat with supplies for the restaurants. The tourists lean over the railings on top of the walls and gaze in admiration at the sight of a medieval harbour that is one of its kind in the world.

Source: public brochure Bustling Wharves, municipality of Utrecht

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UP THE BANKS (1000-1150)

The history of the wharves and their cellars can be divided in different periods. In the first period there was a considerable difference in height between the low-lying quaysides and the street with its houses, but there were as yet no wharf cellars. All the merchandize had to be hauled up the banks only to be conveyed down a flight of steps to the canal house cellars.

This oldest extant map of the city, dating from about 1570, by Jacob van Deventer, shows the most important medieval waterways through and near Utrecht.

1.  Oudegracht

2. Stadsbuitengracht

3. De Vecht

4. De Vaartsche Rijn

5. Kromme Rijn

Dug around 1000

Part of the River Rhine

Dug around 1125

Nieuwegracht

NEW TRADING ROUTES

Anyone who strolls above or along the wharves in Utrecht will have difficulty believing that they were not a single vast medieval building project, rather than the result of hundreds of individual enterprises. At some time in the late twelfth century a Utrecht merchant must have come up with the idea of no longer hauling the cargo from the quayside up to the banks several metres higher only to have to drag them again down a flight of steps to the cellar of a canal house.

Wouldn’t it be much more efficient to build a tunnel straight from quay to cellar, so the goods could quickly be transported under the street to the storage rooms on the same level? The reason why wharves and canal house cellars were on the same level was that the canals were fairly low-lying in relation to the street with its houses. There was also a natural explanation for this, because when the canal was dug in the twelfth century the excavated soil was thrown onto the banks. These higher banks formed a kind of dike and defence against flooding from high water.

MARKET BRIDGES AND CELLARS

The bridges across the canal were also part of the medieval port, not just because of the cellars under them, but above all because they were essential to all the activities around the port and its trade. Many of them had a double function as markets and it is no coincidence that to this day they still have names relating to the products sold there – Broodbrug (bread bridge), Bezembrug (broom bridge), Huidenbrug (pelt bridge) and Visbrug (fish bridge).

Obviously the bridges provided plenty of opportunities for crossing the canal, but they were particularly valuable for traders, since both sides formed part of the same harbour. Without them the port would never have functioned so effectively.

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THE UTRECHT WHARVES: STATISTICS

Wharf cellars: 732 

Wharf fronts: 584 

Vault walls: 145 

Canal bridges (municipal and privately owned): 43 

Length of the wharves: c. 4100 metres 

Total length of the city canals: c. 5500 metres 

Total area of the wharves: 14.500 m2 

Lamp brackets: c. 330 

Vault gutters: c. 1400 

Street gutters: c. 200 

Flights of steps to the wharves: 96

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