Utrecht's 'Dreamiest' Reading Spots

Shannon, 23, Comparative Literature Studies

Shannon studies Comparative Literature Studies and credits her passion for literature to her tendency to dream, here she tells us her favorite places in Utrecht to disappear into your dreams for an hour or so.

I could write a million things that I love about this postcard city, but one of my favourite things about the city is its connection to literature. Utrecht, named this year as Unesco’s City of Literature, is steeped in literary history. From the first printed book in Northern Netherlands being produced here, to drawing authors like Descartes, Locke and Hegel to it. 

After writing a Latin poem to celebrate the opening of Utrecht University in 1634 Anna Maria van Schurman was invited to become a student of the University.

However, my personal favourite literary fact about Utrecht is the fact that the first female university student in Europe attended Utrecht University, and was none other than Dutch poet Anna Maria van Schurman! Schurman fought for women’s rights to education throughout the 17th century.

'De Letters van Utrecht' a never-ending poem carved a letter at a time into the stones of Utrecht

One of my favourite parts of this city is its “poem for the future” or a “poem with no end” which is carved into the streets of Utrecht, wrapping the city in its own poetry. Every Saturday since this project began a stone mason has pulled a stone from the border of the canal in order for a poet to inscribe a letter. A slow but beautiful process, a rough translation of the beginning of this endless poem “You have to start somewhere to give the past a place, the present is getting less and less…go ahead now, Leave your tracks, the world is your street plan”

The world is your street plan, and with that I leave you with the dreamiest places to read in Utrecht.

Broodnodig op t'Spoor, Wagenstraat 50
The Swedish menu allows you to snap back to reality with a wholesome meal or delicious cake

One of my favourite places in Utrecht, whether the sun is shining or not, this café is one of the quaintest place in Utrecht where you can lose yourself in another world. Situated right beside the train tracks before Whilemena Park the café is ideal for sitting and watching the world go by. Spend an afternoon here eating carrot cake, sipping mint tea and reading Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs Dalloway” for optimum dreaminess.

Le Jardin, Mariaplaats 42
The calming effect of this botanical paradise is unparalleled

Another favourite of mine is this nook in the heart of Utrecht city. Le Jardin is tucked into the corner of Mariaplaats making it a prime spot for both people watching and reading. You’ll find yourself tucked amongst plants (the café is also a florist) and under fairy lights in this magical little blue house covered in greenery. While the interior of this restaurant is beautiful and filled with every plant imaginable, I prefer to sit on the terrace. Drink a coffee and read Yrsa Daley Ward’s poetry for a 10/10 day-dreamy day.

“you greet me in waves I can not decipher.

Last night I smelled you in a dream.

but I can't forget the loss”

Maarsseveense Plassen
On a warm summer day a trip to Maarsseveense Plassen can feel like a short holiday!

Not only is this my favourite reading spot, it’s also my favourite place in Utrecht when the sun is shining. Only 25 minutes outside of the city centre, grab a picnic, your favourite book, and your pals and spend the day at this hidden gem. In between reading and snacking, you can swim in the lake before returning to whatever world you’re in. I recommend “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, suncream, and mango for the perfect day.

Het Muzieklokaal, Bemuurde Weerd Oostzijde 13
Hosting a wide variety of events, het Muzieklokaal never fails to dissapoint!

Another gem in this city, Het Muzieklokaal hosts the best caramel and pecan pie in the city, as well as live classical music every Sunday. Take yourself and your favourite writer on a date to this trendy little café and enjoy whatever it is they have to offer that particular day. If it’s a sunny day you can sit on the terrace right in front of the café with one of the prettiest canal views of the Dom. Have a glass of wine, read some Joyce, and pretend you’re fancier than you are while listening to some Muzak for some real life day-dreaminess.

Theehuis Rhijnauwen
Set in the woodland surrounding one of Utrecht's old forts the Theehuis has a fairytale-like setting.

Last but not least is this charming little pancake house in the forest. Only 20 minutes from the city centre by bike, this picturesque house sits on a riverbank and is surrounded by various pathways to explore the forest. While the inside is what the dutch would call “Gezellig”, I prefer to sit on the terrace with a blanket in Winter drinking hot chocolate, eating apple tart, and reading some Leonard Cohen. Tranquillity at its finest.  

For the dreamiest Summer day rent a kayak and make your way down the river to this spot. It is, as a pretentious literature student quoting Edmund Burke, would say “Sublime”

It was a struggle to cut this list down, but these are my absolute favourites. Wherever you end up reading in Utrecht though, you can be sure that you are surrounded by a rich history of literature!

Happy reading!