Utrecht, Netherlands

Utrecht became the 25th UNESCO City of Literature in October 2017, on the same day as Bucheon (South Korea), Durban (South Africa), Lillehammer (Norway), Milan (Italy), Manchester (UK), Québec City (Canada) and Seattle (USA) joined the existing 20 Cities of Literature in the Creative Cities Network.

Utrecht sits nestled in the centre of the Netherlands, and throughout history has traditionally been a meeting place for Dutch and international visitors. With its origins dating back to Roman times, it is one of the Netherlands oldest cities. Its rich heritage is counter-balanced by its youthful population, with 70% of its 340,000 inhabitants being under the age of 45.

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The city’s literary scene is rooted in a long-standing literary tradition. The school and library that the Anglo-Saxon Willibrod built in 690 AD marks the beginning of Utrecht’s 1300-year history as a literary city. The first printed book in Northern Netherlands was produced in Utrecht in 1473, and Utrecht University, founded in 1636, brought authors like Descartes, Locke and Hegel to the city. Dutch poet Anna Maria van Schurman attended the university as the first female university student in Europe.

Several hundred writers, poets and journalists live in Utrecht; the list of professional authors alone contains 110 names. The city is home to 56 bookshops, more than 200 publishing houses, 12 local library branches, and The House of Literature. Not only that, Utrecht is a leader in stimulating literary translation within the Netherlands, with Utrecht University offering a Master’s degree in Literary Translation, whilst The Centre for the Humanities focuses on ground-breaking research projects and knowledge intensive activities, exploring and improving the relevance of the humanities.

Each year DRONGO, the biggest annual language festival in the Netherlands, takes place in the city, whilst The International Literature Festival Utrecht attracts 4000 visitors each year to hear and meet international writers, poets and thinkers. The Dutch Poetry Slam Championship also takes place each year in Utrecht, and the country’s only festival with a focus on classical literary heritage, the Literary Masters Festival, also finds its home here.