Learn the Complex History of this Elegant City Sanctuary

A ‘Walking Park’ for the Town Elite

The Wilhelminapark, just east of the city center, is an urban oasis surrounded by stately homes and upscale apartments. It’s a testament to both natural beauty and historical significance. As one of the oldest city parks in the Netherlands, it has been granted the prestigious status of a national monument and has a fascinating past.

A Hundred Years of History

The park’s story began in 1888 when a local Baron sold a portion of his land in the eastern part of Utrecht to the local government, with the stipulation it be turned into a public park within a decade.   This act of generosity laid the groundwork for the greenway we know today. Landscape architect Henri Copijn designed the landmark as an English walking path, with wide paved promenades that encircle the grounds and plenty of ‘visiting benches’. The attraction finally opened in 1898 and a statue of the park’s namesake Queen Wilhelmina was erected there in her honor.

In the 1920s the park became a showplace for stylish families to meet and greet as they strolled the gardens, but things darkened as Utrecht was occupied during World War II. To assert their role as conquerors, the Germans briefly changed the name to Nassau Park and set up checkpoints for residents. The Third Reich also built a bunker for the Nazi elite to take shelter in. Since then that ugly concrete building has become an experimental art space for small, avant-garde exhibitions called the “Ex-Bunker.”

Unique Park Features

Design: Central to the park lies a serene pond, adorned with charming little islands and a graceful fountain. A harmonious blend of lush lawns, vibrant flower beds, and verdant groves creates a gezellig (cozy) atmosphere here. The northern and southern sections of the park feature large meadows where music concerts, sports (frisbee, football), and community events often occur. Several picturesque bridges where ducks and geese nest underneath cross a small creek there.

Restaurant: The high-end Wilhelminapark Restaurant overlooks a lovely lake with outside seating for much of the year. This local landmark has been serving fancy dinners and elegant cocktails for nearly 100 years from a thatch-roofed cottage in the middle of the greenway. Reservations suggested.

Rosarium: At the extreme north end of the park lies a special treat for the flower-loving Dutch. The Rosarium is a historic rose garden that has captivated visitors for over a century as the first open-air rose garden in the Netherlands. Over a thousand varieties of roses have found a home here, each vying for your attention. As a municipal monument, it’s accessible to all during daylight hours to remind us of the delicate beauty that nature offers.

Ice Skating: On the coldest days of winter, ice skaters from all over descend on Wilhelminapark to cut designs in the frozen pond and icy canals nearby. This tradition started after the First World War and continues today when the weather allows it.

1911 POSTCARD OF LAKE & FOUNTAIN
Wilhelmina statue
QUEEN WILHELMINA STATUE IN SPRINGTIME
exbunker then&now
THE BUNKER THEN & NOW
LANDSCAPE MAP OF WILHELMINA PARK
restaurant wilhelminapark
OUTSIDE SEATING AT THE WILHELMINAPARK RESTAURANT
Rosarium
THE MAGICAL ROSARIUM IN FULL BLOOM
Ice skating
ICE SKATING IN WILHELMINA PARK
FALL COLOR FROM THE TREELINE NEAR THE WATER

Park Videos

Aerial drone footage of the historic park in winter

A lovely English bike tour around the beautiful park