Universiteitsmuseum Utrecht. A World of Wonders

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I was lucky enough to be put in touch with Vicky in the Museums Marketing Department and she was so helpful. she has only been in post since October, but her insight and enthusiasm are evident for all to see as she brings real passion to her role.

At the museum you will experience the differences between science now and in bygone days. Put on a lab coat and carry out experiments or investigate the differences between humans and animals.

The Oude Hortus is the old botanical garden of Utrecht. The greenhouses are filled with exotic trees and plants, and is a relaxing place in the middle of the city center, where every season is different!

They are open throughout the year from 10:00 – 17:00 except New Year’s Day, King’s Day and on Christmas Day. so as holiday time approaches this would be an ideal time to visit. Put it on your christmas Shopping List!

I asked vicky:

What is your favourite part of the museum?

My favourite part is the tower of bones… and that’s another good reason to visit us.

And your favourite artefact and why?

My favourite artefact is everything in our collection of curiosities.

How do you acquire exhibitions for the museum?

Most of our exhibitions are created with our own materials -we have a big collection!-. We also work together with other museums and cultural parties to acquire pieces when needed.

What is your present main exhibition?

We have seven exhibitions at the moment, all these exhibitions are of equal relevance.

Here you can see what the Museum has on offer. you can discover and explore your inner scientist at the University Museum Utrecht. there are so many Interesting and odd objects such as stuffed animals, skeletons and a particle accelerator paint a picture of science and education at the Utrecht University.

Cabinet of Curiosities

In the cabinet of curiosities you will find all sorts of unusual objects, for example a little dragon or the cast of a giant moose’s antlers.

Upon entering, you immediately see the skeleton cast of the pareiasaurus: a herbivore that lived 265 million years ago in South Africa. The skeleton of a hippo also draws the attention. In the cupboards and cabinets you will find mounted exotic birds, like a bird of paradise and an ibis. All these stuffed animals, skeletons, fish, molluscs, rocks, minerals and fossils put on display, make a fine example of an old collection of ‘curiosities’.

‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ has rare collections displayed in cabinets. Since ancient times wealthy people have often collected the most unusual objects. The Cabinet of Curiosities in the Universiteitsmuseum is build after an eighteenth century model. The special wooden Marot-cabinets in which the curiosities are shown, were built in the nineteenth century and create an authentic atmosphere in the exhibition area.

Down to the Bone

At first sight, humans look very different than sharks, crocodiles or horses. But in what way are humans and animals similar? Discover the similarities and differences in Down to the Bone

Youth Lab

Hang your coat on one of the tongues and roll up your sleeves. In the Youth Lab, you can discover more about your senses. Look, touch, hear, smell, and taste through experiments. But beware, you cannot always trust your senses.

Bleuland Cabinet

Quiver with horror in the Bleuland Cabinet: the extensive collection of skeletons, organs, fetuses and body parts in formaldehyde is not something you see everyday!

Rode raaf [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

The Knowledge Lab

Discover your inner scientist!

The Knowledge Lab is the place to discover what science really is about. Get to know the scientific work field and your inner scientist!

Fungi Lab

Will you be sitting on a stool made out of fungus in the future? Look further than your molded sandwich and discover the intriguing world of fungi. More ..

Particle Accelerator

Always wanted to see a particle accelerator in real life? That is possible at the University Museum Utrecht! It is one of the heaviest and largest objects in our collection.

I continued with Vicky, asking:

How does the museum go about attracting visitors?

We are very present online and work on becoming even more well known online. We are part of and  work closely with the Utrecht University and have joint events and initiatives with other (cultural) organizations such as TivoliVredenburg.

Do you use the same strategy to attract tourists?

We work with the Tourist Information Office to promote our museum to people from abroad.

What type of visitor do you want to attract?

We like to attract visitors who enjoy our museum and the garden. We are a family museum with a focus on children between 8 and 14 years old. However, also for older people our exhibitions are interesting and the garden is a lovely quiet place to spend time, regardless the season you choose to visit us. We are a museum for everybody with an inquisitive attitude.

What future plans does the museum have?

The museum is constantly developing and our visitor count is growing. Therefor, we are planning on renewing, which includes a renovation of the builing.

Does your museum have a central role in Utrechts life?

When you consider that the museum preserves the science collection of one of the oldest universities in The Netherlands and Utrecht’s biggest employer, you could say that yes, we do have a central role.

Where is your favourite place in Utrecht?

My favourite place in Utrecht is the Twijnstraat.

Does Utrecht inspire you?

Yes, Utrecht is a very nice place. Utrecht has a rich history and remains one of the less crowded, friendly big cities in Holland.

How is the museum funded?

There’s the revenue from our visitors, we are part of the University and besides that, we find support from the ‘Friends of the Museum and the Oude Hortus’ and sometimes we also receive donations from third parties. For exhibitions we also have dedicated fund raising activities.

Does the Municipality do enough to support the museum/museums?

Utrecht takes good care of its museums, and we are even in the museum district!

Are you competitive with other city museums? Do you try to attract the same type of exhibition at times or are you very individual?  

We have a good working relationship with all museums in Utrecht and we are very different since we are the only science museum in Utrecht.

Close to the Museum is the wonderful Oude Hortus. This is another iconic Utrecht venue and a place everyone should visit as it tells us so much about our past and present Utrecht.


 The Oude Hortus

The Oude Hortus is a beautiful garden in the middle of the city center. Here you have a lovely escape from busy city life. Relax and enjoy the surroundings as well as coffee or lunch at the Ginkgo cafe, from which you have a beautiful view over the garden.

Next to the University Museum lies the Oude Hortus, an unique and historical garden. Walk around and you will discover a green oasis with a large collection of plants and trees. The 250-year old Ginkgo Biloba is one of the oldest known specimens outside of Japan. The Hortus is made up by a collection of smaller gardens, for instance, a cottage and a medical garden.


The greenhouses in the Oude Hortus are the oldest academic greenhouses that still exist in The Netherlands. They were built between 1906 and 1908 and were once used for research and education. Now the greenhouses hold a various selection of plants and flowers, like the impressive Victoria Longwood. This giant water lily blossoms in the Greenhouses during the summer. The specie has very large leaves, up to 1.5 meters in diameter, that float on the water’s surface on a submerged stalk.

A large group of motivated volunteers look after the museum garden. Every Tuesday they weed, plant, trim and sweep to keep the garden looking at its best. If you would like to volunteer, get in touch.

The beautiful Orangery is the icing on the cake.

Since the 17th century people used the orangery to protect exotic crops against the cold Dutch weather. The Oude Hortus has two orangeries: the museum cafe Ginkgo and a smaller orangery. The smaller one was built in 1724 and is the oldest Botanical orangery still in use in the Netherlands. Container plants from warmer climates still spend their winters here.





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Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins is Welsh and lives in England. He is a writer. A Europhile and Remainer, he is a regular visitor to Utrecht and has set his crime novel series in the city.

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