UNESCO, the cultural and educational branch of the United Nations, has declared Utrecht a ‘City of Literature’, as the first city in the Netherlands to receive this prestigious title. The designation is awarded to world cities that have demonstrated a fervent interest in literature, publishing and other forms of written expression. The title is permanent; Utrecht is allowed to call itself ‘UNESCO City of Literature’ forever. 

With the designation Utrecht joins the ‘Creative Cities Network’ of UNESCO, a network of 28 world cities that already includes Edinburgh, Barcelona, Krakow and Prague. The municipality of Utrecht expects that being part of this network will give an international boost to the literary life in the city. Members of this network are expected to make a cultural contribution to reaching the Global Goals of the United Nations. UNESCO, in a statement, said that “While differing geographically, demographically or economically, all Creative Cities commit to develop and exchange innovative best practices to promote creative industries, strengthen participation in cultural life, and integrate culture into sustainable urban development policies.”

What makes Utrecht a City of Literature?

  • Utrecht has a literary history of 1300 years. Icons are for instance the early medieval handwriting the Utrecht Psalter that has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 2015, and the first printed book in the Northern Netherlands (1473).
  • Today literary life is flourishing in Utrecht with a great range of book shops, libraries, schools, University education and publishers.
  • Utrecht has several big literary events and festivals including the Night of Poetry, the Dutch National Poetry Slam Championships and the International Literature Festival Utrecht (ILFU).
  • The first public library of the Netherlands opened in Utrecht, that now exists for 125 years. A new central library is under construction in the monumental former post office at Neude square.
  • The city is home and workplace to many authors and poets including Arthur Japin, Ronald Giphart, Esther Jansma and Ingmar Heytze.
  • Utrecht is the home of nijntje (Miffy). Millions of children worldwide learned how to read thanks to the world-famous children’s books of Dick Bruna.

From today the website www.cityofliterature.nl is online; a platform for the complete sector, including a calendar for all the literary events in the city.