Earth : Europe : Benelux : Netherlands : Western Netherlands : Utrecht (province) : Woerden
Woerden  is a city and municipality in the Dutch province Utrecht. Woerden is located in the east of the Green Heart (Groene Hart) of the Netherlands, the green zone surrounded by the Randstad. Outside built up areas, Woerden is mostly meadows and farmland. Woerden is located on the banks of the Old Rhine river, which used to be the main branch of the river Rhine until the 12th century. In Roman times, this river was the north border of the empire and an army unit was stationed where Woerden is now. The municipality, which comprises other towns and villages in the neighbourhood (it's more than ten times the surface area of the city), has a population of about 50,000. The city of Woerden proper has about 34,000 inhabitants.
Around 40 AD, when the Old Rhine river (much bigger and wilder back then) was the north border of the Roman Empire, there was a castellum plus a small settlement at the current city centre's location, called Laurum or Laurium. Artifacts and even ships from that time have been found and some of them are exhibited in the parking garage appropriately called Castellum and in the city museum. Around 270 AD, German attacks made the Romans retreat from the castellum. In the middle ages, Woerden started flourishing again. A moat around the city was built, as well as city walls and later a castle. In 1372, Woerden received city rights.
The municipality of Woerden is very green and, like the rest of this part of the Netherlands, very flat, although the name Woerden derives from Wyrda, as it was called in the middle ages, a word that exists in modern Dutch as wierde, an artificial hill in the landscape, to be protected case of flooding. This hill is hardly visible however (the city centre is only about 2 meters higher than the surrounding area). The Old Rhine river is quite small, and hardly (if at all) used for shipping, small boats do use it for leisure purposes. The river crosses the city from east to west and around the city centre, splits and comes together to form a circular moat/canal. The river used to cut across the city centre, but this middle branch was 'closed' (filled with earth and made into a street: the current Rijnstraat). The city centre is the oldest part of the city and stayed the only part until the 20th century. After the Second World War, the city started expanding to the east along the river and a new neighbourhood to the northwest. In later decades, the city extended to new neighbourhoods to the east and southwest. The latest addition is a new district in the southeast; building started in the 1990s and is ongoing.
Other populated places in the municipality include Harmelen, Kamerik and Zegveld. Municipalities surrounding Woerden are De Ronde Venen, Breukelen, Utrecht, Montfoort, Reeuwijk, Bodegraven and Nieuwkoop.
Orientation in the city centre: there is a circular ring of roads in the city centre, which is one way (for cars), anti-clockwise. Starting at the castle (three o'clock on the ring), at goes through Plantsoen, Hoge Wal, Oostsingel (these three street are on top of the old city wall and aren't very interesting for pedestrians), then Meulmansweg, past the harbour and library, Kruittorenweg, past the windmill, Wilhelminaweg and finally Prins Hendrikkade. Because of the 'moat', there are only four roads out of/into the city centre: the Oostdam in the east, near the castle, that leads to the train station. The Oostsingel in the north, the Westdam in the northwest (near the harbour) and the Oranjestraat in the southeast (near the mill).
There is a tourist information centre in the city museum (Stadsmuseum): TIP Woerden, Kerkplein 6 (next to the Petrus church), ☎ +31 348 431008 ([email protected]), . Tue-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 1pm-5pm, Mon closed. (52.086081,4.884545) edit.
Woerden has an "intercity" train station, direct trains run from and to The Hague, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Amsterdam, Gouda and Leiden. Trains are run by the Nederlandse Spoorwegen  (NS, "Dutch Railways"). From the international airport Schiphol near Amsterdam, Woerden can be reached by train, by changing in either Leiden, Amsterdam Bijlmer Arena or Utrecht. The train station is located very close to the city centre. Woerden is not serviced by night trains; trains only run from 5-6am to midnight-1am (depending on the destination). If you want to reach Woerden by public transport outside these hours, take a night train to Utrecht and from there a night bus or a taxi to Woerden.
Woerden's main bus station is located next to the train station, on the north side (city centre side). A smaller hub is located at the south side of the train station. Regional buses run from Utrecht, Bodegraven, Nieuwkoop, Mijdrecht and Breukelen and are operated by Connexxion. See this website for the bus lines running in Woerden and timetables.
Woerden is located just to the north of the highway A12, exit 14. The A12 runs between The Hague and the German border, near Arnhem. From the north, Woerden can be reached by exiting highway A2 near Breukelen, then continuing on provincial roads N401 and N212 via Kockengen and Kamerik. From the south (Belgium), take the A27 or A2 motorways to Utrecht, then change to the A12 motorway westwards and take exit 14. Woerden's main regional roads are the N458 from Bodegraven, the N405 from Kamerik, the N212 from highway A2 and Wilnis/Mijdrecht/Vinkeveen, the N198 from Harmelen/Leidsche Rijn and the N204 from Linschoten/Montfoort.
The Old Rhine river flows through Woerden, there are small harbours in the centre of the city and in the northwest of the city on the Grecht canal, which leads to the Nieuwkoopse Plassen.
Woerden is small enough is be able to walk, especially in the city centre. When travelling between the city centre and the outlying neighbourhoods, the bus is probably convenient: local bus operator Connexxion run buses from the train station, some via the city centre, to your neighbourhood of destination. Use an OV-chipkaart if you have one, or buy an "OV-Reiskaartje" in the bus. The fee on an OV-chipkaart depends on the distance, but should be about €1.30 for the furthest parts of Woerden. To buy the OV-chipkaart itself costs €7.50 though. The OV-Reiskaartje costs €2.50 on the bus and is valid for 45 minutes.
Just like in most parts of the Netherlands, cycling is an excellent way to get around in Woerden. Rent a bicycle at the train station for about €7 per day. Bike theft is not as common as it is in larger cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht, but a reasonable lock is still quite necessary.
Woerden has its own castle, probably built in 1410 by Duke John the Pitiless of Bavaria-Straubing. It's located at the east side of the city centre, it can't be missed when coming from the train station to the city centre. The castle currently houses some restaurants, several function rooms and some companies and it's possible to cross the bridge over the moat to the small courtyard when the restaurants are open.
If you like churches, Woerden has several in its centre: the catholic Bonuventura Church at the east end of the Rijnstraat, it's neogothic, built in 1892 and the tallest church in Woerden. The Dutch reformed Petrus Church on the Kerkplein ("Church Square") is gothic, built in the 13th and 14th century. Another interesting church is difficult to find: it's a Lutheran church, which was prohibited in the Netherlands (end 16th, begin 17th century), so it's a schuilkerk or house church. You can find it at the Jan de Bakkerstraat 11, recognisable by the metal swan on the roof.
The pedestrianised shopping street Voorstraat has some old buildings, just like the Havenstraat ("Harbour Street").
A large part of the city centre is dedicated to shopping: two parallel streets, the Voorstraat and the Rijnstraat, are shops only, as are several street leading from these. The Voorstraat is pedestrianised, and the city is trying to discourage people from driving in the Rijnstraat, although traffic jams are likely on Saturdays in this street. Crossing both streets is the Kruisstraat, which leads to the Kerkplein, a recently improved shopping square. Shopping for groceries can be done in the Albert Heijn supermarket in the Wagenstraat (off the east end of the Rijnstraat).
On Saturday mornings, a regional farmers market is held, and on Wednesday mornings there is a 'normal' market in the city centre, both on the Kerkplein.
Almost all shops are closed on Sundays, but since 2011 two supermarkets in Woerden are allowed to open on Sundays. The C1000 at Tournoysveld is open from 16:00 to 19:00 but is located outside the city centre, about 15 minutes walk. The Lidl at Iepenlaan 1A (open 16:00-20:00) is slightly closer by, about 5-10 minutes walking from the city centre. Apart from these supermarkets some shops can be open on 8 Sundays per year. These are mainly garden centres and furniture shops outside the city centre. Before Sinterklaas and Christmas, some shops in the city centre are open on a Sunday.
For more restaurants, see Iens.