The Dom Toren: Climbing 465 Steps in Utrecht

Heather Tucker, Monday, July 1, 2013

Why did I go to the front? …seventy-seven, seventy-eight… Oh yes, because I thought that would give me more recovery time at the next level, that’s right. …eighty-one, eighty-two… But I hadn’t banked on that active child also being at the front keeping the pace up. Her poor grandfather, he looks like he is also regretting his choice to be at the front. …ninety-three, ninety-four… Not sure my thighs are going to hold out much longer.

“You can go in here now”. The group leader says while directing us through a small door and into a room with huge bells hanging from platforms.

The Dom Tower (Dom Toren, in Dutch) is a historic church tower in the city of Utrecht. A tornado in 1674 destroyed a large portion of the Cathedral of Saint Martin, which the tower was a part of resulting in the unusual situation of the church tower being a separate building standing independently. While the tower itself is already most impressive, what awaits you inside is even better, unless you don’t like stairs that is.

Visitors are able to climb the 465 steps of the tower, past the bells and up further, for a view of the city. I was currently at around step 220.

Climbing the tower is only allowed within a guide-led group. To become a part of that group, you need to buy a ticket at the nearby tourist office. After a small introduction, you will be required to remove all bags (including small purses) and lock them in the free lockers provided before being allowed anywhere near the entrance of the tower. This is pretty non-negotiable so well worth doing ahead of time, because before I had the chance to deposit the key into my pocket, the group leader was already out the door.

Climbing the tower is not as bad as you might first imagine. There are four rest points along the route where information is shared and you are able to catch your breath. At anytime you can stop going up and make your way downstairs and on the fourth resting point, those with a fear of heights or anyone feeling too tired, can wait and skip the last section of stairs. If you don’t like long spiralling staircases you might also want to consider staying put as that is what the last batch of stairs is all about. On the plus side they are a little smaller in height so slightly less taxing.

Once at the top you are free to enjoy the view and the guide was happy to point out the other cities we could see. Time at the top is limited, however, and the group was eventually escorted down and handed a souvenir postcard. If the postcard isn’t enough of a reward for your efforts, you can also grab a bottle of wine with the tower logo on it at the visitor’s centre.

I happily had both.