Welcome to the Mini Tours of Explore Utrecht! In the next six weeks, our photographer Pierre Banoori (Instagram) and I will take you along in a discovery tour in our city, through a series of pictures and articles. So grab your phone, open up this article and walk along with us!
In this second mini tour, we visited one of the many hidden gems in Utrecht’s Museum Quarter – the Bruntskameren (Brunt’s Chambers). Never heard about it? I am not too surprised. When I first heard it, that name did not sound familiar to me as well. So, I guess it’s time that we find out more about this place, don’t you think?
You can easily walk to the Bruntskameren from several spots in the city centre – from the Oudegracht, Reguliersteeg, Catharijnesteeg and Brigittenstraat. But let me propose a different departing point: the Maliebaan bus stop on the Nachtegalstraat. With the Torba shop right in front of you, turn left, then turn right at the junction, towards the short end of the Maliebaan.
Today, Maliebaan is a prestigious location, adorned by stately building owned by law firms, real estate and insurance agencies, with posh cars lining in front of the houses. In the past, this was where people used to play the Malie game. It was a 16th-century ball game, in which a player must be able to hit a ball across the full length of the avenue, with as few hits as possible. The Maliebaan is also the oldest cycling track in the Netherlands, because at that time, cycling – just as the Malie game – was one of the riches’ favourite pastime.
Walk straight on to the Maliesingel, which was used to be a defense area for the city. It is still part of the city’s canal and the beautiful Zocherspark, which can be accessed through the bridge at your right. Now, you’ll find yourself at the Lepelenburg, better known as the Tivoli park. This park, which was a site for ground defence back in the 16th century, has become a popular spot for local events. The park is name named after the House of Lepelenburg, situated at the end of the Brigittenstraat, across the city wall.
Now, turn left to enter the Brigittenstraat and you will pass a tile tableau with a picture of the Lepelenburg house in the 16th century setting, with the Maliepoort in the background. Then turn left to the Nieuw Kamp. Through the fences, you’ll be able to see the Meteler camp base – similar to the Bruntskameren – but was then renovated in order to provide poor families with shelter, food and fuel.
Then turn left to the Achterom, and walk around the back of the housing complex and you’ll find yourself standing behind the Leeuwenberg church, next to a restaurant called Héron (an excellent local restaurant, which serves seasonal dishes). At the left corner, you will find a fire engine house, which serves that part of the Museum Quarter. Turn left to the Schaalwijkstraat, and you’ll find a gate at your left-hand side. If the gate is open then you can enter the area, but please mind the privacy of the residents and try to remain at the left side of the garden. This beautiful garden is landscaped in English style, characterized by its straight lines and geometric forms. Also, mind the garden’s extension at the right, where the residents’ kitchen and shower facilities are located. At the centre of the garden is a statue of C.C.S. Crone, a famous local writer, known for his solemn stories with Utrecht setting.
Let’s continue the mini tour by leaving the garden the same way as you entered it, and turn left back to the Schaalwijkstraat. Then turn left to the Bruntenhof, where you’ll find the Bruntskameren, consists of 15 identical small one-room residents. The Bruntskameren was built following the order of the then famous attorney Frederick Brunt, who provided poor widows with shelter, food and fuel through a local foundation. Frederik was a wealthy man and he wanted to ‘secure’ his spot in heaven.
This tour will end at the main building, where the crest of Frederik Brunt used to adorn its wall – if it had not been painted over. The main building was used as reception area and meeting room for the successors and keepers of the Bruntskameren. When you are finish looking around the area, turn right to return to the Lepelenburg and take a seat on one of the park benches to enjoy the sun and, better, for a nice glass of wine at Héron. Hope you enjoyed the tour, and believe me, there’s a lot more to discover in Utrecht!