After being listed it as one of the best places to visit in 2016, Rotterdam gained equal popularity as Amsterdam.
But being away from the dizzying coffee shops and tourist crowds, Rotterdam is a city that celebrates innovation, inspiration and change. A city that represents in a better way what the rest of the country is like.
When the Nazis bombed the city center, Rotterdam decided not to “rebuild” but to start anew. When the old port faltered as fewer emigrants fled to New York, Rotterdam redesigned its waterfront. And when the EU threatened to ban the outdoor sale of fruits and vegetables Rotterdam responded with Europe’s largest indoor market (and most spectacular one). Rotterdam is also one of the best cities for design-led accommodation on a budget. Leading the way is citizenM (located in De Oude Haven), designed by concrete to their usual supremely high standards.
And speaking of – the Old Harbor (Oude Haven) is one of the more historic places to visit in Rotterdam and is the city’s oldest harbor. You’ll find a small shipyard where historic ships are renovated (part of the Maritime Museum) as well as a group of regal, old ships that are actually moored in the harbor. It’s a great place to grab a drink or a snack at one of the many waterfront cafes and take in the view of the modern architecture, like the first skyscraper in Rotterdam (Witte Huis). Another picturesque area that survived during World War II is the inner-city harbor of Delfshaven.
Rotterdam is well known for its iconic architecture.
And one of the most iconic examples are the cube houses designed by Piet Blom in 1984. Blom was asked by Rotterdam town planners to solve the dilemma of building houses on top of a pedestrian bridge. Having built similar houses earlier in another town, Blom chose to repeat the design in Rotterdam. There are 40 houses in total and they’re all tilted 45 degrees. One of them is a museum so you can see what it’s like to live in one. And if you’re looking for an interesting place to stay in Rotterdam, one of the cube houses is a hostel.
Another Rotterdam icon is the Erasmus Bridge, also known as “The Swan”. Cross the bridge connecting the city center and Kop van Zuid (“Head of the South”) to find the building De Rotterdam (which hosts nhow Rotterdam hotel) designed by Rem Koolhaas. Visit the Dutch Photo Museum (Nederlands Fotomuseum) and the historical Hotel New York – former main office and departure point of the Holland-America Line. From here you get a great view of the skyline of Rotterdam, which makes it a hotspot for photographers.
One of the best places to visit from architectural and hungry tourist point of view is the Markthal. You’ve probably seen pictures of the 40-meters high arch designed by MVRDV, but the real deal is even better. You can find pretty much anything to eat – from tapas to hamburgers, from Dutch to Serbian cuisine. The market stands are located on the ground floor, while there are restaurants on the first floor, a supermarket and parking spaces underground and apartments on the upper floors. The ceiling of the arch is covered with the biggest artwork of the Netherlands, “Horn of Plenty”, which immediately gave it the nickname of “Sixteenth Chapel of the Netherlands”.
More non – insider’s tips
Rotterdam’s Museumpark is home, as the name suggests, to a group of the city’s finest museums. The buildings showcase everything from the work of Old Masters to temporary fashion shows to animals preserved in formaldehyde. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen always has amazing collections of modern art and design, as well as old masters. And it starts with the ‘Merry-Go-Round coat rack’ which is almost an art installation on its own. Check out also the restaurant’s delicious menu.
Visit the Van Nelle Fabriek a former factory — and now UNESCO World Heritage Site — that Le Corbusier called “the most beautiful spectacle of the modern age” in 1932.
Check out work from the less well known Hendrik Chabot at the museum that bears his name.
Take a boat for a day trip to Kinderdijk to see the unique collection of 19 authentic windmills, now a UNESCO World Heritage.
Hop on a train to visit Breda, Eindhoven or Hague in a day.
All photos Nook Twelve