Rotterdam is “the city of the future”, according to architects. Over the last few years, the city has undergone a huge innovative transformation as during World War II the city was bombed to smithereens. The city now boasts cube houses, floating architecture, the angular Centraal station and the impressive 800m Erasmusbrug (Erasmus bridge) just to name a few… as the list goes on and on. It’s postmodernist architecture really shines over the traditional capital, becoming a hotspot for hipsters and design enthusiasts. Of course, the best way to see a Dutch city, is by bicycle, to which they are not short of. When your legs are feeling wearing from too much pedaling, stop in one of the many cafes; healthy grub and a perfectly smooth latte-arted coffee are another of the Dutch’s fortés.
At a glance…
Centrum – consists of smaller neighbourhoods that include the majority of the landmarks.
- Lloydkwartier & Maritime District
Witte de Withstraat – in Centrum, it is the nightlife hub and main street.
Kop Van Zuid – from highrises to warehouses, the area is a cultural hotspot.
Katendrecht – old part of town, former sailors area and first European Chinatown!
Oude Noorden – bars & pubs, an ever emerging neighbourhood.
Delfshaven – historical buildings, art galleries, antique shops & gin bars.
Kralingen – student area, classic windmill, green and pleasant area by the lake.
Blijdorp – Residential area featuring Rotterdam Zoo & Vroesenpark
Your architectural enlightenment will begin as you step outside the Centraal train station, the angular building is spacious and filled with natural light, making your arrival or departure a pleasant one. Around Station Hofplein, there are lots of restaurants, shops and bars. For a caffeine hit, head to Bio Bodega, to taste one (or two) of the many of beers on offer, discover Biergarten. Or for a classy cocktail head to the rooftop bar, Suicide Club to enjoy a fruity twist with a view. Rotterdam’s most well-known electronic music club, Annabel is also located here. Design enthusiasts shop check out GROOS, while eco warriors and foodies may want to find out more about Dakakker, which was the first urban roof farm in the Netherlands and is the largest roof farm in Europe, there is also a restaurant that uses the fresh produce that is grown here. As you head out of Centraal, take the elevated Luchtsingel footpath, that was designed ZUS project. It is a 390 metre wooden yellow wooden bridge that leans inwards as you walk along it and will take you towards the lively Hofbogen area.
The gothic Laurenskerk is found next door to the famous Markthal, and here you will see a mix between the old and the new architecture, during the summer there are open air concerts in the Grotekerkplein. Markthal is the iconic marketplace with a horseshoe shaped roof, it was designed by MVRDV architects and includes 150 market stands, 15 shops, 8 restaurants & 228 appartments. On Tuesday’s and Saturday’s there are outdoor markets selling fresh produce including an array of fresh seafood, it’s best to get down early!
From here, you must go to the Kubuswoningen area, here you will see the cube houses that were designed by Piet Blom. In the evenings, Binnenrotte become lively, as the hoards come here to relax on the terraces of the many cafes. Dudok is a local favourite for both brunch and high tea, their apple pie has been raved about by nearly everyone!
Shopaholics will want to head to Lijbaankwartier, which is a pedestrianised shopping area that has all the big international names high-street shops, H&M, Forever 21 and Zara are found in the Koopgot shopping centre. The Dutch department store, De Bijenkorf has an impressive exterior, with a hexagonal honeycomb facade, and is just as luxurious inside, with all the top of the range products. Opposite, you will see Pomms’, the Dutch love their chips, and this is one of the most popular chip shops. A little further down Coolsingel you will reach Blaak, which looks a little like a spaceship, here you will find an indoor market which attracts foodies for its wide range of deli food shops and one of a kind design shops, there are over 450 stalls, so be sure to allow plenty of time! Next door is another building by Piet Bloom, Het Potlood (The Pencil Tower).
While Lloydkwartier is a business-orientated area with historic warehouses, the old port that was originally bustling with emigrants. Creatives collect at Stroom for meetings and great coffee, (http://www.stroomrotterdam.nl/en/), it is also a hotel, so perfect for those on a business trip. From here, if you head towards Leuvehaven you will stumble across the Maritime Museum, which will give you an insight into the nautical roots of Rotterdam. The Oude Haven waterfront is a popular dining and drinking spot, overlooking the historic ships, container ships and the rippling river.
If you walk a little further east along the river you will come to Aloha, a quirky, tropical bar that overlooks Nieuwe Maas river, a former swimming pool that has an expansive terrace and is very popular for both brunch and cocktails.
Whether you’re interested in contemporary design, old classics or modern art, there is something for everyone in the Museumkwartier. During the summer months, Museumpark holds small festivals, street food events, live performances and an open-air cinema. Kunsthal, which was designed by Rem Koolhaas has a little snippet of everything cultural, displaying both old and new art, photography exhibitions and design. While Het Nieuwe Instituut (The New Institute) keeps up with the city’s forward thinking, focussing its efforts on fashion, design, architecture and e-culture.
When in Holland, you must see the collections of Rembrant, Van Gogh, Rubens and Mondriaan, which can be found at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Finally, Het Natuurhistorisch Museum, is Rotterdam’s National History Museum, containing fossils, a huge whale skeleton and taxidermied animals! Once you are all museumed-out, KRAFTBAR R’DAM has a vast beer selection to tickle your tastebuds.
Witte de Withstraat
Considered to be the Main Street of Rotterdam, bursting full of restaurants, bars, shops and galleries.
The famous De Witte Aap bar can be found here, Lonely Planet even deemed it the best bar in the world! La Bru, Roodkapje and Ballroom are also popular jaunts, the website https://roodkapje.org keeps you up to date with cultural events as well. For a non-alcoholic beverage, try NRC Nieuw Rotterdams Café or for the best burgers in town, Ter Marsch & Co., which used to be a butchers.
King Kong hostel is perfectly located on this busy street, and although it is a hostel, it is more boutique and super stylish and also has private rooms too. For an eyeful of contemporary art, both the Witte de Withstraat Center for Contemporary Art and TENT boast great exhibitions, you can check the upcoming exhibitions online.
Kop Van Zuid
Erasmusburg bridge is the swan like curve that connects this area to Centruum. Amongst the high rise buildings, you will see Rem Koolhaas’s De Rotterdam poking out, it is his most striking building design, with three towers linked together that are all nearly 150 metres high, looking a little like tetris blocks. Stay at the famous Hotel New York. Visit the Nederlands Fotomuseum, which has an impressive collection of over five million photos, be entertained at the Luxor Theatre or gaze through the collections at the Vila Zebra (ART).
The old area of the town, which was originally the nightlife hub for sailors that would dock their boats, find a bar and then entertain themselves in the brothels. The SS Rotterdam is a huge steamship that became famous for transporting people to the ‘New World’, it is now a glam hotel, which boasts a pool and bar on the deck.
Fenixloodsen (Fenix Food Factory) is a rustic foodie heaven in a former warehouse, boasting a range of local, artisan produce, which includes Jordy’s Bakery, a coffee roastery ‘Stielman Koffiebranders’, a Moroccan deli and Kaapse Brouwers, which has a wide variety of beers that you can try, on Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons your pint will be accompanied by live Jazz music or you can sit outside on the terrace on picnic benches made of pallets, very urbanesque. Nearby is Women’s clothing shop, DAMAGE Playground, an independent store that is very popular among European fashionistas.
The working class district has now become a design mecca thanks to De Hofbogen. In between the 2 kilometre long archways are independent design and fashion shops, restaurants and bars. Grab a top notch coffee from Lokaal and measle your way through all the independent boutiques, where you will be sure to find some absolute treasures. When the sun shines, clusters of artistic Dutchies will linger on the terraces lapping up the sun, after hours you could head to either the BIRD Jazz club or Hofplein Station roof, a location for large events. Take a stroll around the neighbouring streets Noordsingel, Noordplein, multicultural Zwart Janstraat.
One of the few areas that survived the bombings, the picturesque marina has so much history to it, most notably, being the departure point for the Pilgrim Fathers. The locals here used to earn their money by either fishing or distilling gin, so this area, is laden with gin bars!
You can also visit the 185 metre high touristic Euromast tower, which is famous for its views overlooking Rotterdam, you can enjoy brunch or high tea here, make sure you go on a clear day so you can really make the most of the never ending view!
Better known as the chicer, more romantic neighbourhood. Enjoy the botanical gardens at Arboretum Trompenburg or cycle around the Kralingse Bos, the biggest park in Rotterdam. The Student Hotel is the perfect place to for design junkies and foodies as well as students that want to stay for a longer period of time. They have facilities including, free bike usage, a gym and laundry room as well as the Restaurant that is attached.
A quiet residential area, the highlight of which is the Diergaarde Blijdorp (The Rotterdam Zoo), one of the oldest zoos in the Netherlands, designed by Sybold van Ravensteyn, who chose to use deep ditches in between the animals and the public.
A little to the west of the zoo is the former factory, De Van Nelle Fabriek, became the most prominent industrial monument in Holland and a prime example of modernist architecture, now declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1932, Le Corbusier called it “the most beautiful spectacle of the modern age”.
When Rotterdam once hid in the shadow of Amsterdam, the city is now described as The Netherlands future, while Amsterdam is The Netherlands past. Drawing tourists from wide and far as they are intrigued by the modernist and postmodernist architecture, the yellow cubist houses in particular are of great interest. Rotterdam has something for everyone, whether its food, culture, art or partying. The vibrant and lively city will no doubt continue to flourish and attract the masses.