When we think about the Netherlands and the places that we could visit, Rotterdam is not really the city that comes to mind, unlike its rival Amsterdam, which is the perfect picturesque image of the Netherlands, with its canals and typical brick buildings.
Rotterdam is very different from the other Dutch cities. Here you will not find the charm of the canals or small narrow streets. Indeed, the city was bombed by the German Air Force in 1940. Only a few buildings survived like the city hall or the Laurenskerk. After the war, rather than rebuilding identically, it was decided to build modern buildings, which resulted in all these buildings and gave the city its skyline so characteristic. Rotterdam is the perfect city for all architecture lovers!
For those who know it, Rotterdam has a pretty bad reputation, including in the Netherlands. For a very long time, it was seen as a grey, industrial city, not very interesting, where one comes to work and that’s all. Rotterdam is indeed a working city, in the Netherlands, we say that in Rotterdam, we make money, in The Hague, we do not know what to do with the money, and in Amsterdam we spend the money!
If this bad reputation is still tenacious and was fairly justified a few years ago, it is not the case anymore. Rotterdam is a vibrant city, that attract many entrepreneurs, an increasingly important student pole, including internationally, with its prestigious Erasmus University, an open-air architectural laboratory, and it attracts more and more tourists every year.
If you decide to give a chance to Rotterdam, here are the essentials of the city, to visit in one day!
The “Buttplug gnome”
From the central station (which deserves a glance on its own), we head towards Eendrachtsplein to admire this statue of Santa Claus by the American artist Paul McCarthy, made in 2001. Does it make you smile? Don’t worry, your mind is not twisted! This artwork, whose original name is Santa Claus is nicknamed Buttplug Gnome, because of the funny object in the right hand of this Dear Santa (it’s supposed to be a Christmas tree).
The statue, commissioned to the artist by the municipality of Rotterdam (and thus financed with public funds), aroused controversy, as might be expected, with storekeepers and residents of the neighbourhood. Planned to be a temporary installation, and after having moved several times, Santa finally definitively moved down the street Oude Binnenweg, supported by a part of the inhabitants, amused by the subversive and saucy character of the artwork, which quickly became very popular and appreciated by tourists.
Did you notice that strange “christmas tree”?
We then head to another emblematic place of the city, the Markthal, a covered market, inaugurated in 2014, which is both a commercial and residential space. Indeed, the arche of the market houses some 228 apartments. In the hall you will find dozens of food stalls, exotic fruits, cheese, chocolates or spices, as well as a large selection of caterers (sushi, salad bar, Surinamese cuisine, burgers) and restaurants.
Don’t forget to look up to admire the work of Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam, an illustration of 11 000 m², entitled Hoorn des Overvloeds (Horn of Abundance), and representing flowers, fruits, vegetables, cereals and insects in close-up.
Hungry? Go to Goudstroop, at the bottom of the hall to enjoy a fresh Stroopwaffel! It’s good, it’s cheap, and it’s typically Dutch! If you do not have the sweet tooth, go around the market for free samples (it is made for that right?)!
The Kijk Kubus
Coming out of the Markthal, you will fall on the Kijk Kubus, the yellow cubic houses of the famous Dutch architect Piet Blom, built in the years 1980. Surprising as it may seem, these houses are inhabited! But it does require rethinking all of its furnishings of course. It is possible to visit a witness house for €3, but the people I know who did it were disappointed. But after all, it’s nicer from outside no?
The Erasmus Bridge and the Hotel New York
Then go to the Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug in Dutch), named in honour of the philosopher and humanist Erasmus (1467-1536), born in Rotterdam. The bridge crosses the New Maas and joins Kop Van Zuid in the south. From the quays of the Willemskade, you will have a breathtaking view of the bridge and the buildings around, including the famous De Rotterdam, which is, in terms of surface, the largest building in the Netherlands, with its 160 000 m² of ground surface (a lot of offices!).
We then cross the bridge, nicknamed “The Swan” to join the Hotel New York, a beautiful Art Nouveau building, built in 1917 and once the seat of the Holland-America Line, and the starting point for European migrants to the United Kingdom, then the United states.
For a small dive in the past, you then go to the old Delfshaven, to see the beautiful buildings of the 17th century, the boats, and even a wind mill!
If you spend a little more time in Rotterdam, you can also go to the museum Boijman van Beuningen, which has collections tracing the art from the Dutch Golden Age to the present days, to the Euromast Park, for a barbecue with friends in the summer,or even to the lake Kralingen for a short swim or a morning jog. You can also join a Free walking tour (I recommend the one from Frank Tour) to discover the best spots in the city in a short time.
For the transportation, it is up to you. The city is easily walkable and you can go everywhere by foot, but you can also rent bikes (OV-fiets, or other companies, you will havea lot of choice around the station), because “act like locals”.
I presented you here the emblematic and most “touristy” places in Rotterdam, and I hope it will make you want to visit the city. In future articles, I will tell you more about the hidden spots, or my good addresses for eating, drinking or shopping.
I used to say that Rotterdam is not really the kind of city we visit, but rather the kind of city where you live. Indeed, as you can see, the tour of the city can be easily done in one day, but then there are 1001 places to discover.
Do you know Rotterdam? Would you like to visit the city? Tell me everything in comments!