Rotterdam City Guide
After being razed to the ground during WWII, Rotterdam was rebuilt by some of the most forward-thinking and innovative architects in the country. Today its skyline of modern towers has even earned it the moniker Manhattan on the Maas. Striking architecture aside, the second city in the Netherlands also has the largest harbour in Europe, a fantastic cultural life, a plethora of entertainment and a young, creative and entrepreneurially-minded population that makes Rotterdam an exciting place to visit.
Sightseeing – festivals, museums and landmarks
Rotterdam's artistic and cultural scene could easily rival that of Amsterdam. Theatres, museums and music venues dot the city, and numerous events are held throughout the year. From industry-specific conventions to casual outdoor parties, the annual calendar is full of surprises. Some of the more popular events that appeal to many different audiences include the International Film Fest and the North Sea Jazz Festival.
The majority of Rotterdam's leading cultural institutions are located in the Museum Quarter along the Witte de Withstraat and around the leafy Museumpark. One of the richest museums here is Boijmans Van Beuningen, which holds a collection spanning centuries of artwork from the middle ages to modern days.
The nearby Kunsthal is a multidisciplinary venue that hosts exhibitions on topics as diverse as art, fashion, design and culture. You can also check out the taxidermy at the Natural History museum, ponder the works of Expressionist artists at the Chabot Museum, or learn about architecture and design at the Het Nieuwe Instituut.
Rotterdam's port is the largest in Europe and as an attraction in its own right it's definitely worth a visit. A typical boat tour lasts about an hour and a half (although longer options are also available) and it allows you to see the ships docked in the harbour and its terminals up real close. You should also visit the Old Harbour where you can savour a meal at one of the waterfront eateries while watching colourful, old-fashioned boats bobbing on the water.
On the ground, do not miss a chance to see the city from the observation deck of the Euromast. This tower is the tallest building in the country and it offers panoramic, 360° views of Rotterdam. The telescopes on the open-air terraces will allow you to have a much better look at iconic buildings and sites.
Fancy a trip further afield? A 10-minute drive out of Rotterdam will take you to the UNESCO-designated windmills in the village of Kinderdejk. You can admire these 18th-century beauties for free from the outside but if you want to walk in and see the interiors, go and book a ticket at the visitor centre.
Rotterdam for foodies and shopaholics
Whether you prefer stylish restaurants or rustic eateries, local food or international cuisine, in Rotterdam you can find it all. One of the most colourful and tempting food venues in the city is the Markthal. This part market, part food court is located in a futuristic residential building with a vaulted rooftop and a colourful façade. The array of food on offer is mouthwatering – from exotic fruits to pungent spices, and from speciality produce to delicatessen from around the globe – this is not an ordinary grocery shopping spot but a culinary experience. There's no need to shop of course, and if you are hungry, you can just grab a table at one of the eateries. The choice of cuisines and dishes is excellent and the quality of the food is superb.
For a more bohemian experience head to the Fenix Food Factory. This rustic, yet funky indoor market, located in a former industrial building, displays high-quality, speciality produce from young vendors. Grab a beer from the brewery and a sandwich to enjoy at one of the open-air tables in sunny weather.
Shopping is an adventure in Rotterdam as the array of products, offers and stores is quite extraordinary. The majority of shopping outlets are located in the city centre but lots of interesting speciality shops are also scattered throughout different suburbs. The Nieuwemarkt is a hub of antique and furniture shops, as well as fashion boutiques of both established high-end labels and up-and-coming brands. You can also explore the high-street stores in the Beurstraverse underground shopping arcade or take your pick from luxury fare at the Bijenkorf department store.
Navigating Rotterdam is easy and affordable. Hop on the trams that criss-cross the city, or rent a bike – it will cost you about a tenner a day. Rotterdam is just as bike-friendly as any other part of the Netherlands. You can also hail one of the local water buses and taxis and you can get to key locations on the water. Not only is that an unusual means of transport, but it's also quite a memorable experience.