Let’s say we do a little test in Clan Wars style. When we talk about the Netherlands, what are the three things that come to mind? I’m sure for at least 95% of us, the answers are Amsterdam, pot-smoking coffee shops and the Red Light District. It’s a shame that we pass right over Rotterdam, the forgotten little sister …
With a bit of help from Anne at the Rotterdam Tourist Office, I fell in love with this modern and eclectic city where the spotlight is on architecture is in the spotlight. It’s no wonder that Rotterdam is in the Best of 2016 Lonely Planet for the top 10 cities to visit.
I was therefore very happy to make a stop there since it appears on the Flanders route of Europe’s Famous Hostels. The foodie and architecture enthusiast in me was so thrilled to be in Rotterdam, far from the flock of tourists that we find in Amsterdam, that I decided to stay there two more days.
Nomadic tip: Download the Indie Guides Rotterdam app for all the hot spots in the city. I guarantee that you will be among very few tourists in these places.
How do we get there?
Rotterdam is a 1.5-hour drive from Amsterdam and is super accessible as a city. The majority of trains to Amsterdam go through Rotterdam.
Where are we staying?
At the ROOM youth hostel, where there is an activity planned for every evening! The common room with a house bar is the perfect place to meet other backpackers. Don’t forget the happy hour and the free lunch. Pssssst, ROOM is also part of our top 10 party hostels in Europe!
5 reasons why Rotterdam is the HOT city of the moment
1. Art and architecture
Here are some buildings and structures that define Rotterdam and give it its modern style:
Kijk-Kubus: These cube-shaped houses are a work of architect Piet Blom. It is possible to visit one of the units for around €2/person.
Erasmusbrug: This ultra-modern bridge is the emblem of the port area of Rotterdam. The shape reminds us of the body of a swan.
Dobberendbos: This floating forest inspired by artist Jorge Bakker is a concept that represents the relationship between city dwellers and nature and the space they share.
Schouwburgplein: This is more than a square built on the roof of a parking lot. The giant red cranes are striking and remind us of the city’s heritage as one of the most important port towns in the world.
2. The food
Rotterdam is a foodie paradise! Here are some must-stop spots:
Markthal Rotterdam: Located in the heart of Rotterdam, it is impossible to miss this inverted U-shaped structure. It’s an apartment complex with a market hall underneath offering an array of local goods. You can find all the best treats here.
- Poffertjes (light and puffy mini pancakes served with butter and powdered sugar)
- Bakje keiblings mit sauce (the Dutch equivalent of fish & chips), or for the more adventurous
- Fresh herring prepared on-site (served on a bun)
- Monsieur Saucisson’s sausages with different kinds of cheese
Fenix Food Factory: This is a restaurant bar located in a former warehouse where you can find an assortment of local products. It also has a micro-brewery with a choice of 20 beers on tap. My favourite beer: #13! Buy your food and eat it outside on the benches for the best view of the Rotterdam skyline.
Noordplein Organic Market: Every first Saturday of the month, several vendors get together to sell local and organic products. It is not uncommon to see folk artists performing on a small stage in the middle of the market.
3. The history
Rotterdam’s vibe matches its rich history as an eclectic and multicultural city.
I’ll give you a little rundown on the background of the city. During World War II, Rotterdam experienced a lot of bombing, and the city center was pretty much demolished to the ground. In post-war reconstruction efforts, designers wanted to refresh the atmosphere, making Rotterdam stand out from other bombed European cities rebuilt “as is.” With the participation of several architects, the city of Rotterdam took on a new life with a boost of modernism and avant-garde.
Very few historical buildings remain in the city, leaving room for several art initiatives and projects. Some see it as a blatant lack of town planning and dislike this aspect of the city. Personally, I find it exciting to discover works of urban design scattered all over the city.
4. The neighbourhoods
Here are the best places to get lost:
Witte de Withstraat: This is Rotterdam’s hip and happening street. You can find everything here: trendy cafes, restaurants with diverse flavours and decor, vintage shops, bars with always-full sidewalk terraces. In short, this is the place to be!
Rotterdam Noord: Located just behind the central station, this is a more residential area where you can discover the Vroesenpark or the Rotterdam Zoo. Here you can find plenty of small vintage and design shops. To return to the centre of town, make sure to pass through the Luchtsingel, a community-funded wooden pedestrian bridge. If you want to leave your impression on the city, you can buy a wood plank and write your name on it!
Museumkwartier: There’s something for everyone in this neighbourhood, no matter what kind of art turns you on. This neighbourhood is the location of a majority of Rotterdam’s museums.
5. Sheer lack of boringness
With all these activities you’ll never be bored:
Aloha Bar: This exotic bar can be found in the heart of the city. Built inside the Tropicana, a former aquatic complex, it’s the perfect place to grab a drink with a view of the port. The kitsch tropical atmosphere is worth the detour!
The markets: Seriously, there isn’t a day without a market in Rotterdam. The best ones are on Tuesdays and Saturdays on the promenade in front of the Markthal. You can find everything there from fresh produce to fresh fish, a flea market and much more.
Dâk: Laid out like a pop-up bar, the Dâk is located at the top of a multi-storey car park with a panoramic view of the city. You can even bring your own food and grill it on one of the many BBQs there. With ping-pong tables, a stage for live music, a bar and plenty of chill zones, it’s Rotterdam’s best-kept secret.
Street art: As everything is art-oriented in Rotterdam, it is not surprising to find many beautiful murals and street artworks to be admired here. It is possible to discover several of them with The Rotterdam Street Art Tour app.
Rotterdam is definitely worth the short drive or train trip from Amsterdam. My experience of the Netherlands would have been so different if I hadn’t made the trip.
Have you ever visited Rotterdam? What did we miss?
For more information: All travel guides for the Netherlands
This article was originally published in French and adapted in English by Britney Claveau.