Rotterdam is a major port city in the Netherlands. I knew close to nothing about this city prior to visiting during my Vacances de Toussaint in 2016. I enjoyed the city so much, I revisited just three months later! I decided to visit Rotterdam because it was right in between Antwerp and Amsterdam! As it turns out, this city is extremely young with impressive modern architecture!
Rotterdam was bombed during World War II and nearly the entire city was destroyed. There is an incredibly moving statue beside the Maritime Museum, by Ossip Zadkine, named “The Destroyed City.” He said that when he arrived to Rotterdam after the war and saw the devastation that remained, he was inspired to make this statue. The monument resembles a distressed figure missing its core. I love that he chose to portray it this way.
After the devestation of WWII, Rotterdam was nearly completely rebuilt! Now, Rotterdam is well-known for its bold architecture and modern style! I loved seeing the traditional Dutch architecture mixed with modern throughout the city.
Below are some of my favorite highlights of the city:
This bridge connects the northern and southern parts of Rotterdam. The second largest bridge in the Netherlands, Erasmusbrug is actually named for the Dutch Philosopher Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus. The bridge has been nicknamed De Zwaan (The Swan) due to its asymmetric pylon.
Southwest of the Erasmus Bridge, following the river (can you tell I used this bridge as my point of reference during my stay?), is the beautiful Het Park. I spent a couple hours meandering around this park during the morning. There are several ponds scattered around, and lots of people riding bikes, picnicking, or walking through.
The Euromast tower is right at the edge of the park. The ride up the tower is definitely overpriced for the amount of time you’ll spend there, however the view was pretty incredible. It was a bit foggy when I went up, but even with the fog I was amazed! Before you go up the top of the tower there is a section for walking around in the middle. The near see-through stairs had me second guessing my comfort with heights! But the top of the tower is completely sealed. There is a bench to sit around and there is a recording that identifies the different parts of the city that you are viewing as it rotates and elevates. This would be an AMAZING place to watch the sunset.
Centrum is the main part of Rotterdam, located north of the river. There are several really amazing things to see in the center of city. Markthal is pretty hard to miss. This giant horseshoe is an office and residential building with a market inside.
At night, the stunning ceiling design is lit up. The ceiling is titled the ‘Horn of Plenty’ by Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam. The 3D digital design was broken up into 4,000 pieces and printed on aluminum panels! Some call it the Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam.
The market has roughly 100 fresh food stands inside, along with restaurants and other stands. It’s generally open between 10:00am – 8:00pm, with a little variation on the weekends. You can try samples as you browse, which is always my favorite!
Two things you absolutely must try: De Rotterdamsche Oude cheese and Stroopwafels. The cheese vendors all offer samples and will explain the differences between the lengths of aging. I tried the same cheese aged three different lengths of time and they have totally different tastes!
Stroopwafels are a Dutch classic – two thin cookies sandwiched by caramel or syrup. You can get FRESH stroopwafel, warm and gooey, in Markthal. Absolutely lifechanging!
Kijk-kubus, or the cube houses, are houses designed by Peit Blom in the Netherlands. These crazy little cube homes exist in Rotterdam and in Helmond. The design is supposed to represent a village within a city – with the houses representing trees.
Living as an urban roof
The complex contains 38 cube houses. Surprisingly, the houses each contain three floors and roughly 1,100 square feet of space! The courtyard area is open for the public to walk through. One of the cubes is a hostel and another has been set up as a “show cube” so visitors can see what the inside looks like.
Just between Markthal and the Nieuwe Maas river sits Oude Haven, or the Old Port. There are tons of waterfront restaurants to enjoy a drink and take in the view of the beautiful old ships.
It was a bit too cold for outdoor seating when I visited. However, just before I stopped into a restaurant to warm up I saw the goofiest thing ever – the “Hot Tug”! A group of men were in a little hot-tub-turned-tug-boat cruising along Oude Haven!!
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is a must-visit when in Rotterdam. The museum opened in 1849 and includes a massive collection ranging from medieval to contemporary art.
Naturally, the museum focuses a lot on Dutch art however the permanent exhibit includes well-known artists from other regions including Monet, Cézanne, and Dalí.
When I booked my hostel, I was mostly focused on the price. Apparently, I booked a hostel that’s included in Europe’s Famous Hostels! This hostel was very accommodating, and they have organized events each day. The hostel is super charming and (bonus!) they even sell food and beer in the living-room-slash-lobby area.
On Wednesday mornings, ROOM hostel organizes trips to Kinderdijk! There weren’t enough people signed up for a group to go, so I went ahead by myself. Kinderdijk is a village just up the river from Erasmus Bridge and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
You can walk or bike around Kinderdijk for free, which a lot of local families do on a nice day. Alternatively, you can pay a few bucks and view a mini movie as well as go inside two of the windmills in the village! The movie is super cheesy, but it was worth it to me to understand the function of windmills before visiting one. They’re actually quite important! 🙂
There is a walking (and biking) path along the water with countless windmills to the right and left! Even on a cloudy day, it was a beautiful view.
There is one windmill that has been preserved as a museum – you can see what it looked like for a family to live inside it. Further down the path, there is another windmill you can visit. At the second tourist windmill, they have a garden with ANIMALS! That’s right! Animals!! They had two goats – names Milly and Molly. 😀 I petted one, but it didn’t seem interested at all in my affection. *Sniff sniff*
Rotterdam was such a pleasant surprise! I highly recommend visiting – it is an easy trip from Amsterdam or Antwerp!