Rotterdam has been a major city for hundreds of years and is Europes largest seaport. Since the 1300’s the port of Rotterdam has developed and served as a major port of the Dutch East India Company. If you want a more in-depth experience of the port, you can explore it by bicycle, or even take a guided tour with an expert who knows all the ins and outs of Rotterdam’s port. I’m sure Soren would LOVE to do this. I had already marked World Port Day in early September on my calendar, but unfortunately, it has been cancelled due to Covid-19.
During WWII, Rotterdam saw extensive bombing and its centre was almost completely destroyed. But after the war, rather than rebuild quaint (as most Dutch towns did), Rotterdammers embraced the chance to go in another direction which was: boldly modern. You’ll see wildly creative and futuristic train stations, libraries with giant yellow steel tubing outside, market halls, skyscraper office towers, stunning bridges, subway stations, and apartment complexes that push the envelope toward science fiction. While there are certainly charming areas and lovely homes there, it doesn’t have the romantic, cookie cutter charm that many Dutch cities have – and that is what I like about it. Instead, it’s a bit insane, innovative, has an atmosphere like New York City – raw, busy, dirty, very multi-cultural, full of amazing street art, but somehow the chaos seems more organized in Rotterdam. Oh yeah, it is cheaper than NYC and nothing like our little s-Hertogenbosch. Maybe another American thinks it is similar to another large metro city, but it is nicknamed “New York on the Maas“. Would be curious to hear.
Rotterdam also has a wonderful variety of festivals, museums, restaurants [of every culture- which I LOVE] and so many activities to enjoy. Locals say that while the money is spent in Amsterdam, it’s made in Rotterdam and they boast that shirts in Rotterdam are sold with the sleeves already rolled up.
As it was Covid-19 time and all terraces were still closed, you won’t believe it, but we stopped in Albert Heijn for lunch. I had one of their salads (ha ha) and ate on a bench near a picturesque marina of Veerhaven. You can read here about the history of the marina and of the various vessels who call it home.
While we didn’t go over the Erasmus Bridge this time, I couldn’t resist talking a few photos of this impressive, world-famous bridge from the ‘Ze Hielden Koers’ park.
Designed by Ben van Berkel in 1996, this suspension bridge, which is an icon of Rotterdam, is nicknamed the Swan due to its large upright mast that resembles the neck of a swan. It is 800 meters long and links the northern and southern parts of Rotterdam over the Maas.
The Laurenskerk or Church of St. Lawrence was built between 1449 and 1525 and it is Rotterdam’s only surviving late Gothic building. After the bombing of Rotterdam in the Second World War, the image of the heavily damaged church and the reconstruction works that followed became a symbol of all that the city and its people had endured.
Today, the medieval Laurenskerk stands amid the present modern city architecture. The church still celebrates mass and also hosts tours, concerts, exhibitions, lectures and receptions.
So you may or may not have heard about a statue in Rotterdam which went very wrong… Well the story is that the City of Rotterdam commissioned a festive sculpture in 2001 which did not fare well with its residents/business owners. A huge bronze statue by an avant-garde American artist, Paul McCarthy, intended to show Santa holding a Christmas tree and a bell. The statue was deemed too controversial! Santa Claus became widely known as ‘Kabouter Buttplug’ – the buttplug gnome – and it’s fair to say not everyone found it funny and it was moved around a few times until it found a permanent home opposite an amazing shop, Swan.
When we arrived in the square and I was amazed by the size. I thought it was going to be much smaller. My intention was to take a photo of it, but two women were sitting on the edge [umm why would you do that I thought to myself). Of all places to sit?] Then suddenly some dude, goes and sits down right on the front of it and lights up a cigarette). How freaking bizarre of all three of them ha ha – but by the looks of him, he wasn’t all there. Anyway, while I didn’t take a photo but my friend Carrie, did take photo during a trip to Rotterdam recently (look even people sitting on him in her photo) and allowed me to post her photo here. So all credit for this photo is given to Carrie – thanks!!
Another stunning piece of architecture is the Markthal which was constructed in 2009 and serves as both an office building, apartments and a marketplace. The design of the structure is quite unique with a large semi-circular grey façade and a large windowed section facing out to the surrounding courtyard. Inside is some amazing artwork by Arno Coenen and shows various colourful fruits, plants, insects and flowers. My photos just do not do it justice – a real must see. You can follow them on Insta and see many more photos.
There is an AH which was open, along with an Asian Market (which I popped in to see if they Korean pancake mix which has been sold out in Amazing Oriental here in Den Bosch. They didn’t have any mix here but we were successful later in the day at another AO location and ended up making one for dinner that night! But most of the other shops, stalls, and restaurants were closed at the time due to Covid-19. It is a cool and vibrant place to explore and sample some fine food and drink and worth a stop when in Rotterdam. It’s not the same as the Foodhallen which I’m very excited to try hopefully this coming weekend!! Also I wouldn’t mind checking out Fenix Food Factory but I was told it was closed for renovations and didn’t offer as much choice.
As we walked back away from the Maas, we walked through Het Park which was a lovely English landscape–style park and home to Parkheuvel – the first restaurant in the Netherlands to be awarded three Michelin stars! It was here, for the first time, I saw giant circles painted on the grass. The purpose is to mark where guests could sit ensuring proper distance and still enjoy the park during Covid-19 crisis. I have yet to see these circles here in Den Bosch. As we walked through the park you had great views of the Euromast and some people abseiling from it. In fact, it is the ONLY abseiling attraction of Europe!
The Euromast Tower is an observation station that was created in 1960 to provide panoramic views of the Rotterdam Cityscape. The towers stands at 606 ft and with its antenna it is the tallest building in Rotterdam. The tower features a restaurant, a conference room for business meetings, a hotel suite, and of course the observation deck. A 360 degree elevator takes you up – and this must be booked online – available every 15 minutes.
This is the perfect way to see the sprawling expanse of Rotterdam and its ports. If you are looking for a little adrenaline action you can even zip-line or abseil from the tower! NOTHING for me but I would consider going up to the observation deck for a few photos and maybe a drink.
The Old Harbor is the oldest harbour in Rotterdam, built in the 14th century. The view of the historic fleet gives the Old Harbour in Rotterdam a unique atmosphere. There is a small shipyard, where historic ships are renovated. But what makes the Old Harbour really special is the mix of historic homes and modern design, and terraces along the edge. Just opposite is the famous White House – Rotterdams 1st skyscraper!
A couple weeks later, we came back and had a couple beers on a Friday evening at two terraces – APARRT & Stockholm. The backdrop of impressive historic ships makes the Oude Haven (Old Port, part of the Maritime District) a popular place for locals to meet, eat, drink and dance.
One of the important things you’ll see in the Oude Haven is the historical White House, Europe’s first skyscraper. Today the building is listed as a Rijksmonument. This building is 43 meters (140 feet) tall and was built in 1898 and it has been the tallest office building in Europe for many years. The White House in Rotterdam was inspired by Manhattan’s skyscrapers after a trip to New York by one of the developers and it was built in Art Nouveau style. Visitors were able to use an elevator to the viewing platform at the top floor of the building, which was a novelty during those days. We didn’t go in, but of course, I took photos.
WITTE DE WITHSTRAAT
So far we’ve visited this street twice for beers and both times I’e had a great time. The clientele on the street is very diverse. There is a mixed audience: young and old, artists, businessmen and everything in between and it’s perfect for both a beer or for a coffee on the terrace if you don’t drink. It has a bit of the vibe of Landown street only cars cannot drive down it so it’s better and safe for pedestrians and being in Europe there are terraces. With Corona time it more spaced out, but before that you can see from past photos it gets packed in good weather.
There are TONS of bars with great beer in Rotterdam. I’ve got a list of places I want to check out – not all are on this street of course – including:
Finally, I was able to see the famous Cube Houses up close and personal. I have seen them one time before quickly driving by in our car but this time was great. Well, we didn’t go inside the Kijkkubus (show cube house) as it was closed (Covid-19), but we walked up the steps, into the courtyard were I was able to take some photos and admire their uniqueness.
These cube houses are so unique and are what I think one of the most photographic buildings by tourist in Rotterdam because of their striking design. These Cube Houses were designed by Dutch architect Piet Blom, who tilted a traditional, cube-shaped house 45 degrees and lifted it on a hexagon-shaped pylon. Each of the houses represent a tree and all together they represent a forest. The 38 Cube Houses are all connected together with two supersized cubes at both ends of the string. The houses have three floors with a living space of around 100 square meters. Some residents use the small third floor as their garden. A fun fact is that the cubes do not have any straight walls inside, so this may give a few homeowners a headache when they need to buy their furniture. There is even a Stay Okay Hostel in the Cube Houses – which if you click on the link you can see photos of the rooms. I think for a big city, in such a unique hotel/room, the prices are quite affordable. I’ll be sure to update this post once I visit the Kijkubus.
Definitely one of the most iconic buildings in Rotterdam!!
Hofplein FountainHofplein fountain is often lit up in various colours. If you’re in the city during an important football match, expect to see crazy fans dancing in the fountain. I often take a photo of this from the tram or when going by on bike and send it to my 12 year old Feyenoord fan son. DelfshavenWith my rented OV Fiets, we set off to visit Delfshaven.Delfshaven (which means harbour of Delft) started as a colony of the city of Delft in 1389 when Delft was connected to the river Maas. It became an indepent city in 1795 and is now a district of Rotterdam.
In historic Delfshaven, people used to earn a living with herring fishing and distilling gin. Now you’ll find cozy antique shops, artists’ studios, gin cafés, beer brewers and eateries in the historic canal houses. It’s a really cute place – just outside the hustle and bustle of downtown Rotterdam. Here you can step back into late-Medieval Rotterdam, because it is one of the few areas of the city that was spared during the Second World War bombings.There is a very old Windmill – which I took a photo in front of. Funny my friends all commented on me – not the windmill. Anyway, about the windmill. I can’t find too much about it other than it is a reconstructed 18th-century windmill overlooking the water at Delfshaven. It still mills grain; the interior is closed to the public. I found a shop – De Molenwinkel van Delfshaven– which had I know, I’d have bought something.In 1577 Piet Hein, a famous Dutch naval officer & folk hero, was born here. Hein captured the Spanish treasure fleet loaded with silver during the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and Holland. You can see a statue of Hein and a replica of his birth house – which I rode by on my bike but forget to take a photo. More of a justification why I just ordered that Hendy phone case on a cord – taking my phone in and out of my pocket is problematic for all the photos I’d like to take 🙂
Pilgrim Fathers Church
Another historic site in Delfshaven is the Old Church, better known as the Pilgrim Fathers Church. The Pilgrim Fathers did their last service in this church in 1620 before leaving the Netherlands with the Speedwell on their way to America. After a stop in Southampton where most of them changed to the Mayflower ship, they established the second successful English colony in America. Nowadays this colony is known as Plymouth, Massachusetts. There are still services in the church but you can visit the church between services as well. I’ll have to ask my mom a bit more about this and if we had ancestors here or only in the UK who arrived via the Mayflower. I might be totally wrong but there are some ancestors there somewhere, I think from Leiden and the UK. Stadsbrouwerij De PelgrimDirectly next to the church is the brewery called Stadsbrouwerij De Pelgrim, but the few spots outside were taken so we had a beer at a nearby bar on a corner of a bridge. Cute location but I’m certain the brewery beer would have tasted better than a bottled Wiekse Witte :).
Of course, I just had to share this BEAUTIFUL photo of me taken using Snapchat – don’t I look gorgeous?! I think so, so much that I had to share 🙂
After we had a beer, we rode our bikes over the world-famous Erasmus Bridge – it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. A stop at the top of some photos and a sip of water. We continued along to see the hotel the famous Hotel New York.Hotel New YorkHotel New York clings to the magic of the past. It really stands out and something very cool about it. Originally it was the head office of Holland America Line (owner of the SS Rotterdam). Keep in mind that at the time it was not a cruise liner but a regular ship service between Rotterdam and New York where MANY Dutch immigrants set sail from here to seek a new life in North America. A hundred years later, the hotel and restaurant still preserve that distinct nautical theme. We did go inside the restaurant briefly and asked if I could take a few photos. As it was not yet dinner, there were only a few guests having drinks to the front, so it wasn’t a problem. Most guests were outside on the terrace enjoying the view. The place is very cool and full of history. I’ll definitely go back and enjoy a drink (I bet they make a good bloody mary) and a eat a fresh seafood platter from the Oyster Bar. SS RotterdamSS Rotterdam is a historical ocean liner from Holland America Line that sailed it’s first voyage from Rotterdam to New York in 1959. On her maiden voyage she carried the then Crown Princess, Juliana of the Netherlands, to New York. It was one of the most elegant ships built in the Netherlands post WWII. However, with the growing popularity of air travel, it was refitted to be used as a cruise ship for many years until it was finally retired in 2000. In 2010 was brought back to Rotterdam harbor and used as a hotel ship. [There was a bit of a scandal with a housing authority which bought the ship – you can read about it here in English] Today guests can stay, dine, and explore with a tour. We didn’t do the tour – but there is a short movie about how traveling on SS Rotterdam really looked like back in the day. With COVID-19 measures, a lot was closed off, but they offer several types of tours which you book at the gift shop – all highlight the ship and all the facts and figures, visits to the steam room, and Captain’s Quarters – perfect for kids. For the adventure lovers who can solve riddles and work together, there is even an Escape Room onboard too. Clearly, it’s a popular place to dine among the older folks – who were coming on board for a special meal. While there are a lot of things to do on board, I was most interested in seeing the Lido deck, checking out the view, taking a few photos and of course enjoying a drink outside. But the weather was not dry and when it rains, they close the deck. The view was lovely and it would be nice to come back another time.
But the staff was very friendly and allowed guests to go outside and take a few photos. Afterward, we had a couple beers in the Ocean Wine Bar.
Then we headed off to the Foodhallen where we didn’t have too much to eat or drink. I’ll elaborate when I have more time.
I took the following photos as we went around Noordereiland.
Do you have have a tip or suggestion of a great place to see and things to do now that things are opening up after the Covid-19 crisis? Bonus if they are FREE! There are musuems I’d like to visit, a bunch of restaurants I’d like to try….
We just visited the Rotterdam Zoo, so check out the blog post here – A Day at the Blijdorp Zoo.