A few years ago, the famous Lonely Planet proclaimed Rotterdam the fifth city in the “Top cities in the world 2016” category. Rotterdam is a very impressive city with a no-nonsense atmosphere, lots of innovation and a beautiful skyline. If you’ve never been there before, we hope the following tips will encourage you to visit.
Sightseeing from the water
The Rotterdam skyline is best seen from the water. Sailing over the Maas, you can see all the large and modern buildings as you pass. A nice way to do this is with a Spido river cruise. In 75 minutes, you can sail from the city centre to the main port areas of Rotterdam. This will give you a good idea of the activities and the shipping of containers that takes place in the largest European port and one of the biggest ports in the world.
Another fun way to enjoy the skyline is to take a trip by water taxi. This is a public transport network by water to 50 different locations in Rotterdam and Schiedam. You can also book a boat trip with the water taxi, but it is much more fun to board the Euromast and then sail to Hotel New York. There are of course other routes to take with the water taxi.
Hotel New York in Rotterdam
Once upon a time, many fortune seekers left this place for America, to build a new life in the promised land. The former head office of the Holland America Line on the Kop van Zuid is now a special hotel. The building is surrounded by large modern skyscrapers. A hundred years ago this was very different. At that time the building sat proudly on the edge of the port and large ships were anchored here to pick up passengers.
Since 1993 it has been a hotel/restaurant. It is certainly nice to have a coffee on a Sunday morning in the large space. When we were there, there were a lot of Feyenoord supporters who were getting ready for the “Classico”, Feyenoord v. Ajax, in the nearby “Kuip” stadium. One table further on, two old ladies in Feyenoord shirts were sitting with a little advocaat (a typical Dutch egg liqueur) with whipped cream. Their little dogs sitting on their laps were also wearing a shirt. Unfortunately for them, their club did not win that day.
Special architecture in Rotterdam
In recent years, the city has been enriched with beautiful buildings, all of which are very artistic. That’s why many lovers of special architecture from all over the world enjoy coming to Rotterdam.
This is now one of the most special places in Rotterdam. The roof above the tracks is partially covered with solar panels and continues into the roof above the station hall. The peak of the roof points to the centre of the city. A number of historical elements of the old station building have been preserved, such as the original clock on the façade and the letters “Centraal Station”.
Every self-respecting city nowadays has a food hall, an indoor market. However, Rotterdam is the first city to have a market food hall in combination with apartments. These are placed like a horseshoe around the market hall. The roof over the market hall is very special. This is the largest work of art in the Netherlands. Sit on one of the terraces and take in the special design.
Cube houses of Rotterdam
However, it is not only in recent years that special buildings have been erected in Rotterdam. Between 1982 and 1984, Piet Blom built 38 cube-shaped stilt houses and 13 business cubes at Blaak near the Oude Haven. The designer wanted to design a kind of village within a big city, where he saw the houses as trees and the whole complex as a forest. In the viewing cube you can admire the inside of a museum house.
Rotterdam’s Van Nelle Factory
A very modern design, yet almost 100 years old, is this factory for coffee, tea and tobacco. The Van Nelle Factory has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2014. The factory is seen as an example of “New Buildings”. What is special about the building is the characteristic façade, open appearance and concrete supporting structures. You can book a guided tour at the Van Nelle Museum.
In any case, the city has many more special buildings. There are even special architecture tours on which you go on a city walk past a number of characteristic places.
Museums in Rotterdam
In the Museumpark, between the Westzeedijk and the Westersingel, you will find a number of special museums. In addition to these museums, the park is also worth a visit. You will see many sculptures and various monuments.
Boymans van Beuningen
This museum can be found in a beautiful 1930s building. It owes its name to the Rotterdam collector Frans Jacob Otto Boijmans and the Utrecht lawyer Frans Jacob Otto Boijmans. They donated their collection to the municipality of Rotterdam. The art collection is very diverse, from the Middle Ages to early modern art. More information.
This special building, designed by architect Rem Koolhaas, does not house a permanent exhibition. Instead, the Kunsthal organises temporary exhibitions in the field of art and culture. Due to the large surface area it is possible to have as many as five exhibitions at the same time. The exhibitions often deal with culture, fashion, photography and science.
In 1933 the architect Leendert van der Vlugt was commissioned by the Sonneveld family to design this special house. Experts call this a “Gesamtkunstwerk”. All the elements in the house are geared to the functionality of the house. This has resulted in a special living space with very special aspects at the time, such as goods lifts, chutes and in-house telephones.
In addition to these, there are many other museums in Rotterdam. Something for everyone.
In the northeast of the city lies the Kralingse Bos around the Kralingse Plas. The Holland Pop Festival, the European equivalent of Woodstock, was once held here. It is a large and beautiful area, but is located a bit further from the centre.
At the foot of the Euromast you will find this city park, designed by Jan David Zocher Jr. and his son Louis Paul Zocher in 1852. They were based on the principles of the English landscape style. The inhabitants of the city like to come here for a picnic and a barbecue. Be sure to visit the nice café Parqiet. You can pamper yourself in the sun loungers on the grass.
This is a very special park. It is up 9 metres high on the roof of the railway yard of the harbour railway line. It has a length of about one kilometre and is approximately 85 metres wide. Because of the height you have a beautiful view over the harbour and you can enjoy spectacular sunsets. This is a really special park that is not yet so well known.
Witte Huis and the old port of Rotterdam
If you see all the tall buildings in Rotterdam along the Meuse, you can hardly imagine that the Witte Huis was the tallest office building in Europe. The building was finished in 1898, with 11 floors and standing 43 metres high. Now it only “towers” over the cosy Oude Haven. It is fairly quiet here during the day, though at the end of the afternoon it does get much busier. It’s lovely to have a drink or a meal here.
A special place to stay the night in Rotterdam
The Noordereiland is an oasis of tranquillity and yet right in the middle of the city. You can even park here for free. It used to be a place where people worked hard. You can still see the rails on which the harbour cranes were moved to the ships. You also have a nice view of the Erasmus Bridge and you can see the skyline of the city really well from the Maaskade.
We slept in an apartment on the Maaskade. The view was amazing. You got the feeling that you were staying in a small village it was so quiet. Yet a five-minutes-walk brought us to the bustling centre. Good accommodation, lots of space, cosy and very affordable, you can find this apartment on Airbnb. Click here for other accommodation in Rotterdam.