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Forget every photo you have ever seen of cute little houses in the Netherlands. Now think about a very modern architecture and quite peculiar too. Welcome to Rotterdam! This contemporary city offers a lot of things to do and to entertain its travelers!
I lived in Amsterdam after I first came to Europe. Now, 3 years later, I’m living in the south of the Netherlands and have visited many cities in the country. Amsterdam will always be my favorite one for many reasons. However, Rotterdam is a spectacular city that deserves many posts as well.
The second largest city in the Netherlands is also home to the world’s second-largest port. Some of Rotterdam’s maritime heritage can be seen in the Maritime Museum and in the Harbor Museum. The first one has more activities for kids, but the latter is also very interesting. This is where I was able to get into the bridge of a huge container ship! I felt like a child, but it was so nice!
Anyways, you certainly won’t be bored in this modern and cultural city! I’ve put together the 8 coolest things to do in Rotterdam. But first I’ll explain why this is the most modern city in the Netherlands.
Back in the Second World War, the Germans tried to invade the Netherlands and ordered the surrender of the country. Hitler thought they wouldn’t have much of a problem since the country is relatively small. However, for obvious reasons, the Dutch wouldn’t comply with their demands and resisted. Fighting.
They resisted for exactly 4 days and even had negotiated a ceasefire. Yet on the fifth day after the invasion, the Germans decided the wait was too long for a country they thought it would be much easier to occupy. So, they bombed the city center of Rotterdam until almost nothing was left and threatened to do the same thing in another city, Utrecht. The Dutch government surrendered the next morning.
Reborn From the Ashes
Rotterdam was reconstructed in the years following WW2 and became a playground for architecture geeks. Today, the city houses the highest buildings in the country, a modern central station, the splendid Erasmus bridge and an observation deck to appreciate it all. Note that I’m not even close to pointing out all points of interest of Rotterdam. Let’s start it!
1.Rotterdam Central Station
The entrance to the city is a real piece of art! Like many constructions in Rotterdam, the central station follows a modern architecture style.
The old building had around 110.000 daily travelers, which was projected to be 320.000 in 2025 because of the increasing number of trains in the route Amsterdam – Brussels – Paris. To cope with this huge demand, the central station had to be rebuilt and in 2014 the new central station was ready.
So, grab your camera and take a lot of pictures! This is for sure a photo hotspot of the city because Rotterdam Central Station is stunning! Don’t forget to take a look at the surroundings of it too. There are many intriguing modern buildings on the boulevard in front of it. Wander along it and appreciate the beauty of the city.
This picturesque residential and office building is home to a delicious food market. The Markthal was created due to strict European laws to sell meat, fish, and cheese in the open air. So, now the market is inside it.
If there is one thing you can’t miss here, it is the ceiling! There is a real piece of art covering it all. But please, don’t skip the food stalls on the ground floor. Grab a Dutch snack to continue your journey through the city. Are you a foodie too? High five! So, check out this post about the best Dutch snacks you don’t want to miss when in the Netherlands.
Close to the Markthal are the quirky and super modern Cube Houses. Certainly one of the craziest constructions I have seen in my life! This residential place is meant to represent a forest and each house represents a tree. Sweet!
So, include these interesting houses in your list of things to see in the city! You won’t regret it. As I said above, Rotterdam has a distinctive architecture. So, if you want to learn more about it with a local guide, I’d strongly recommend taking an architecture walking tour through the city.
The Swan, that is the Erasmus bridge’s nickname because of its irregular shape. Built in 1996, this symbol of modern architecture rises 139 meters up in the sky, and it is 284 meters long.
It’s a perfect spot for photography lovers, day and night, as there are many skyscrapers behind it. If you are making an architecture tour, this bridge is one of the things you will learn about.
I’ve seen many people make a boat tour on the Maas river and I believe they had a wonderful view of this area from there. Too bad I didn’t have time to make it too. Next time. 😊
5.The White House (Het Witte Huis)
The Netherlands also has a white house, did you know that? It’s a National Heritage site built in 1898. The White House in Rotterdam is one of the few buildings to survive the bombing attack in 1940. This construction was restored in the 1990’s and is 43m high. The most impressive part is that this building was once the highest building in Europe! Can you imagine that?
Have a cup of coffee in the cafe on the ground floor of this art nouveau landmark and appreciate the place. It is located right in front of the old port of Rotterdam.
6.Museumpark in Rotterdam
You will certainly find a museum to your taste of art in the Museumpark. They showcase many different art styles in those museums.
For example, the famous Museum Boijmans has a comprehensive collection of Western art from the Middle Ages to the present day (€17,50).
The New Institute showcases modern architecture and design, while the House Sonneveld, which was built in 1933, showcases a sort of modern architecture (for 1933!). You can buy one ticket for both the house and the New Institute for €14. There is a combi ticket for The New Institute, Chabot Museum, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Kunsthal Rotterdam and the Museum of Natural History: € 27.50
A very Dutch way to learn about the city’s history, it is to make a bike tour of the highlights of Rotterdam with a local. Riding a bike is definitely a thing you should do in the Netherlands, by the way! This THE bike country and these two just belong together, don’t you think?
7.Witte de Withstraat – Cool street with bar/ cafes
Go have a drink in the bohemian Witte de Withstraat. This street has an easygoing atmosphere during the day and an amazing vibe at night! If you’re looking for a place to hang out, this is the spot! Grab a good glass of wine or beer and enjoy it! But first, take your time to wander and choose a place. There are plenty options.
I’ve seen many art galleries, cozy cafes, and bars with a hipster crowd in this region of Rotterdam. Also, stroll along this street to see all sorts of cute little shops the city has to offer!
By now you have seen a lot of Rotterdam on the ground. So, go up in the Euromast tower (€9,75) to see everything again, but from 185 meters high! If it’s a clear day, you can see as far as 30km into the distance! Are you afraid of heights? I am! 😊 Anyways, this attraction is certainly a thing you should see in the city to have a very special view (360°) of Rotterdam.
There is also a restaurant up in the tower, but I didn’t eat there.
Ps: They do not accept cash, only card payments.
Koopgoot – Shopping Street
I know I’ve said “8 things to do in Rotterdam”, but why not 9? This place is very popular in the city.
This is a shopping area with more than 40 stores below the street level. By the way, “goot” means gutter in Dutch (and “koop” means buy). It kind of looks like a gutter, but only a little bit! Now you know the reason for this interesting name.
You’ve seen that Dutch people are very creative when it comes to building things, right? If you want to shop or just wander along some stores, take a look at this interesting place.
Rotterdam has an amazing cosmopolitan feeling, don’t you agree? Have you ever been to Rotterdam or are you planning to go there? Share your experiences in the comments below!
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