Top 5 sights for first-timers
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
This long-standing museum houses one of the Netherlands’ most important art collections. The works inside read like a who’s who of European artists through the ages, from the classical masterpieces of grand masters such as Pieter Brueghel and Rembrandt, to the more contemporary surrealist work of Salvador Dalí and René Magritte.
Originally built in the 1950s as the centrepiece of a flower expo, the 185-metre-high Euromast tower on the west of Het Park is still a magnet for visitors today. The views from the observation decks are tremendous. For a fee (book in advance), you can abseil back to ground level.
Rotterdam was heavily damaged by bombs in WWII, but this district survived largely intact. The highlight is the lovely Voorhaven canal. Crossed by scenic bridges and lined with gabled houses, it’s Amsterdam in miniature. It even has a working windmill.
Another must-see on the Rotterdam art circuit actually has no permanent collection. Instead it hosts around half a dozen temporary exhibitions at a time, covering a wide range of subject matter. The exhibits are so varied there’ll always be something to gladden even the most jaded gallery-weary heart.
Maritime Museum Rotterdam
Reflecting Rotterdam’s proud heritage as a seafaring trading city, this museum contains a host of nautically themed exhibits. Pride of place goes to a large interactive multimedia presentation about the vast Europort, Europe’s largest port. Another highlight is the 15th-century wooden Mataró model – believed to be the world’s oldest surviving model ship.
Top 5 sights for old hands
Living up to its name, the World Museum reflects Rotterdam’s multicultural heritage by focusing on (largely non-Western) cultures from around the planet. Immigration has had a sizable influence on the way Rotterdam looks today, and the exhibits celebrate this. Much of the space is given over to fascinating temporary exhibitions.
Surrounded by modern glass towers, this 17th-century mansion has somehow survived as a remnant of the past. Actually only the facade is original and the rest was destroyed in a 19th-century fire, but the interior is lovingly restored, and the baroque and rococo rooms are decorated in period style.
Korte Hoogstraat 31
Housed in an old warehouse, the national photo museum plays host to exhibitions by top contemporary photographers. Its only permanent display is The Darkroom, which presents the history of Dutch photography.
For a city packed with modern and innovative buildings, it’s not surprising that one of Rotterdam’s top draws is a museum dedicated to the development of architecture around the world. The glass-and-metal building was designed by local star Joe Conen in 1993.
Trendy Witte de Withstraat is lined with quirky shops, hip bars and alternative artists’ galleries. The best of the latter is this minimalist space promoting the work of innovative local visual artists. The ground floor is devoted to rising stars, while the upper floor shows off more established artists’ efforts.
Witte de Withstraat 50