Rotterdam Guide. Leisure Guides.

 

While nearby Amsterdam trades on its cutesy canals, Rotterdam makes its statement by embracing the future. A melting pot of cultures living in a forest of towering modern architecture, the city has a global feel like no other city in the Netherlands.

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Getting around


Rotterdam’s urban transport operator, RET, runs an extensive network of buses, trams and metros that ply routes across the city from early morning until around midnight. Night buses run on Friday and Saturday nights. All five metro lines intersect at Beurs station, the central interchange point. 
 
For all three forms of transport, you’ll need an OV-Chipkaart (‘Public Transport chip card’), available from bus and tram drivers, and from booths at metro stations. Remember to check in and out of buses and trams, and at the entrance/exit to metro stations, in a similar fashion to London’s Oyster Card. Local public transport is included if you buy a Rotterdam Welcome Card, available from the tourist office (VVV) and other locations.
 
Taxis in Rotterdam are fairly expensive by European standards and cannot be hailed on the street. Either phone for one in advance, or grab one at the official ranks, found at several locations around the city.
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Hotels


Rotterdam is not short on accommodation, and being a major centre of commerce, many of the plentiful choices are geared up to the needs of the business traveller. Like many other cities, you’ll need to book ahead to grab the better bargains.
 
Standing head and shoulders above the rest in every way, the swanky Manhattan Hotel Rotterdam (Weena 686) occupies the first 14 floors of the soaring Millennium Tower, directly opposite the central station. Its large rooms offer every comfort in addition to great views. The nearby Hilton Rotterdam (Weena 10) is a match for it in luxury and style, albeit a little more modest in stature.
 
For top-notch comfort with harbour views, the Inntel Hotels Rotterdam Centre (Leuvehaven 80) and its near neighbour the Maritime Hotel Rotterdam (Willemskade 13) both offer all the modern amenities a business traveller might need. Both have front rooms that look out over the iconic Erasmus Bridge.
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Nightlife


One of Rotterdam’s hottest nightspots is the Maassilo (Maashaven Zuidzijde 1-2), which hosts dance, trance, techno and other events on multiple floors of what was once a grain silo. For something more futuristic, and underground in every sense of the word, Toffler (Weena Zuid 33) goes for minimalist house, in a subterranean venue that once served as a pedestrian underpass beneath a main road.
 
Those more into straightforward music and drinking should head for long-term favourite Rotown (Nieuwe Binnenweg 17-19), which has live music and sometimes features internationally famous acts. On the quieter side, Café Floor (Schouwburgplein 28) is a modern and popular café with a good range of drinks and a lovely garden in which to enjoy them. Rotterdam’s best traditional café is the cosy Locus Publicus (Oostzeedijk 364), which boasts a range of 200 beers on its menu, and has an open fire in winter.
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Restaurants

 
Rotterdam boasts a mouth-watering array of restaurants to suit every budget. For a long time, the top place to eat in town has been the multi-award-winning Restaurant Parkheuvel (Heuvellaan 21), at the south end of Het Park. You’ll need to book way in advance to dine here. Challenging it in both popularity and quality is the rising star, Restaurant Ivy (Lloydstraat 294), which is turning heads for its innovative contemporary dishes. 
 
Restaurant Kip (Van Vollenhovenstraat 25) is a long-standing favourite among lovers of chicken (kip in Dutch), although their non-poultry dishes are equally great. Prefer the taste of the sea? Locals will tell you to look no further than Zeezout (Westerkade 11b), which serves fantastic fishy dishes based around the catch of the day, prepared in an open kitchen.
 
For something more social and special, try Eendracht (Eendrachtsweg 31a). Guests here eat at a single communal table, and your only choice is whether to opt for four or six courses. The food changes daily and is based on seasonal local organic produce. 
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Shopping


You’ll be able to find anything you need in Rotterdam’s extensive shopping area. For the biggest concentration of shops, look along Coolsingel, Lijnbaan and the semi-subterranean Beurstraverse pedestrianised mall. De Bijenkorf (Coolsingel 105) is the city’s best department store. Van Oldenbarneveldtstraat and Nieuwe Binnenweg are the places to head to find trendier alternative fashions. Start your hunt at Sister Moon (Nieuwe Binnenweg 89b). Van Dijk (Van Oldenbarneveldtstraat 105) stocks designer labels such as Helmut Lang, as well as the owner’s own creations. 
 
Witte de Withstraat is a centre of contemporary art galleries. If you’re looking for real cutting edge, try MAMA (Witte de Withstraat 29-31). Galerie ECCE (Witte de Withstraat 17a-19a) is better for ultramodern home furnishings.
 
With over 500 stalls, the expansive street market on Binnenrotteplein, between Sint Laurenskerk and Blaak station, is one of the largest in the country. It’s held every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.
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Top 10 sights


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.
 
Museumpark 18-20
www.boijmans.nl 
 
Euromast
 
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.
 
Parkhaven 20
www.euromast.nl 
 
Delfshaven

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.
 
Voorhaven
 
Kunsthal 

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.
 
Westzeedijk 341
www.kunsthal.nl 
 
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.
 
Leuvehaven 1
www.maritiemmuseum.nl 
 
Top 5 sights for old hands
 
Wereldmuseum

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.
 
Willemskade 25
www.wereldmuseum.nl 
 
Schielandhuis

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
www.museumrotterdam.nl 
 
Nederlands Fotomuseum

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.
 
Wilhelminakade 332
www.nederlandsfotomuseum.nl 
 
Nederlands Architectuurinstituut
 
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.
 
Museumpark 25
www.nai.nl 
 
TENT Rotterdam
 
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
www.tentplaza.nl 
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Top 5 activities


Harbour tours

To appreciate Rotterdam’s importance as a port, you need to take to the water. Tours range from one-hour trips to all-day excursions. A cheaper way to gain your harbour legs is to hop aboard a water taxi and cross the Maas from Veerhaven to Kop van Zuid.
 
Architecture tours

Rotterdam is a mecca for architects. Many star-turn creations can be seen on Kop van Zuid, an upmarket business district – some were designed by Dutch star Rem Koolhaas. In Blaak, Piet Blom’s Blaakse Bos, a ‘forest’ of odd-shaped cube houses, is as striking today as when it was built 30 years ago.
 
Windmill mania

If you ever wondered where all the Dutch jigsaw and chocolate box designers go to gain inspiration, head to Kinderdijk. The 19 picturesque windmills here stand beside a rural canal. It’s quintessential Netherlands in one view.
 
Beer tasting

Located in Delfshaven, the Pelgrim is one of the Netherlands cutest craft breweries. Tours can be arranged, and you can sample the wares in the homely café. The Pilgrim Fathers visited the church next door before leaving on the Mayflower in 1620.
 
Harbour walk

To understand this city’s maritime leanings, stroll along Leuvehaven. The harbour is lined with historic ships, which you can board during the day and explore.
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Top 5 events


Motel Mozaïque

This two-day festival (first weekend in April) puts the spotlight on alternative music, theatre and visual arts. Shows are presented at a dozen indoor venues throughout the city centre.
 
Date: April
Venue: Various
 
Queen’s/King’s Day

Queen’s Day (30 April) turns the entire country orange. Flea markets set up everywhere, and bands perform on outdoor stages. With a coronation central to the 2013 event, as from 2014 the holiday will become known as King’s Day.
 
Date: April
Venue: Citywide
 
De Parade

The 10-day Parade festival features a variety of outdoor theatre, music and dance performances for audiences of all ages. Live music is also performed in nearby cafés.
 
Date: June 
Venue: Museumpark
 
North Sea Jazz/North Sea Around Town

The three-day jazz festival at the Ahoy Rotterdam attracts globally famous artists. In the two weeks running up to it, 200 smaller concerts are held at 100 citywide locations in the ‘Around Town’ warm-up event.
 
Date: June-July
Venue: Ahoy Rotterdam/various
 
World Port Days

World Port Days centres on a range of activities on the River Maas. Events include stunt shows on the water, music, fireworks and organised excursions to the Port of Rotterdam.
 
Date: August
Venue: River Maas

Written by World Travel Guide

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