When my friend An-Sofie invited me to visit her while she was doing an internship at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. The only thing I knew about the city? There’s a port. Not much, right?
An-Sofie kept on talking about it excitedly, though, so I got curious and hit the road.
I was joined by my other friend, Ann-Sofie (yep, that’s right), and together we discovered what exactly it was about Rotterdam that made An-Sofie feel so warmly about the city.
Rotterdam is a city with a history
Currently the largest cargo port in Europe, Rotterdam was one of the six Dutch cities that were part of the Dutch East India Company in the 17th and 18th century. As a result, the city knew a rapid growth and became quite successful. This eventually led up to World War I, in which Rotterdam functioned as the world’s largest spy centre.
On May 14th 1940, however, everything changed. The German invasion in the Netherlands had reached its peak and the Germans were fed up with the Dutch resistance. As a result, Germany bombed the city of Rotterdam and threatened to bomb other cities as well. World War II almost completely destroyed the heart of Rotterdam.
Not all of the city was lost, though. If you want to get an impression of what Rotterdam used to look like before the bombing, I’d recommend taking a walk around the borough Delfshaven. Piet Hein, a famous commander of the Dutch West India Company, was born there. The City Hall and restored St. Lawrence’s Church are also worth the look.
Rotterdam’s Unique architecture
Instead of trying to recreate the city as it once had been, Rotterdam rebuild its city center from scratch in a modern and rather daring way. Unique architecture can be found all over the place, and even though each building is completely different from the others, everything sort of fits in an unusual way.
Just take a walk around the city centre and you’ll be awed! The Central Station, Hotel New York, the Euromast, De Rotterdam, and the Erasmus Bridge are only some examples of the numerous buildings worth a glance.
My personal favorites, however, were the Cube Houses, designed by the Dutch architect Piet Blom, and the Market Hall.
On the inside of this last building, beautiful artwork by Arno Coenen can be found.
And OK, I must admit, the Market Hall does get A LOT of bonus points because of the amazing food you can eat there.
Which sort of brings me to my next point…
There is great food to be found in Rotterdam
You can find some great food in Rotterdam, and the Market Hall is no exception. Fruit, olives, cheese, meat, frozen yoghurt, nuts, prepared dishes, … Anything you want, you will probably find it here. Oh, and of course, there’s an Albert Heijn (a rather well-known Dutch supermarket).
You could also enjoy one of the many restaurant in the Market Hall. We had dinner at Jamie’s Italian and were not disappointed. The pastas were amazing! You might want to make a reservation, though, as the place is usually full. We totally lucked out on the last table, but you might not want to take any chances if you’re keen on eating here.
We also tried to eat dinner at the tapas bar in the Market Hall, but the chef had hurt his leg and was unable to cook. Instead, we went to De Hemel Op Aarde, another tapas bar out of the city center. The calamaris, shrimp croquettes, patatas bravas, carpaccio with truffle, and chorizo all tasted great and the service was the best we’ve had in Rotterdam.
Another great spot for food is the Fenix Food Factory. Thanks to its outdoor terrace and cosy eat stalls, the place is quite popular. There’s something for everyone, ranging from cheese and meat platters to fresh salads and arabic cuisine. Choose whichever you like best, complement it with some bread of Jordy’s Bakery, and you’re set!
Those craving something a little less healthy, will find satisfaction in Rotterdam as well. If you’re headed to the Witte de With quarter, a stop by Ter Marsch & Co, which won an award for the best burger in the Netherlands, is definitely worth it. The bitterballen at De Witte Aap and NRC, found in the same quarter, tasted great as well.
For those of you who have never seen a bitterbal, it is a deep-fried, usually meat-based snack in the form of a small ball, accompanied with a dipping. Since it is a Dutch specialty, you will find a lot of variety in both the bitterballen and the dipping. For example, we had vegetarian, beetroot-based bitterballen with tzatziki dipping at NRC.
With only 48 hours in the city, there was unfortunately only so much we could try. Granted, I am looking forward to see what else Rotterdam’s food scene has to offer during my next visit.
Rotterdam is Trendy, relaxing and fun
Besides its history, unique architecture and great food, I felt like Rotterdam was just an amazingly trendy, relaxing and fun city to be in. There is no shortage of places to enjoy yourself, be it whilst eating and drinking or whilst chilling in one of the city’s many parks or beach chairs.
The Witte de With quarter, which I mentioned previously, is key to this great atmosphere. As the city’s main art hub, the place is crawling with trendy cafes and restaurants. Definitely don’t skip this part of the city and go for a drink here, as it will give you a great impression of life in Rotterdam.
Another fun and characteristic activity that we did in Rotterdam was cycling. Ann-Sofie and I rented bikes at Centrum Bikes & Rent A Bike Rotterdam. And even though the saddle was a bit harder than we expected, we enjoyed our bicycle tour of the port very much. By going into the Maastunnel, we even cycled underwater for a bit!
Overall, I feel like Rotterdam is a city that is often overlooked when compared to its bigger brother Amsterdam. Still, I believe it does deserve a visit on its own. I absolutely enjoyed my 48 hours with An-Sofie and Ann-Sofie in this smaller, unique Dutch city.
So if you ever find yourself in the Netherlands, get yourself to Rotterdam!
Have you ever been to a city with unique architecture? Which was it?
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