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It may be outshone by Amsterdam in the cutesy canal department, but on all other levels Rotterdam has just as much to offer visitors as its major rival to the north. Having suffered enormous damage during the WWII, it was forced to reinvent itself in peacetime, and rather than rebuild in old styles it went for the modern look. Today it has grown into an internationally renowned centre for innovative architecture. As a major port city, it also has a vibrantly beating heart and boasts a colourful melting pot multicultural history that stretches back centuries.
Our top five sights
Rotterdam’s literal high point is the Euromast, a 185m-high tower built in the 1950s. The observation deck at the top has unparalleled views.
While much of the city is modern, the historic Delfshaven district made it through the war largely unscathed, and offers a rare window into the past.
Showcasing Rotterdam’s position as a capital of architecture, the Nederlands Architectuurinstituut (NAI, Netherlands Architecture Institute) contains exhibits on the big names of both Dutch and international architecture, from Rem Koolhuis to Le Corbusier.
The Kunsthal is a museum without a permanent collection. Instead it hosts several temporary exhibitions at a time, covering a wide range of usually fascinating themes.
Museum Boijmans van Beuningen
The city’s top gallery, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen has a rich collection of Dutch and Flemish art, from Hieronymous Bosch, via Rubens and Rembrandt to Piet Mondriaan.
Our top five activities
Everyone goes up the Euromast by lift, but if you’re feeling adventurous you can always take the left-field option and abseil back down again (book in advance).
To fully appreciate any major port city you need to take to the water. Spido arranges a variety of boat tours, from 75-minute harbour trips to all-day cruises.
To learn more about the city’s infatuation with architecture, contact Rotterdam ArchiGuides to arrange a walking tour with detailed explanations about the buildings around you.
Being flat and bike-friendly, a good way to cover some ground in Rotterdam is to rent a bicycle from Rijwielshop Rotterdam and take to the streets.
For golfers who want to keep their eye in, Golf Centrum Rotterdam is a driving range with around 80 covered tees.
Our top five events
January: International Film Festival Rotterdam
The International Film Festival Rotterdam, held over a 12-day period in late January, is the Netherlands’ largest film festival. It features mainly arthouse movies from around the world.
April: Rotterdam Marathon
The Rotterdam Marathon is one of the Netherlands’ largest participation events. The course is fast and attracts world-class athletes as well as amateur fundraisers.
April: Motel Mozaïque
Motel Mozaïque is a multi-arts festival that takes place at venues across the city over a long weekend in early April. Music, theatre and art exhibits all vie for your attention.
June: Rotterdam Unlimited
Rotterdam Unlimited is a brand-new festival of music, dance, theatre and carnival celebrating Rotterdam’s multiculturalism. With events across the city the first edition will take place in June 2013.
July: North Sea Jazz Festival
The North Sea Jazz Festival, held in the giant Ahoy arena, features live performances by big-name jazz and blue artists from around the world.
Rotterdam’s main shopping drags are Lijnbaan and Beurstraverse, where you will find most things you need. The city’s unofficial design centre is along Witte de Withstraat, which is lined with a quirky range of unusual shops and art galleries. The best department store is the Bijenkorf (Coolsingel 105, 0800 0818), which has designer label items, accessories and household goods. For more alternative fashion items, head for Nieuwe Binnenweg, or Van Oldenbarnveldtstraat. Held on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the huge outdoor market on Binnenrotteplein, near Rotterdam Blaak station, has everything under the sun on sale at its more than 500 stalls.
Food & Drink
Consistently receiving rave reviews and spoken of as Rotterdam’s best restaurant, the sleek and trendy Ivy (Lloydstraat 294, 010 425 0520) serves magnificent innovative modern Dutch creations from its open kitchen. If you can’t decide what to order, the tasting menus run up to 11 courses. If classic seafood in refined surroundings is more to your liking, then the intimate Zeezout (Westerkade 11b, 010 436 5049) could be just the thing you are looking for. Or for something more high-tech and totally off-the-wall, head for Izkaya (Lijnbaan 42, 010 281 0910). You order its wide range of pan-Asian dishes by selecting from your interactive table, which doubles as a touch-screen menu.
Rotterdam has many good bars. For something traditional, visit De Pelgrim (Aelbrechtskolk 12, 010 477 1189) in historic Delfshaven, a lovely old café that is also the tap for the adjacent brewery of the same name. The more modern Floor (Schouwburgplein 28, 010 404 5288) has a pretty beer garden at the back, and several of the city’s main theatres, cinemas and concert venues are located on the same square. For something livelier, Rotown (Nieuwe Binnenweg 17-19, 010 436 2669) has live bands most nights. But for the biggest names, the Ahoy (Ahoyweg 10, 010 293 3300) hosts global stars as well as touring shows such as Cirque du Soleil.
Accommodation in Rotterdam
A cut above the rest in every sense, the five-star Manhattan Hotel Rotterdam (Weena 686, 010 430 2000) occupies the lower half of the soaring Millennium Tower, the building dominating the skyline opposite the central railway station. It offers modern luxury in every conceivable form. For luxury in a more historic setting, the Hotel New York (Koninginnenhoofd 1, 010 439 0500) is an elegant establishment located in a riverside building that was once the home of the Holland America transatlantic shipping line.
Rotterdam The Hague Airport is 6km north of the centre. Most major car rental companies have desks in the arrivals hall. A taxi to the centre takes around 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, bus 33 leaves from outside the terminal building up to six times an hour, taking 28 minutes to reach the central station.
Rotterdam The Hague International Airport Information
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