When I lived in the UK, there were a lot of cheap flights a week to the Netherlands.
Mostly drunk rough footballers or others who were looking forward to the red light district were heading to Amsterdam. But these are not the only attractions in this amazing country.
Rotterdam is a reason to go to the Netherlands and miss Amsterdam.
Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands and if you want to get out of the tourist noise of Amsterdam, Rotterdam offers a slightly slower lifestyle with just as much fun and excitement.
The settlement in the area dates back to at least 900 AD. And until 1150 the development of the area stopped due to floods.
Locals, fearing the loss of their land due to water, soon began building dikes and dams. Eventually, a dam on the Rote River was built in the 1260s, and thus the name “Rotterdam” came true.
Where the dam was built is where it is today Hoogstraat (main street) f. With the control of the coast through dams, the city managed to grow even more and soon became the largest seaport in the world.
Although it has since been surpassed by other ports in the world, the port of Rotterdam is the largest in Europe.
Rotterdam was destroyed mainly during World War II, so much of the post-war and newer architecture relied on the more modern side, giving the city a distinctly modern look, unlike what you would find in Amsterdam.
Explore the colorful and diverse city of Rotterdam, do some shopping, explore the museums and learn about the interesting history.
Here are some of the best things to see in Rotterdam. What to do in Rotterdam.
Explore the Boijmans-van Beuningen Museum
While Amsterdam is home to large and important art museums, the Boijmans-van Beuningen Museum allows the Rijksmuseum to manage its money.
Paintings and art from the 14th to the 16th century are presented here with works by famous Dutch artists such as Jan van Eyck, Peter Bruegel the Elder, Rembrandt and Rubens, to name a few.
Although there is a strong emphasis on legendary Dutch artists, there is also a strong emphasis on other European masters with exhibitions by Monet and Gogin, along with contemporary artists such as Picasso and Mathis.
All this and much more make it an important museum not only for the Netherlands but for Europe as a whole.
Paintings, sculptures and decorative arts from different periods, covering the whole continent, make the Boijmans-van Beuningen Museum a must-see, and together with the magnificent terrains and trimmed lawns outside, the museum is the ideal place for people to see.
Take a look at the history of the Old Port and the maritime museums
While Rotterdam is home to one of the most important ports in Europe, the Old Port (Oude Haven) was where it all began. Rotterdam flourished as a city in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance due to its thriving port.
The area that once led to the city’s thriving economy is now a tourist center with maritime museums, cafes, seafood restaurants and, of course, many boats.
The marina itself is something like a living museum with old boats showing their age, their name, etc., so you can take a walk and check what’s there.
A short walk from the port is the Rotterdam Maritime Museum, which was built in 1873 and offers refurbished 2000-year-old vessels and 19th-century iron flagships.
If you’re looking for an interesting place to stay, the 1958 SS Rotterdam, once considered “the best Dutch-built passenger liner ever built”, is now a hotel and museum.
The chicly decorated ship offers lunch and dinner in the dining room or book a room for the night and will feel a little of the taste of the Stara Planina era.
Stay at a historic hotel in the New York Hotel
From the 19th to the early 20th century, many people who wanted to immigrate to America did so by boarding Dutch-American passenger ships.
In the decade from 1900 to 1910 alone, 15 million immigrants left Europe, and those who left would stay here before boarding the boat.
The purpose of the building is twofold: it serves the offices of the Netherlands-America line and provides accommodation for ticket holders before embarking on a week-long trip to New York.
Although the building was not officially a hotel at the time, it became official in 1993 when two local developers bought the iconic building to protect it from demolition.
The building has over 72 rooms, two restaurants, a conference center and sits on the east side of the river, offering quite amazing views.
The Netherlands-America building (now the New York Hotel) is also on the National Heritage List and is also full of souvenirs from its days as the last stop for European immigrants.
See the remains of medieval Rotterdam in the Grotto of Sint-Lorenskerk
During World War II, the German army planned to conquer the entire country within a day.
To their great surprise, the Dutch began a fierce defense of the country and the city of Rotterdam, but to make them surrender, the German air force bombed the city.
During the war, the Allied Air Force also bombed the city in certain areas, where the Germans set up strategic centers, usually around ports and harbors.
Suffice it to say that much of the city was destroyed and one of the few remains of the city’s original medieval buildings is the Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk.
Translated from the Great Church of St. Lawrence, the church was built in the 15th century and although part of it was destroyed by bombing, much of it was spared and rebuilt after the war.
As you enter the church, you will notice the striking play of light offered by the large windows and the massive stained glass windows.
The complex Danish organs are located on a large marble base on the wall of the tower. The church offers tours and often hosts musical and cultural events.
Get a taste of not so local food
Rotterdam is the largest city in the Netherlands, home to the largest community of people from Cape Verde and the Netherlands Antilles outside of those countries.
Almost 50% of the population has one or both parents born in another country, so if you want to try delicious Caribbean or African food, there are a few good places in the city.
The Afrikaanderplein market on the south side of the river is a market aimed primarily at the locals of the Antilles and Africa and it is a great place for an affordable food breakfast that is filled with exotic and interesting flavors.
Blue Caribbean offers several places around the city for dining and dinner options, including classic dishes inspired by the island, and La Bandera also brings a taste of the Antilles with a Latin fusion twist and fun environment.
Spend the day in the Market Hall
Opened in 2014, the eclectically designed Market Hall is called a “horseshoe” by locals.
It serves as both a market and an office building, but what makes this place worth a visit is that it is essentially an architectural marvel with its large semicircular façade and large window overlooking the courtyard.
The interior of the structure was designed by artist Arnaud Cohen and features a variety of colorful fruits, animals, plants and insects. It all comes together to make a real kaleidoscope, so be sure to look up while shopping.
So apart from the cool design of the place, how about the shopping itself? Well, the market is absolutely huge with a wide variety of shops, stalls, boutiques and even restaurants and bars.
Check out tapas bars, traditional Dutch restaurants, tea bars, Balkan groceries and Indonesian noodle stalls, just to name a few.
You will come in with the thought that you will buy something or two and end up spending more than you agreed, but at least you will have tons of extras to show for it!
See the strangest sculptures in Rotterdam
Rotterdam is a city of art. Museums and art galleries do reflect this, but what makes the city interesting is the amount of public art and sculpture in the city. Most of them are kind of weird.
Biopik: Located in the gardens of the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum, Biopik is a large sculpture in the shape of a yellow phallus hidden in the gardens of the museum.
Made by Joep van Lieshout, a famous artist in the Netherlands, the sculpture is owned by the museum and represents the need for reproduction, while ignoring thoughts of purposeful design.
In short, it simply means doing your own thing. It was built in 1992 and caused some controversy, after which it was moved to a less noticeable place. Polaroid: When the war ended, the city of Rotterdam had to recover quickly.
In the post-war years, aesthetically boring concrete buildings emerged, and in an attempt to make the cityscape more interesting, a team of artists installed Polaroid (among some other art installations).
The Polaroid is a massive image of, you guessed it, a Polaroid full of a massive red pin that holds it in place.
Its strange position under the overpass and slightly inclined positioning make it interesting to look at and the depicted picture changes over time.BMW: Built by the same eclectic people who made the Polaroid, the BMW was introduced in 1987 and features a German car that hangs precariously over the edge of a parking lot, as if in a scene of average pursuit.
Paul McCarthy’s Santa: Christmas is a wonderful time of year. Christmas markets are lively, people are out, shopping, spending time with family and friends. So why is this sculpture remarkable?
The city of Rotterdam commissioned the American artist Paul McCarthy to build a Christmas-themed sculpture, and he delivered it.
But the controversy surrounding it is not due to religious intolerance. This was because they found the little Christmas tree that Santa was holding too sexy.
Without giving too much away, the sculpture was soon nicknamed the “gnome of the ass” and the name remained.
People tried to get rid of him, but he found a new home from the front of the Opera House to the Museum Park.
Enjoy the Dutch countryside in the Kinderdijk mills
The city of Rotterdam is a lot of fun, but if you want to get out of the city and explore some of the beautiful Dutch provinces, then the iconic Kinderdijk windmills are just a short drive outside the city center.
Translated from the “children’s dike”, the name comes from a local legend about a swing that was stuck there during the flood of 1421.
But what most people come here for is to check the canals and windmills located on the water roads. The 19 windmills, built in the 18th century, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are one of the most visited sites in the Netherlands. Don’t forget to get your camera!
Our last word
Rotterdam is an amazing modern city, filled with some pretty cool things to see. Museums and interesting works of art not only line the museum walls, but also the streets.
Buildings with fun design make the city feel unique and cool, while the history of the city remains alive through monuments and structures. So next time skip Amsterdam and head to Rotterdam. You will not regret.
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