For many years, the motto in the resurrected port city of Rotterdam has been: don't talk the talk, walk the walk. Rotterdam is bursting with impressive construction projects, new architecture, green initiatives and fantastic food destinations.
A bustling metropolis where you can get some peace and quiet is hard to find. But it is there - practically around every corner. Rotterdam has it all, with space for everyone, wide streets, a mishmash of nationalities and the wide expanse of water of the Maas River that stretches through the city. If you want to discover Rotterdam, you have to walk a long way. But that’s not all bad, on sunny days you have brand new skyscrapers and glistening water shimmering around you. With electric scooters on the streets and water taxis that you can hop onboard, that staycation feeling has never been so close.
Manhattan on the Maas
With a high density of skyscrapers and a skyline that defies description, unsurprisingly, Rotterdam is often compared with the metropolis that is New York. You can experience the real 'Manhattan on the Maas' experience at the Kop van Zuid, a redeveloped area on Wilhelminapier adorned with residential tower blocks whose names include New Orleans, Montevideo and Boston & Seattle. Designed by architect and Rotterdammer Rem Koolhaas, the 42-storey De Rotterdam gives you a phenomenal view of the Erasmus Bridge from the bar and hotel rooms of the Nhow hotel. Or throw on some colour and step into Hotel Bruno: this design hotel is located in a former warehouse located on the doorstep of the Foodhallen. Another neighbour is Margreeth Olsthoorn, the high-end fashion store with exclusive designs. At ground level, you will find the best view of the Kop van Zuid at the classic Hotel New York, which once served as a harbour office and was the only one on the pier. This was the spot where the very first cruise ships departed for America, and where enormous ships still dock. The current Cruise Terminal is just a stone's throw away. Katendrecht, the former red-light district, is accessible via Rijnhavenbrug (popularly known as 'the Whorehouse'), where you can do your local shopping at the Fenix Food Factory or dine at De Matroos en het Meisje. Dive into the basement of Hotel New York for a cocktail at The Basement or take the water taxi over the Maas towards the Scheepvaartkwartier. This chic area of Rotterdam is home to Michelin starred restaurants such as Zeezout and Parkheuvel. In the evening, take a stroll along the Westerkade for the most beautiful view of the city at the Veerhaven. Old and new go hand in hand here: by the light of a classic lamppost, historic ships stand out against a futuristic skyline.
Ar(t)chitecture on the streets
Art and architecture can be found on almost every street corner in Rotterdam. The latest addition is the mirrored Depot building of Museum Boijmans van Beuningen. From whichever angle you approach it, this eyecatcher immediately jumps out at you. With green trees on the roof, curved mirrors on the outside and transparent stairs on the inside, this is the first publicly accessible art depot in the world, which opens this autumn. But there are more cutting-edge designs to be found outdoors. Just take a look at the industrial M4H harbour, where artist and inventor Daan Roosegaarde keeps office in his Droomfabriek. In the garden, you will find his Smog Free Tower, which filters harmful particles of fine dust out of the air. A little further on, there’s the Joep van Lieshout’s sculpture garden, where a sauna in the shape of a skull can be found among life-sized organs and phalluses. A progressive form of agriculture can be found at the Floating Farm, which features cows with sea legs. Rotterdam is also looking to the future and thinking about the rising sea level: sustainable wikkelboats are located in the Wijnhaven and Rijnhaven. These tiny floating houseboats are made from 24 layers of corrugated cardboard and are key element of a new construction method, as part of Floating Rotterdam. The city is also cleverly making short work of excess rainwater: in the Zomerhof quarter, you will find water-absorbing Rain(a)way tiles on the street, a deep basketball court that turns into a pond when it rains and a giant rain barrel in the shape of the letters 'ZOHO'. All this is to be found along the former Hofbogen railway line, which will be redeveloped over the coming years into a line of rooftops almost 2km long, in the style of New York's High Line. And the work has already begun: on top of the former Hofplein station is the Luchtpark (‘Air Park’) with a city allotment and fruit orchard.
Rotterdam is home to more unique, unexpected places. Since a large part of the inner city was destroyed during the bombardment on 14 May 1940, the hidden gems can be found outside of the commercial city centre. Go off the beaten track and take a stroll around the picturesque Oude Noorden, where you will find restaurant De Kok en de Tuinman in the canteen of an old domestic school. This restaurant has a quiet courtyard garden where you can have a lovely dinner. You can also view art in four of the classrooms, where Gallery Untitled organises temporary exhibitions. Score a nice gift around the Zwaanshals, where entrepreneurs provide an original range of shops. For homemade delicacies and kitchen designs, go to Regina. Or pay a visit to Brouwerij Noordt (a brewery), hidden in a former fire station in the middle of a residential block. In any case, Rotterdam is a city that can convert empty buildings into something new like no other. New life has been breathed into the derelict, abandoned Tropicana swimming pool, which now serves as a breeding ground for circular entrepreneurs. Take the company Rotterzwam, which grows mushrooms on coffee grounds collected from the local catering industry. You will find these fungi on your plate at Aloha restaurant, where you dine between the artificial rocks of the former wave pool, with a phenomenal view of the Maas. Susan Bijl, known for her waste-saving shopping bags, also managed to transform an old garage in Kralingen into a showroom and design shop. And another secret tip: knock on the door of 'the doctor' for a 'consultation'. Hidden away in the Scheepvaartkwartier, you will find speakeasy cocktail bar Dr., which seats only ten people at the bar. Bartenders in doctor's coats will gladly provide you with the right 'recipe' to toast a successful voyage of discovery through Rotterdam.
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