The Futuristic City You Need to Visit Now
Europe’s largest port, the name of Rotterdam doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, unlike its better-known sister city to the north. Situated on the banks of the Nieuwe Maas, a branch between the Rhine and Maas river deltas, the city’s port, also known as the ‘gateway to Europe’, is easily accessible by big container ships, making it a hub of logistics and infrastructure.
This second city, more than half of it destroyed in the Second World War, has now emerged as one of the most architecturally intriguing cities on the continent, owing this mostly to the fact that there were fewer historical buildings left to preserve–thus creating a blank slate, ripe for architectural experimentation and a living example of how future cities can be conceptualized, designed and built.
Throw out all the old tropes of windmills, tulips, clogs, and cheese, for Rotterdam is design-oriented, stylish, modern, and cool. Here are a few things to see and do in this lovely port city.
Piet Blom’s Cube Houses (Kubuswoningen)
A popular attraction for selfie-seekers and design aficionados alike, these distinctive yellow cubes were dreamed up by architect Piet Blom in the 1970s. Some of the residents give tours of their homes; one of the larger cubes even houses a hostel. Head to the nearby Markthal (more on this later) for lunch, or a gawk at its massive proportions.
Luchtsingel Pedestrian Bridge
Another intriguing example of how architecture can transform a city, the entirely crowdfunded pedestrian bridges of the Luchtsingel (‘air canal’ in Dutch) connect lesser-accessible areas of Rotterdam to the city centre. Each person or family who donated can find their names decorating the bridge. This semi-permanent structure links to other public works like a roof garden, the new Pompenburg park, and Station Hoflein, which hosts cultural events.
Erasmus Bridge & De Rotterdam
Built in 1996, this cabled bridge connects Rotterdam’s south with the city centre—another top spot for photos. You’ll also notice De Rotterdam, one of the newest building projects on the skyline, designed by hometown architect Rem Koolhaas, who also won architecture’s crowning Pritzer Prize in 2000.
One of Europe’s finest museums, representing all eras of Dutch and European art. A wide range of artists’ works can be viewed here, from impressionists Monet, van Gogh, and Gauguin, to the Old Masters like Hieronymus Bosch, Brueghel the Elder, Van Eyck and Rembrandt. There’s also a superb surrealist wing, featuring Magritte, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, and one of the largest collections of Dali’s work outside of Spain and France.
The Kunsthal modern art museum, also designed by Rem Koolhaas, showcases works from the 20thC and from other modern artists, including recent exhibitions on Andy Warhol and Chuck Close. There is no permanent collection, but a rotating series of exhibitions.
Where to Eat & Drink in Rotterdam
Francois Geurds is the Dutchman putting Holland on the map for its haute cuisine, earning one Michelin star for his molecular gastronomy-themed restaurant, FG Food Labs, with a more laid-back and buzzy setting. The Food Labs location is where he also tweaks dishes for future refinement at FG Restaurant, which has two Michelin stars.
This maritime-themed hotel that is a nod to the building’s former life as a Holland America cruise line office, the lively bar and restaurant (which seats 400 people!) is a reliable stop at any time of day or night.
Herman den Blijker’s loft-styled restaurant has some of the best seafood in town. Indulge for a prix fixe lunch, dinner, or a decadent Sunday brunch.
This beautiful food market features 96 stalls and 20 shops and restaurants, featuring food from all around the world. A great lunch stop (it’s close to the Cube Houses), you can’t miss the Markthal’s dramatic horseshoe-shaped arch, rising 40 metres (131 feet) off the ground. Cutout windows in the ceiling look into actual apartments perched above. The ceiling itself is adorned by a riot of colourful and whimsical LED images of flowers, fruit, fish, and nature, created by Dutch digital artist Arno Coenen.