Rotterdam is one of the few thoroughly modern cities in Holland, offering adventuresome modern architecture and delightful culture. The city centre, apart from the City Hall, was almost completely destroyed by bombing in World War II, so had to be gradually rebuilt from the 1950s on. Modern Rotterdam seems to specialize in high buildings, having the tallest residential building in Holland (the New Orleans Tower, 158.35 metres), the tallest office building (Maastoren, 164.75 metres) and The Euromast, a 186 metre tower visible from miles around, giving a superb view of the city, the River Maas and the port. Rotterdam has the Netherlands Architecture Institute and the Berlage Institute of architecture, which may explain the presence of so many modern landmarks.
Another is the iconic Erasmus Bridge, one of the most photographed in Holland, which has appeared in several Hollywood movies. Designed by Ben van Berkel and opened by Queen Beatrix in 1996, the deck is suspended on cables from a 139 metre high asymmetric pylon. At 808 metres it is the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world. This powerful structure is floodlit at night, allowing for some great photographs.
With its mix of small independent boutique-style shops and international megastores, shopping in Rotterdam has something for everyone, and all budgets. The first pedestrianised shopping streets in Holland, the Lijnbaan, opened in 1953, since when several modern shopping centres have been built in the city. Customers have a choice of shopping in a mall or vibrant street atmosphere, and shops in the city centre open 7 days a week, something still unusual in Holland.
Since Rotterdam is ‘the gateway to Europe’ and one of the busiest ports in the world, a visit to the Maritime Museum seems appropriate (closed Mondays). Five minutes walk from Erasmus Bridge, the museum’s exhibits include model ships, a multi-media show about the port, and an exploration of navigation from early maps to GPS. Children will enjoy the ‘Real Pirates’ exhibition, as well as the opportunity to help Professor Splash get ready for his next voyage by sorting fish, loading and unloading ships and deciding on his next destination.
Continuing the nautical theme, you could take a trip on Splashtours’ amphibious bus, which will show you the main sights of the city followed by a trip on the Maas River in the same vehicle. (Departs from the bus stop next to the Maritime Museum and lasts an hour.)
In 2010, Rotterdam was voted World Festival and Event City, and visitors from all over the world attend its many and varied cultural festivals in summer and winter. In April the Stand Out To Sea Festival fills the inner harbor with arts and culture for three days, bringing together artists, musicians, DJs and story-tellers. In June the 5-day Summer Carnival and Dunya Festival floods the city with colourful music and dance, literature, theatre and street carnival. In December it’s the Now and Wow Festival of electronic music, pop culture, fashion, design and art and theatre. Also in December, China Light Rotterdam hits The Park at the Euromast, with dazzling laser shows and live Chinese song and dance, set among fantastic light sculptures including a 100 metre long dragon!
Sport is also a big feature of Rotterdam, with three professional football clubs including Feyenoord, Europe’s most successful baseball team, and long traditions of boxing, basketball and swimming. Its annual international marathon is on one of the fastest courses in the world, and the city is bidding to hold the 2018 Youth Olympics.
The Ladiesrun Rotterdam marathon in June intriguingly claims to “combine competitive running with shopping and good company”, so cleverly exploiting three of Rotterdam’s greatest assets!