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» Rotterdam Travel Guide (Holland)

Rotterdam Travel Guide (Holland)

Reviewer: Simsi
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Rotterdam is in the south-west of The Netherlands about 50km from the Belgian border and about 60 from Amsterdam. It’s linked by a channel to the North Sea and its fortunes have been tied to maritime trade and adventure for centuries seeing off Dutch East Indies galleons, the Pilgrim Fathers, trans-Atlantic clippers and today the cargo ships and tankers that are the lifeblood of international trade. Its obvious claim to fame is its role as Europe’s busiest port which alone would make it a worthwhile destination but the city offers much more to the visitor.

If Amsterdam is Holland‚Äôs Venice, then Rotterdam is its Hamburg ‚Äď a modern, vibrant and dynamic showpiece for innovation and culture that still retains at its core a sense of its national identity while welcoming the world. In a way it‚Äôs the world‚Äôs architectural incubator having a zest for forward-looking buildings that project a city with its roots in the Middle-Ages into the 21st century. Its cultural leanings are also apparent with some first class galleries and museums, an energetic nightlife and as befits one of the cross-roads of Europe, it is a melting-pot of nationalities, ideas and has a trader‚Äôs sense for seizing opportunities.

Rotterdam Airport

Rotterdam Airport is 8km north-west of the city with a bus service (No 33) running a 20 minute shuttle to Central Station every 12 minutes. Taxis are around ‚ā¨20. All the major car hire companies have desks in the terminal. See EasyCar for the best deals on Rental cars in Rotterdam.

Flights to Rotterdam

For the cheapest flights to Rotterdam, try KLM РRoyal Dutch Airlines and Transavia. The Belgian airline VLM also has a large fleet of Fokker F50 turboprops which fly non-stop to Rotterdam daily from London City Airport and can be booked online. Flights also depart from Jersey, Isle of Man, Liverpool and Manchester airports. KLM flies from several British airports to Rotterdam via Amsterdam (Schipol). VLM flies the Fokker F50 which is a twin engine turboprop carrying up to 58 passengers, but you will actually arrive in Rotterdam sooner because the aircraft does not fly via Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport. It flies non-stop from London City Airport to Rotterdam. This reduces the flying time from 90 to 60 minutes.

Sightseeing Highlights

Like a modern-day Venice, Rotterdam is bisected by a grand canal called the Nieuwe Maas although given its raison d’etre as a port, Rotterdam’s is not a quaint tourist trap but a vast shipping channel. The channel is criss-crossed by a series of bridges and tunnels with the waterfront itself being a 15 minute walk from Central Station. It’s a great place to get a feel for the heart and soul of the city and the enormous Port of Rotterdam has several interesting focal points for the visitor. The Scheepvaartkwartier (Shipping Quarter) is between the Euromast and the Erasmus Bridge around the Veerhaven Dock. The buildings in the district bear the marks of their nautical associations like tattoos on a sailor with their decorations of ships and other maritime scenes. The Westelijk Handelsterrein, once a commercial district made up of warehouses is now home to trendy galleries, restaurants and cafes. The Oude Haven (Old Harbour) is near the Blaak station and you can see some harbour remnants dating from the 14th century and some wonderfully preserved historic boats.

As interesting as it is to stroll around the hyperactive port itself, there are several maritime-themed museums that pay homage to the city’s lifeblood. The Maritiem Museum Rotterdam dates from 1874 and showcases the art and craft of shipbuilding, marine equipment and paraphernalia such as steam engines, cranes and navigational instruments, models of sea-going craft. There is also an entire floor dedicated to interactive exhibits for children called Professor Plons (Splash) including periscopes, unloading oil tankers and cargo ships and sailing simulators. The beautifully restored warship De Buffel built in 1868 is moored in the harbour right outside. The Rotterdam Historical Museum explains how the city developed into the dynamic port of today. The Openlucht Binnenvaart Museum is dedicated to inland water transport and has a good collection of barges in a basin some still undergoing restoration. Focussing on Dutch naval history is the Mariniers Museum (Naval Museum) which provides displays on the lives of the seamen and officers who served in the navy as well its history and ships. For those with more specialised tastes the Tax and Customs Museum provides an insight into the creativity of smugglers.

Apart from its marine-themed museums, Rotterdam has a wonderful collection of art-related and general museums. Ranking among the country‚Äôs, if not Europe‚Äôs, best art galleries is the Museum Boijmans van Breuningen. It covers an enormous span of art history and holds a continuing cycle of well-curated temporary exhibitions. The permanent collection ranges across all major schools of Dutch and continental art from old masters (Bosch, Bruegel, Rembrandt) to the Impressionists (Van Gogh, Monet, Gaugin, Degas) to the modernists (Duchamp, Magritte, Dali). There‚Äôs a lovely sculpture garden attached (featuring Oldenburg‚Äôs Bent Screw) and a user-friendly highlight is the ‚Äúholographic projection portal‚ÄĚ that helps visitors locate any piece in the collection instantly. With around 25 different temporary collections each year the Kunsthal can be fascinating or tedious depending on what happens to be installed at the time but is often experimental and covers a range of media including installations, design and photography. The Wereldmuseum (World Arts Museum) showcases international culture both historic and contemporary. The museum‚Äôs prize pieces are in The Treasury including pre-Columbian pottery, African sculpture, Buddhist carvings from Asia and Iranian lacquer. For a look at everyday Dutch life through the ages visit the Historisch Museum Het Schielandhuis situated in one of the city‚Äôs few preserved 17th century buildings. Photography aficionados will love the Nederlands Fotomuseum which, although small, has a superb collection of photographic art and also acts as an archive and information centre for photographers. Natural history is documented in the Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam with a fairly standard collection of fossils, skeletons, insect displays and various stuffed animals.

As well as being inextricably linked to the sea, Rotterdam is also justifiably proud of its status as one the world‚Äôs cutting edge showcases of modern architecture. While its often spectacular built environment is immediately apparent to the visitor an excellent place to learn more about the art is the Nederlands Architectuur Instituut. As well as playing a role as an architectural archive it also has fascinating exhibitions about building design and has numerous models including those depicting urban planning, houses and public buildings. Of course, for the best architectural experience you simply have to wander (or cycle) the city from intriguing sight to intriguing site. Some you might find spectacular, others ugly and still others downright weird. But there are few places in the world that have such an enormous mix of the art in such a small area. Some of the highlights are: the Erasmusburg, an 800m bridge across the Nieuwe Maas; the Willemsbrug, the city‚Äôs other iconic bridge; the KPN Telekom building, Renzo Piano‚Äôs precarious-looking piece, the three Boompjestorens which are apartment blocks; the Huis Sonnenfeld, a 1930‚Äôs modernist house next to the Architectuur Instituut, Willemswerf used by shipping giant Nedlloyd as its global HQ; the Witte Huis, at 12 stories and dating from 1897, one of Europe‚Äôs first skyscrapers, the Kubuswoningen, an amazing tumble of cube-shaped apartments with a slender tower; the Groothandelsgebouw, literally ‚Äúlarge business building‚ÄĚ a post-war design; and the Euromast Space Tower, a 184m spire affording spectacular views over the city.


Because the city of Rotterdam is completely surrounded by water, boat excursions are common daytrips for visitors to the city. Kinderdijk is one of the United Nation’s

World Heritage monuments and visitors who embark on the cruise ship Nehalennia are transported to the historical site from Rotterdam and may roam around for over an hour.

Although many believe that Rotterdam gives tourists a real feel for Dutch life and traditions, a trip to Holland would not be complete without visiting the vibrant city of Amsterdam. Trains usually leave from the Rotterdam Central every hour and it’s best to purchase a roundtrip ticket. Explore the canals and popular tourist attractions like the Red Light District and Van Gogh Museum and make it back to Rotterdam by the end of the day.

For an international excursion, board the Rotterdam to Antwerp train at Rotterdam’s Central Station and arrive in Belgium’s diamond capital and largest port city. If sampling chocolate and hopping around from one diamond museum to the next sounds like a great way to spend a day, then the one hour trip to Antwerp will be well worth it.

Must-see attractions

The White House or ‚ÄėWitte Huis‚Äô is one of the last standing buildings in Rotterdam‚Äôs city centre that survived the WWII bombings. For days where the weather is a bit more temperate, Rotterdam Zoo is a great venue to explore as it is full of entertainment for the entire family. Be sure to stop by the Aquarium as it is definitely one of the major highlights.

If weather permits, spend the day roaming around the Delfshaven walking area and enjoy many historic and scenic sights. If you are not claustrophobic and have ever wondered what it was like to live inside a cube, the Kijk Kubus Houses will give you the opportunity. This unique group of cubed-shaped show houses are located in the centre of Rotterdam and open for tourist visits.

The Waterstad is a historic walking site that is full of museums, boutiques, street performances and a number of other daytime and evening entertainments. Located in the harbour area, Waterstad is considered to be Rotterdam’s maritime heart. A tour up or down the New Meuse and Rhine rivers is a must-do activity as tourists can choose from sailboats, motorboats or paddle-steamers to complete the journey.

Best time to go

The summertime is an excellent time to visit Rotterdam. During the summer months, the weather is not as hot or uncomfortable as in many of the other countries in continental Europe. The middle of June until the middle of August is usually drier and warmer than the other months, which can be quite wet and dreary. Be aware that there will definitely be more tourists during this time of the year as the moderate weather attracts many.

Rainy day suggestions

Another family friendly venue is the Tropicana Theme Park. Escape to this indoor water park for a summertime feel in the middle of a rainy winter. Between the waterslides and wave pools, everyone is guaranteed to a have a thrilling adventure. For a cosier and more secluded experience, escape the city and head to the Thermen Holiday Sauna. Guests will enjoy a European spa experience and a full day of relaxation and pampering. It is highly recommended for couples and honeymooners on romantic retreats.

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