The Netherlands’ second largest city, Rotterdam, is very different from its largest city, Amsterdam. While Amsterdam is old-world architecture, Rotterdam is a very modern city. The reason for that is because, except for a small handful of buildings, the city of Rotterdam was obliterated in less than 15 minutes by a World War II bombing campaign. Rather than trying to rebuild in its old style, the people of Rotterdam decided to show their resiliency by using the devastation as an opportunity to start over with innovative and creative architecture. The result is that the things to do in Rotterdam are an interesting mix of old and new.
Rotterdam’s Cube Houses are a good example of Rotterdam’s unique architecture. The Cube Houses were designed in the 1980s by Piet Blom. They create a village that is supposed to be reminiscent of trees of a forest. The cubes are tilted so three sides face the ground and three sides face the sky. If you’re curious to see what one looks like inside, there is a show cube open to the public.
Rotterdam’s Markthal is quite a centerpiece of Rotterdam. The market hall is a huge horseshoe-shaped building with enormous windows at each end. Within the building is an indoor market, and the curving exteriors of the building contain luxury apartments.
The arched ceiling is covered in colorful artwork called the Horn of Plenty. In addition to being a food market, Markthal has restaurants, so it is a great place to visit for lunch or dinner.
Rotterdam’s Oude Haven, or old port, is part of the Maritime District. It has historic ships and is a popular place for restaurants and bars. Along Oude Haven is one of Rotterdam’s few remaining old buildings, “The White House.” The Witte Huis was built in 1898 in the Art Nouveau style and was Europe’s first skyscraper.
Erasmus Bridge is a suspension bridge built in 1996 that crosses Nieuwe Maas River, linking the north and south of Rotterdam. The bridge can be crossed by both cars and pedestrians. We took a walk across the bridge to Hotel New York and then took a water taxi back.
Hotel New York
Hotel New York is another one of Rotterdam’s few remaining historic buildings. The building was erected in 1901 and was the location of the Holland America Line, where ships left for New York. Holland America Line’s head office moved to Seattle in 1977 and the building was opened as a hotel in 1993.
The Delfshaven marina is yet another one of the few pieces of Rotterdam that survived the 1940 bombing that leveled most of the city. For Americans this is a special place because the Pilgrim Fathers left for America in 1620 from the church, Pelgrimvaderskerk, built in 1417 and updated in 1761. The Pilgrims first sailed to England where they then boarded the Mayflower.
Next door to the church is Stadsbrouwerij de Pelgrim, one of Rotterdam’s breweries. The building the brewery is in dates back to 1580 and used to be a city hall and a police station.
It seems like the Netherlands is crazy for food halls. They are great places for travelers to eat because they’re affordable, they have lots of choices, the food is good, and the ambiance is fun and relaxed. Rotterdam’s Foodhallen had our favorite place to eat in Rotterdam, Bar Pulpo. Bar Pulpo serves seafood including oysters, octopus, and the most delicious prawns ever.
Fenix Food Factory
Yet another food hall in Rotterdam is the Fenix Food Factory. The Fenix Food Factory is located in the Katendrecht neighborhood, which used to be Rotterdam’s Chinatown but is now a destination for food lovers.
Rotterdam has lots of outdoor art, both old and new. An example of Rotterdam’s old outdoor art is a statue of Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, a very famous scholar. He defined the humanist movement and translated the New Testament to Greek, which created a theological revolution. The statue is located in one of Rotterdam’s parks, Grotekerkplein, in front of the Church of St. Lawrence, Rotterdam’s only surviving late Gothic building (built between 1449 and 1525).
Some of Rotterdam’s new outdoor art is in the form of street art in the Witte de Withkwartier. Witte de Withstraat runs from Museumpark to the Maritime Museum. One is Love Birds, a mural by Tymon Ferenc de Laat and Robert Rost. Another is #makeithappen by Daan Botlek, a mural of characters climbing up a six-story building. This one is interactive and allows you to become part of the art. The Rewriters010 app guides visitors along an eight-kilometer route of 40 works of street art.
Rotterdam Tourist Information Coolsingel
We wouldn’t normally list a tourism office as a place to visit, but a short visit to the Rotterdam Tourist Information Coolsingel location is worthwhile if you’re in the area. In addition to being a place to pick up a city map and the Rotterdam Welcome Card, it has the Rotterdam Discovery where visitors can see the before and after of the Rotterdam bombing, learn about Rotterdam’s history, and see the future plans for the city.
The Rotterdam Welcome Card is useful for getting around the city. While Rotterdam is walkable, Rotterdam’s things to do are spread out around the city and the walks are long. The Rotterdam Welcome Card works as a travel pass, providing unlimited travel on RET metros, trams, and busses. The card also provides discounts on some museums, attractions, and restaurants.
Bilderberg Parkhotel Rotterdam
The Bilderberg Parkhotel Rotterdam is conveniently centrally located in the city of Rotterdam near Museumpark.
We stayed in one of the executive rooms on the higher floors of the hotel. Our room was a corner room with windows that curved across all walls. The buildings of Rotterdam are not terribly tall, but when looking outside while lying in bed, the skyline gives the impression of being much higher up, especially with the top of one of the museums looking more like the top of the Empire State Building and all of the cranes set up around the city.
In the morning the restaurant serves the signature Bilderberg Breakfast with lots of variety like pancakes, pastries, eggs, sausages, yogurt, cereals, meats, cheeses, and more. For lunch and dinner, the restaurant is The Park – Inspired by Erik Van Loo. Erik Van Loo is a two Michelin star chef who led the concept of The Park restaurant.
Thank you to the Bilderberg Parkhotel Rotterdam and Rotterdam Partners for hosting our trip to Rotterdam and making this post possible. As always, all opinions are our own. This article may contain affiliate links.