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Rotterdam is an old Dutch city on which history has left its indelible mark. For centuries, the city perfectly coped with the role of a major port, grew and prospered, until the events of World War II wiped out most of the buildings from the face of the earth. Over the years, the city has risen from its knees, and what could still be restored was restored, and new super-modern buildings have grown on the site of the former ruins. Therefore, the sights of Rotterdam are a contrast between ancient historical monuments and the most modern buildings. Both supporters of advanced technologies and connoisseurs of antiquity will certainly find something to see in Rotterdam, no wonder the city is famous for its fantastic architecture, avant-garde art and colorful festivals.
First things to see in Rotterdam
Advanced technical constructions, the highest observation decks, spacious parks, restaurants with rich cuisine, medieval antiquity – this variety is dizzying, and time sometimes sets strict limits. Then what to see in Rotterdam in 1 day, so that you don’t have to regret missing something? What to choose and where to go in Rotterdam, if the choice is so rich, and there is only a week left? To this end, this article has collected top attractions that leave a unique aftertaste from exploring the city.
1. Rotterdam City Hall
Facades of Rotterdam City Hall T Houdijk
The building, which has been housing the municipal authority of the city for a whole century, survived the severe trials of the Second World War, was significantly destroyed, but over time, it managed to return to its former appearance from the remains of the structure. In the 1990s, the Town Hall building was recognized as a state monument; it stands out for its unusual decor with an abundance of images and sculptures. On the second floor of the Town Hall there is a hall for various magnificent receptions and solemn ceremonies – often even weddings are celebrated here.
2. Delfshaven district
The old port quarter of Delfshaven in Rotterdam
This area can rightfully be called one of the best sights of Rotterdam, because the spirit of pre-war antiquity is still preserved here – most of its buildings managed to survive military bombings and by some miracle survived. Having been here, one can imagine what Rotterdam looked like 200-300 years ago. In antique shops you can buy valuable art objects, and in cozy restaurants and pubs you can relax and dine. Walking slowly through the streets of Delfshaven, you can have a very pleasant time – visiting an old brewery, touching the old times, having been on the deck of the ship Delft or visiting the Church of the Pilgrim Fathers.
3. Museum Boijmans-van Beuningen
Courtyard with entrance to the Boijmans-van Beuningen Museum © Antoine.01
The history of one of the largest museums in Rotterdam began in the middle of the 19th century, when the lawyer and collector Boijmans bequeathed his art collection to Rotterdam. The museum itself was founded only at the beginning of the 19th century, and opened its doors to visitors in 1935. Later, the museum exposition was supplemented by the collection of another art lover, the businessman Böningen. It is these two collections that form the main core of the museum's exposition. Today, the gallery contains various pieces of art, from the early Middle Ages to our time.
Official website: https://www.boijmans.
4. Maritime Museum
Maritime Museum and exposition of restored ships moored at the Hanhil embankment
Rotterdam, being one of the largest port cities in Europe, by definition must have a museum connected to the sea. Indeed, you won't have to look long for what to visit in Rotterdam to get to know its maritime history better. The Maritime Museum is the oldest in Rotterdam and one of the world's top five maritime museums. It stores more than half a million valuable exhibits in its treasuries, including models of old ships, projects of various designs, equipment, nautical atlases, maps, etc.
Official website: https ://www.maritiemmuseum
5. St. Lawrence Church
St. Lawrence Church is the only medieval building in Rotterdam Frans Berkelaar
The temple once belonged to the Protestant community, this is the only building in Rotterdam that has survived from the Middle Ages. Initially, the church bore the name of the patroness of the poor – Saint Elizabeth. During the Second World War, the temple building was significantly destroyed by two bombs, but managed to survive. The temple, restored later, became a cathedral and acquired the name of the patron saint of the city – St. Lawrence. The non-standard approach to the use of the internal space of the shrine is surprising – for example, there is a cafe, exhibitions are held here, and numerous electric lights replace the flame of candles.
Be sure to watch this beautiful video about Rotterdam!
6. White House
The White House on the banks of the Old Harbor in Rotterdam SJ dewaard
One of the must-see sights in Rotterdam is the White House, the most beautiful building in the city, as if descended from the pages of a fairy tale book. The building was built at the very end of the 19th century and was planned to house offices. The instability of the swampy soils on which the White House was built made it necessary to build its foundation on piles, and some critics confidently believed that this palace, despite all its splendor, would not last more than a few years on such a foundation. But the amazing Art Nouveau house survived all the hardships of the war and miraculously survived, surviving to this day in excellent condition.
7. Montevideo Skyscraper
Montevideo skyscraper on the banks of the Meuse River in Rotterdam M8scho
The next position in the ranking belongs to one of the tallest buildings in Rotterdam – the Montevideo skyscraper. This is a 140-meter building on the banks of the Meuse River, inside which there are many offices, retail and residential areas. The skyscraper in the style of modernism has a modern architecture and consists of several blocks combined into a single harmonious composition. The logo of the building in the shape of the letter “M”, located on the very roof of the skyscraper, simultaneously performs the function of a weather vane, reflecting the speed and direction of the wind. The excellent panorama of the building, combined with the surrounding views of the city and the river, makes Montevideo one of the symbolic and recognizable buildings of Rotterdam.
8. Hotel New York in Rotterdam
The New York Hotel is the former headquarters of the steamboat company Holland America Line G.Lanting
Despite the fact that Rotterdam hotels in general are characterized by coziness, a high level of comfort and a wide range of services, one of the hotels deserves special attention. New York is one of the most beautiful hotels not only in the city, but in the whole of Holland, it harmoniously coexists antiquity and modernity. The location of the building on the bay, its refined style makes the hotel especially attractive for recreation. Wooden floors, high ceilings, large windows, wrought-iron railings and spacious beds – all this complements the refined antique style of the interior. Complements the impression and convenience of the location of the building in close proximity to many famous city museums.
9. Pencil House
Sharpened Pencil – a residential skyscraper with fanciful architecture in Rotterdam Raenmaen
The famous Dutch architect Piet Blom distinguished himself by bringing to life some of the creative architectural projects of Rotterdam, including the pencil house built in the 80s of the 20th century. This tall, elongated building with a hexagonal foundation and a gabled roof closely resembles a sharpened pencil, hence its name. In the immediate vicinity of this house, a traditional cubic house was erected, and local jokers managed to give it the name “eraser”.
10. Cubic houses
Cube houses – a street of upside-down and one-corner houses in Rotterdam Raul Ayres
Next to the pencil house, guides in Rotterdam will definitely pay attention to another architectural masterpiece by Piet Blom. These are cubic houses that have earned great popularity due to a very unusual design. Just like the “pencil”, the cubic houses were built in the 80s, but the idea of this project came to the architect's mind long before the implementation, in the 70s. Each cubic house is a cube tilted at a 45 degree angle and is an abstract cubic tree. The whole complex of houses consists of 32 cubes arranged relative to each other in the form of a 6-angled grid.
Official website: http://www.kubuswoning.
11. Markthal Market
Entrance to the new Markthal Exmpletree food market
Retail space and colorful interior arches at the Markthal Market Paul Arps
This is both an indoor market and a residential building in the historical part of the city. The area where the market is located was once not very busy, and therefore the city council decided to create conditions here to attract people. As a result, a building of an unusual design appeared, combining apartments, a market and a parking lot – a new symbol of Rotterdam, uniting the entire district together. Special attention should be paid to the appearance of the building, in the arrangement of which modern technologies were used – for example, a completely glass facade, reinforced with a network of metal cables, as well as an internal vault of the arch, painted with images of fruits, vegetables, flowers, ears of corn and butterflies.
12. Railway Station Building
The new building of the railway station in Rotterdam Spoorjan
As a rule, many trips to Rotterdam start from here – from the railway station. Since 1847, the railway station in Rotterdam has become a central transport hub, but the station building itself appeared later – by 1957. By the 2000s, the building no longer met the increasing requirements, and a new modern building was erected, which by 2013 was already ready to serve the first passengers. It has a well-developed infrastructure, including shops, ATMs, cafes, pharmacies and other amenities. The architecture of the building has an unusual shape, and the glass dome-roof lets maximum light into the premises.
13. Port of Rotterdam
Large port cranes and container ships in the port of Rotterdam
The largest port in the world in terms of cargo turnover is located in Rotterdam. The first mention of it dates back to the Middle Ages, when a transshipment point was organized at this place, and the first harbors appeared a little later. Today, the port includes many harbors, each of which is numbered and has its own name. The port of Rotterdam is of high global importance; ships with ore and coal, oil and oil products arrive here. Millions of tourists come to the shores of Rotterdam every year to see the sights of Rotterdam with their own eyes.
Official website: https://www.portofrotterdam
14. Erasmus Bridge
The Erasmus Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge across the Meuse River in the center of Rotterdam
Another attraction of the Netherlands, one of the world record holders, distinguished itself by its length. We are talking about the world's longest drawbridge – Erasmus. Its design is notable for its bold execution; the curved pylon, symbolizing the restoration of the city after the military devastation, is especially striking. The design has a length of just over 800 meters and consists of several parts. The main part is a cable-stayed bridge held by strong cables. The second part is the same unusually shaped pylon that holds the cable-stayed section. And finally, the movable part of the bridge is designed to allow large ships to enter the port.
View of the famous observation tower of Rotterdam and a floating Chinese restaurant on the River Meuse
To view the beautiful city panoramas, guides in Rotterdam recommend visiting the Euromast. This is a 185-meter mast tower, which was really conceived to look like a ship. At a height of about a hundred meters, the so-called “ship bridge” was equipped, which originally ended the mast. Later, it was decided to “build up” the structure by adding a technical tower on top. On the main platform, in addition to viewing magnificent panoramas, you can visit one of several establishments operating here: the main square is occupied by a luxurious restaurant, a more democratic cafe is equipped with a lower level, and there are even two upscale hotel rooms on a higher level.
Official site: https://euromast
Sights of Rotterdam: what else to visit in Rotterdam?
The main attractions of Rotterdam briefly describe those places that are worth visiting in the first place to get to know the Dutch land. The rating continues with other equally interesting sights of Rotterdam, photos with names and descriptions of which convey the main features and flavor of these places.
16. Diergaarde Blijdorp Zoo
Inhabitants of Diergaarde Blijdorp Zoo in Rotterdam AgainErick
A trip to Rotterdam with children is not complete without a visit to the local zoo, which has its own botanical garden and aquarium. Despite its considerable age – more than 150 years – the zoo still looks spacious and well-groomed, and on its territory you can meet many rare animals belonging to endangered species. The inhabitants of the zoo are divided into several zones dedicated to their habitats. Dutch plants in the botanical park are fragrant with magnificent flowers. But perhaps the most colorful and impressive part of the zoo is its huge aquarium, where you can observe the life of large fish and the rarest marine life.
Official website: https://www.diergaardeblijdorp
17. Arboretum Trompenburg
A picturesque corner of the Arboretum Trompenburg in Rotterdam
According to reviews, many people associate Holland with flowering gardens and parks. True aesthetes will appreciate the beauty of the unique park area in the heart of Rotterdam. The history of the botanical garden begins several centuries ago, when Admiral Marten Tromp gave this place its name. Later, this site was bought by a merchant, and in the middle of the 19th century, the site was sold to the Van Hoy Smith family, who founded the plant collection of the future garden. Spectacular compositions of a wide variety of plants are organized throughout the park, beautiful ponds and canals have been created, and getting from the noisy city center to the Arboretum Trompenburg garden, it is as if you are entering another world – bright, blooming and fragrant.
Official website: http://www.trompenburg.
18. Olyphant Castle
Green park around Oliphant Castle in Rotterdam Kasteelbeer
The next review point is dedicated to the estate that existed on the territory of the modern city in the 16th century. These lands belonged to a certain nobleman who previously lived in Delft and led a very successful ivory trade. As a sign of gratitude to the animals that gave him wealth, he named the castle in his new estate – Olyphant, which translates as “elephant”. Later, the castle repeatedly passed from hand to hand, until it passed into the possession of the city mayor. Today, inside the restored palace there is a conference hall, a restaurant, a banquet hall, solemn and official events are often held here.
19. Honingen Castle
Honingen Castle in the Honingen Park in Rotterdam Ivory
The first mention of this ancient castle, which at that time belonged to the small town of Kralingen, dates back to the 13th century. Later this settlement became one of the districts of Rotterdam. This building survived many upheavals – for example, in the 15th century the castle was completely destroyed, and later restored and rebuilt in its former glory. At the same time, a pond was created around the palace, and the surrounding park was landscaped. As a result of the events of the Dutch Revolution in the 16th century, the castle was again destroyed, and the land on which it was located was transferred to the city authorities in the 19th century. Over time, this place became a popular recreation area, and several luxurious mansions were built on the banks of the old pond.
Panoramic view of the Kinderdijk windmills
The last point of recommendations should be devoted to the village of Kinderdijk in the southern province of the country, 15 kilometers from Rotterdam. After all, it is here that an important historical landmark is located – 19 large windmills. The southern provinces, located in the lowlands, have had one big problem since time immemorial – constant flooding. In contrast to the water element, windmills were built with a system of tanks that accumulated excess water during floods and vice versa, pumped it out during a drought period. Over time, with the advent of pumps, the need for mills disappeared, but to this day these structures remain a true national symbol of the country.
Official website: https://www.kinderdijk.com/
The most modern, geometric and very distinctive city compared to the rest of the Netherlands will undoubtedly attract you with its originality. Against the backdrop of ancient, small and quiet towns of the state, Rotterdam looks like an advanced giant – life in the city is in full swing even at night. One way or another, having been in Rotterdam, no one will remain indifferent to its new cubic houses and ancient museums, the latest extravagant buildings and medieval facades – all interesting places are definitely worth visiting and seeing with your own eyes.
Read also about sights Amsterdam and get inspired for your next trip to the Netherlands.