Rotterdam

Café Bazar interior

Of all the Dutch cities I’ve seen thus far, I think Rotterdam is the least spectacular. That’s not to say it’s not culturally vibrant, chock full of interesting shops and restaurants and a fun weekend getaway – it is all those things and more. I was just expecting it to be as vibrant and comfortable as, say, Den Haag or Amsterdam. Instead, Rotterdam feels a little disjointed and patched together.

On the water

Rotterdam has an appealing gritty, lived-in maritime feel, but that is overlaid with a sense of vastness and genericism.

Dock

The maritime feel is from Rotterdam being one of the largest ports in the world. The city lies at the heart of an important three-river delta, the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt, on the North Sea that forms an extensive distribution system to the rest of Europe. More than half of Europe’s cargo passes through here.

One of the many high-rises that dot the skyline

The generic feel is from the post-WWII redevelopment. During the war, the Germans severely damaged the city when they bombed pretty much everything. Post-war, the docks were reconstructed and the city was rebuilt with a modern concrete-and-glass look, resulting in a mismatch of architectural misses sprinkled with some gems.

A colorful streets

There is an active café culture, a few eclectic streets and many high-quality museums that are worth visits like the main art museum, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, and the architecture museum, the Nederlands Architectuur Instituut. There’s also a history museum, a photo museum, and a maritime museum.

Willems Bridge

Boat detail

Rotterdam is definitely worth a weekend visit, or maybe a quick stop-over on your way to another Dutch city.

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