Holland’s Coolest City
Words & Photos by Jennifer Simonson
With its eye-catching modern architecture, flourishing art, dining scene, and picturesque views, Rotterdam is a perfect example of how a country’s lesser-known city is always worth exploring.
If you are arriving by train, walk across the street and drop your bags at the Rotterdam Marriott. The 31-story glass and steel building sits in the middle of the city center, making it the perfect starting point to explore this vibrant city. Take a ten minute walk to the Witte de Withstraat, known as the heart of Rotterdam’s art scene. Trendy crowds flock to the area’s outdoor cafés, bohemian shopping boutiques and chic restaurants. Grab dinner at the Bazar, a colorful North African and Middle Eastern restaurant. Gin lovers should not miss the Ballroom, a minimalistic bar offering 52 varieties of gin for an after dinner G&T.
Start the day at the Markthal Rotterdam, the country’s inaugural indoor food market. Glass-walled apartments arch over 96 artisan fresh food stalls. The luminescent LED art covering the inside ceiling is the world’s largest piece of art spanning 13,000 square yards. The nearby Cube Houses are 45-degree-tilted, cube-shaped apartments designed to solve the town’s dilemma of how to build private residences on top of a pedestrian bridge. The result is a series of bright yellow, tilted houses that leave people wondering how one actually lives inside. Spend the afternoon at the Maritime Museum Rotterdam or the contemporary art museum Kunsthal Rotterdam before heading to the Hofplein Station, a former train station that transformed its abandoned industrial space into open air bars and restaurants, vintage clothing shops and jazz clubs. If you can find a table at Restaurant De Jong, take it. The French-influenced Rotterdam-born chef uses vegetables, edible flowers and herbs from the kitchen garden ensuring each plate not only explodes with flavor but is also Instagram-worthy.
The historic Delfshaven neighborhood was the city’s only neighborhood to survive the heavy bombing during World War II. Walk along the canal-lined narrow cobblestoned street to the wooden windmill, and it is easy to picture a time when American-bound Pilgrims held their last service at the Oude Kerk (old church) before sailing to America. Take a water taxi across the bay to the Katebdrecgt Peninsula. Once a hotspot for lonely sailors and streetwalkers, the area has recently shed its seedy nature. Stop by the Fenix Food Factory, a converted warehouse full of freshly baked bread, homemade sausage and cider and stinky cheese plates, before strolling the length of the peninsula to the SS Rotterdam. Take a free tour of the restored 1960s-era luxury cruise liner before ending your evening at Nhow, Rotterdam’s seventh floor bar terrace overlooking the bridge and Rotterdam skyline.
if you go…
Where to stay: The Marriott Rotterdam is centrally located and perfect for those arriving by train. The city is full of Airbnbs for those wanting more of a home away from home.
Getting Around: It is said in Holland there are more bikes than people. If you want to get around in typical Dutch fashion, rent a bike.
Events: If you are there during the last weekend of October, check out the International Jazz Festival.