Rotterdam was a complete surprise to me. It had been described as very modern, due to being almost completely destroyed in WWII. Modern architecture isn’t usually my thing, and it’s not really what I travel to Europe to see, so I wasn’t that thrilled. But. Rotterdam was lovely! Even for me, who had no previous interest at all in modern architecture.
Rotterdam began as a fishing village in the 13th century. It was developing into an industrial and trading power when German bombers destroyed the city centre and harbour in 1940. As a result it has been completely rebuilt, although old Dutch-style houses can still be found here and there.
The city council’s decision to depart from tradition in 1940 was radical. Rather than reconstructing the city in its former style, they opted for a spacious city plan and modern architecture. Their motto was light, air and space and it definitely feels completely different from Amsterdam – lighter, airier and spacier (also, cleaner and less crowded, hate to say it). The city has the first pedestrianised shopping street in the Netherlands. Other icons include the Doelen, the Groothandelsgebouw, the Euromast and the Bijenkorf.
Visiting the Euromast is a nice way to get a 360 view of the city.
There is also the iconic Cube houses, designed by Piet Blom in the 1970s. They were originally supposed to be living space but due to their shape only a quarter of their 100sqm of space is actually usable, which I guess is a bit impractical. So these days they are mostly used for museums etc., although I noticed some advertised on Airbnb to rent! That would be interesting to experience.
Right next to the Cube houses is the Markthal, which is this really interesting residential and office building, with a nice food market underneath. Imagine living in one of those apartments right up the top! There are a massive 24 penthouse apartments! It’s won lots of environmental and sustainability awards too for its water collection system. Get this – it was even built with bat stays and nests for birds mounted into the walls. Ok.
(Cue segue …) It was opened by Queen Maxima in 2014.
I feel really dumb saying this, but I had no idea there was a Dutch royal family. So, now I know, I had to find out a bit more. Here are some interesting facts about these previously unknown (to me) royals:
1.The King is Willem-Alexander. He went to school in Wales where, among other things, he sewed his own wetsuit. He was a bit of a party prince, nicknamed Prince Lager, and he drove his car into a ditch once.
2. Then he married an Argentinian named Maxima, who had strong connections to the military junta. Yet somehow Willem-Alexander’s older brother (Johan Friso) had to renounce his royal title to be allowed to marry his wife Mabel. I’m not sure what she was connected to that was worse than right-wing death squads?
3. The former Queen Beatrix caused outrage in 1966 when she chose to marry a member of the German nobility and former conscript of the Hitler Youth and the Wehrmacht. Despite what seem like dodgy backgrounds on the surface of things, all the royal spouses are well-loved by their people and are generally considered good choices.
4. Johan Friso was buried in avalanche for 25 minutes while skiing off-trail in Austria in 2012, and sadly died after spending 18 months in a coma. Poor guy.
5. On a lighter note, the King’s birthday is celebrated every year by what is essentially a country-wide flea market. It’s the only day of the year that it is legal for the Dutch to sell their goods wherever they like. So they have at it, en mass. Kind of weird, but ok.
6. The royal crown is made out of fish scales, glass and coloured foil. They don’t wear it – I wonder why.
7. Queen Maxima is a “lice mother” at her children’s school, with responsibility for inspecting hair for undesirables.
I actually combined it with my day trip to Delft and the Hague, but I could totally have spent more time in Rotterdam. The train from Amsterdam to Rotterdam and vice versa goes basically every 10 to 15 mins and it will take you one hour. If you want, you can get the train from Rotterdam to Delft – it takes about 15 minutes and departs 4x an hour. You buy train tickets at the station from vending machines. Easy as.
Once in Rotterdam you can easily catch the tram or metro from one attraction to another, it’s quite a good network with multi-day cards and all sorts of useful options. Have a look at this website for details.
Complete your experience
Dutched Up! Rocking the clogs expat style – personal stories from 27 women bloggers based in the Netherlands. Tales of culture shock, eating and shopping, bikes, language, working, tax, making friends and much more, reading this book is like sitting down for a friendly cup of coffee with other expats.
This is great. You’ll love it.
Grab something from the Markthall
This song is almost related to Piet Blom’s designs. I call it close enough.
Ellie Goulding’s cover of Tessellate (Alt-J) for Triple J Like A Version