Rotterdam is a city of blustery vistas and wide, open spaces, but there’s also a great deal to see and do within walking distance of Centraal station. A short stroll down the Westersingel canal brings visitors to Museumpark, the leafy cultural heart of the city. Don’t miss the Sculpture Route along the way – a chance to see impressive works by the likes of Rodin and Mastroianni by the water’s edge.
For a glimpse of a city in motion, head to the neighbouring Hofbogen. In its day, this reinforced concrete viaduct stretching from the station to the northern edge of the city was a marvel of engineering. Now its elegant arches have been reinvented as engines of creative commerce, home to record shops, music venues and the experimental FG Food Labs restaurant. From an attractive coffee shop to a welcoming club and sleek designer stores, here’s our pick of what to see and do around Rotterdam’s Centraal station.
With a name that means “man wearing glasses,” this coffee shop deserves close inspection for its cheerful atmosphere. Stop by for delicious cakes and proprietary beans, roasted here in Rotterdam. Addicted already? You can buy some to take home. The amiable staff have their own pétanque team that competes annually for league dominance and, in their own words, “eternal fame”.
Situated underneath the railway arches of the Hofbogen development, this pared-back restaurant is intimate rather than impersonal, thanks to low-hanging lighting and a classic chequerboard floor. Owner Jim de Jong’s stated aim is to surprise guests with an ever-changing menu. Vegetables take the leading role, accompanied by foraged or farmed flowers and home-grown herbs.
Having found a home under the railway arches of the Hofbogen, concept store Pantoufle champions a slow-design ethos. It encourages devotees (and suppliers) to do less, but better. Check out the handpicked collection of Ercol furniture, textiles in calming neutrals and assorted objets d’art. Product lines from further afield include brass bottle openers from the Japanese foundry Futagami.
Whereas most clubs are dark and subterranean, Mono is defiantly light and airy, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a chic living room vibe. It’s home to a thoughtful programme of DJ nights, talks and exhibitions, with guest chefs on Saturdays. On the musical menu, there’s a wide variety of house, early techno, breaks, grime and electro. The venue’s management love to recruit up-and-coming mix masters.
When it comes to dressing, Rotterdam prides itself on having a harder edge than its rival Amsterdam. Carrying brands from the Comme des Garçons empire such as Play as well as expensive shoes from Visvim, T0k10 takes its cues from Japanese menswear. There’s a small but perfectly curated selection of fragrance, too. Confused about its name? The digits refer to the Rotterdam dialling code.
Thanks to its Scandi-inspired coffee bar, this self-described mini warehouse seamlessly blends hospitality and home interiors. Products here have a feminine, homespun vibe that’s in marked contrast to the stark industrialism favoured elsewhere in the city. It’s great for foodie gifts, such as mushroom superfood powders and hard candy that tastes of mojitos and whisky.
It may have white walls, but there’s nothing remotely flat about this boutique on “pancake street”. Owner Josje Theuns developed her fashion smarts by plundering her older sister’s wardrobe, and there’s a sense of dress-up to the way she combines garments. Stand-out womenswear brands include the luxe minimalism of Dutch designer Monique van Heist and the pared-back likes of APC.
Boasting ironically that they make the finest Rotterdam beer in the world, the Kappse brewery bunch also have a good sense of humour. And the beer here really is great, with 24 house brews on tap ranging from a strong IPA to the distinctive “Oaky Moky” stout. The Japanese-inflected food menu at the buvette-style bar features blistered edamame beans and cheese gyozas. The latter go down alarmingly well.
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