With boundary-pushing architecture setting the tone for a culture of creative innovation, it’s easy to see why Rotterdam is becoming the port of call for visitors to the Netherlands. But a visit here needn’t be all about avant-garde art or futuristic urban spaces. Where do Rotterdammers go to eat, shop and drink, and give in to life’s little indulgences? We take a deep dive into the very best the city has to offer, from your morning latte to your last sip of cocktail. From breakfast to bedtime, here’s how to spend a guaranteed great day in Rotterdam
The Dutch for latte is koffie verkeerd (literally, coffee the wrong way around) but they’ve certainly got it down to a fine art here. The independent coffee bar and artisan bakery Hopper is a stripped-back place where everything is under meticulous owner Karel Rietveld’s control. When it comes to the famous koffie, that means hot but not too hot, and beans roasted in a Giesen machine. Perfect with one of the home-made croissants.
Thanks to the Astroturf and copious greenery, there’s a real outdoors-indoors feeling to this jolly café whose décor features a basketball hoop. The all-day brunch is the real slam dunk, however. Variety is the name of the game here. Think kimchi pancakes with homemade siracha mayo and marinated red cabbage, followed by a scone with jam and clotted cream.
It would be nothing short of rude to visit Europe’s biggest port without sampling the seafood. The green leatherette booths at The Fish Market give the place a seaside chippy feel, but the cuisine is a cut above, in particular the oysters. There are two Dutch varieties, both from Zeeland: the slow-growing flat variety and the more common but no less delicious creuses. The warm, steamed version served with beurre blanc and roe is pure Rotterdam comfort food.
Menswear is often neglected in vintage clothing, but Dearhunter is an equal-opportunity trove, down to personalised leather belts engraved with Dutch names. From vintage Burberry macs to a wealth of mock-croc options, the stock here is merchandised so thoughtfully it doesn’t stay on the racks for long. Even if the perfect garment proves elusive, the people-watching in this airy store is superlative
Once you’ve encountered the chic nylon shoppers in Susan Bijl’s flagship store you’ll start to notice them swinging from the shoulders of Rotterdam’s coolest customers. The product designer invented the colourful, practically indestructible bag as an eco-minded art project in 2000. Since then she’s made special editions for HAY and Rotterdam’s International Film Festival. Her canalside store is a ten-minute walk from Centraal station.
“Sweet without sugar” is the motto of this elegant patisserie whose vegan wares are a refined sugar- and lactose-free zone. There’s no fun deficit, however: the treats are made with natural ingredients such as dates and agave syrup. Sue’s premises are immaculate. Half the appeal is the geometric precision with which slabs of triple-chocolate and chai-latte tray bakes are lovingly arranged at the counter.
How apt that a bar with prohibition stylings should be located on a side street named after a dark horse. Wedged between a convenience store and a kebab shop, Spikizi is steps from busy Witte de Withstraat and feels all the more fun for it. There’s a monthly silent disco, but it’s not all hedonism and white chocolate martinis. You can party with a conscience, too: cocktail straws are made from biodegradable pasta.
Rotterdam’s impeccable design credentials filter down to its retail scene.
Taste the international flavours of this buzzy European port.
From experimental architecture to tempting street food, Rotterdam is a thrill to explore.