Rotterdam embraced a new wave of brave post-war architecture, but the Delfshaven neighbourhood shows the city as it once was. Here, rows of step-gabled townhouses and a vintage windmill nestle around a 14th-century harbour, from which the pilgrims set sail for the New World. The area may be carefully preserved, but it’s modern in mindset. Tell-tale signs of gentrification are showing in surrounding areas, from Coolhaven’s stylish lofts to Nieuwe Binnenweg’s alt-music leanings and indie boutiques. Even former red-light district Katendrecht is now a gourmet hub.
Alongside marvelling at grand wooden ships docked in picturesque quays, there’s eating, drinking and shopping to do. Hit antiques shops for retro wares and heirlooms, then down a dubbel or tripel in trad drinkery Café de Ooievaar. Dine waterside at ‘t Ouwe Bruggetje, where the multi-course menus are a surprise. Or grab street eats at El Aviva, the birthplace of the carby, meaty, cheese-topped dish ‘kapsalon’. Come May’s balmier days, Singeldingen holds pony rides, t'ai chi, tasty treats and more in Heemraadssingel Park.
I love Indonesian restaurant Ap Halen. It’s tiny but serves food home-cooked with such care that you could be in the owner’s living room.