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View of Delfshaven


Best forOld-world wanderings
Locals loveWaterside supping and suds
Don’t missHistory lessons and hipster stores

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.

  • Evermore

    158A Coolhaven, 3024 AM
    This former garage (still with its roller door) is the city’s oldest coffee roastery. It’s full of beans, with bags of rich Central American and African roasts, and enthusiastic baristas and tea masters holding tastings and workshops. Sit by the water, order a pot of Japanese brewor a hot chocolate and, if you’re in luck, catch an art show or live performance.
  • Rauwdouwer

    381J Westzeedijk, 3024 EK
    Another urban conversion, all-day eatery Rauwdouwer turned a former probation office into a charming neighbourhood hangout. Dine among vintage finds under hanging ferns. A seasonal weekly menu runs from hearty day-starters to high tea to dinner –all beautifully made. There are games for families and a monthly pancake day and Sunday roast, too.
  • Pelgrim Brewery

    12 Aelbrechtskolk, 3024 RE
    The beers made in Rotterdam’s only brewery are locally known as ‘liquid gold’, so mining their source is a must-do. Recipes are always being improved, too. A €10 tour covers the history of the 16th-century building and Dutch pilgrims, seeing the stills in action and a tasting of beers and cheese made on-site. Stop for a Belgian-style lunch or dinner, or sit and sip on the terrace.
  • Grounds

    125 Pieter de Hoochweg, 3024 BG
    Fancy some Saharan post-industrial trance? Malian soul? Spherical jazz? Raw hip-hop? Even the most niche global acts make the cut for this gig venue’s fascinating programme. It’s a community-forming spot, too. Intimate gigs and talks take place in Grounds Café, kids’ discos, workshops and breakdance competitions are held, and multi-jam sessions let musicians try unique instruments.
  • Pelgrimvaderskerk

    20 Aelbrechtskolk, 3024 RE
    In 1620, a group of English pilgrims who had defected to Rotterdam began their now famous journey to the USA. Legend has it that before boarding their boat, the Speedwell, they knelt and prayed by this church, named the Pilgrim Fathers’ Church after them. Catch its limited opening hours (Saturdays and some Fridays, noon–4pm), for a history lesson and the odd free concert.
  • De Distilleerketel

    210 Voorhaven, 3024 RR
    Catch the water taxi to Rotterdam’s historic corn mill, one of the Netherlands’ largest. You can tour it for €3 and stop in its farm shop to stock up on delicious rosemary cookies, ginger cake, artisan flours and more. There’s also a little café with homemade cakes –just the spot to take in panoramic views of Delfshaven’s loveliness.

Fun Facts

  • See Delfshaven in unorthodox style by street golfing: Café De Ooievaar will loan you a kit
  • Head to Nieuwe Binnenweg for a browse of De Plaatboef, Rotterdam’s first and largest second-hand record store
  • The Henkes gin distillery may now be home to a ballet studio and shops, but it’s still worth swinging by its grand, stork-crested building
  • On sunny days, you can take a barbecue into nearby beauty spot Het 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.

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Image credits: © Getty; © Getty; © Evermore; © Rauwdouwer; © De Pelgrim; © Grounds; © Getty; © Alamy