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OUDE HAVEN AND AROUND

Best forWaterside soirées
Locals loveSee-and-be-seen terraces
Don’t missThe striking architecture

Set in Rotterdam’s maritime district, Oude Haven has some handsome seaworthy vessels and comely waterside stretches. Built in the 14th century, it’s one of the city’s oldest harbours and rivals Delfshaven for historic landmarks. There’s still a small boatyard here, where ships are deftly restored. Modern architectural intrigues make it an eminently Instagrammable neighbourhood, too. Capture Willemsbrug’s red arches and the Art Nouveau elegance of Europe’s first skyscraper in one shot. Or aim for a high-angle snap of the curious ‘Rubik’s Cube gone rogue’ houses by visionary architect Piet Blom.

To match this unique urban landscape, there’s plenty of life here. Waterfront terraces let revellers eat and drink till late. Join street-food seekers at the jaw-droppingly vast Markthal, or grab a table at hip hangouts such as seafood joint The Social Club and neon-flooded Club Vie. Go north to browse Meent’s boutiques and rummage through Blaak Markt’s bric-a-brac – there are antiques to be sought, too. In August, there’s a Summer Festival with alfresco concerts, fun for kids and sometimes walk-on-water balls for those who dare. But, if you miss that, simply settle in a beer garden and linger a while...

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  • Kijk-Kubus (Cube Houses)

    70 Overblaak, 3011 MH
    Another of Rotterdam’s architectural triumphs, albeit a curious one. These distinctive, marigold-hued cube houses by Piet Blom were inspired by trees (the house’s development is called Blaak Forest). They loom in sci-fi style above shops, a school and children’s playground. Visit from 11am to 5pm to get a feel for their mind-bending geometry and what it’s like to live in one.
  • Witte Huis

    1C Geldersekade, 3011 WB
    This Unesco-listed Art Nouveau skyscraper (the first in Europe) survived German bombing and is iconic in Rotterdam today. Its name comes from its white-glazed bricks, enhanced with mosaics, statues and spires. On the ground floor there’s a Grand Café, with tables spilling out onto the street. Snack on charcuterie and sip natural wine or one of an impressive imported-beer range.
  • Vader Kleinjan

    73 Spaansepoort, 3011 MN

    Set in the Old Port, with views of the Witte Huis and boats, this welcoming eatery has a waterfront terrace for sunny days. Its menu is simple yet hearty, with sandwiches, sharing boards and fried nibbles (yes, there’s bitterballen). Staff are friendly and a welcoming ambience is made all the warmer with their impressive beer range, with blondes, dubbels, saisons and such.

  • Harvest Coffee Brewers

    107 Glashaven, 3011 XG
    It’s worth the ten-minute trek to this waterside roastery and café. The passionate couple who run the joint offer two kinds of ‘dam fine espresso and filter coffee each day.The food menu is an engrossing read: breakfast has a whole section for eggs. The veal cheek–cooked sous-vide for 58 hours and served in brioche with Parmesan and red cabbage–is worth the trip alone.
  • Maritime Museum

    1 Leuvehaven, 3011 EA
    A ten-minute walk from Oude Haven, this museum pays homage to Rotterdam’s shipping industries. Activities are by turns sweet and edgy, with child-friendly sea-monster encounters, a virtual offshore experience and an immersive look into drug-smuggling. Tour ships and get to know old-world adventurers thanks to 16th-century travel journals and the oldest ship model in Europe.
  • Markthal

    Verlengde Nieuwstraat, 3011 GM

    The peckish are well rewarded in the city’s signature food market. Its curvaceous cathedral-size space is the sprawling canvas for the mural Horn of Plenty by Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam. A fitting piece, as it shelters more than 100 food stalls, 15 delis and a handful of restaurants. Buy farm-fresh spoils and picnic staples, or pause for pintxos, seafood, dimsum, teas and more.

Fun Facts

  • Due north lies one of Rotterdam’s main shopping stretches, Koopgoot (AKA ‘the gutter’)
  • Kids will love the curiosity-stirring arts museum Villa Zebra, across the Nieuwe Maas
  • In the Markthal, you’ll also find the Tijdtrap: a small display of mediaeval artefacts unearthed during construction

The best way to do Oude Haven? Eat your fill from the stalls at the Markthal, then go for a walk and a beer by the river.

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Image credits: © Getty; © Getty; © Stuart Milne; © Stuart Milne; © Getty; © Harvest Coffee Brewers; © Marco de Swart; © Stuart Milne; © Zeezout; © de Groene Passage; © Bram Ladage