Rotterdam is a truly modern, culturally diverse city, with around 186 different nationalities making up its population. As Europe’s largest port and the second biggest city in the Netherlands after Amsterdam, Rotterdam is an energetic and fast moving city that prides itself on the ability of its population to embrace change.
Though the city dates back to 1270, it was practically obliterated in World War II and, today, the skyline has more in common with New York than with a traditional Dutch city. Soaring skyscrapers and award-winning modern architecture sit, side by side, with the quaint traditional Dutch houses that remain of the original city.
This vibrant university town, with its buzzing nightlife and great shopping, is just under four hours from London by train, so perfect for a holiday or city break with friends.
Whether you’re a hard-core clubber, a jazz-lover, a shopaholic or an architecture buff, there’s plenty to do and see in Rotterdam.
Rotterdam has no shortage of shopping areas to visit where you’ll find all the usual high street brands. However, if you’re looking for something a bit different that you can’t easily find at home, head to van Oldenbarneveltstraat.
Hutspot Rotterdam is a concept store that stocks local designers as well as international brands. Try SHPPR for fashion and accessories by young Dutch designers, and Susan Bijl for bags.
Rotterdam’s main shopping area covers Lijnbaan, Beurstraverse and Binnenwegplein and is where you’ll find all the familiar high street shops, as well as a few Dutch ones. If you don’t know the Dutch chain, HEMA, it’s great for inexpensive gadgets and food that make perfect presents. The Sting is another local chain for fashion at reasonable prices.
While you’re in the area, pop into De Bijenkorf, the Netherlands' top department store. It’s just a few streets away, on Coolsingel. The building is a modernist masterpiece, designed by Marcel Breuer.
For high-end designers stores, Kruiskade and the Central Plaza mall are where you’ll find all the big International names. There’s a casino in the same complex, should you get bored of shopping and your money is burning a hole in your pocket.
Nieuwe Binnenweg links the central shopping district with hipper, historic Delfshaven. The street is full of small artisan food shops, trendy coffee bars and old-style barber shops and record stores. Try Buiten for a healthy organic lunch, Ruby Lee for vintage clothes and, ultra-hip concept store, Plek for things you never knew you needed. You can also pick up a new pair of Birkenstocks if your old ones have seen better days, there’s a whole store of them here.
These are very popular in Rotterdam and there is usually at least one going on somewhere in the city on every day of the week. The biggest market, with around 400 stands, is in the centre near Blaak metro station and the Markthal. You’ll find food, drink, clothes, flowers, plants and lots more.
For art and lifestyle goods, the Swan Market is worth a visit. It takes place several weekends a year in different locations. It’s a bit of an event, with music and food and drink as well as stands selling jewellery, crafts and fashion.
Rotterdam has a great public transport system, the RET. You can choose from bus, tram, metro and waterbus and a selection of travel cards that cover travel on all of them.
For budget sightseeing, take a trip on Historic Tram line 10, it will take you past many of the city’s main attractions and you can get off and on wherever you like. The tram is available in July and August and costs around €7.
This being Holland, it’s no surprise that the city is very bike-friendly with a large network of bike paths. You can rent bikes for around €6.50 a day from various places around the city or take a guided bike tour.
If you fancy venturing further afield to the Hook of Holland or inland to Dordrecht, you could consider a water taxi for something a bit different. You’ll need to check prices as these are dependent on distance and number of people travelling.
January - February
International film festival
Museum night – all the museums stay open late so you can do a museum crawl
Rotterdam marathon; Kingsday - annual celebration of the monarchy that takes place across the Netherlands with different local events taking place throughout April
Bevrijdingsfestival - Independence day celebration with a festival in the Euromastpark
Hidden garden weekend - more than 90 private gardens open to the public for two days only
Architecture day - some iconic buildings are free to visit
North Sea Jazz Festival – this is massive and attracts thousands of people from all over the world
Rotterdam Unlimited – Street parade and celebration of cultural diversity
World Port Days – event in and around the port, finishing with a spectacular fireworks display
World of Witte de With - street art festival with live music and late-night gallery openings
International Comedy Festival Rotterdam
Festival Jazz International Rotterdam
Buma Rotterdam Beats Festival – hiphop/urban music festival that takes place in multiple venues across the city