A priori, we do not necessarily think of Rotterdam to spend the weekend. Two and a half hours by train from Paris, Europe's leading port has something to seduce lovers of big cities. Rebuilt after the war, Rotterdam fully plays the card of modernity. Innovative architecture, intense cultural life, lively nights and cosmopolitanism: all the ingredients for a successful urban trip are there!
A showcase of modern architecture
Urban trekkers, lovers of contemporary architecture and passionate about culture, Rotterdam is for you. Largely destroyed by the German bombings in 1940, the economic heart of the Netherlands, the first port in Europe, is today an astonishing showcase for modern architecture. This is undoubtedly what makes Rotterdam a city apart in the Netherlands and in Europe.
Here, it is not venerable buildings from the golden age that are reflected in the canals, but gleaming skyscrapers that are reflected in the waters of the port. Getting off the Thalys (2 h 36 from Paris), one has the impression of landing in a North American city, of human size however (650 inhabitants).
Skyscrapers and cube houses
To get an idea of the city's dynamism, head to Kop Van Zuid, a peninsula on the Meuse in the city center. It was from here that the transatlantic vessels of the Holland-Amerika Line left for New York, whose former headquarters now house the splendid Hotel New York.
Kop Van Zuid is being rehabilitated: cultural centers and museums have taken over the old Las Palmas warehouses, and spectacular skyscrapers, with offices and luxury accommodation, rise above what was long a brownfield site. Certain projects are still in progress, such as that of Rotterdam towers by the star architect Rem Koolhas: in the long term, Kop Van Zuid should deserve his nickname of Manhattan sur Meuse.
It will be understood that contemporary architecture is one of Rotterdam's major attractions. A brochure from the tourist office presents circuits in the footsteps of the main buildings. Emblem of the city since 1996, the Erasmus bridge (Erasmusbrug), which connects Kop Van Zuid to the north bank of the Meuse, seduces with its elegant harp-shaped structure, slender despite its gigantism (140 m high). Still in the heights, the Euromast tower (185 m high) is the other symbol of the local skyline. Beautiful panorama of the city and the incessant bustle of the port from the observation deck.
Another architectural must: the Kijk-Kubus (photo), surprising cube-houses taken out of the cartons of the very innovative Piet Blom in 1984. Resting on concrete pillars enclosing the access stairs, they are reminiscent of cabins perched in trees, where humans have made their nest. A model apartment is open to the public and you can even sleep there cheaply in theAJ Stayokay Rotterdam.
In the port of Rotterdam
Impossible to visit Rotterdam without taking a cruise in the port, which is the largest in Europe and the third in the world after Shanghai and Singapore. A mastodon that stretches 3 km to the North Sea and sees each year transit 33 million tonnes of goods, 420 cargo ships and some 35 river vessels. Figures that make you dizzy.
The Spido boats organize 75-minute tours from the foot of the Erasmusbrug. We walk past docks, freighters, careening basins, forests of cranes and mountains of containers from all over the world, containing goods intended for more than 160 million Europeans. It is simply fascinating!
In a much less industrial genre, let us point out, at the entrance to the port of Rotterdam, the miraculously preserved district of Delfshaven : an old port basin from the beginning of the XNUMXth century spared by the bombs, with pretty old brick houses, barges, a movable bridge, a craft brewery and even a windmill.
Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Rubens and the others
Like other major cities in the Netherlands, Rotterdam is a cultural destination, with museums, art galleries and many festivals throughout the year. Take a tour of the superb Boijmans-Van Beuningen museum which alone deserves the trip. This is where the famous Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder is located, as well as paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Gogh, the Impressionists, Courbet, Picasso, Kandinsky, Magritte ...
Other museums are worth a visit, such as the Wereldmuseum (world museum) dedicated to ethnology and cultures of the planet, the Rotterdam History Museum Het Schielandshuis or the innovative Nederlands Photomuseum, installed in a warehouse of Kop Van Zuid, which allows you to discover Dutch photography.
Finally, let us also point out in the MuseumKwartier, the NAI architectural institute, a natural history museum and the Kunsthal Rotterdam for its quality temporary exhibitions. In 2012-13, Aristide Maillol and Jean-Paul Gaultier will be showing at the Kunsthal.
Cosmopolitan restaurants and trendy nights
After spiritual food, let's go to the table! Very cosmopolitan, Rotterdam, with more than 160 different communities and almost half of its population of foreign origin, offers all kinds of cuisines from around the world. You can eat specialties from Suriname, Indonesia, Cape Verde, the Middle East, Asia, but also, for fans, cones of fries and broodjes.
After regaining your strength at the table, it's time to explore Rotterdam nights, which is the cradle of house in the Netherlands and a major clubbing destination (Off Corso, Thalia, Club Vie…). The bars are particularly lively on weekends. In fine weather, it is not uncommon to see the crowd spilling onto the sidewalk.
Right in the center, the street Witte de Withstraat, with its young, arty and cosmopolitan atmosphere, aligns restaurants, bars and nice cafes. This is our favorite corner. A few streets further north, around the town hall (Town hall), there are a lot of lively bars and clubs on Meent and gay bars on Oldenbarnevelstraat.
To be more peaceful, at the water's edge, opt for the small port of Oudehaven, at the foot of the cube houses, or, to the west of the city, the beer bars and juniper shops of Delfshaven in an "old Holland" atmosphere.
To prepare your stay, see our Netherlands file
Rotterdam Tourist Office
Netherlands Tourist Board
Very well done city guide on smartphone (in English) to download from the Rotterdam tourist office website
Deal : the Rotterdam Welcome Card offers free transport and discounts in museums, bars, restaurants, etc. Prices from € 10 (1 day) to € 17,50 (3 days). Warmly recommended.
How to get there ?
Rotterdam is connected to Paris Nord several times a day by Thalys in 2 hours 36 minutes.
Rotterdam-The Hague Airport is served by Transavia. Flights to Nice, Toulon, Grenoble, Montpellier, Biarritz, Geneva, Bergerac, Chambéry ... (some on a seasonal basis).
Regular flights to Amsterdam Schiphol with Air France-KLM from Paris-CDG and the main provincial airports.
Excursions from Rotterdam
In need of canals and postcard houses? The beautiful city of Delft is 10 minutes from Rotterdam by train and The Hague can be reached by metro from Rotterdam Centraal.
From April to October, the mills of Kinderdijk, classified by Unesco, are accessible by Rebus boats
Where to sleep ?
- Hotel New York: Koninginnenhoofd 1, Kop Van Zuid. Located in the former headquarters of the Holland-Amerika Lijn company, at the foot of the Kop Van Zuid skyscrapers, a superb retro hotel with particularly successful design decoration, in the New York loft style. Magnificent view of the port of Amsterdam and the Meuse. Also serves as a bar and restaurant. Doubles 100-260 €. Internet promotions.
- Stayokay Rotterdam: Overblaak 85-87. Sleep in the famous cubic houses at the AJ rate? It is possible and, moreover, well kept. Very nice. Nights from 17 €.
Unusual : two suites have been opened at a height of 112 m, in the Euromast tower. In the evening, the observation platform is privatized with the lights of Rotterdam in front of you! It's overpriced (385 €), for an extraordinary experience.
More affordable, overnight in a cabin of the SS Rotterdam, a cruise liner from the 50s. Vintage atmosphere from € 95 per night.
Where to eat ?
- Café De Unie: Mauritsweg, 34-35. Behind its facade of modernist style à la Mondrian, a bar-restaurant-cultural center where light meals are served (sandwiches, salads, quiches…). Main courses from € 7.
- Café Dudok: Meent, 88. Beautiful white Art Deco style café renowned for its pastries and apple pie. Small catering during the day, menu prepared in the evening. A beautiful place, really.
- Toko 94: Witte de Withstraat, 94b. Design setting and cuisine with Caribbean and Cape Verdean flavors. Modernity and cosmopolitanism, that's all Rotterdam and, what's more, it's good. Count 25-30 € the meal.
- Blender: Schiedamse Vest 91-93. In the trendy Witte de Withstraat district, a cocktail restaurant-bar with inspired and mastered cuisine. Later in the evening, the room turns into a dance floor. To discover Rotterdam on the move! Count 30-35 € the meal.
- Las Palmas: Wilhelminakade 30. On Kop Van Zuid, the chic and modern restaurant of chef Herman den Blijker. Fish, seafood and an excellent bouillabaisse! Nice wine list and diligent service. Count 40-45 € the meal.
Where to have a drink? Or dance?
- De Witte Aap: Witte de Withstraat 78. The best bar on this street, which has quite a few nice cafes. Very relaxed during the day, increasingly electric atmosphere throughout the night, DJ sets.
- Level: Pannekoekstraat 76. Red and black designer bar, in the Stadthuis district, where you can sip very good cocktails to a background of electro music.
- De Pelgrim: Aelbrechtskolk 12. Rotterdam's only active brewery, in a beautiful building in the old quarter of Delfshaven. Also made restaurant.
- Off Corso: Kruiskade 22. One of the essential stages of the local clubbing circuit. Very varied programming (house, techno, salsa, 80s, gay…), so inquire in advance.
- Maassilo: Maashaven ZZ 1-2. A former grain silo transformed into a club on the banks of the Meuse. A spectacular and original place to dance on a varied program.
- Cubic Houses
- Boijmans Van Beunigen Museum
- Het Schielandshuis Museum
- Dutch Photo Museum
- Kunsthal Rotterdam