It's there: your favorite spot in Rotterdam Photo: Rotterdam Image Bank/Marc Heeman

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If Rotterdam was a person, she could have been an actor jumping between roles and characters. As a playgoer or viewer, you would likely recognize the familiar face. At the same time, the many different characters that this lady is able to express would amaze you.

In fact, Rotterdam could right now be at the peak of her career as a changer of guises. It could also be that the second-largest city in the Netherlands will continue to change noticeably over the next ten years or so. That’s at least in part due to something called the Port Vision 2020, which, among other things, aims at merging the city with the port.

This would probably be a challenging project for any city of more than 600,000 inhabitants – and even more so in this particular case. The port is the largest in Europe and one of the busiest in the world. It was only in 2004 that Shanghai took over the role as the world’s busiest port from Rotterdam.

As many areas are now undergoing renovation and development, the city has been referred to as a playground for architects. It seems appropriate that one of the superstars of Dutch (and international) architecture, Rem Koolhaas, was born here. He is the mastermind behind both the Kunsthal (see below under Do Not Miss) and the Museumspark.

The Erasmus Bridge (to the left) is one of Rotterdam's most well-known landmarks Photo: Rotterdam Image Bank/Marc Heeman

This is no doubt a city where creativity and art play important roles, as exemplified by one of the most well-known architectural creations in Rotterdam: the Erasmus Bridge, referred to as “The Swan” by the city’s inhabitants. Several skyscrapers point to the sky in the area surrounding the bridge that connects the two sides of the river Nieuwe Maas. On the Kop van Zuid peninsula, old buildings mix with more newly built constructions. This is also where the cruise terminal is situated, close to the Hotel New York – once popular among emigrants awaiting their ship to America (the hotel is still in business).

Hotell New York, situated close to the cruise terminal Photo: Rotterdam Image Bank/Hannah Anthonysz

Rotterdam traces its roots as far back as the 10th century. Although a good number of old buildings remain in the area surrounding central Rotterdam, the city center was more or less completely rebuilt after the Second World War. Central Rotterdam was bombed to pieces in 1940, during the German invasion of the Netherlands. The restored Laurenskerk is the only trace that remains of the medieval city.

Rotterdam For Cruise Passengers

The cruise terminal has a convenient location, a short walk from the Erasmus Bridge. Taxi booths can be found just outside the terminal building, which is the former arrivals and departure hall of Holland America Line. The city center is within reasonable walking distance. With an extensive public transport system, getting around is easy. If you want to experience Rotterdam in true Dutch fashion, head for the train station (Centraal Station) and rent a bicycle.

Do Not Miss

The Kunsthal presents a range of cultural expressions, such as design, photography, and old as well as new art. Some 25 exhibitions per year are staged, the Kunsthal frequently experimenting with themed presentations.

At the Wereldmuseum (The World Museum), experience a range of artefacts from a variety of cultures. The museum presents two theme exhibitions annually, comprising masterpieces from museums and private collectors from all over the world. Once you’ve finished your tour of the museum, why not try to find a restaurant that matches the exhibitions? It is said that food from some 40 types of cuisine are on offer in Rotterdam.

While it’s unclear if french fries with mayonnaise count as a separate cuisine, this is a Dutch specialty that is not to be missed when in Rotterdam. Have a stroopwafel for dessert: a Dutch waffle made from two thin layers of baked batter with a caramel-like syrup filling in the middle.

The Witte de Withstraat Photo: Rotterdam Image Bank/Claire Droppert

There are a couple of street names that might be worth remembering when visiting this destination. The Witte de Withstraat, close to the Kunsthal, is one example. This Berlin-flavored street features luxurious restaurants as well as more affordable ones, offering foods for a wide range of tastes. Next to the restaurants, you will find clothes shops, bars, clubs, and galleries. At Nieuwe Binnenweg, the Rotterdammers love to take a drink at one of the many different bars. The Schiedamse Dijk, a promenade leading toward the Leuvehaven, features Rotterdam’s own Walk of Fame.

At the Schiedamse Dijk, visit the Havenmuseum. The largest cultural historic museum in the Netherlands, the museum’s collections include authentic equipment from dock-related work. Nearby is the Maritime Museum, the oldest of its kind in the Netherlands. With half a million maritime objects on display, this museum promises total immersion in any maritime matter.

Experience one of the world's largest ports Photo: Rotterdam Image Bank

Boat tours around Rotterdam’s port, one of the largest in the world, are also available.

The sculpture route on Westersingel follows the Westersingel canal between Chinatown and the Museumkwartier. It’s a stone’s throw from the Kunsthal (see above). On display: various works of art from Rotterdam’s International Sculpture Collection. This sculpture route features 17 works by major sculptors such as Rodin, Carel Visser, Joel Shapiro and Umberto Mastroianni.

With exhibitions from the Netherlands as well as from other countries around the world, the Nederlands Fotomuseum (the Dutch Museum of Photography) is the national center for photography.

Rotterdam's famous cube houses Photo: Rotterdam Image Bank/Jan van der Ploeg

If you like to snap your own photos, a good alternative for a great motif might be to head to the Cube Houses – one of Rotterdam’s most famous sights.

This is the home of the highest lookout tower in the Netherlands – the Euromast. 607 feet/185 meters high, this is perhaps not for the faint-hearted.

Dordrecht is the oldest city in this part of the Netherlands, 15 minutes away from central Rotterdam.

Shore Excursions

A range of shore excursions in and around Rotterdam can be on offer. Examples include:

  • City tours, by coach and/or boat, will often take in the most famous landmarks. Among them: the Euromast, the Erasmus Bridge, the Kunsthal, and more.
  • Rotterdam can be the point of departure for excursions to cities such as Amsterdam (one hour away) and The Hague (half an hour).
The Kinderdijk windmills Photo: Rotterdam Image Bank
  • At Kinderdijk, experience the windmills of Kinderdijk – a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated less than half an hour from Rotterdam.
  • Featuring many historical buildings, the city of Delft is within easy reach from Rotterdam by car, coach or bicycle. The city centre with its canals is typical for the Netherlands. Delft is famous not only for the ceramics produced here, but also for the city’s historic ties with the Dutch Royal House and the 17th century painter Johannes Vermeer.

Getting Further

Flight, train and road connections are excellent. By car or coach, Amsterdam, the largest city in the Netherlands, is some 46 miles/74 kilometers away.

Avid Cruiser Posts, Photographs and Videos Featuring Rotterdam.

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