A reinvented city home to innovative architecture, café culture and waterways, Rotterdam beats Amsterdam as the smart traveller’s next Dutch destination. Bart Bergmeijer and Robin Kemme from design agency, Fabrique, are your local guides in the Netherlands’ second city.
Arriving in Rotterdam’s Centraal Station after a quick three-and-a-bit hour Eurostar journey is an experience in itself; the first thing to greet you, in a city praised for its world-class architecture and urban design, is the impressive angular metal-clad canopy rooftop at the entrance, recently built in 2014. It’s an iconic building that perfectly showcases the rise of this lively and contemporary city.
From here, wander along to Delftseplein, the location of international design agency Fabrique, on route to Op het Dak ‘On the Roof’, a bistro perched on top of the Schieblock office building. The perfect place for breakfast and lunch — and with an astonishing view over the city — food here is fresh and seasonal, with most ingredients grown in their rooftop garden.
Bart Bergmeijer and Robin Kemme from design agency, Fabrique
After a taste of Rotterdam’s innovative café culture, it’s time to explore the rest of the city. Don’t expect a typical city centre here though; in World War II central Rotterdam was severely damaged by bombing raids, so be prepared to experience the city in its small neighbourhoods dotted around the centre.
Take a tram or metro to station Blaak to experience two Rotterdam icons: the Markthal, a huge U-shaped building filled with foodstalls and restaurants, where a mural of enlarged fruits, flowers and insects covers the ceiling; and the nearby Cube Houses, an irreverent example of the city’s architectural spirit and ‘can-do’ attitude of its residents. Upended on one corner and perched on tall stalks, living at an angle really is possible; just ask Bart, who lives there.
The Cube Houses Photograph by Adrien Milcent
Nearby is the old harbour, where you can take a (bargainly-priced) water taxi to the Kop van Zuid (South Bank) neighbourhood, with its reimagined former docklands. Here visit the terrace of Hotel New York for a cocktail and views across the Nieuwe Maas river, and the Photo Museum. Head to Katendrecht, an up-and-coming part of town that was once Rotterdam’s Chinatown, for the best food. Try De Matroos en het Meisje Delfts restaurant, with its famous Dutch checkered tea towel napkins and Delfts Blue print on the walls.
Stroll the highline of Rotterdam Photograph by Stijn Hanegraaf
On your way back to the city, visit museum Boijmans van Beuningen and take a stroll on the Witte de Withstraat, brimming with hip bars, eateries, galleries and the Center for Contemporary Art. Back at Centraal, stop off at Groot Handelsgebouw, a beautiful icon of post-war reconstruction that’s home to cool rooftop cocktail bar, The Suicide Club.
Our pick for an overnight stay is Hotel nhow at De Kop van Zuid for its sense of fun. Designed by renowned architect, Rem Koolhaas, be sure to request a minimalist room facing the river and Erasmus Bridge for the full Rotterdam experience.