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Rotterdam Travel Guide

It is considered one of the most architecturally innovative cities in Europe. Throughout its post war renovation the City has strived to create buildings that are not only works of art in their own right but also reflect the determination and forward thinking attitude of the community. The once notorious nightlife has virtually shaken off its mythological status as a dark, degenerate and dangerous with all but a few areas enjoying a thriving cosmopolitan social scene.

Originally a fishing village, Rotterdam received its charter in 1328 and twelve years later the canal was dug to the Schie, transforming it into the major port of the province. It wasnít until the 17th century, when trade routes with the East Indies were discovered, that things really took off and by the seventeen hundreds it had established itself as the second merchant city only to Amsterdam. Rotterdam remains proud of its seafaring heritage an attitude reflected by the wonderful Maritime Museum, which consists of both indoor and outdoor (some floating) exhibitions. The latest addition to the museum is the fascinating collection of large ship models, navigational instruments, shipbuilding plans, globes and other seafaring objects. Pride of place is taken by the imposing19th century, turret-ram ship, the Buffel, which is moored in the outdoor exhibition. On board you can get an idea of life at sea during troubled times, from the painstakingly restored captainís quarters to the crews somewhat lacking washing facilities.

Rotterdam has over 30 museums. Amongst the most important are the Boymans van Beauningen, the aforementioned Maritime and the History Museum. The Boymans van Beauningen consists of the combined collections of ship-owner, merchant and art collector DaniŽl George van Beuningen who from 1916 onwards donated works of art to the Boymans Museum. At his death in 1955 the museum obtained a large part of his private collection and honoured him in 1958 by changing its name to include his own. The magnificent collection includes paintings by Memlinc, Bouts, Lucas van Leyden, Jeroen Bosch, Brueghel the Elder, Jan Gossaert and Jan van Eyck.

Housed in the appropriately Romanesque 17th century Het Shielandshuis the Historic Museum holds an extensive and unusual collection of costumes and garments of national importance, from ceremonial attire and expensive fashion items to traditional clothes and commoners rags. However the most significant exhibitions is the Atlas van Stolk a massive collection of Dutch historical prints depicting battles, sieges, marriages and funerals of prominent people, disasters, political and historical events, cartoons and satirical illustrations. What really sets the collection apart is that it grows constantly as itís kept up to date.

Rotterdamís love affair with modern times is evident in much of its stunning architecture Ė The Weena building a brilliant white office/apartment block situated in the business centre is a splendid example of art meets commerce. The Cube Houses are a definite must see and it is worth having a look inside the Kijk-Kubus show house to get an idea of what it is like to live in such a bizarre building. The most recent structure to keep up the artistic tradition is the spectacular Erasmusbrug, an almost abstract combination of steel and concrete. If you like heights then the Euromast is for you. This 185m tall tower has spectacular views of the City below and the ports. You can even blast off into orbit in the recently opened ĎSpace adventureí that has been added to the top section of the tower.

If you want to get an idea of Rotterdamís former glory there are pockets of architectural history all over, just waiting to be discovered. City Hall, the stock exchange, the main post office and the Het Shielhuis are amongst the few buildings in the City centre that survived the devastation of 1940. One of the most popular areas with visitors and locals alike is Delfshaven, which has only officially been part of Rotterdam for a little over 100 years. This picturesque port town dates back to the 14th century (although it was burned and re-built since). The birthplace of Erasmus it was from here that the Pilgrim Fathers set out on their epic journey to America in 1620. The church where they prayed and made plans in still stands today. Delfshaven is noted for its fine examples of merchant buildings as well as most famous landmark the windmill once used to grind the grain for use in the manufacture of alcoholic beverages.

One thing about Rotterdam that hasnít changed is the Rotterdammerís passion for drinking and dancing. There are hundreds of cafes/bars spread throughout the City ranging from Grand Cafes to traditional Brown Bars. The area around Oude Haven is particularly popular with visitors looking for a good night out. Here there are dozens of restaurants and cafes as serving food and drink until well past midnight. Itís also a popular place for an afternoon drink as the surrounding docks are pleasant and you get a great view of the Cube Houses. There are also several clubs where hardened party animals can dance until dawn. Oostplein, near the university is a favourite student hangout and, accordingly, youíll find a plethora of inexpensive places to eat and drink. Witte de Withstraat was formerly one of the most notorious areas of the City. Once the haunt of criminals, prostitutes and drug addicts, it has put all its best efforts into cleaning up its act and now enjoys some of the best nightlife Rotterdam has to offer. In fact, for anyone looking for a good blow out weekend, Rotterdam is ideal. It is, after all, one of the few cities in the world that actually has 24hour bars.

Rotterdam also has 58 parks and gardens, it has some great shopping including the Lijmbaan, which was the worlds first-ever indoor shopping mall and you can find restaurants serving food from virtually every country in the world. It may not have the tourist concessions that Amsterdam has, or the Charm of, say, Maastricht. But simply dismiss Rotterdam as an industrial waste-ground and you really are going to miss out on a surprisingly vibrant and often beautiful city.

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