Rotterdam

Seated in South Holland, west of the Netherlands and lying on the banks of the river Nieuwe Maas is the sixth largest urban area in Europe (population of about 6.7 million).  Welcome to Rotterdam, the second largest municipality and the architectural capital of the Netherlands, known for having the largest port in Europe. Rotterdam is both a city and a municipality. The name is derived from a dam in the river Rotte, where the city is situated at the end of the Rhine delta.  

It was granted city rights by Count Willem IV of Holland on June 7, 1340 but settlement in the area started as early as 900 CE. A decade later, the first shipping canal in Rotterdam was completed allowing access to the larger towns in the north, as well as commerce between Holland, England and Germany. Rotterdam’s path to becoming a port of commercial significance began and flourish all through the 19th century when it became the seat of of one of the six chambers of the first multinational company in Europe, the VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie). 

However, the city suffered a significant setback and devastation during the Nazi invasion in the 1940s. Rotterdam was bombed and got almost completely destroyed. It was only in the 1950s when it started rebuilding itself, and thanks to an active architectural policy by the city council, Rotterdam has witnessed a rebirth. Today, the city has a dynamic and lively metropolitan pulse leading the way in modern architecture/

As a municipality in the Netherlands, Rotterdam has 12 submunicipalities: Charlois, Delfshaven, Feijenoord, Hillegersberg-Schiebroek, Hoek van Holland, Hoogvliet, IJsselmonde, Kralingen-Crooswijk, Noord, Overschie, Prins Alexander and Rozenburg.  As a city in the Randstad conurbation, it is situated in the Zuidvleugel, or south wing along with Leiden, The Hague, Zoetermeer, Delft, Vlaardingen, Schiedam, Capelle aan den Ijssel, Spijkenisse and Dordrecht. 

Rotterdam is a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicity. Nearly half of the population belongs to ethnic groups other than of Dutch origins, the highest percentage in the Netherlands. Other ethnic groups include Surinamese, Turkish, Moroccan, Antillean/Aruban and others. 

If there are two things that Rotterdam is known for, they would be the commercial port which is the largest and busiest in Europe, and its magnificent skyline and architecture. A significant transit point for shipment between Europe and overseas, the 40-kilometre port has been Rotterdam’s main channel of economic activity.  Rotterdam is also in the same roster of Best European Skylines along with Frankfurt, London, Paris Madrid, Paris, Brussels and Moscow. Since the completion of the Witte Huis in 1898, the city has seen the construction of more of the tallest and longest structures in the Netherlands such as the 790-metre Erasmus Bridge; the Montevideo Tower which is the tallest residential building in the country; the Maastoren which is the tallest office building at 165 metres; and the 186-metre popular tourist attraction, the Euromast.

Whilst Rotterdam would appear to first-time visitors as a “no-nonsense, all-business” environment, there is a myriad of enjoyable things to see and do in the city. Festivals, musical events, shopping and outdoor activities fill the city’s annual calendar. Rotterdam is host to some of the most exciting yearly activities in the Netherlands like the colorful Summer Carnival – think Brazilian Carnival but with a Dutch flavour!  There’s also Wereldhavendgen, or World Harbor Days, a three-day festival on the Meuse River. For racing enthusiasts there’s the Bavaria City Racing and the Dance parade which is the biggest dance event and party on the street.

For more sedate and leisurely enjoyment, Rotterdam has a number of museums, parks, theatres and a big zoo. The Museum Boijmans van Beuningen is one of the top museums in Holland and is Rotterdam’s main museum. The Netherlands Architecture Institute houses the biggest collection of architectural items in the world with 18 kilometres of shelves of works, sketches, models and other objects. Visitors can always catch an entertaining performance in the De Doelen, a concert venue and convention centre, at the Rotterdamse Schouwburg which topbills theatrical productions, opera performances and dance recitals or at the New Luxor Theatre which showcases big musicals.  Another tourist favorite is the Diergaarde Blijdorp, a 150-year-old zoo that also has a botanical garden and an oceanarium.

The city also delivers on its promise of being a shopping haven. Well-known department stores and luxury shops can be found on Lijnbaan, Beursplein, Karel Doormanstraat and Van Oldenbarneveltstraat. The Selexyz Donner, the largest bookshop in the Netherlands, boasts of eleven floors of books, magazines and all printed material. Antiques, curios and unique finds can be found in the shops in Delfshaven. And in Prins Alexander, shopping junkies will find their mecca in the Alexandrium which has more than 200 stores.