This trip was totally unplanned, unorganised but turned out to be amazing. I even forgot my camera, that’s how spontaneous we were.
Rotterdam is a very peculiar city, and I think you either hate it or love it. Or, if you’re like me, you can’t decide. Now, you wonder ‘what is it about this city that makes it so… hybrid’? Let’s start with a bit of history. Rotterdam is the second biggest city in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam. In the Second World War, it was completely destroyed. If you talk to Dutch people, this is often the first thing they will tell you about this city. The destruction has carved a long-lasting memory in Dutch culture and the city’s reconstruction strongly contrasts with other Dutch cities.
The old city centre is indeed very small and almost inexistent. Many of the buildings are extremely modern, and the city is known for its skyline and its iconic Erasmusbridge. Reaching 186 meters, the Euromast is another emblem of the city. Besides its lively cultural scene and its urban setting, the city plays a central role in maritime history. Due to its logistic advantage, the port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and one of the most important worldwide. The city lies at the mouthing of the river ‘Nieuwe Maas’ and the North Sea.
Since the visit was completely unplanned, we started by simply walking around. We first ended up at the lovely Leuvehaven. It was a great spot to gain first impressions of the city and of its unique mixture of modernity, the sea and its old sailor smell. Also, it’s only a short walk away from the Erasmusbridge– where we next headed to.
I didn’t think at first that I would be so impressed by a bridge. The view is astonishing and perfectly illustrates how fast the atmosphere of this city changes from one street to the next. When standing on the bridge, you really get this metropolitan atmosphere with the skyscrapers (that are unusual for the Netherlands anyhow) and the many busy people jogging past you.
Besides the endless shopping opportunities and the tasty ‘frietjes’, one experience really resonated with us: the water taxis. They take you from one attraction to the next, and if you stay within the city centre, they cost 5 euro/ person. I believe that’s really affordable because the driver really speeds it up and you get a unique view of the city from the water.
From a lovely ‘binnenhaven’ we took the water taxi to the famous SS Ship, which is NOT related to the Second World War, but was built in the fifties by a Dutch shipbuilding company. It used to be the biggest cruise ship in the Netherlands, and since 2010 the ship has been used as a hotel. You can access it from the water by taxi. Normally, if you’re not a hotel guest, you can take a paid tour around the ship… which we somehow managed to do for free. Don’t ask me how, because it was mere luck. Anyways, the ship is beautiful and if you’re visiting on a sunny day, I would definitely recommend going to the highest deck and enjoying the view of the Euromast and the rest of this strangely beautiful city. And maybe the sweet spring sun is what made our experience of this city so memorable.