Located in the province of South Holland and encompassing both one of the largest and busiest ports in the world on the banks of the River Nieuwe Maas, Rotterdam is very much a modern city but by no means lacking in culture and entertainment for the visitor.

Although the river Nieuwe Maas tends to dominate the city, the name ‘Rotterdam’ actually derives from a dam in the de Rotte River built in 1250. It was as a direct result of this dam that the settlement expanded, with fishermen first setting up homes in the area and the first port businesses following thanks to the Old Port’s construction in 1328. Granted city rights in 1340 by Willem IV of Holland, the port continued to expand with the excavation of a nearby canal and, by the 17th century, was a base for Dutch maritime trade and exploration, establishing crucial routes with India. Despite being plagued by disasters throughout its history, such as the St. Elisabeth flood of 1421 and the fires of 1563, Rotterdam continued to prosper courtesy of the industrial revolution in the 19th century. However, the Nazis would later destroy much of Rotterdam’s centre courtesy of intense bombing during May 1940, encouraging the artist Ossip Zadkine to christen Rotterdam ‘a city without a heart’.

Gradually rebuilt between the 1950s and 1970s, Rotterdam is once again a thriving Dutch and European centre and, as a former European culture capital, still provides everything the tourist could want.


Despite the destruction of much of the medieval city, Rotterdam still has some major architectural attractions. First and foremost is the Erasmus Bridge, officially opened in 1996 to link the northern and southern halves of the city. The cable stayed bridge’s revolutionary design earnt it the nickname of ‘The Swan’ due to its colour and location on the Nieuwe Maas, as well as a spot on the city’s official logo.

One further architectural attraction is The Euromast. Constructed between 1958 and 1960 and added to over the years, the Euromast is currently the tallest building in Rotterdam at 186 metres and plays host to exhibitions and festivals.

Greater proof of the city’s design expertise can be found in the incredible Kubuswoningen (or ‘Cube Houses’). The brainchild of the architect Piet Blom, the houses were completed in 1984 and simply have to be seen to be believed.

Rotterdam also houses a number of exceptional museums, the most prominent of which being the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen. The city’s main art museum, The Boymans covers a range of art from medieval Europe up until the present day and contains fabulous works by artists like René Magritte. However, if you want something more contemporary, try the Kunsthal Museum and its regular exhibitions.

There are plenty of other alternatives as well, such as the Historisch Museum (specialising in the history of the city), the Volkenkundig Museum (focusing on the history of foreign peoples and cultures) and the Maritime Museum (specifically on the harbour of Rotterdam).

If you want a more family experience, why not try the Rotterdam Zoo in Diergaarde Blijdorp and see the wide range of wildlife on show?

A number of festivals are held in the city annually such as the International Film Festival Rotterdam in January, the World Port Days in September and The North Sea Jazz Festival in mid-July.

Rotterdam is football mad, with three Eredivisie clubs to choose from. The most successful of these is Feyenoord, who play their games at Feijenoord Stadion and count Johan Cruyff and Ronald Koeman among their former players. However, Sparta Rotterdam, who play at the Sparta Stadion Het Kasteel, and Excelsior, who play at the Stadion Woudestein, are Feyenoord’s local rivals.

As well as the aforementioned, Rotterdam is also embarking on a number of urban renewal projects, with plans for further spectacular architecture and new festivals, combating the popular belief that Rotterdam is simply a place to work. Therefore, to visit Rotterdam is to visit one of the up and coming areas of the Netherlands.


The main shopping districts in Rotterdam are the Lijnbaan, the Coolsingel and the Weena, along with the more modern de Beurstraverse (also known as Koopgoot).

Beursplein and Van Oldenbarneveltstraat are considered the high street fashion centres of the city.

For local arts and crafts, be sure to traverse the Quartier Varié, encompassing Hoogstraat, Botersloot and Nieuwemarkt.

Nightlife and Eating Out

More than just local cheeses, Rotterdam is awash with places to eat and a particularly good choice of restaurants can be found around the Oude Haven area. This includes traditional Dutch food at Eten, but also international cuisine like Italian at Angelo Betti. Elsewhere, Odyssee in Antoine Platekade and Safir in Vijf Werelddelen are decent establishments.

As part of the Netherlands, Rotterdam has a strong coffee-shop culture for obvious reasons. The best district is the Nieuwe Binnenweg, but be aware of the laws.

The city enjoys a vibrant and diverse nightlife with the most popular area for a drink or two being the Eendrachtsplein. However, there are other spots around the Oude Haven, the Blaak Market Square and elsewhere. Most of the nightclubs can be found around the Delftsestraat and Stadhuisplein areas, but there are plenty of alternatives like Now & Wow in Maashaven and Nighttown in West-Kruiskade.

Tourist Information

VVV Rotterdam Tourist StoreCoolsingel, 53012 AARotterdamTel: +31 10 271 01


Rotterdam is served by Rotterdam Airport, the second largest airport in the Netherlands. As a result, international and domestic connecting flights are available regularly everyday.

Although close by, trains, buses and taxis can be used to reach Rotterdam itself.

VLM-Airlines (multiple locations), KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (London-Heathrow) and (London-Stansted) all use Rotterdam Airport to and from British destinations.