Either as city trip for the weekend or on your way from Amsterdam to Brussels, September and October are great summer months to visit Rotterdam. Busy, but not crowded, as the Rotterdam streets are extremely forgiving to crowds.
The city is ranking high on international trip advising lists, because of its architecture, the activities, the accessibility and of course the connection with its harbor. Since 2014, the Van Nelle Fabriek has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, giving this modernistic coffee and tobacco factory a world renowned status. Though still underestimated and in the shadows of its big brother Amsterdam, Rotterdam can be seen as the capital of modern architecture and industrial heritage of the Netherlands.
Pictures of the Markthal (MVRDV), the Rotterdam high-rise (OMA) and the Central Train Station (Benthem & Crouwel, Meyer & van Schooten, West 8) went viral and thus Rotterdam suddenly was world famous, and not only among architecture lovers.
What’s the best way to visit Rotterdam and enjoy its culture and architecture?
With the summer weather, there is no better way of sightseeing than by bike. A good way to start a weekend full of architecture is a visit to the OMI (Office for Metropolitan Information) at the Schiekade 205. Inspiration, books and maps are widely available. Here you can rent your bike to explore the city. UrbanGuides is located in the same room as OMI. They organize ‘hop on’ tours that take you to the major sights of the city. When cycling sounds too challenging, a boat tour is also an excellent way of sightseeing in the city. I can highly recommend the visit to the Van Nelle Fabriek (Wednesday to Sunday), which is an early example of Rotterdam being the city of modern and innovative architecture. Make sure to book a tour in advance.
How Rotterdam became Rotterdam
Not only the bombing of the city center in the WWII gave room for major redevelopments in the city. Many of the recent development zones in the city are former harbor areas. If you choose to spend your night in style, the Pincoffs Hotel, a former customs house, provides you the experience of the Rotterdam in the glory days of the harbor of the industrial age. Its one of the remaining pearls reminiscent of the time the harbor industries were located in the city center.
One of these former harbor areas is the Lloydkwartier (Lloyd Quarter). Here the Schiecentrale Phase 4B and the Hotel Stroom are part of the redevelopment of a former power plant Schiecentrale, built to power the harbors independently. The Jobsveem building is just across the street. This apartment building is located next to the old quay and used to be a warehouse. The railway tracks where the goods were transported are still present. Mei architects & planners, who (re)designed these buildings and is holding office in the Schiecentrale, can certainly be called experts on the redevelopment and redesigning of the Lloydkwartier. If you are visiting with a group, they would be pleased to show you around the area.
Are you already inspired by the industrial, yet modern ambiance of Rotterdam? Then you should definitely have a dinner or lunch at Stroom, or book your stay in one of its studios. Stroom serves the best burgers in town and it has a roof terrace that offers a great view on the skyline of the city center. Stroom recently opened an Eco Design Studio, which shows that even in a heritage object, there is room for a sustainable future.
This for me sums up Rotterdam, an unstoppable vibe, great developments of modern architecture in the middle of the heritage areas, all related to the docks and harbor. Enjoy the late summer!