Rotterdam shows a modern side to traditional Holland – 03/27/2024 – Tourism

Rotterdam shows a modern side to traditional Holland – 03/27/2024 – Tourism


When putting the Netherlands on the travel itinerary, probably the first image that comes to the tourist’s mind is one with low buildings, almost the same size, made of exposed brick and dark roofs as far as the eye can see. Oh, and a happily busy cycle path, bordered by a beautiful canal.

This classic image of the capital, Amsterdam, perpetuated on postcards and refrigerator magnets, extends to most Dutch cities. Not to Rotterdam.

Not that the second most populous city in the country (after the capital) isn’t also full of canals and many, many cycle paths. But there, modern and often bold architecture prevails over more traditional buildings.

The reason for this architectural difference is nothing festive. The target of heavy German bombing during World War II, Rotterdam, further south, had its commercial center completely destroyed, as well as other regions — the surrender came in time to spare the country’s capital. In the reconstruction, instead of reproducing what turned into dust, it was decided to follow a new direction.

Anyone arriving by train (less than an hour from Amsterdam) will notice that there is something different as soon as they get off at the central station, or Centraal Station. Its façade with bold lines appears to form a glass and steel ramp towards the sky.

However, no facade compares to the city’s pride, the Cube Houses (or “Kijk-Kubus” in Dutch), close to Rotterdam’s old port. Designed in the 1970s by Dutch architect Piet Blom (1934-1999), they were only completed in the mid-1980s.

Fun for children and adults, the space looks like a forest of yellow cubes. The original plan of 55 houses was reduced to 38, of varying sizes. The living area is open to anyone, making it possible to walk through the corridors between the houses — and take some selfies. There is also a souvenir/convenience shop and, for those who want to know a little more about the history and even see one of them furnished inside, the tip is to visit a kind of cube house-museum, for 3 euros.

Casas Cubo is next to the old port, with several old boats moored. The region also attracts many tourists due to its restaurants and bars full of umbrellas that tend to be closed during the day, serving drinks in long glasses and beers — more Belgian than Dutch.

On the other side, you can see a 43-meter building known as Witte Huis, the White House (no relation to the American one). When it was built in 1898, the art nouveau building was one of the tallest in the world. The building survived the German attack and became a symbol of resistance.

Nearby, the modern Markthal, the municipal market, soothes the eyes and the stomach. It is the largest covered market in the Netherlands, which shares space with a residential and commercial building, built in the shape of an arch, forming a kind of tunnel of sweets — it is as if residents had a market with a food court in their backyard.

If on the outside it draws attention due to the glass front, on the inside, the eyes go to the colorful painting made up of leaves, fruits and vegetables. The joy of the eyes is only compared to that of other senses, attracted by the aromas of different stands or visiting restaurants, located at the ends of the market, with food from all over the world, from tapas from Spain to fish from Portugal, from traditional fish & chips to oriental food —celebrated during the recent Chinese New Year. Chocolates, candies, sweets, gum, cheese, nuts, teas, wines, coffees. It has everything, as they would say.

In the basement, connected to the metro station, there is a small market for those who want to do a more traditional shopping.

And if Amsterdam has the Museumplein (the museum square), Rotterdam has its Museumpark, an urban park surrounded by spaces for those who appreciate the fine arts. The main one is the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, which brings together the names of two collectors, Frans Jacob Otto Boijmans and Daniël George van Beuningen. There are works by the renowned Dutch artists Van Gogh and Rembrandt, as well as Monet, Kandinsky and Rothko, among others.

The Kunsthal usually features more modern exhibitions; the Chabot Museum, home to paintings by expressionist Hendrik Chabot; or for those with a family, the Natural History Museum is a good choice, with stuffed animals from different periods and regions, including a reproduction of a dinosaur skeleton. It is possible to buy a map for children to look for some animals in the space. Guaranteed distraction.

Another symbol of Rotterdam is the Erasmusbrug bridge, their cable-stayed bridge, which has even hosted a stage of the famous Tour de France, the main cycling race in the world. The bridge serves the function of connecting the north side of the city to the south. On the other side, everything seems more traditional.

Whether to go to the museum, the market or to cross the bridge, the bicycle is always the most suitable means of transport. With many flat streets and, amazingly, sidewalks and roads without potholes, crossing on two wheels becomes easier. The city has more than one app available that rents bicycles (including electric ones), scooters and even motorbikes — motorbikes share the cycle path with bikes, but with all due respect.

The city is well served by surface trains, subways and buses. However, there is another transport that few cities offer, the “watertaxi”, a type of speedboat that takes you to various places without having to stop at traffic lights. After all, the city is home to one of the largest ports in the world — the largest in Europe.

Back at the central station, Rotterdam also allows visits that can last less than a day. How about spending an afternoon in Gouda (25 minutes by train)? Yes, the spelling is the same as cheese, and this is no coincidence. There are several stores selling the food in different formats and sizes, including some editions that won prizes in local competitions — and you can visit the Gouda museum, in front of the beautiful church in the central region, in addition to participating in tastings, of course.

Another well-known stop nearby is Delft (15 minutes by train from the central station), a mini Amsterdam, with its canals, mills and typical buildings. Delft is also known for being the hometown of painter Johannes Vermeer, best known for the painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, which was even made into a film — Scarlett Johansson was the girl; Colin Firth was the painter.

There are several reproductions of the famous painting in the city. However, unfortunately, you won’t find any originals by the Dutch painter there, nor at the Vermeer Center, which is still worth a stop.

And that’s not all. Delft is also famous for its blue pottery, so set aside a few euros for souvenirs. Oh, and if you can’t go to Gouda, you can buy some cheese there in Delft. After this immersion in South Holland, you will have another look at the country when you return to the north, to Amsterdam — always via Rotterdam central station.


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