A gleaming metropolis brimming with glassy skyscrapers and sleek, contemporary architecture, Rotterdam looks wholly unlike any other city in The Netherlands. The victim of German forces, who considered it a strategic allied port, the medieval city was almost entirely destroyed by aerial bombing, in 1940. In the aftermath of the Second World War, Rotterdammers chose to rebuild in a thoroughly modern fashion, with a new street plan and boldly experimental architecture.
Today, that spirit of innovation continues, with a host of starchitects—including Norman Foster and native son Rem Koolhaas—contributing to Rotterdam’s striking skyline. Along with its edgy architecture, the Netherlands’ second-largest city also boasts a dynamic food scene that mixes local and international flavors, making it a great destination for a city break.
Explore this multicultural port city by taking a stroll along Witte de Withstraat and its surrounding streets. This trendy area is lined with affordable restaurants, cafes and takeaway stands serving cuisine from around the globe.
Head to Bazar Rotterdam for excellent North African and Middle Eastern small plates that are ideal for sharing—especially the Sofras for two which comes with a variety of warm and cold dishes and sauces including roasted vegetables, hummus and couscous. The colorful dining room features Oriental carpets, hanging lanterns and mosaic tiles.
Ter Marsch & Co. is a burger mecca that prides itself on using top-quality, locally raised beef. Among exposed brick walls and industrial pendant lighting, sample creations like the Gojira, a mix of Dutch dry-aged ribeye and Japanese Wagyu topped with sweet-and-sour cucumbers, mini bok choy, bulgogi pulled pork, roasted pork belly and gochujang sauce.
Supermercado is a local favorite, thanks to its cool, street-food vibe and wallet-friendly menu. You’ll find surprisingly authentic versions of Latin-American specialties, including tacos, nachos, Margaritas and Caipirinhas.x
Everywhere you look in Rotterdam, there’s eye-popping architecture. Perhaps the most famous are the Kubuswoningen, a jumble of interconnected, tilted, cube-shaped houses designed by Dutch architect Piet Blom in the 1980s. Set in Centrum, these bright-yellow structures still serve as residences, except for one perfectly preserved “show cube” that is open to the public.
Nearby stands the towering, futuristic Markthal, the country’s first indoor food market. Covering the soaring arched hall is Arno Coenen’s “Horn of Plenty,” an 119,000-square-foot 3D print featuring a colorful assortment of produce, fish, flowers and butterflies. Beneath are dozens of market stalls stocking local products and crafts as well as an array of international eateries.
In the old port district of Wilhelminapier, you’ll find Sir Norman Foster’s distinctive U-shaped World Port Center, the three boxy stacked, interconnecting towers that form Rem Koolhaas’ De Rotterdam complex, and the Maastoren, the tallest building in Holland.
For a glimpse of what Rotterdam looked like before the arrival of all those shiny skyscrapers, head over to the charming peninsula of Katendrecht (also called De Kaap). This neighborhood of small-scale, red-brick buildings and warehouses—once a no-man’s land of rowdy sailors and prostitutes—has morphed into one of the city’s chicest areas. Shabby-chic cafes and buzzy bars line its leafy streets. Take a detour to Fenix Food Factory, a culinary market highlighting local products.
Hotel New York
The New York, an ornate, turreted Art Deco marvel, is one of the few buildings spared during the 1940 Rotterdam Blitz. A maritime-themed lobby and restaurant replete with original artifacts offer a glimpse of its heralded past. Rooms offer views overlooking the harbor—the best have been carved out of what were once boardrooms and feature rich wood-panelling, Art Deco lighting and working fireplaces.
hotel nhow Rotterdam
Part of Rem Koolhaas’ three-tower waterfront complex, the hotel nhow Rotterdam offers 278 sleek rooms featuring wood floors, contemporary decor, and floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the city or the River Maas. Best are the Skyline rooms, which overlook the iconic Erasmusbrug bridge. Or save your pennies and take in the same fantastic vistas from the seventh-floor Gastrobar ELVY; its outdoor terrace is one of the best spots in the city to see the sunset.