Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Three Days in Rotterdam, The Netherlands

I'd been looking forward to visiting Rotterdam, the Netherlands second city, for a long time and it did not disappoint. Completely different from Amsterdam, this urban jungle lacks romantic canals but makes it's own drama with modern architecture, big open spaces, and more than a touch of the alternative. Rotterdam is an ever evolving city with surprises around every corner. At first glance the city might look a little grey but once you've scratched the surface you'll find pops of colour everywhere, especially yellow, which is fine by me as it's one of my favourites.

Here's my Rotterdam city guide.

Sleep tight
Affordable, boutique, and minimalist; Stroom is the perfect place to rest your head in Rotterdam. Situated just outside the city centre, this small 21-room hotel offers something a little different thanks to it's focus on contemporary design. If you like clean lines, neutral tones, and big white walls this is the place for you. Close to the hotel is Euromast (Parkhaven 20), a 185m high tower where you can see all over the city.

Lloydstraat 1, 3024 EA Rotterdam, Netherlands
Rooms from €99

The best breakfast in town
A short walk from Stroom will bring you yo all-day-cafe-bar Rauwdouwer, and what I think it probably the best breakfast location in the city. Rauwdouwer has an American-diner-but-better vibe. Bright colours, formica tables, plants galore, and delicious breakfast plates like avocado on toast.

Westzeedijk 381J, 3024 EK Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open 10am - 8pm or 10pm daily (except Monday)

Save some Euro and pick up a city card
The Rotterdam Welcome Card* is a great way to save money if there's a lot of attractions you want to visit. The cards are available for 24 (€12), 48 (€17), or 72 (€21) hours and allow you to enter the majority of city attractions for a discounted price, as well as giving you free access to public transport. Pick up a card from Rotterdam Tourist Information.

Coolsingel 114, 3011 AG Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open 9:30 - 6pm daily

Embrace Dutch art at the Museum Park
I love an art museum and Museumpark in the centre of Rotterdam is home to some fantastic cultural spaces. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen* is one of Europe's finest galleries and in the permanent collection you'll discover all eras of Dutch and European art, including a fantastic selection of old masters. The French Impressionists and post-impressionists are well represented too, and there's even a Yayoi Kusama infinity room.

Museumpark 18, 3015 CX Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open 11am - 5pm daily (except Monday)

Elsewhere in the park you'll find Het Nieuwe Instituut* where architecture, design, and fashion exhibitions are hosted, and Kunsthal* where a range of temporary art and design exhibitions are held each year.

Het Nieuwe Instituut
Museumpark 25, 3015 CB Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open 11am - 5pm daily (except Monday)
11am - 9pm Thursday

Westzeedijk 341, 3015 AA Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open 10am - 5pm daily (except Monday)
11am - 5pm Sunday

Step back in time at an 1930s Dutch villa
Huis Sonneveld, found in the museum park and included in the admission price for Het Nieuwe Instituut, is a magnificent example of Dutch functionalism architecture and design. This 1933 villa has been lovingly restored and was my favourite attraction in Rotterdam. The house offers a glimpse into the lives of a wealthy Dutch family and is complete with maid quarters, the latest technology from the 1930s, and bespoke furniture.

Jongkindstraat 12, 3015 CG Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open 11am - 5pm daily (except Monday)

City centre coffee culture
Rotterdam is full of great cafes the city over. Many of them make perfect lunch time spots where you can grab a homemade sandwich and a caffeine kick. Hopper is a dream, with its in-house bakery, simple and airy interiors, and excellent coffee. This is the perfect spot to rest your feet and watch the locals.

Schiedamse Vest 146, 3011 BG Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open 8:45am - 6pm daily
10am - 6pm Saturday and Sunday  

Another great breakfast, lunch, or coffee stop is Baker and Moore. The vibe is soft industrial (is that even a thing or did I just make that up) and the mix and match menu means you can create your own sandwiches and salads.

Westblaak 147, 3012 KJ Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open 7:30am - 5pm daily
9am - 5pm Saturday and Sunday

For a coffee shop with a bit of a tropical twist, Altijd in de Buurt is the place to go. Pastel colours, bright pops of yellow, and inventive seating; the space feels more tropical island than Western Europe. It made for an enjoyable stop when it started to rain on us one afternoon. Whether it's breakfast, lunch, or a weekend dinner, the menu is packed full of tasty treats like pancakes, burgers, sandwiches, and fried chicken.

Weena 709, 3013 AM Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open 11am - 6pm or 10pm daily (except Monday)

Rejuvenation across the river
The shipping docks south of the river are undergoing a transformation with new cultural and foodie hot spots opening all over the place. To get here, cross over the magnificent Erasmusbrug, the second largest bridge in the Netherlands. The cable-stayed design has a 139m high pale blue pylon in the middle, earning the bridge its nickname "The Swan". We caught a tram across the bridge but if you have time you can walk, the views over the river are lovely. Once on the other side photography fans will want to check out the Nederlands Fotomuseum* for changing exhibitions.

Las Palmas, Wilhelminakade 332, 3072 AR Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open 11am - 5pm daily (except Monday)

Enjoy Dutch foodie favourites along the river
A short walk from the photography museum will bring you to Fenix Food Factory, a converted warehouse that serves as a food hub for local artisan products. I really enjoyed the Dutch cheese platters from Booij Kaasmakers which come with bread from Jordy's Bakery; for something a little sweet you must try the stroopwafels from Stroop, the bacon one is highly addictive; and for a caffeine kick Stielman Koffiebranders is the place to go. There's a ton of other options as well, Kaapse Kitchen looked really tasty - they serve a rotation of dishes from different Rotterdam chefs. Once you've lined your stomach check out CiderCider for, you've guessed it, cider, and Rotterdam based Kaapse Brouwers for a great selection of craft beer. Fenix Food Factory is a really great stop for lunch or an afternoon snack. The latest it's open is 7pm so it's not an ideal option for dinner.

Veerlaan 19D, 3072 AN Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open various times daily (except Monday)

When in a port city, one must eat fish
The port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe, which means fish features heavily on many a restaurant menu. Behind Fenix Food Factory you'll find a square surrounded by different restaurants, and Vislokaal Kaap stands out for it's cosy atmosphere and seasonal fish influenced menu. With a la carte and set menu options, we enjoyed a selection of different plates including ceviche and shellfish. The meal was wonderful and I cannot recommend the restaurant enough for delicious dinner surrounded by locals.

Delistraat 48, 3072 ZL Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open various times Wednesday - Sunday

An alternative breakfast
Found in the city centre, Lilith is an all day breakfast cafe, with a bit of a rock n roll vibe. It serves alternative versions of standard breakfast dishes; think pink pancakes (beetroot and goat's cheese), pumpkin spiced pancakes, and green and yellow granola bowls. The interior style is a bit all over the place with black plates, distressed wood, and pink sofas, but it just about works.

Nieuwe Binnenweg 125 H, 3014 GJ Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open 8am - 6pm daily

Concept shopping
The Netherlands love a concept shop and you'll find these shopping emporiums turned coffee shops all over the country. A couple of my favourites in Rotterdam include Hutpot, a small nationwide chain selling everything from fashion, lifestyle, and coffee, and PLEK which does the same thing on a smaller scale. Both stores are really fun to browse and with options to suit all budgets you can pick up a really nice treat. Hutspot definitely airs on the side of Scandi minimalist cool, while PLEK has a cosier, mid century vibe going on.

Karel Doormanstraat 317, 3012 GH Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open various times daily

Nieuwe Binnenweg 178, 3015 BJ Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open various times daily (except Monday)

Geek out with model trains
If you're anything like me and Steve, you'll love trains, and model railways are no exception. Miniworld Rotterdam is an impressive 1:87 scale model railway, recreating Rotterdam and other Dutch cities. If you've got kids I'm sure they'd love it here as well.

Weena 745, 3013 AL Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open Midday - 5pm daily
10am - 5pm Saturday and Sunday

The city centre has lots going on but if you're interested in Rotterdam's futuristic architecture scene you need to head east. Near the central station you'll find De Luchtsingel, a vibrant wooden yellow bridge that was crowdfunded in order to connect a once forgotten neighbourhood with the city centre. Look out for local fashion bloggers as this site is popular for photo shoots, heck I even got Steve to take a few photos of me. The bridge will lead you to De Hofbogen, a hub for independent businesses like Lokaal for coffee, Clone for dance records, and North Sea Design for interiors. We were meant to visit FG Food Labs for my birthday dinner but ended up spending too long in Amsterdam so we had to cancel our reservation, but it's definitely on my list for next time.

Zaagmolenkade 186, 3035 KC Rotterdam, Netherlands
Check websites for individual opening hours

If you head towards the harbour you'll soon come across Markthal, Rotterdam's premier indoor food market. The extraordinary inverted-U-shaped design is impossible to miss. Numerous stalls line the hall and glass-walled apartments arch above the 40m-high ceiling, where you'll see an enormous fruit and vegetable mural. Honestly, I found the number of stalls a little overwhelming, and the entire place felt a little too touristy for my liking, however we did try a couple of tasty croquettes from Het Kroket Loket near the main entrance.

Ds. Jan Scharpstraat 298, 3011 GZ Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open various times daily

Across the road from Markthal, you'll find Kijk-Kubus, Rotterdam's cube houses. Designed by Piet Blom in 1977, the concept was to create high density housing with sufficient space on the ground level; "living as an urban roof" Blom quoted. The cube of a conventional house was tilted by 45 degrees and rested upon a hexagon-shaped pylon. Each house repents a tree, and all the houses together create a forest. The building is striking, not only in it's design, but in it's perfect shade of yellow. One resident has turned their house into a museum, allowing non-residents a look inside the iconic structure. As you look across the harbour, look out for Witte Huis, the first high rise building in Europe.

Overblaak 70, 3011 MH Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open 11am - 5pm daily

Splash the cash in Rotterdam's hipster hangout
I hate using the term hipster to describe a location, but the area surrounding the street Pannekoekstratt is exactly that. Full of independent boutiques, concept stores, and cute cafes, this area deserves your attention, and the contents of your wallet. Songs For Sale (Meent 22A) is an old school record shop full of second hands gems; but be prepared to rummage through the many crates that line the shop as there's a lot on offer. Objet Trouvé (Pannekoekstraat 44A) is a small boutique, run by two sisters who sell an eclectic range of women's clothing and knick-knacks from their travels. The style is definitely Scandinavian lead, think muted colours, and androgynous shapes, but with a touch of romanticism thrown in thanks to soft fabrics and dusty pastel shades. Depot (Pannekoekstraat 66A) might be my favourite shop, it's basically IKEA but with high end Scandinavian furniture. The shop is arranged into rooms and you're encouraged to make yourself feel at home amongst the designs. All the best contemporary Danish brands are stocked (HAY, Normann Copenhagen, Muuto etc.) but there's plenty of purse friendly decorative pieces to pick up as well. The style is a warmer take on your typical Scandinavian design so don't expect stark white rooms; colour, texture, and personality is injected into every set-up. Pantoufle (Pannekoekstraat 97A) is full of beautiful lifestyle pieces, from stationary to kitchenware, you'll want to take everything home. Louen (Pannekoekstraat 89-A) is a small boutique specialising in Danish brands with flair; think feminine shapes, colourful prints, and soft textures; you're not going to find minimalist and masculine designs here.

There are several other shops a stone throw away from Pannekoekstratt that are worth a visit as well. Groos (Achterklooster 13) is a concept store showcasing Rotterdam based businesses. Selling art and designs pieces, this is the perfect spot to pick up a gift or a tasteful souvenir. Keet (Oppert 2a) is a permanent pop-up store. Confused? Don't be. Keet gives start-ups the opportunity to sell their products in real life on a monthly rotating basis. It's a fantastic idea as the store acts as a middle man between the start-up and their website. It's another great place for gifts, plus there's a lovely looking cafe at the back. Hey, do you know how much I love HAY (Haagseveer 99)? I was pretty stoked to learn there are two HAY stores in the Netherlands (the other being in Amsterdam) when there's only one in the UK and that's in Bath of all places. As always, HAY is the bastion of contemporary Danish design and whilst the furniture prices might give your wallet a seizure, there's always plenty of affordable stationary and home accessories on offer.

A perfect lunch location
Picknick is gorgeous lunch spot just off Pannekoekstratt. Specialising in homemade, locally sourced seasonal products; this cosy, little cafe is a popular place. Sandwiches, salads, baked goods, charcuterie, and Dutch cheese platters; it's an ideal place to stop when excessive shopping has given you an appetite.

Mariniersweg 259, 3011 Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open 8am - 4:30pm daily
9am - 4:30 Sunday

Satisfy a sugar craving
When I heard there was a shop specialising in cookie dough in Rotterdam, Baker's Dough shot up to the top of my hit list. Choose from different flavours of safe-to-eat raw cookie dough and numerous toppings, this is most definitely an assault on your teeth, but so, SO worth it.

Pannekoekstraat 82A, 3011 LK Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open Midday - 6pm or 10pm daily (except Monday)

Rotterdam has some great drinking options, and one of my favourite city-centre Dutch style pubs is De Witte Aap. Specialising in craft beer, there's a huge number of drafts and bottles available.

Witte de Withstraat 78, 3012 BS Rotterdam, Netherlands
Open various times daily

Day tripping
One of the great thing about the Netherlands is the train system; trains are clean, fast, and very affordable. Fortunately, the major Dutch cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht) in the north of the country are all a short train ride from each other, making day trips highly accessible. We visited Delft and The Hague on the same day, which might sound busy, but in fact it was very doable.

Delft is only a 15 minute train journey from Rotterdam and as it is so small it doesn't take long to visit. The city reminds me off a mini Amsterdam with it's cute canals and little houses, it's utterly charming. We spent a few hours here which was the perfect amount of time for the things we were interested in. When it comes to the Dutch masters, Vermeer is my personal MVP so I was delighted to visit the Vermeer Centre* and find out about the different techniques he used to create his stunning paintings. The centre doesn't actually have any original Vermeer work, but instead tell the story of his life in Delft. Light was a big part of Vermeer's work and the light studio breaks down how he created different effects.

Voldersgracht 21, 2611 EV Delft, Netherlands
Open 10am - 5pm daily

Aside from Vermeer, Delft is famous for it's Delft Blue pottery. There are a few studios in the city centre where the pottery is lovingly handmade using traditional techniques. We picked up a a lovely little tulip tile from De Blauwe Tulp (Kerkstraat 12) where you can see the work being created in the shop. Whilst you can find cheap, mass produced Delft Blue all over the country, the traditional handmade creations are pretty expensive. Other things to see in Delft include Nieuwe Kerk, the 1381 church where William of Orange is buried; Oude Kerk, the 1246 church were Vermeer is buried; the renaissance style city hall in the main square, the opulent façade of 1505 Gemeenlandshuis van Delfland, and Instore (Voldersgracht 18) for a nice concept store experience.

The Hague
The Hague is only a ten minute train journey from Delft, and whilst it's the third largest city in the country, it doesn't take long to visit the key attractions. The Hague might not be as charming as Delft as it lack the romantic canals, but it certainly is an attractive city. Steeped with history, it's the seat of the Dutch government and home to many international courts including the International Court of Justice. Binnenhof, right in the city centre, is a picturesque 13th century Goth castle and the political centre of The Netherlands. Situated next to Hofvijver lake, it's a lovely place for a stroll.

2511 CS The Hague, Netherlands
Tours available

The are two major museums worth visiting in The Hague. Mauritshuis*, found next door to Binnenhof is a small museum dedicated to Dutch Golden Age (17th century) paintings, including Vermeer's Girl With The Pearl Earring. It is utterly gorgeous in here and almost every painting is considered a masterpiece.

Plein 29, 2511 CS Den Haag, Netherlands
10am - 6pm daily
1pm - 6pm Monday

Gemeentemuseum* is a large art and design museum north of the city centre, which houses the world's largest collection of Mondrian. Steve and I are big fans of De Stijl, and being able to see how Mondrian's style changed from classic fine art to abstract minimalism was fascinating. His final unfinished painting, Victory Boogie-Woogie, is certainly a highlight.

Stadhouderslaan 41, 2517 HV Den Haag, Netherlands
Open 10am - 5pm daily (except Monday)

South of the city centre you'll find the Hague Tower*, where you can enjoy impressive views over the city. The Penthouse bar and restaurant at the top is a nice place for a drink and bitterballen. Further south you'll find some great eating and drinking options in an unassuming industrial docking yard. MaMa Kelly is a fantastic choice for dinner, specialising in chicken and lobster, with plenty of veggie options available as well. Around the corner, grab a craft beer from the local brewery at Kompaan Beer Bar. Serving their own brews, and plenty of national and international options, this is a really fun evening hang out. Very gezellig the Dutch would say. It's less than 30 minutes from The Hague back to Rotterdam by train making a visit to both cities extremely easy for a one day trip.

Haag Toren
Rijswijkseplein 786, 2516 LX Den Haag, Netherlands
Open daily

MaMa Kelly
Saturnusstraat 100, 2516 AH Den Haag, Netherlands
Open daily

Kompaan Beer Bar
Saturnusstraat 55, 2516 AE Den Haag, Netherlands
Open Thursday - Sunday

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