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July '19 - Side trip to Rotterdam

Updated: Oct 11, 2019

The last time I was in Rotterdam was 15 years ago (ugh, I'm so old) to see the Rotterdam Fast Forward Dance Parade, which was one the last times it was held. Around 400,000 people followed 40 trucks mounted with speakers playing techno on a route through the city to the port. I recall it being difficult to walk on the gigantic Erasmus Bridge as it bounced under the weight of dancing people, fun at the time.

Since then I've seen and heard various things about Rotterdam becoming the 'coolest' city in The Netherlands and how much it pushes the boundaries of city architecture and design. I can now confirm that in my view it is true.

Erasmus Bridge and southern side of The Meuse / Maas River

As usual some facts about Rotterdam:

  • Population of around 650,000 and very multi-cultural.

  • Getting around is easy via the 5 metro lines and 62 stations.

  • The port is big, very big and very busy. It's throughput capacity in terms of sea freight is the largest in the world; it basically feeds much of continental Europe.

  • Given its key function as a port city, it was basically completely destroyed in WW2. For this reason much of the city looks modern despite its long history.

  • It has high-rise buildings, which you don't generally see in The Netherlands, and many were designed by architects that were given licence to do whatever they want. There's more architecture bureaus here than anywhere else in the country.

  • Next to the 'main' Mayor, there's also a Night Mayor who focuses on ensuring vibrant nightlife and a Youth Mayor focused on ensuring the city responds to what young people would like.

  • It has experimental architecture and city design, for which it is now quite famous (professionally and tourism).

That last point above is what impressed me most, in parts it was like walking around in a city from the future. Some examples.

The Markthal

Opened in 2014 after a 5 year build and €180 million, this horse-shoe shaped building has apartments situated around an indoor food market with 100 fresh food stands and various restaurants, a supermarket and beneath is a multi-story car park. The apartments also have windows facing inward and the entire 'open' section of the building is made of glass. And it's covered in art. It's hard to show how large this building it but it's pretty mind boggling.

Markthal by night

Rotterdam Centraal Station

Also opened in 2014, the central rail station features a gigantic main entrance that points to the centre of the city and overhangs a square. Inside, the main entry is wood and glass, while the triangle roof is covered in stainless steel. The roof above the train lines has 136,000 glass plates so sunlight creates all sorts of different patterns on the platforms. There's also a 40m long LED screen inside. Like the Markthal, it's impossible to show the scale of the building, it's enormous.

Grand entry to Rotterdam Centraal Station

The Cube Houses (Kubuswoningen)

These have been around for a while, since the 1970's (!), yet are still one of the major sites given how out-there the architecture is. Not much to be said other than they are houses ... shaped like cubes ... stacked against each other at various angles, with windows going all directions.

House of Cube


A 'suburb' of Rotterdam, Delfshaven survived the bombing in WW2 and is more the quaint and historical side of The Netherlands people are often drawn to i.e. canals, merchant houses, ships, small bridges. The place has a long maritime history and was where the Pilgrim Fathers sailed from, for America.

Historic Delfshaven

For more photos (and descriptions), click the gallery below.

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