What does Rotterdam have that makes it so special, and makes you want to stay forever? According to our Spotters, it’s the dynamic character of the city: sometimes cozy and cute, sometimes unapologetically raw and robust. It’s the fact that the views from the bridges will never fail to sweep you of your feet. To celebrate this unique city, we want to share some of its most memorable gems, spotted by our Rotterdam-living and loving team of locals.
Urban exploration route
An exciting way to explore a new part of the city, the Luchtsingel installation is a structure made of reclaimed wood for pedestrians to walk on; a proper urban parkour. Most of the route is colored yellow, and the aesthetic really makes it distinct from its surroundings. A sequence of beautiful and less-known views of the city have become possible because of Luchtsingel, making the viewers feel like participants in a game of exploration.
Street art with a message
The motto “make it happen” was created by the city of Rotterdam to inspire young artists and entrepreneurs to express themselves. It represents the mentality of Rotterdammers: hardworking, direct people who overcome challenges in a creative manner.
One installation dedicated to this theme is a mural by artist Daan Botlek, created in 2014 and located at the intersection of Schiedamse vest and Schilderstraat. A green and white vertical strip about 20m tall encourages viewers to become part of a human chain and take a photo of their accomplishment. This “urban playground” for people of all ages invite people to participate in the climbing and forget about their hasty route for a while.
Vintage finds and food at the market
The Binnenrotte market is a staple in Rotterdam and always bustling with people from all walks of life. It’s a great place to stroll through and browse, which can take quite some time as the market is big, especially on a Saturday.
Not only will you find loads of fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, meat, and fish, there are also a lot of stalls selling antiques and other vintage goods. It takes quite an amount of patience and a keen eye, but there are some treasures to be found!
Relax in a secluded park
Once you enter through the gates of Park Schoonoord, all the noise from the city disappears. Instead you’ll hear chirping birds, a waterfall and the flurry of insects. The park has a large pond with some pretty big fish in it, some ancient-looking trees, and a few scattered wooden benches.
The existence of this park is not widely known, which is part of the charm of this gorgeous oasis. Make your way here if you need a short break from the bustling of the city. You’ll find many quiet spots to sit down under a tree and close your eyes for a moment.
Let loose your inner child
Ever have one of those days where you want to feel like a kid again? Freestyle Motion is just the place to release your inner child (and have a fun work-out at the same time!). It’s an indoor hall filled with trampolines where you can bounce your heart away.
Be warned, you will not be the only person there acting childish. As it turns out, children want to act like children as well (who knew?). And the little ones are quite crafty – they do backflips like it’s no big deal. Don’t let this stand in your way though! If you have children yourself you have a perfect excuse to visit, but even if not it’s worth going anyway. Adults need bounce off some steam sometimes too.
Take a walk through Rotterdam’s history
In some areas of Rotterdam, you might notice small red lamps scattered along the pavement. These mark the spots where fires burned following the Rotterdam bombing of May 14th, 1940. On that night, a large portion of the city center and parts of Northern Rotterdam were destroyed. These parts of the city had to be rebuilt, which is what gives this city its patchwork-like layout.
The Fire Boundary Walk, which follows the 12-kilometer long periphery of the bombardment and fire limit, is a good place to remember and contemplate these changes in the city and the reasons behind them. Come at night to follow the pathway of brightly lit red lamps, or during the day to view the city and buildings along the route in full light.
City without a heart
Traveling or living in Rotterdam will give you a true appreciation for how open the city is about its history, wearing its feelings “on its sleeve”. This sculpture is a beautiful example of that. You may want to visit it before or after the Fire Boundary Walk (above) as their stories are closely related. When Nazi Germany attacked the Netherlands, Rotterdam was an important target due to its active industry. The bombings on May 14th, 1940 ended up destroying the entire center, or the heart, of the city.
The statue De Verwoeste Stad (The Destroyed City) by artist Ossip Zadkine commemorates this event with a depiction of a screaming man, throwing his arms up out of pain and desperation, after his heart was ripped out. Although this spot is highly emotional and a little dark, it also represents the pride and resilience that brought Rotterdam out of that period and transformed it into the vibrant city it is today.
Traditional snack at its best
Now, the Dutch are not the only peoples with croquettes, but ours are distinctly unique (and very tasty). Traditionally filled with meat ragout, they are a favorite Dutch snack, as are their mini spin-offs “bitterballen”. If you are visiting Rotterdam for the first time and craving a quick bite, or a local looking for a new favorite spot, try Het Kroket Loket.
In a small snack stall located in Rotterdam’s beautiful Markthal, the owners of Het Kroket Loket have stepped up their delicious croquette game with unique flavors. The traditional meat croquette they serve is delicious, there is no doubt about it, but be sure to try some of their many creative combos as well.
A warm artistic community
Tante Nino is your super artsy aunt who will give you food for thought, but also for your belly. She originally came to Rotterdam from Georgia for love. Now she runs a gallery where she hosts concerts, movie screenings, art exhibitions and dinners accompanied by delightful Georgian wines.
You never know who you might meet at one of her events – her community draws together people of all different ages, backgrounds and homelands. She invites musicians from all over the world, and among her friends are many talented cinematography artists. Once you cross the threshold, you too will feel like a valued guest in this vibrant creative community.
Scandalous, distasteful, or funny?
Rotterdam has a knack for nicknames, some of which are more respectful than others (the Swan, the Towel, and the Vomit Bowl, to name a few examples). This sculpture by Paul McCarthy is formally a Santa Claus holding a Xmas tree, but it’s not hard to see how it got its nickname – “Kabouter Buttplug“, aka “Buttplug Gnome”. If art is meant to challenge and make the viewer uncomfortable, this one certainly does the trick.
Deconstructing the architecture of the city
In recent years, many eyes have turned to Rotterdam thanks to mentions in the worldwide press about the unique architecture of the city. Rotterdam receives hundreds of architects annually that want to see the highlights… but what about the deep history behind the short stubs in tourism magazines?
OMI is a unique institution in the city: both a space for ideas and a collective of architectural specialists. They offer tours aimed both at newcomers and long-time dwellers with the aim of helping people to understand urban processes in Rotterdam. They are also a publishing house that designs maps and books about the city with a unique interpretation. If you have an interest in the ever-changing architecture of Rotterdam, this is the place for you.
Cycling tour along the water
Do as the locals do – hop on your bike (or rent a boat!) and take a tour of the Schie. You’ll pass by colorful neighborhoods and beautiful old architecture, flocks of screeching birds and cobblestone streets. At the end, the city blurs into the countryside, providing a refreshing green break. Our tour ends at the tiny hamlet of Zweth, at the edge of Rotterdam. Reward yourself with a drink before cycling back into the city.