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Rotterdam was my home for a couple of years and it still feels like home when I visit the city. Tourists call Rotterdam “the Brooklyn of the Netherlands” and I quite like it, so I’m going with that flow. In the years I used to live near Rotterdam I’ve found some great (sort of) hidden spots. I’ll give you a little Insiders Guide of Rotterdam and tell you why Rotterdam is totally worthy of a visit! This blogpost is a very long one so sit back, get a cup of tea, a snack and enjoy reading this Insiders Guide of Rotterdam.
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Rotterdam is seen as the little brother of Amsterdam, but the tourist industry in the city has increased in the last couple of years. The popularity of the city increased and I’m so happy that Rotterdam is finally becoming a more popular destination for the tourists. I absolutely love this city and seeing the tourists coming to Rotterdam makes me very happy. Rotterdam is a very diverse city and it’s a city that you’ll either love or hate. It’s very different compared to the historical city Amsterdam, the architecture in Rotterdam is way more modern. It’s such a big city so this insiders guide gives you the ultimate information for your city trip.
The Insiders Guide of Rotterdam, the Netherlands
History of Rotterdam
Before I dive into the Insiders Guide of Rotterdam, I want to talk about the history of the city. The reasons why Rotterdam is more modern goes back to the 14th of May in 1940. During World War II Rotterdam was tragically a target of the German bombers during the military raid on the Netherlands. The bombing lasted for about fifteen minutes and almost completely destroyed the historical downtown area of Rotterdam. A few of the remaining ruins of the war are the “Laurenskerk’ in downtown Rotterdam, the Town Hall, and the “Schielandshuis”.
The bombing at the 14th of May wasn’t the only bombing that took place in Rotterdam. During the war, Rotterdam got over hundreds of allied airstrikes. This is the reason why the downtown area of Rotterdam has modern high-rise buildings instead of a historical downtown area. The city decided to choose innovation instead of rebuilding. The motto of the Rotterdammers was “look ahead and don’t look back” and I feel like that’s still the motto of the locals.
There are a few remaining historical buildings just outside of the fire line. On the “Rechter Rottekade” are three buildings from the 1800th century and to the “Haringvliet” are a handful of historical buildings mostly from the 17th and 18th century that ‘survived’ the fires of the bombing.
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Insiders Guide of Rotterdam – The Areas
Let’s talk about the neighborhoods in this insiders guide. Delfshaven is an area in Rotterdam that didn’t get hit during the bombing of 14th of May and got spared during the other bombings (partly due to navigation errors, as a result other areas were attacked, such as Marconiplein). This area has many historical buildings and gives the vibe of the city before the war. If you’re looking for the historical side of Rotterdam: this is the place to be!
The easiest way to get here is from the Central Station in downtown Rotterdam and take the metro to “Delfshaven” of take the tram line 4 or tram line 8. I love this area of Rotterdam, because it’s nice to escape the modern architecture sometimes.
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Kralingen is an area on the east side of Rotterdam. It has a big parc, called “het Kralingse bos” where the nature lover, runners and picnic lovers can spent their day. It is quite big, it’s the perfect place to walk your dog, go for a run and (like I said) to picnic. The water area is called “de Kralingse plas”, it gives you a pretty skyline of Rotterdam and it’s a nice place for the boat lovers. This area is the place to be during the summer.
Another area in Rotterdam is “Blijdorp” and it has quite some historical features as well. I love this area, because the architecture is beautiful. If you like animals and would like to visit a zoo: Blijdorp is the zoo of Rotterdam. I’m not a fan of zoo’s, but I must say that the zoo of Blijdorp isn’t that bad: the animals actually have some space to run around. It’s quite a big zoo and I used to love it when I was younger!
The best way to visit Blijdorp is by using the metro line “E” in the direction of “Den Haag Centraal” and stop at the stop “Blijdorp”.
Now, this is my absolute favourite area. I love the modern architecture mixed with the historical buildings like the City Hall. Rotterdam is my favourite shopping city as well. I don’t like Amsterdam as much because of the crowds of tourists (it’s just crazy busy) but I love Rotterdam because it’s not that crowded, but they do have so many great stores.
The main city area of downtown is the “Lijnbaan”, which is just a long walking street with stores on both sides, followed by the “Koopgoot”. The “Koopgoot” is difficult to explain, but it’s basically a lower area of the shopping street and it’s very cosy during the winter time.
Fun fact: the funny stairs are actually made that way so the emergency services can drive their vehicles down the stairs in case of an emergency! The “Coolsingel” is a street that is one block away from the “Lijnbaan” and connects the “Koopgoot” to the other side of the shopping area. Honestly, I’m completely rubbish at explaining it but trust me, once you’re there it’s very easy to find.
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You can get to the downtown area by using basically any tram line or take the metro line ‘D’ or ‘E’ from Central Station to the direction of “de Akkers” or “Slinge” and stop at the stops “Stadhuis or “Beurs”. It’s a short walking distance from Central Stations, so just use your Google Maps and you’re good to go! It’s about a fifteen minute walk max.
A short walk from the “Koopgoot” is a (food) market hall called “de Markthal” and it’s full of different food markets. If you’re a foodie it is the place to be, trust me. The building is very interesting and the inside is very colourful! This place is near station “Blaak”, so the area is called “Blaak” if you need to look it up! You have to take this tip from this insiders guide to your city trip, you won’t regret it.
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Another fun thing to see are the “Kubus” houses. It’s just a bunch of houses in the shape of a cube! People actually live here, and if I’m not mistaken: you can visit one of the houses because it’s open for tourists visits! The yellow houses needed to be mentioned in this insiders guide.
Now I’ve talked about my favourite areas of Rotterdam in this insiders guide, I’ll give you a few of my personal tips about coffeeshops (like actual coffee). Let me know if you want other recommendations, beside the coffeebars!
The insiders guide of Rotterdam – Coffeebars
I’m a coffee fan so these coffee bars have to be included in this insiders guide of Rotterdam. Write these down for your city trip or save this insiders guide to read it again when you’re in Rotterdam.
Address: Pannekoekstraat 82A
I remember that this was kinda a big thing in the Netherlands and I happened to be in Rotterdam when it opened: Baker’s Dough. It is the first cookie dough bar in the Netherlands and I just had to go and taste it. This bar is a five minute walk from the “Markthal”.
Address: Stationsplein 30
This used to be my almost daily pitstop on my way home or on my way to school. It is a coffeebar across the Central Station, at the bus stop side of the station. I love the coffee here and the café is very cosy and it’s such an easy concept. The coffees are to go, but you can sit in the café as well and get some work done! It’s a good place to get some lunch as well.
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Address: Nieuwe Binnenweg 79A
Another almost daily pit stop when I used to study in Rotterdam, especially when I had free hours during my school day. It is another coffeebar, but this is an actual café so the coffee is not to go. They have the most amazing cakes and the coffee tastes amazing as well. I still visit this place when I’m in Rotterdam once in a while, because it’s full of good memories and it is the perfect place in the autumn or winter time!
The best way to get here is by metro or by tram. You can hop on tram line 4 to “Marconiplein” and stop at “Eendrachtsplein” or “Bloemkwekersstraat”. You can get the metro as well, line A, B and C stop all at “Eendrachtsplein”. The best way to get on these metro lines is to hop on metro line E or metro line D at Central Station in the directions “De Akkers” or “Slinge” and stop at “Beurs”. All five metro lines come together at this station so it’s the perfect way to get a connecting metro.
If you want to go to Koekela from “Beurs”, you’ll need to take the following metro’s in the direction of:
Metro A: Pernis
Metro B: Schiedam Centrum
Metro C: De Akkers
Address: Binnenrotte 200
This coffeebaris across “de Markthal” and across the library. I have been here only once, but it is a very cosy café and the cappuccino with apple pie is one of my recommendations! It’s quite small inside, but very cosy and it’s a good spot to get some work done if you need to. I love getting out of the house and work outside in a different environment once in a while. It gives me new inspiration, and this spot is perfect.
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Address: Eendrachtsplein 2
There a different locations of Coffee Company in Rotterdam, and I love this coffeeshop as well. I used to go to the location at “Eendrachtsplein” and you can get there by metro and tram, like I said above with metro line A, B and C. I still go to this coffeeshop in another city, and their café’s are always full of lovely coffee shop music and they have a very chill vibe, especially in Rotterdam.
These were my five recommendations for the best coffeeshops in this insiders guide. I included two sightseeing stops in the insider guide that are worth looking into!
The insiders guide of Rotterdam – Sightseeing Spots
Adres: Parkhaven 20
The first sightseeing stop in the insiders guide is de Euromast. De Euromast is a tower near downtown Rotterdam. It’s 185 metres and it’s the highest tower in the Netherlands that’s open for public. The tower is an eyecatcher in the skyline of Rotterdam and the view from the top is amazing. The first look-out point is at 100 metres and you can just walk around the tower and enjoy the view.
For people who want a better view of Rotterdam, you can hop on the Space Tower. This will bring you to 185 metres in a fully glassed elevator that turns around at the top. You will be seated and strapped on tight but you’re always behind the glass (so you’re not outside, don’t worry). The elevators both travel four metres per second, hence the name space tower. I did this a couple of years ago and the view is amazing! It is a great place to get dinner at night, watch the sunset and watch the beautiful skyline at night.
The best way to get here is to hop on tram line 8 in the direction of “Spangen” and stop at the station “Euromast”.
The second way to get there is to travel with the metro to “Beurs” (like I mentioned: hop on metro line D or E in the direction “De Akkers” or “Slinge”) and change to the metro line A, B (Schiedam Centrum) or C (de Akkers) until you arrive at station “Coolhaven”. From here it’s a short walk to the tower.
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Adres: 3e Katendrechtsehoofd 25
The second big sightseeing stop in the insiders guide is the SS Rotterdam. The SS Rotterdam is a retired cruise ship that is open for public. The ship started sailing on the 20th of August 1959 and it is a tourist attraction since the 4th of August 2008. You can get a tour around the ship, and I had a guided tour a couple of years ago and I highly recommend it. It’s so nice to get an inside view of the ship and see all the different areas. It is a hotel / café / restaurant / event center as well so it basically has everything.
The best way to get here from Central Station is by hopping on metro line D in the direction of “De Akkers” and stop at station “Rijnhaven”. From here you’ll have a three minute walk to the bus stop at “Rijnhaven”. You will hop on the RET frequent bus “77” in the direction of the “SS Rotterdam”.
Another way to get here from Central Station is by hopping on tram line 7 in the direction of “Willemsplein” and stop at “Willemsplein”. From here you can take the water taxi 18 in the direction of “Rotterdam Heijplaat RDM” and get off on the stop “Katendrecht”.
The first option I gave you is way easier as a tourist! However, if you’d like an adventure and hop on the water taxi: it’s a lot of fun and you’ll get to see Rotterdam from the water!
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These were five of my recommendations for coffeebars, two sightseeing spots to visit and some information about a few areas in this Insiders Guide of Rotterdam. The blogpost would be too long if I gave any other recommendations. I really, really love Rotterdam and it still feels like home to me. I know that it may not be everyone’s city, but visiting Rotterdam is really worth it. Let me know if you want other recommendations or have any questions about Rotterdam. I’d love to answer them in another Insiders Guide of Rotterdam!