Amsterdam, I am sorry. I am sorry that I ventured off and fell in love. I fell in love with your arch nemesis. I couldn’t help myself. Slick and full of might and towering over me. I was in awe. I think if you were to meet, you would understand.
Hot damn Rotterdam!
I wasn’t so sure what to expect. I knew it would be different from the rest of the Netherlands but I didn’t expect it to blow my mind.
On the offset, the second largest city of the Netherlands’ Rotterdam can be best described as a leading city of world class architecture in terms of contemporary art and design – it is basically an open art space bearing resemblance to a real life ‘Futurama’ set as it has futuristic skyscrapers filling up the sky. You could use your wild imagination to dream it up or see it for yourself – abstract skyscrapers, a space age train station, a vertical city towering the harbour, a giant pencil like building pointing to the sky or a striking asymmetric white cable bridge doting the harbour.
Aside from the warped, forward thinking architectural delights, Rotterdam has a lot going on compared with its arch city Amsterdam. Both cities bear no resemblance from one an other as each are different in their own right. The only jell between them is the ease of getting around by bike – the Dutch preferred mode of transport. During World War 2, Rotterdam was heavily hit by bombers and as a result, the city was left in tatters. It was decided that instead of rebuilding the past, the city should look into the future and stand out on its’ own. It does exactly that with both its’ landscape and its vibe.
Rotterdam is chilled. Less chaotic than the capital, Rotterdam is filled with wide open spaces and things seem to be laidback and the best way to experience its’ is to check out the main strip of cool, Witte de Groot which is in the very seriously titled District Cool. This strip is home to funky independent stores, themed bars and cafes and is very much the epicure of life in the city. None of that tourist circus fanfare is found here, you will certainly feel like you have stumbled on a social gem.
An other crown jewel of the Rotterdam social and art scene is the revived Station Hofplein. Cultural and creative spaces including a jazz bar and quirky restaurants fill the arches of the now defunct railway station. Walk along the yellow wooden ‘air canal’ bridge and you will arrive at Schieblock which serves up a collective of artful and nightlife offerings which should be on the list of places to explore.
Rotterdam is a new player to the food market scene with the ever slick and impressive Markthal being the first indoor market of its kind in the Netherlands. With its’ horseshoe structure, it combines local markets and small independent eateries on the ground floor with residential apartments towering over the hall, camouflaged in modern day ‘Michelangelo’ art work on the ceiling. This is a place where you should go on an empty stomach because the quality and the goods on offer (Dutch cheese or tapas anyone?) is second to none. You will be rolling out!
Right opposite the ground breaking food haven Markthal, is the truly unique contemporary masterpiece of the bizarre and the creative, Kubuswoningen or Cube Houses. It really does look like something right out of a Lego box with its’ bright yellow cubes interlocking one an other high in the sky being propelled by giant pillars and shadowed by the pencil like building next door.
Together with its ambitious (and successful) pushing of contemporary and modern design boundaries mixed in with its relaxed and quirky social scene – it is no wonder that this city is on the up and the only limit is the sky. And it is no wonder why I have fallen in love.
I was staying as a guest of Hostel Ani & Haakien – one of the best hostels I have stayed on my travels thus far!