Rotterdam was never really on my list of places to visit (despite all of my friends in Amsterdam telling me it should be!) but I went recently as part of a cities trip with Visit Holland and KLM Airlines (press trip) and absolutely loved it. Completely different to Amsterdam, there are no canals nor cutesy little houses in Rotterdam. It’s much more urban, with glassy, modern buildings and a big port that’s been instrumental to its history and is still very much used today. There’s a cool, creative buzz to the city. And though Rotterdam feels quite small, there’s loads going on, including an exciting food and drink scene, cool pop-ups in repurposed old industrial buildings, and a strong focus on sustainability — it’s pushing boundaries there. I’ve got a few blog posts coming on my Holland adventures (including Eindhoven, another city I loved!) but to kick things off, here are 5 cool places that really made Rotterdam stand out…
Whether you’re into architecture or not, I guarantee you’ll be wowed by Rotterdam’s Cube Houses — they’re mind-bogglingly awesome! The sunshine yellow cube houses are the brainwork of architect, Piet Blom, who dreamt them up as a response to the over-saturation of commercial buildings in Rotterdam’s city centre in the ‘70s. Each house represents a tree in the ‘forest’ of cube houses, and though there were meant to be 55, only 39 ever got built. They’re totally bonkers though very, very cool to see. You can even stay in one of the Cube Houses on Airbnb!
Rotterdam is a city championing sustainable changes. For something a bit fun and different, Floating Farm is a must-do in the city! Literally, just what it says it is, Floating Farm is a small urban farm located in the west of the city on a floating pontoon. It’s a prototype for exploring how The Netherlands can make more efficient use of its abundance of water and bring farming closer to people. The urban farm operates a circular economy with solar panels providing energy and all of the cows’ poop reused and repurposed. Trimmings from local gardens and commercial food waste are used as food for the cows, and fruit grown in the lower level of the pontoon is used to flavour the dairy produced. Nifty, huh? It’s a seriously cool sustainable concept to go and see and support, plus something a bit different to do in the middle of a city break, right? Read this piece on Dezeen to learn a little bit more.
Right by Floating Farm, to the west of the city, Weelde is one of Rotterdam’s coolest hangouts. A bit ‘Hackney Wick’ vibes, it’s an outdoor space that brings together music, food, drink and art. By day, have a leisurely lunch/ brunch/ drink at one of its two eateries, and wander around the space. There’s loads of really impressive street art and murals, as Rotterdam hosted POW WOW! an international street art festival in 2018, and lots of the walls here have been used. Come evening, Weelde a hip nighttime hangout, with DJs and bars, fun little shacks that turn into disco huts and even a foil-wrapped rave bus which I can only imagine GOES OFF. It’s a super cool spot to check out.
Op Het Dak
Rotterdam likes to make good use of its rooftops and Op Het Dak (literally ‘on the roof’) is one of the city’s coolest cafes doing just that. The small rooftop kitchen and garden is perched up on the top of an unassuming commercial building, reached via a tiny lift and then a steep little ladder. Rooted in sustainability, Op Het Dak serves up healthy, fresh breakfast and lunch dishes, made often using the herbs, vegetables and fruit grown in its garden. It’s got a super relaxed vibe with raw understated interiors, a buzzy open kitchen, outdoor garden seating, and some tasty natural wines. Expect a queue: Op Het Dak is a small but popular spot but definitely worth the wait!
Héroine is a fantastic fine dining spot in Rotterdam, which feels really welcoming and relaxed, despite (surely) being on the cusp of Michelin-star status. Choose between three, five or seven courses (with optional wine pairing — I’d recommend!) and prepare to be seriously impressed. The menu changes regularly and focuses on local, seasonal produce. The space itself is beautiful, with an open-plan, industrial mid-century vibe, and a relaxed friendly atmosphere — not at all stuffy like some fancy restos. Absolutely loved it - one of the best fine dining experiences I’ve had.
This post is part of a paid press trip with Visit Holland and KLM Airlines, in celebration of KLM's 100 year anniversary, but all opinions and recommendations are my own. I flew to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol from London City with KLM, and took a direct train (quickest route is 28 minutes, from €14) to Rotterdam.