Time for another Tulip entry! Our last blog covered the sites of Amsterdam and it’s surroundings during the first 3 days aboard the Timeless Tulips cruise. Today we’re taking on Rotterdam, Amsterdam’s rival city in the south. Known for it’s avant-garde architecture and robust marine history, Rotterdam boasts the largest port in the Netherlands and in all of Europe as well. While on the surface appeal may lack the romantic charm of it’s northern counterpart, there is still plenty of heart abound among the hidden alleyways and attitudes of the hardworking inhabitants. Day 4 of the cruise starts bright early, giving you time to enjoy your included city walking tour and roam around on your own (if you decide not to go on the optional excursion to Delft/Hague, that is!) Here we’ll give you the rundown in Rotterdam: what you’ll see on the walking tour along with Tea’s tips of additional areas to visit.
Meet your local guide at the Boompjes to begin your city walking tour (approx. 2 hours). After a short port-side stroll, you’ll find yourself at the Oude Haven, or the old harbor. Created in 1350 after the damming of river Rotte, Oude Haven is the oldest harbor in Rotterdam, with a small shipyard restoring historic vessels to their original splendor. Behind the harbor are a few interesting buildings serving as a contemporary backdrop to an otherwise antique arena. These architecturally significant structures are comprised of the Witte Huis (White House) to the left and, of course, the famed cube houses to the right.
Some past passengers lament the “lack of charm” in the overall appearance of Rotterdam compared to it’s canal-lined counterpart to the north…but upon hearing the city’s wartime history, quickly change their mind. Rotterdam was a target of WWII bombings and the majority of it completely decimated during the Rotterdam Blitz in 1940. Comparing images of the carnage to what can be seen today, gives one a greater understanding and appreciation for the people’s resilience through to the present-day, cementing this city as a true “comeback kid.” Your guide will treat you to tales of Rotterdam’s historic past while marveling at it’s modern-day architectural achievements.
One of them – Witte Huis or White House – built in 1898 in art nouveau style is known for being Europe’s first skyscraper. It was one of few buildings in Rotterdam city center to survive the German bombing in 1940 and is now listed as an UNESCO World Heritage site. Today, visitors can enjoy the exterior and experience the interior at the Witte Cafe housed on the ground floor, offering views of Oude Haven…but we’ll coffee talk later! For now, make your way past this national monument toward the “Kodak worthy” cube houses (or am I dating myself with that reference? Lol!)
Rotterdam’s “unofficial” architectural mascot stands above you, the iconic cubes more impressive in-person. This collection of houses, designed by Piet Blom in the late 70’s, were created with the concept of “living as an urban roof”: high density housing with sufficient space on the ground level, since its main purpose is to optimize the space inside. A truly innovative take on the idea of small space living. Walk through the courtyard, gazing up at the pointed rooftops and angled facades looming above (you may even catch a glimpse of a curious cat perched on a windowsill as these houses are indeed inhabited! Come through the courtyard to the other side and turn around for one more angle on Blom’s design before making your way across the street to the main square.
You’ve made it to the main square! A lot has been covered in a few short meters (still only about 10 mins away from the ship!) Once in the center of the square, do a 360 turn to associate yourself with additional architectural landmarks. Adjacent to the Piet Blom’s cube houses stands Blom’s other creation, the Blaaktoren (Pencil Tower), a residential building from 1984 named after it’s distinctive design. Immediately across from the Pencil is the magnificent Markthal (Market Hall).
Before entering the colossal glass-encased marketplace, make a pitstop at a fun little monument out front. The Toonder Monument, named after Marten Toonder, was unveiled in 2002 depicting four characters from the beloved Rotterdam-born comic artist’s creations. Next, step inside the grand entrance of the horseshoe-shaped Markthal building. Take a brief tour along the different food and souvenir stalls of the market hall, encompassed by residential units (look up at the ceiling to see windows from the apartments). Opened in 2014, the Markthal stands as a modern living space and meeting place for locals and visitors alike.
After meandering through Markthal, cross Hoogstraat (the main pedestrian shopping street) to see something a bit older than 2014: Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk or St. Laurence Church. Built between 1449 and 1525, this protestant church was also heavily damaged in the Rotterdam Blitz of 1940. However, after avoiding total demolition, the church was restored in 1968 and is only remnant of medieval Rotterdam.
Head down Hoogstraat and loop back toward the Nieuwe Maas for one last stop in front the Maritime Museum. Established in 1874, the Maritime Museum offers tremendous insight into Rotterdam’s extensive naval history. One interesting feature of the museum is the neighboring open-air Maritime Museum Harbor. Although entry to the museum is on your own time, you’ll still be able to see an impressive collection of historic vessels and cranes which have been maintained in working condition.
Complete your city walking tour back at Boompjes where you’ll board the ship to enjoy lunch while overlooking the Erasmus Bridge. Recognized as the second largest bridge in the Netherlands, it was completed in 1996 and named after the Renaissance Humanist Erasmus aka Erasmus of Rotterdam. Erasmusbrug is Rotterdam’s most prominent landmark and even included in the city’s logo. Prepare for your optional excursion the Delft / Hague OR an afternoon in Rotterdam until dinner and/or departure time.