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Harbour city of Holland: Rotterdam

Throughout the world, Rotterdam is known as the gateway to Europe. With its world port, this world city makes the economic heart of the Netherlands beat smoothly and steadily. Rotterdam never ceases to amaze and captures the imagination of all those that visit. For 42 years, Rotterdam held the title of largest port in the world.

In recent years, cities such as Shanghai and Singapore have taken Rotterdam’s crown, but this no-nonsense city remains one of the largest ports in the world and it retains its title of being Europe’s largest. Rotterdam offers its visitors an impressive skyline, which includes the gracious Erasmus Bridge and the audacious new international railway station. But this proud maritime city has so much more to offer. CityZapper’s editors selected the best tips and advice on Rotterdam for you, and the team created this online city guide to make your visit to the city an unforgettable one. Rest assured that you’ll only get to see the city’s best and most unique sights, spots and venues.
Rotterdam is a diverse and multicultural city, bursting at the seams with fun things to see and do. If you’re a culture aficionado, then explore the city’s architectural masterpieces such as the Cube Houses and the Kunsthal contemporary art museum. Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, on the other hand, will take you on a voyage of discovery that’ll lead you to different cultures, art forms and eras.
If you want to party in Rotterdam, then the city’s vibrant nightlife has plenty to offer. Enjoy Middle Eastern cuisine at Bazar, located in the city’s single coolest street, Witte de Withstraat. Move on to the Maassilo, a former grain elevator, to dance the night away in a spectacular industrial setting. There’s no need to venture beyond Rotterdam’s city limits If you fancy a break from hectic city life since this small metropolis is one of The Netherlands’ greenest cities!  Who would have thought it? A nice picnic in Kralingse Bos, a large park north of the city centre, or a relaxing boat trip on one of the city’s waterways or lakes will guarantee you the rest and relaxation you’re looking for.
Rotterdam has many strings to its bow. The city has something to offer for everyone and one weekend will not be enough to really get under the skin of this rather un-Dutch city. This makes a city break to this impressive city, that has risen from the ashes like a phoenix, unavoidable!


Rotterdam’s heart truly started beating in 1270, when a dam was constructed in the small Rotte River: A fishing town was born. Soon after, both shipping and trade started to develop. From this moment on, Rotterdam experienced a steady growth. At the end of the 16th century, the city’s port was further enlarged and developed after which Rotterdam’s population grew to 20.000. However, at this moment in time and compared to other Dutch cities, Rotterdam was still only in its infancy.
The 17th century saw Rotterdam’s population increase from 20.000 to 50.000. However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that the industrial revolution drove hundreds of thousands of people to Rotterdam, in search of work and of a better life. By the 20th century, Rotterdam’s population reached its peak.
On 14 May 1940, Rotterdam lost its heart, its city centre and its innocence during the aerial bombardment of the city by the Luftwaffe, the German air force. Four days into the Second World War, The Netherlands was forced to witness how its second city and her people paid the ultimate price of war. The devastated city burned for days. However, the enormous resolve and willpower of the people of Rotterdam ensured that the city would soon start rebuilding its centre and its port. Only four days after the Rotterdam Blitz, a decision to rebuild was taken.
Around 1950, Rotterdam’s heart started beating once again, and the city that was slowly rising from the ashes like a phoenix saw new life and a bright new future ahead. The reconstruction of the city brought prosperity and employment to Rotterdam which in turn meant that more labour was needed in the form of migrant workers, the first of whom arrived at the end of the 1950s.
By 1962, Rotterdam had become the world’s largest port. It is often said that the people of Rotterdam are born with their sleeves already rolled up, a reference to the great work ethic of Rotterdammers, as the city’s inhabitants are called. And history agrees with this value.  During the 1970s, it was agreed upon that the city centre should become more vibrant and more bustling again. This meant that more houses had to be built in Rotterdam’s centre; urban renewal had started in Rotterdam. This process continued during the 1980s and key issues were: municipal, economic and social regeneration. Urban renewal was necessary to make Rotterdam future-proof so to speak. The arrival of migrant workers meant that the city had become a veritable melting pot of cultures.
The Meuse River plays a prominent part in the past, the present and the future of both the city and the port of Rotterdam. It is vital to Rotterdam’s role as a world port and the river’s hinterland emphasizes the fact that Rotterdam truly is the gateway to Europe. The city is divided into a northern and a southern part by the Meuse. The Erasmus Bridge connects both sides of the river and plays an important part in the city centre’s ongoing expansion south of the river.
Rotterdam has undergone an admirable transformation, from bombed out ruin to a dynamic city with a wealth of post-war architecture. The city is home to more than 600.000 people that share a passion for their beloved city.