By: Georgette Diamandis
Rotterdam is a fascinating new city in an old historic town. Nearly bombed flat during World War II, the residents decided to reinvent it by encouraging modern architecture starting in the ’50s. Rotterdam has a young vibe and is comprised of over 160 nationalities making it the most multicultural city in The Netherlands. With over 40 architecturally distinct modern buildings Rotterdam represents everything from designers like Marcel Breur from Bauhaus School to architects of the De Stijl movement and the world famous cube houses of the ’70s.
Architectural guides can take you on a tour of the city. Our guide was Dagmar and she was cool! I’ve outlined some of my favorite stops below. Ready? Let’s go!
Restaurant Smaak, meaning “taste”, is in a historic 19th century warehouse saved from the bombs when the English disobeyed orders to bomb an enemy ammunition warehouse. From above, the grass-covered warehouse looks like a soccer field and that would have been sacrilegious to attack! The meals are small portions of new European fare, organic — when possible — and delicious.
There is also the unique Euromast, a 185-meter tower, which you can ride up in the Euroscoop and enjoy a romantic dinner at the top. The more adventurous can abseil down it!
THE GOLDEN TULIP HOTEL
The Golden Tulip Hotel is located at the foot of the architectural Erasmus bridge, which resembles a swan. It is also walking distance to the shopping center, across the river from the notable Hotel New York, and next to the Spido boat tour dock. My room was compact, quiet and clean, with wood floors and sparse modern architecture. It overlooked the River Maas and costs 140 euro on weekends. It was in the newer part of the hotel; the other part has been renovated but the rooms are smaller. The new wellness center on the roof has fitness machines, a pool and a sauna that discourages wearing bathing suits for hygiene purposes. Everyone in the sauna seemed confused, to the couple in their underwear, me in a towel and the guy behind me who was starkers!
SPIDO BOAT TOURS
Spido boat tours provides a great 90-minute tour of River Maas, where visitors can witness large ships and large, colorful containers on the river bank and view Rotterdam architecture from this important European port.
Rotterdam is also famous for live music and clubbing. You’ll find over 30 clubs from jazz clubs like Dizzy to Hollywood Music Hall for 20-somethings and lots of old pubs like Opa (meaning “grandpa” in Dutch), around the corner from the hotel.
The Hague or Den Hague as the Dutch call it, is a very sophisticated part of The Netherlands and reminds me of Versailles in France and no wonder … the Queen makes her home there! The boutiques and restaurants are very posh to serve the various Heads of State that are often there to work out of the Peace Palace (The Vredespaleis), a gift from Andrew Carnegie, which houses the Court of Arbitration and the International Court of Justice. Right downtown is the Panorama Mesdag, one of the few left-over painted panoramas from the 19th century, depicting Scheveningen, (the beach area of The Hague). Very peaceful. Enjoy a rijsttafel at Indonesian restaurant Garoeda, a casual multi-dish dining experience within walking distance to the residence of the Queen. We had a guide named Remko, whom I highly recommend if you want to really enjoy the town! “Greeters” are free but need to be booked in advance.
Part of the royal buildings is an art museum, Mauritshuis. Old Masters like Rembrandt, Rubens and Vermeer’s famous Girl with the Pearl Earringare exhibited in an elegant 17th century prince’s home. Entrance: 10 euro. A short tram ride from The Hague is Madurodam, a miniaturized version of all the important buildings in the Netherlands, reduced to a precise 1/25th of the original sizes. Many of the exhibits are moving like the planes at the airport and the boats in the river and therefore are great for kids and the young at heart.
THE ZUIDERZEE MUSEUM
The Zuiderzee Museum, meaning “South Sea”, is under the initial direction of visionary Erik Schlip and takes the word “museum” to new heights. A current exhibit, “Gone with the Wind” features everything the Dutch have contributed to the world of fashion, encompasses 12 rooms and is overseen by guest curators – well-known Dutch fashion designers Alexander van Slobbe and Francisco van Benthum. Other buildings (200 in all) are actual originals from the area and reconstructed on the site. New designers and artists add a modern day twist, such as the Delft “tiles” in one building featuring Michael Jackson, surfers and other modern icons. The train goes right to Enkhuizen from Amsterdam.
An easy train ride from Centraal station in Amsterdam is the medieval university town that has not changed much since the time the pilgrimslived there. The American Pilgrim Museum is a well-preserved house dating back to the 14th century, where the English pilgrims lived before coming to America. There is also Hortus Botanicus, the oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands, which started in 1587 with the first tulips imported from Turkey. Leiden is a great place to walk around and maps can be found at the tourist information center.
EDAM: NOT JUST A CHEESE
Edam is a picturesque medieval town to explore on bicycle, riding on top of the dykes and over narrow bridges. Rent bikes at Ton Tweewielers. It is also a nice place to walk around and if you want cheese, the market is open on Wednesdays.
Delta Works is a theme park for families based on the storm surge barrier in the south that cost billions to protect the Netherlands during severe floods, like the one in 1953, which killed 2,000 people. So far it has been closed 27 times. Interesting for technical people and fun for kids as Neeltejans has playgrounds, indoor exhibits and fun stations.
Nineteen old mills from the 18th century, preserved and made into a low-key park. Boat rides available for three euro and lectures as well. Be sure to ask for Ilsa. Kinderdijk is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi, I am Georgette, a writer and artist (here’s my website) based in Connecticut. I am also Johnny Jet’s older sister, who quite possibly ignited his first spark of interest in traveling to exotic places, when at the impressionable age of 14, he saw my trip to Australia last three years! Whether skiing in the mountains, snorkeling in the tropics, or exploring faraway cities, I am always game for traveling and the privilege of writing for my baby brother’s website JohnnyJet.com. Of course, coming home to my husband Cam, our dog Baci, and three cats – Ace, Arrow and Wizard – is great, too!
- Architectural guides
- Restaurant Smaak
- The Golden Tulip Hotel
- Spido boat tours
- The Hague
- Panorama Mesdag
- The Zuiderzee Museum
- Ton Tweewielers
- Georgette’s Blog
- Georgette’s Paintings