Visiting Rotterdam? Don’t miss these 4 areas of typical architecture

Visiting Rotterdam architecture

If you’re visiting Rotterdam you want to catch all the highlights. But in this city, the highlights are all scattered around town. That’s because the city center was bombed to pieces in the Second World War, leaving a void that “we” filled up in the 75 years since the great bombing of May 1940. You can find many memorial places on this event, but that’s for another story.

For now, I’m going to walk you through the four areas of Rotterdam that you definitely don’t want to miss on your city trip. And not surprisingly, those four are dominated by distinctive pieces of architecture created since the war. Now they thrive and give you important pieces of the Rotterdam experience. Enjoy!

The cubic houses

One of the best places to roam in Rotterdam: the area of the cubic houses. These weird houses on sticks resemble a forest and that’s exactly the nickname the Rotterdammers gave the place: het Blaakse Bos. Together, the houses form a “bridge” over the road. For a walk beneath the residential canopies, get up the stairs at the main market square (Blaak) and be stunned.

You’ll be more stunned finding the old harbor on the other side, a historical piece of the city and a true oasis. Take some time off on one of many terraces by the water and love the view of the old ships, the dock (still in use!), the “White House” and the red bridge (Willemsbrug) in the background.

On a nice day the bright yellow cubes really stand out against the blue sky, making for impressive photo-spots. There’s even a museum cube you can visit to find out what the cubic houses look like on the inside. And how the people decorate these houses, where not one wall is straight.

After all of this, you are just a few steps away from the river side. From here you can take a nice walk with the most amazing view on the island (Noordereiland) in the river Maas with its old houses. And walk towards he famous silver bridge, Erasmusbrug, and the skyscrapers around it. One one which is De Rotterdam.

Spotify tip while reading this little guide on Rotterdam:

The Rotterdam: tallest skyscraper

De Rotterdam is one of the youngest architectural facts of Rotterdam. It’s a true colossus and an impressive sight. You can get there by public transportation, but if you have time it’s more fun to cross the bridge on foot.

Apart from the impressive size of the block toy (another nickname of the Rotterdammers), there’s more to it. First of all, the historical area of Kop van Zuid will give you the (windy) feel of old Rotterdam. This is the heart of the old commercial harbor and the famous America cruises (the Holland-America line). With a bit of luck you’ll see one of the contemporary cruises parked in front of the Rotterdam building: yet another impressive tower, this time on the water. In the cruise reception hall these days there are many cool events organized throughout the year.

Another reason to visit De Rotterdam is the bar / restaurant on the 6th floor. This place is right in front of the bridge and gives you a unique view over the city center from the south side of the river. It’s nice to get a cup of coffee and see the water taxis race the river back and forth. And if you’re up for it, take one of those back to the other side of the river. You will find them at the far end of this semi-island, next to the New York Hotel.

Hungry after the walk? Then cross the bridge right next to the water taxis to the old neighborhood of Katendrecht and visit the Fenix Food Factory. This is the right moment for trying food and drinks from the local area in one of the old, renovated warehouses. Bon apetit!

Central Station and area

You can’t miss it, even if you try. This is where you enter the city coming from the airports and right when you walk out, you’re up for a gasp of surprise: our brand new train station. It was only inaugurated two years ago and its impressive size and shape show you: Rotterdam is a city of modern architecture, baby!

Apart from the Central Station itself, there are some other points of interest. The first is the Groothandelsgebouw, right next to the station. It’s the oldest building in this area and one of the first integrated buildings in the Netherlands. An example for architecture students when it was built in the 1950s: it was meant to offer everything that its users needed within its own compound. You didn’t need to leave for your groceries, gardens, restaurants, work, and entertainment.

Today, it’s the largest hub of companies within one building in the Netherlands: there are about 160 tenants. At night, one of the coolest cocktail bars of town are found within it as well: the Suicide Club. In summer, this is a great place to hang out on the roof terrace.

Further down the road of the station you find the diamond shaped Calypso buildings in many shades of red and grey. They make for fantastic pictures and indicate the start of the shopping area. Opposite of the road and canal you find Chinatown with the best Asian restaurants and supermarkets in town. A great area to just wander around and buy an ice cream.

The Market Hall

The latest building of the city center is the Market Hall. It was inspired by the market of Barcelona, among others, and offers many fancy places for trying foods and drinks from all over the world.

There are two other amazing things about the market hall: first of all its location. This was exactly the place where, over 2000 years ago, the first settlers built their lives along the river Maas. You are literally standing on the cradle of Rotterdam!

All you have to do is take the elevators down in the middle of the market hall and start your trip through time. Because when they were constructing this market hall, they found artifacts from these settlers and all the people who lived here since them right on this location. And the things they found here are displayed in little rooms underneath the market hall, right in the layers where they were found. You can take the elevator all the way to the lowest floor, where computers reconstruct Rotterdam for you. And each floor up shows you a more recent era with the artifacts they found belonging there. This trip will give you another level of understanding Rotterdam as a city without having to visit an actual museum.

The second asset of the market hall is the ceiling. It’s a giant piece of art and in fact the largest piece of glass art in the world. It shows the wide range of food products sold here in bright colors and a gigantic scale. It’s a spectacle and will keep you looking upwards for a long while. Don’t be surprised if you catch yourself yelling something along the lines of “look, an eggplant!!”.

So, visiting Rotterdam?

We hope we have inspired you! With these four walks through very distinctive areas of Rotterdam, you now have a rough idea of what the city has to offer. And these are only the highlights; there is so much more…