Rotterdam is very different from other cities in Holland. It is rather rougher around the edges, and has a big city-feel and lots of modern architecture, but no old city centre. Rotterdam was founded in the mid 13th century, but bombings during World War II destroyed the heart of the old city, and forced it to completely renew itself. Like other major Dutch cities, however, Rotterdam is full of culture, activities and attractions, and is famous for its water. It is located on the Maas river and is one of the world’s biggest port cities, with a harbour second in size only to Shanghai. The city is full of dock activities, and many people flock here for boating and other water-related sports. One of the best ways to tour the city is also by water, on one of he many popular boat or “water taxi” rides.
Rotterdam is also known for its bustling nightlife and its youth culture. It is the only city in Holland whose population is getting younger instead of older, and this is refected in its energetic feel, busy cultural agenda, and hip shopping and eating establishments. It has become a city that is lively, diverse and full of surprises, and has something for everyone to enjoy.
Holland has a mild and wet climate. Summer temperatures almost never get really hot, and on average stay between 17 - 26˚C (63 - 79˚F). Temperatures also rarely drop below freezing in the winter, and generally stay between 2 - 13˚C (35.5 - 55˚ F). It still manages to feel quite cold, however, partly due to it being frequently damp and windy. Rain is common and should be expected at any time of year. The best stretches of weather often occur in the fall, when there tends to be more sun, and the days are warm with a crisp breeze.
The language spoken in Rotterdam is Dutch. The vast majority of people in Holland can speak English, however, and in the major cities and touristy places they are generally quite fluent.
The Netherlands is known as a country where religion is not very popular, and it has the highest percentage of athiests of any country. Only about 39% of the population defines themselves as religious. Catholics make up the largest religious group, followed by Protestants, and there is now also a sizeable Muslim population. There are also small numbers of Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists making up collectively less than 3% of the population.
The currency which is used in the Netherlands is the Euro. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, € 0.50, € 0.20, € 0.10, € 0.05.
Service charges are almost always included in restaurant bills and taxi fares, but additional tipping is customary. For small bills in restaurants, it is normal to just round up the bill, or add a euro or two if the service was excellent. For larger bills, you can tip between 5-10%, but should not feel obligated to tip if the service was not satisfactory. In general, the Dutch are stingy about tipping, and just give whatever they feel like, not worrying about the percentage. When taking taxis, however, a tip of around 10% is customary. Hotel room service will also expect a small tip, as well as porters and restroom attendants.
Sales tax in The Netherlands is 19%, and is included in the shop prices. This tax can be refunded to tourists from outside of the EU whenever €50 or more is spent in the same shop on the same day. This only works in shops participating in Global Refund Tax Free Shopping, most of which display a sign in the window. Along with your receipt, the shop will present you with a form to fill out, to give to officials at the airport. All you have to do to get your refund is go to the Global Cash Refund Office before check in (in departure hall 3). Note that whatever you buy has to leave The Netherlands within three months for you to get a refund.
There are public telephones all over Rotterdam, which can be found on the street, in train stations, post offices, and some other establishments. Some of them take cash, but most take only phone cards or credit cards. You can buy phone cards in values of € 5, 10, or 20 at tobacco shops, telecom shops, newsstands, and post offices.
The country code of The Netherlands is +31 and the area code for Rotterdam is 010. To dial a number in Rotterdam from abroad, dial 00 31 10 followed by the local number.
There are many internet cafés throughout Rotterdam, easy recognizable on the commercial streets in the centre of the city. Most of them also feature long distance phone calls, photocopying, fax, printing, and other services. Many regular cafés also offer free wifi.
All-purpose emergency number (ambulance, fire and police): 112
In general, shops are open Mon - Fri 10 am - 6 pm and Sat 10 am - 4 pm. Some shops open at 9 am, and supermarkets and other big stores often stay open until 8 or 9 pm. It is also not uncommon for stores to open later on Monday. On Thursday night many shops stay open late, until 8 or 9 pm. Most stores are closed on Sunday, but night shops or “avondwinkels” stay open. These shops are also open nightly until about 1 or 2 am.
Banks are open Mon- Fri from 9 am- 4 or 5 pm. Post offices also open at 9 am and close at 5 or 6 pm.
On the following days, most shops, banks and museums will be closed, and public transport is likely to be more limited.
1 January, New Year’s Day
Easter Sunday and Monday
30 April, Queen’s Day
5 May, Liberation Day
Whit Sunday and Monday
25 and 26 December, Christmas
Rotterdam is generally a safe city, and tourists should have no apprehensions about travelling here. Crime rates are higher in Rotterdam that elsewhere in the Netherlands, however, and there are the usual problems that visitors need to be wary of, such as pickpocketing and con scams. Following common sense procedures should guarantee you a safe stay in the city, however. Always keep your money in a very secure place, and no not carry all of your cash with you at once. Be particularly careful on public transport and in touristy locations. Also, avoid the parks and the seedier neighbourhoods at night.
Rotterdam has a variety of interesting attractions, and is also well known for its modern architecture. What the city lacks in old world charm, it makes up for in boundary-pushing modern buildings, such as the famous cube houses in the centre, which you can see if you walk along the Haringvliet canal. They are flats that look like cubes, leaning outwards and balanced on the corner rather than one of the sides. There are also impressive suspension bridges, such as the white Erasmusbrug, nicknamed “the swan,” and the red Willemsbrug. And there are still a few places where you can get a glimpse of old Rotterdam, such as the Deltshaven open air museum, featuring old gabled houses along the waterfront and a port area reconstructed to look just like it did when it was built.
The city also has many beautiful and peaceful parks, spread out all over town. There are large wooded parks as well as small green parks and sculpture gardens. These are great places to relax, and in warm weather are used as venues for a wide range of festivals and performances.
The only area of the old city that still remains intact, Delfshaven is an area of historic houses, atmospheric cafés, restaurants, and galleries. Many of the buildings in the area have been refurbished and reconstructed to appear just as they did centuries ago. Most of the buildings date from the 17th century, an age of wealth and bustling trading in Holland. Some of the main attractions within the Delfshaven district are the working historic mill, Korenmolen de Distilleerketel, and the Oudekerk or “old church.”
This is one of the best zoos in the Netherlands, and features animals from all over the world, all in realistic approximations of their natural habitats. As you walk through the various areas you can imagine yourself transported to vastly different climes. One of the main attractions here is also the Oceanium, which is home to a wide array of sealife including ocean and coastal creatures, exotic fish, puffins, penguins, sea otters, snakes, sharks and jellyfish.
Opening times: Summer: Daily 9 am - 6 pm, Other months: Daily 9 am - 5 pm
Entrance prices: € 17.50 for adults, € 14.50 for children ages 3 - 9
Euromast and Space Adventure
This tall tower was built in 1960, but has been increased in height twice since then. It is now over 600 feet high and the tallest building in the Netherlands. The last time the tower was increased in height was in 1970 when the 85 m Space Tower was added. The Euromast gives visitors a spectacular view of the city, and from here you can see the historic Delfshaven area as well as most of the rest of Rotterdam. On clear days, you can just see the coast in the distance. There are also interesting things to do and see within the tower, such as changing exhibitions and the Space Cabin ride. This ride takes you to the topmost viewing platform in a super fast elevator emulating a rocket takeoff, and slowly turns in orbit until it reaches the height of 185 metres.
Opening times: Apr - Sept: Daily 9.30 am - 11 pm, Oct - Mar: Daily 10 am - 11 pm
Entrance price: € 8.30 for adults, € 5.40 for children ages 4 - 11, € 7.20 for seniors
A nature preserve in northeastern Rotterdam near the Kralingen district, this is a popular place for walking, swimming and water sports. It is a very scenic spot, 550 acres in total, with lots of woods and a large lake. There are several facilities for water sports and some restaurants, and even when the weather is too cold for going in the water, it is a beautiful and peaceful place for a stroll.
Located outside of Rotterdam at the Hoek van Holland (a half hour’s train ride from the centre of Rotterdam), this is a fascinating exhibition/musuem. It tells all about flood and water management in Holland, both today and throughout the country’s history. It is both educational and fun, with lots of interactive exhibits and miniatures of flood walls, polders and villages. It explains the mysteries of how the Dutch have reclaimed land from the sea, and how the country stays flood-free even though most of it is below sea level. Entrance is free.
Opening times: Mon- Fri 10 am- 4 pm, Sat and Sun 11 am- 5 pm
This church was built in 1417 as the Chapel of Sint Anthonius, but has undergone several changes since then. In the late Gothic period it was enlarged and renovated in an updated style, and in 1761 it was further changed by raising the ceilings. There is an ornate clock tower, added at the end of the 18th century, and the church as it appears today is much the same as in that period. The church was important historically, as it was a place many pilgrims gathered before embarking on their journey to the New World.
Opening times: Sat 1 pm - 4 pm
This beautiful church was built between 1449 - 1525, and is known for its three historic organs. The main organ is one of the largest in all of Europe. The church stands out from its modern surroundings, and miraculously survived the bombings during World War II. It was damaged during the war, but rebuilt in 1940, and retains much of its original grandeur. Visitors can climb the church tower for a lovely view of the city, and many come here for the frequent classical music concerts held throughout the year.
Opening times: Tues - Sat 10 am - 4 pm
A beautiful botanical garden in the middle of the city, the Museumpark is divided into different sections, each with its own distinct layout and vegetation. In the warmer months the park is awash with a rainbow of colours from all the different kinds of flowers, and there are lovely trees everywhere as well. One of the best places in the park is near to the bridge, by the memorial for city engineer G.J. de Jongh. Here there is a beautiful mosaic put together by many of the city’s artists, representing Rotterdam and its environs in the 1920s.
This sculpture garden and arboretum is situated on the bank of a canal and is home to sculptures made over the past 100 years. Some of the most famous ones include Rodin’s L’homme qui marche, Henri Lauren’s La Grande Musicienne, and Umberto Mastroianni’s Gli Amanti.
The Rotterdam Kunsthal hosts major temporary exhibitions - from an Andy Warhol retrospective to rows of compact cars - in a massive, multi-story exhibition center. This art center, the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum and the Netherlands Architect Institute form the cultural triangle of museums in Rotterdam’s museum park.
A large, beautiful park on the Maas river, this park was built on the rubble left after Rotterdam was bombed, and has transformed a ruined area of the city into a peaceful haven. There are old and exotic trees, ponds, streams, and grassy places, as well as some unusual buildings and nice restaurants. Deep in the middle of the park is a labyrinth and the Heerenhuys, a mansion dating from 1800.
A “pleasure garden” founded in 1820, this is a lovely place for a stroll where you can see a wide variety of trees, bushes, perennials and bulb flowers, growing together in a lush, well-maintained array of greenery and colour. The arboretum is spread over six hectacres and is a popular attraction, visited by some 60,000 people a year.
By far the largest park in Rotterdam, the Kralingse Wood contains 550 acres of trees, with a big lake in the middle, located to the northeast of the city. It is the most popular park in Rotterdam for joggers and skaters, and is also an ideal place for walking. There are water sports centres here, and visitors can sail on the lake, and go canoeing, rowing and swimming.