Rotterdam is the city that keeps on giving. It’s always changing and always pushing those social and creative boundaries.
So how to know where to go and what to eat/see/do in Europe’s most elusive city? Here’s a cheat sheet with some off-the-beaten-path entertainment and dining hot spots that will leave a mark on your mind (and on your stomach).
Once the main hub of Rotterdam, the now defunct railway station is breathing new life as a redesigned social space. You’ll be glad that the people of Rotterdam successfully rallied to save this part of the city from demolition. It’s a standout cultural hotspot. With cafes, cool stores and trendy bars each housed under the arches of the old railway bridge, this is an area that attracts the creative and musically inclined. The popular cosy live music venue, The Bird, is the drawcard to the area and is home to open mic nights – a must visit spot if you’re looking to hang with the local crowd.
Witte de Withstraat
This is the centrepiece of cool in the city centre, literally. Located in the appropriately named ‘Cool District,’ this strip is home to funky cafes, small bars and chic eats. What makes a stroll through this strip even more pleasant is the colourful and alternative street art on every surface in sight. On one wall you’ll see a topless woman, on another a colourful gentleman with a top hat. You’d expect this popular strip in the heart of the city to be a tourist trap, but it isn’t. Strolling along here, sipping a latte, and you’ll feel like a hip Rotterdam local in no time. Witte De Straat gets even better after dark, too. Come at night and the strip is abuzz with people venturing in and out of offbeat bars along the street. The perfect spot for an urban food and drink adventure.
Walking into Markthal foodhall is like entering the hull of a giant futuristic spaceship. Opening in 2014, Markthal has fast become one of Rotterdam’s top tourist attractions due to its unique positioning as an urban dwelling and a food market hall all in one. Stepping inside you’ll immediately spot the modern day ‘Michelangelo’ art mural covering the massive arched ceiling. Camouflaged within the world’s largest multi-storey art piece are apartments overlooking the Markthal.
At ground level the Markthal is a mixture of restaurants and independent food and drink stores selling typical Dutch street eats. Think stroopwafels (waffles), kibberling (fried fish pieces), croquettes, cheese as well as food from all over the world, including tapas and Turkish kebabs. What’s really cool about it is that all the seating is on the roofs of the stalls themselves, so you can soak up the open space and watch life below while you feast on your gourmet market street eats. Come on an empty stomach as samples are everywhere and you’ll likely want to eat everything you can cast your eyes on.
Fenix Food Factory
Sometimes crossing a city’s river can be a controversial thing to do. Many cities have the old ‘North Vs South’ thing going on, but rest assured you’ll be happy to have made the crossing to the north of Rotterdam. Along the northern river bank is Fenix Food Factory, housing independent food stores and a brewery amongst an art deco open space which could easily be mistaken for a giant lounge room.
In the summer time, I was told that food trucks park themselves along the entrance to the harbour front side, making the place sound like it would be all the rage. Unfortunately, the day I visited the weather was quite contrary so inside I stayed. Not a big deal – the food was why I was there in the first place. Local Dutch eats, boutique beers, an upmarket butcher, Moroccan delights and a sensational smelling bakery are all on offer. I could have spent all my euros there and then – the quality of all food and drink offerings was second to none. A must visit place for those who take pleasure in the simple things in life.
Want to visit Rotterdam? Too easy. Check out our small group trips in the Netherlands.