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Rotterdam

Innovation is the mantra in the Netherlands' second city, and the locals embrace it with an enthusiasm that makes a visit here an exciting proposition.

Innovation City

When German and allied bombers targeted Rotterdam in 1940 in WWII they left Rotterdammers with a daunting challenge – rebuilding the city almost from the ground up. An intrepid and visionary lot, the local authorities determined that their new city would be a modern metropolis rather than an ersatz recreation of a Golden Age port. This embrace of the contemporary with its vote of confidence in the future is something that has characterised the city ever since, resulting in a culture that is built on innovation – it's a city where cutting-edge design is enthusiastically adopted and underpins daily life.

Architecture & Urban Design

Tourist arrivals in Rotterdam are increasing every year and it's clear to everyone what the main attraction is: the city's world-class architecture and urban design. The local municipality has long been a crusader for innovative, sustainable and exciting architecture, and has shaped the physical form of the modern city to accommodate this. Projects such as the reimagining of the former docklands at Kop van Zuid (South Bank), home to the iconic De Rotterdam tower designed by superstar architect Rem Koolhaas; the magnificent Centraal Station redevelopment; the iconic Erasmus Bridge; and the utterly unique Markthal (Market Hall) make exploring in Rotterdam both eye-opening and hugely enjoyable.

Cafe Culture

Innovation here takes many forms, and one that is immediately apparent is the quality of the coffee served in the city's huge array of cafes. Until recently, there was only one coffee roastery in Rotterdam – the excellent Man Met Brill – but at last count there were 12, all roasting direct-trade beans to caffeinate coffee-obsessed locals. Cafes of every type (hipster hole-in-the-walls to traditional grand cafes) dot the city streets, functioning as work and study spaces for the digital generation as well as places where friends and family catch up over a drink or casual meal.

Waterways

Rotterdam's character was forged by its location on the New and Old Maas Rivers, close to the North Sea, and it is proud of its status as the largest port in Europe. Daily life involves lots of water-related action, with people driving or walking over a slew of graceful, architect-designed bridges; zipping from one riverbank to the other in bargain-priced watertaxis; or sauntering along picturesque inner-city canals. While here, visitors should do the same, as well as take a boat tour or board a fast ferry to visit nearby destinations including Dordrecht and Kinderdijk.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Rotterdam.