Last year I had an incredible summer of travel: I explored South America for three weeks and got to see Machu Picchu, I spent a sunshine filled weekend in Seville but the biggest and most pleasant surprise was Rotterdam.
My husband and I were in Rotterdam for the weekend for the North Sea Jazz Festival (which by the way was an incredible festival), without this we would never have thought to visit this vibrant European city.
Rotterdam was named in Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Best in Travel in 2016 and I can see why. Rotterdam is Amsterdam’s cool little sister. If you are looking for an alternative European city break then I can highly recommend this Dutch city!
What sets Rotterdam apart from other European cities?
Rotterdam is a new city
During the Second World War Rotterdam was almost completely destroyed and brought down to rubble. This was obviously incredibly devastating and they set to work quickly to rebuild their city. This led to the design of a brand new city that works in the modern age, which is why the architecture here is so different to the traditional feel of Utrecht and Amsterdam.
Many of the European cities that are seen again and again in top 10 travel lists are old cities like Rome, Paris and Barcelona. Beautiful and important in their own ways, but in Rotterdam you can experience how a city should be built for the modern era. All the infrastructure works so well!
Its a beautiful city with mainly modern architecture, although some of the suburbs are still full of traditional buildings. Rotterdam is a design led city full of iconic buildings. We loved the skyscrapers of all different shapes reflecting the Nieuwe Maas river surrounding them below. And don’t miss the Erasmus Bridge which connects the north and southern parts of the city. I think one of the reasons Rotterdam is unlike like any other European city I’ve travelled to is its design.
It takes less than an hour to fly to Rotterdam
For Londoners and most of the UK, Rotterdam is very close by and not expensive to travel to. If London based you can fly from City Airport with British Airways in just 50 minutes! Or if you’re more conscious about using trains over planes you can be in Rotterdam in about 4 hours from St Pancras International train station.
Oh and if you like Jazz (new or old, we were mainly there to see Jamiroquai!) then make sure you check out The North Sea Jazz Festival. It is one of the best music festivals I’ve ever been to. Every little detail has been though of, it offers an incredible range of live music and the crowd is a great mix of all ages.
The locals make this city. Rotterdam is the friendliest city in Europe I have had the pleasure of visiting. We couldn’t get over how welcoming and helpful people were, and everyone is always smiling!
Why Rotterdam makes the perfect destination for a weekend break
Food is always going to be one of the top reasons for me to travel somewhere!
There is the famous Markthal. This interesting looking building houses an incredible array of different food stalls, restaurants, a supermarket and apartments that go the whole way around and look into the market hall. Artwork covers the ceiling of the arch making it a very vibrant place to explore.
There are lots of great independent restaurants and a great food market down on the river in an old warehouse called Fenix Food Factory which is the perfect spot to spend an afternoon.
The architecture and museums
I really do think the stunning architecture is one of the biggest draws of Rotterdam. We walked everywhere and loved coming across such an array of different looking buildings.
Rotterdam is also home to a great selection of museums. The Museumpark lies in the centre of town, the location for a number of the best museums, and most of the others are within 15 minutes walk. There is a special combined ticket available which you can use to visit all museums in the Museumpark at a reduced price. There is a super cool looking photography museum down by the river, unfortunately it was closed on the day we went past, but definitely worth a look!
Witte de Withstraat is Rotterdam’s most famous nightlife street: it is lined with restaurants and bars. We loved the vibe around here as there is a lot of outdoor seating so you can sip your cocktails whilst you people watch on a warm summers evening.
All through the city there are some great bars for all different budgets. The neighbourhood bars are just as cool, dotted on street corners and open until late, we often had a nightcap in some cool little bar. We stayed in an Airbnb just to the north of the centre and it felt very much like East London.
Easy to navigate
It is so easy to get around Rotterdam! You can get all over the city by bus, tram and metro. Or if its sunny like it was for us, you can walk. The city can easily be explored over two days!
There is the option of a Hop on Hop off bus or there is also the historic tram line 10. Both will take you past many of the tourist attractions of Rotterdam and you can get on or off whenever you feel like it. There is also the water taxis that look like great fun to help you get from A to B.
Where is your favourite weekend break destination? Do you prefer city breaks or country retreats?
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