A little while back we headed to the Dutch port city of Rotterdam to shoot our “Office Hours” campaign. Why Rotterdam you may wonder? Well, even though this city seems to make less noise than its sister Amsterdam, it has the most insane skyline—and by insane we mean that those architects may have been enjoying some of the weed going around town.
Jokes aside, during the few days we spent in Rotterdam we discovered an incredibly lively city with a rich cultural scene, unique architecture, and many of those hip spots we all like to spend some time at. The overall vibe is very chilled and easy-going, we’re pretty sure the amount of open space, as well as the abundance of bikes maybe have something to do with that. Riding your bike can be pretty relaxing when no one’s trying to run you over (hi Brussels, how are you?). Anyway, there’s no doubt in our mind that you’ll end up in Rotterdam at some point, so here’s a few tips and addresses for you to check out.
DISCOVER - EAT - SHOP
The one place you can’t afford to miss in Rotterdam definitely is the Museum Park. A peaceful green garden in the center with all of the city’s most renowned museums and galleries within a five-minute walk from each other.
We started at the Kunsthal: this modern building designed by Rem Koolhaas hosts contemporary exhibits of modern art, design, fashion and photography. Oh and check out the museum’s café, the concrete ceiling is quite spectacular. Kinda reminds us of some our own stores actually.
On the other side of the park, you’ll find the famous Boijmans Van Beuningen museum which has an impressive collection of modern art, really worth the visit. Goya or Rembrandt, Rothko or Cézanne… You name it, they have it. Then head to Het Nieuw Instituut, a true temple of architecture and design. The entrance is not cheap, but it includes a tour of the Sonneveld Huis across the street; a visit that will take you back to the 1930s, offering a glimpse at the life of a Dutch family with impeccable taste, with their house (designed by Brinkman & Van der Vlugt) completely embracing Modernism.
If you’re craving even more culture after that, Rotterdam still has a lot to offer. As locals like to say, the best art isn’t necessarily found inside. During World War 2, the city was virtually razed to the ground, giving the opportunity to a generation of cutting-edge architects to rebuild a strikingly modern—somewhat experimental—city. Hop on your bike and take a ride from the surrealist Cube House designed by Piet Blom to the Luchtsingel, a pedestrian bridge painted yellow (!) by local artists as a metaphor for bridging the gaps between people.
If you feel like pedaling a little more why not go all the way to the Shipping Transport College, one of the numerous gravity-challenging buildings in Rotterdam located in the industrial Delfhaven district. Finally, go on and cross the Erasmusbrug—also known as “The Swan”— elegantly connecting the Northern and Southern part of Rotterdam, split in two by the River Maas. On the other side you’ll see the most surprising open-air art installation in the city : a floating forest (Dobberend Bos).
EAT & DRINK
If you’ve followed the guide until now, you’re at the right place to get some food. A stone’s throw away from Dobberend Bos you can find the Fenix Food Factory— Rotterdam’s version of Copenhagen’s Papieroen pretty much. Located in a former warehouse, everything in this place is fresh and local: the bread is baked on the spot, the coffee freshly roasted, even the beer is brewed right there. You get the picture, it’s the perfect spot to shop fresh products and experience all kind of local delicacies.
While you’re in the neighborhood take a moment to walk around the blocks, there are plenty of cool spots hidden here and there, like Walhalla Theater, Kopi Soesoe, De Matroos en het Meisje, and many more.
Obviously, there’s no way around the Markthal when it comes to food. A little cleaner and more touristy than the Fenix Food Factory, it offers a ton of food stalls plus an impressive ceiling and overall architecture, right in the heart of the city. While we’re in the vicinity we might as well mention another eatery that instantly won us over: Picknick on the Mariniersweg. All day breakfast & all day lunch, made with fresh and local ingredients? We’re not saying no.
Out of the various different shopping areas that Rotterdam has to offer, there’s two that made our hearts beat a little faster. Obviously, the Pannekoekstraat is a no-brainer for us. Not only does this street have the sweetest name ever (“pannekoek” being Dutch for pancake) but our own Bellerose store is located here as well. Don’t hesitate to drop by and say hi to Tariq and his team. Down the street you’ll also find a few thrift stores, a few really nice boutiques (such as Ou or Objet Trouvé), a few great spots to eat and a specialized cigar store for those that want to live it up. Right next to the Pannekoekstraat you’ll find De Meent where you can find a fine selection of current fashion brands.
Backtracking to the Museum Park area you’ll find our other favorite, the well-known Witte de Withstraat, which is a cosy street chock-full of coffee shops, art galleries, shops and restaurants. Sit down on one of the many terraces and soak up that Rotterdam vibe.
Rotterdam is often referred to as Manhattan by the Maas and quite frankly, that’s not too far from the truth. With architecture this diverse, a cultural offer this broad, and so many things to see and discover, you’d only be doing yourself a favor by booking a weekend there.