To get to Rotterdam, it took me twice to lock myself out of my flat, two missed flights and a non-refundable hotel booked for the wrong weekend. I nearly had enough of this spontaneous trip before it even started. Mind you, I was booked to fly somewhere else before I decided to hop on the Rotterdam bound train.
In the end, it was well worth it. A sunny day-trip to a city made for a foodie like me, but also a great insight into Netherland’s history, especially the maritime one, as Rotterdam remains Europe’s largest shipping port. And it’s only a short, half n hour train journey from Amsterdam.
Rotterdam is a mix of concrete blocks and uber-modern architecture. Similarly to my home town of Warsaw, it was carpet bombed during the second world war and then rebuilt from scratch: a veritable smorgasbord of styles mirroring various post war decades. Only the odd church reminds us that there was something before the omnipresent grey walls (now filled with cafes, shops and galleries) and quirky glass offices.
I started the day quite late, needed a good sleep after a very eventful travel day. And I couldn’t allow myself to skip the gym. By the time I showered, it was already noon.
My hotel was located right in the centre (opposite the hotel I booked initially… for the next weekend), about 10min walk from the Rotterdam train station. Unbeknownst to me, this district is called COOL (what can I say…it was meant to be).
For brunch I went to the rooftop café Op Het Dak . It’s a popular spot among locals and tourists alike and can get quite busy on a Sunday, thanks to its beautiful, urban terrace overlooking the city, where they grow a mix of herbs, flowers and some veggies used in the dishes. I got a table inside for starters and then moved outside, just as the sun was slowly creeping out from behind the clouds.
This modern, but cosy spot offers several hearty breakfast dishes (most of them served only till 11am though they have a long lunch menu just in case). Luckily, the shakshuka is served all day and that’s what I went for, plus an obligatory black coffee. That gave me enough energy to go for another coffee soon after.
Ah, important thing. Same as in Amsterdam, a lot of places don’t take Visa or MasterCard and only the local cards work. So I had to run to the nearest cash machine, leaving my ID behind. All doable, but better to have cash on you.
My next stop for a coffee (and a cheeky Oreo brownie) was at Picknick. They also serve an all day breakfast and brunch menu if you’re like me and don’t get up till noon on Sundays.
I then wanted to do something ‘educational’ and work off that full belly, so headed to the Maritime Museum. Rotterdam is Europe’s biggest port (it used to be the biggest in the world, but Singapore and Shanghai are ahead now). I’ve been reading up on the Dutch sailing adventures of the 17thcentury and their shipping empire stretching from Asia to the Americas. To this day, the Netherlands rules over important water ways and transports produce in and out of the continent. I have to say I am a bigger fan of being up in the air than anything to do with water (OK, don’t mind the odd river cruise… but exploring deep seas and oceans was never my thing). Nevertheless, sailing has been a big part of this country’s history and the museum provides you with an easily digestible, interactive guide to this, without being overbearing (as you well know, most museums do too much writing on the wall only). And there’s currently an exhibition on drug smuggling if you fancy.. you can learn how to stop it coming in (or not)
Next, you guessed it: I got hungry. About 5min walk from the museum, there’s the new Market hall (Markthal), opened in 2014. It’s a good spot for an authentic, local lunch: you can try everything from bitter ballen (something a bit like meatballs, a very popular snack here), to fried herring and stroopwafel, the food stalls set within a massive modern building shaped like a ship hull.
Time for exercise again… I enjoyed a sunny walk in Het Park, this tranquil oasis in the heart of the city (on the way there, you also get to see the famous Erasmus bridge - reminds me yet again of Warsaw, we have a very similar looking bridge in our capital!;) There’s a picturesque café in the park to enjoy a pick me up coffee, Dudok,and lots of events taking place throughout the summer. The viewing tower ‘Euromast’ is also located around here - try abseiling from the top of it (for obvious reasons not recommended after visiting the Market Hall)
Before heading back to Amsterdam, I came across this casual-chic restaurant, Bertmans , back in the ‘Cool district’ (also not far from the train station if you’re still catching a flight from Schiphol or heading back to the capital). Great vegetarian and vegan options, but also fantastic burgers for meat lovers.
Rotterdam is a good day trip, I would definitely go back for the food. But I think there’s still so many places in the Netherlands (and the world) I want to see, a day was more than enough to get a vibe of the city.