ROTTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS: Rotterdam is a big and spread-out city, nothing like Amsterdam where most of the tourist spots are concentrated near Dam Square. You have to know where you are going here and what you want to do here, otherwise you will just keep wandering around the city not finding the real place to have fun. I am warning you, this is not a traditional Dutch village/city where you will see an old church, a decorative town hall, or big squares with statues of famous people. This is a spontaneous city with big and shiny architectures and busy life-style. It’s a highly diverse city unlike some of its neighboring small villages…people from everywhere are here.
After spending some time on where to park, we were a bit confused as in what to do and where to go exactly. Although we had our to-do list for Rotterdam and asked some locals, nothing really helped us to give us some directions. Then we saw the World-Trade Center and the underground mall near it. It was a relief to finally see some crowds and shops there…phew, I thought to myself, if we can’t find anything, the least we can do is spend some time on shopping 😉 So, that was our starting point to explore Rotterdam and as we kept walking following the long stretch of long pedestrian zone, we were exactly where we wanted to be in the beginning.
TIME OF TRAVELING: My parents visited Belgium in May 2012. The Netherlands was our first destination and Rotterdam was our second city there (after Gouda) to get some ultra-modern taste of Holland. The weather was fantastic and we were energetic to explore this not-so-typical Dutch city.
OUR HOTEL: We stayed in Holiday Inn in Leiden, a very nice, big, and spacious place to accommodate you with free parking and play areas for children. The location was great, because Leiden is about half an hour drive from other Dutch cities like Rotterdam, Gouda, the Hague, Utrecht, and Delft. All of these places are perfect to experience real Dutch culture and people.
WHAT TO EAT AND BUY IN ROTTERDAM: There are lots of open-air markets near the World-Trade Center of Rotterdam or the Cubic houses. This is a perfect place to do shopping and taste some traditional Dutch knickknacks, like raw herring sandwich or fried whole fish/fillet with white sauce. I saw lots of natural cosmetics and bath supplies stores in the underground mall, if you are into these stuffs.
PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We spent about a day, may be a little less, in Rotterdam. We lost some time in finding a proper parking garage and the hot spots where locals actually go.
1) UNDERGROUND MALL BEURSPLEIN or KOOPGOOT: Koopgoot means “Shopping Gutter” in Dutch and it is very close to Rotterdam City Hall and right beside World-Trade Center. The design of this marketplace is very unique and a must-see in Rotterdam. This is a pedestrian area and is very crowded in weekends. Go down the stairs to go to Beurspleain underground shops. The whole Buersplein is a combination of indoor and outdoor shopping center, probably one of the liveliest places of the city. If you keep walking straight, keeping the shopping center behind, you will see the pedestrian path stretches long way to some more open-air markets (I think it’s called Korte Hoogstraat). This whole area is a lovely place to do shopping, to take a stroll, or just to stop and do people watching.
2) GROTE OF SINT LAURENSKERK (GREAT or SAINT LAWRENCE CHURCH): The church is standing here since 1449. The late-Gothic design of this building looked really nice from outside but unfortunately we couldn’t go inside since it is closed on Sundays, like any other Dutch churches. It is a historical landmark of Rotterdam city center, not too far from the Cubic houses or the World-Trade Center.
3) CUBIC HOUSES (KIJK-KUBUS): The yellow Cubic houses are something very unique and original of Rotterdam. Architecture Piet Blom designed these “playful” buildings in 1970s to give a different look to the city when Rotterdam was booming with many of these architectural evolutions. The apartment complex which features these cubical shaped houses is very close to the National Library and metro station Blaak.
There are tenants inside these apartments, but you can visit its museum by going to the courtyard and following the sign. The tight spaces inside these cubes are just fine for students, single tenant, or may be a couple. But you definitely should check-out the life-style and how it is decorated with contemporary furniture inside these apartments. It is 2.50 euros per person to go inside. The display apartment is open until 5 pm in weekdays and 6 pm in weekends.