A Mini Guide for Expats: Rotterdam Architectural Highlights You Must See


As an expat in Rotterdam (or one of the other Dutch cities) you might have noticed that tall skinny houses facing canals zig-zagged by bridges are an architectural sight you will find throughout the Netherlands, but not in the city of Rotterdam.

Visit the Dutch city of Rotterdam, and you will find a modern city with a handful of medium sized skyscrapers, minimalist bridges, and buildings that twist and turn in all directions. But there was a time when the city looked similar to its more traditional counterparts—that all changed in 1940. On May 14th, 1940 the German Luftwaffe obliterated Rotterdam in a 13-minute raid. The attacks and the ensuing fire left only a handful of buildings standing and destroyed 258 hectares.

When it came time to rebuild the city, it would have been perfectly acceptable for the city to rebuild in the traditional style. Instead, they decided to do something different. From the rubble of destruction grew a futuristic and contemporary city —one with a famous skyline and a whole range of notable buildings to explore. Rotterdam is the ideal city to stay a little longer.

Here are seven architectural highlights that you won’t want to miss:

Erasmusbrug – Connecting the north and the south of the city is the cable-stayed bridge known officially as the Erasmusbrug, and unofficially as The Swan. The 802-metre long bridge spans across the Nieuwe Maas and even featured in the 1998 Jackie Chan film, Who Am I?

Euromast – One of the best ways to appreciate the city to its fullest is from atop the Euromast. This observation tower, built in 1960 for the international and garden exhibition known as Floriade, has been a listed monument since 2010. Originally 101 metres (331 feet) in height, a Space Tower was added to the top in 1970, giving it an additional 85 metres (279 feet).

Cube Houses – The yellow and white cube-shaped houses, designed by Piet Blom, balance on top of a hexagon-shaped structure with windows that angle both skywards and down towards the street. Each cube was intended to represent an abstract tree, turning the whole community (51 cubes) into a forest.

Markthal – The Markthal, located where Rotterdam was founded in 1270 when a dyke was created in the river Rotte, was opened by Queen Maxima in October 2014. However, the upside down horseshoe shaped covered market hall is more than just a place to buy your fruits and vegetables. Inside there are 4,500 artwork panels that cover the ceiling and sides of the market. The image, consisting of 400,000 megapixels, features fruit, vegetables, and other fresh produce to make up a massive Horn of Plenty.

Van Nelle Factory – The Van Nelle Factory which used to process coffee, tea, tobacco and later chewing gum, cigarettes, instant pudding, and rice, stopped operating in 1996. Nowadays, it is home to several media and design companies. Named as one of the most beautiful factories in the world, the Van Nelle Factory is considered a prime example of the International Style and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2014.

Sonneveld House – Built in the early 1930’s for Albertus Sonneveld, a director of the (above mentioned) Van Nelle Factory. The house, light and spacious, is considered one of the best-preserved examples of the Dutch Functionalist style. Modern and luxurious in many ways, even by today’s standards, the house and its furnishings are an appreciation of luxury and comfort.

Rotterdam Central Station – An estimated 110,000 people pass through Rotterdam Central Station, the main station of the city, each day. Not only is it a useful location for a catching a tram, bus, metro or train to other parts of the city and country, it is also great to look at. The station went through a major renovation, finishing in 2014, to accommodate an anticipated increase in traffic. You’ll find pointy lines, wooden ceilings, a gigantic LED screen, and more than 3,000 solar panels on the roof.

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