A working city with dynamic nightlife and daring architecture

In Rotterdam there’s a saying that shirts are sold with the sleeves already rolled up. Ever since the city was bombed during World War II, locals have been known to simply push on and get the job done. With its reputation as a working city, however, travellers tend to look past it in favour of Amsterdam (only 50km away) without realising it’s also getting its leg up, if not in different ways.

Dynamic nightlife, daring architecture and accessible attractions are helping steer the city to new heights and no one is more proud than the friendly locals. The city is still a work in progress – evident from loud construction work -but, as Marloose, a 27-year-old local says, [Rotterdam] doesn’t come to you and give you a big hug, but once you see what it’s got, you never want to leave”.

Getting around
The blossoming inner city is fairly easy to navigate and can be done on foot or bike. With cycling all the rage in Holland you can mix with the local pedlers by hiring one from Rotterdam Bicycle (www.rotterdambycycle.nl) for €6 a day or go on a two-hour guided tour that takes in the city’s main sites for €15. Caution: trams don’t stop for anyone. Make sure you get down to the port, the biggest in Europe and also where hundreds of Europeans literally jumped ship to America and Australia in search of a better life.

With things pretty drab back then no wonder they shot through, but it’s certainly picked its socks up with a string of vibrant waterfront cafés and bars. Also down by the water is the Euromast, a 185m tall lookout tower fittingly designed to resemble a ship’s mast. It’s the highest tower in the Netherlands, and not only does it offer a fab view, but also a chance to fireman-slide down it – or abseil, rather.

Sculptured city
Rotterdam is plugged internationally for its modern architecture. There will be even more emphasis on it in 2007 as it’s being hyped as the Year of Architecture, with a host of events such as the Week of Skyscrapers and the Rotterdam International Architecture Biennial to take place.

The post-war reconstruction of the city brought a mix of handsome and hideous buildings which at least help make what’s good stand out. With each project the skyline continues to change for the better. One of the more innovative is the Kijk-Kubus residential village, filled to the brim with cube-shaped homes. Created by local architect Piet Blom, the adventurous project met global applause.

A Show-Cube is set up for tourists to have a sticky beak at how one can comfortably live in such an oddly shaped abode.

Clubs ahead
Local world-famous DJ Michel de Hey says Rotterdam’s nightlife has developed in leaps and bounds over the past 10 years with myriad clubs dotted around the city. It’s spectacular, especially the electro scene – it really is all about the music,” he says.

With so many venues to choose from – some more unusual than others – it’s hard to know where to start. Now & Wow (www.now-wow.nt), a former grain silo, is popular with young hipsters with its house and urban beats and is open every weekend until the wee hours. Off_Corso (www.off_corso.nl) is another top pick and resides in a former cinema. It reverberates with house, hip-hop and dance classics with a big emphasis on multi-media. See www.hollandclubbing.com for more.

There’s also a variety of festivals throughout the year including the Rotterdam Electronic Music Festival and the Rotterdam International Film Festival. Don’t count on much snooze time during a stay here.

Culture shop
On Friday afternoons, Saturdays and Tuesdays the market square turns into a shopping wonderland with rows of local goods and produce. Make sure you stock up on cheese. During other times check out the department stores, of which there are plenty.

You will find eight ‘Shopping in Rotterdam’ routes at www.rotterdam.info if you want to go about it in a more organised fashion. In between shopping, swing by a couple of the city’s museums. Look out for the Netherlands Photo Museum, Maritime Museum and Natural History Museum.