Clubbing gear and cobblestones – it’s a recipe for disaster. High heels were not meant for the unevenly paved lanes of old Europe. The smooth streets of modern Rotterdam, on the other hand, make for much plainer sailing on a big night out. Just as well, because more and more clubbers are turning to Holland’s second city.

Bombed to bits in World War II, Rotterdam’s centre has practically no trace of its pre-war urban landscape remaining. In its place is a spacious and increasingly sophisticated city with an ever-evolving skyline. From the sweeping futuristic lines of Erasmus Bridge to the quirkily geometric cube houses, the city has a sharp, modern vibe that goes well with its growing profile as a party capital.

Rotterdammers have a reputation for no-nonsense hard work, unsurprising in a town driven by trade and industry (it’s Europe’s largest port), so it’s only natural that they play hard as well. Long linked to dance music, the city spawned the hardcore house style gabber in the late ’80s. The name isn’t bandied about so much now, but traces of it are evident in the ‘Rotterdam sound’, hard to pin down but essentially hard-edged and funky.

Locals tend to regard Rotterdam as a destination for clubbing purists, a different scene to Amsterdam with its herds of marauding stags and blitzed narco-tourists. Dance music aficionados cite high-profile Rotterdam DJ Michel de Hey, who appeared at Heaven’s Carl Cox and Friends night in London this year, as playing a key role in boosting the city’s international reputation.

If there’s one event that symbolises the city’s commitment to dance culture, it would have to be the annual FFWD Heineken Dance Parade, which drew 400,000 people in August this year. It’s impossible not to get swept up in the party atmosphere as crowds from all over the country shake their collective booty in the city’s streets. This year, the 40 trucks carrying DJs, scantily clad dancers and the occasional bongo player were hosted by top clubs from the Netherlands and as far afield as Brazil, Australia and South Africa. Pumping out high-octane beats in a procession through the centre and over Erasmus Bridge, the whole shebang culminates in a waterfront festival where eight zones, from the main stage to smaller tents, cater to tastes from techno to house and drum ‘n’ bass.

One of the major advantages of clubbing in Rotterdam is the ease of getting from place to place, with top venues clustered around the city centre. A typical night might start in the likes of Rotown, a café/restaurant and live music venue on Nieuwe Binnenweg, one of the main shopping streets. Those who fancy a spot of Footballers’ Wives-style kitsch glamour could opt for restaurant club Jackie’s, a sort of fashion Hard Rock Café with an opulent interior, elaborate mood lighting and bling-tastic designer outfits sharing wall space with pop culture memorabilia.

At the other end of the atmospheric scale is Hyper Hyper, popular with hip young locals kickstarting their night out. With its barn-like interior and stark white and red colour scheme, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s bang in the midde of town and good for some serious drinking and schmoozing.

The big guns of the city’s club scene include Nighttown, where Michel de Hey had a long-running residency, Now & Wow, which is housed in a converted factory and Off_Corso, where madcap Brit act The Cuban Brothers delighted punters at the Dance Parade after-party this year.


Don’t forget to make sure you’ve got some spare change handy as a visit to the loo costs 50 euro cents in most clubs.

The post-clubbing kebab is as revered a tradition in Rotterdam as it is in London. Here they’re called shoarma and are pretty easy to track down in the city centre.

Watch out for bikes. This is Holland, after all, and you’ll find folks happily cycling round town at all hours of the day and night. Just don’t walk into one while you’re busy stuffing your face with shoarma.