It’s also friendly – people have even been known to talk to each other on the Metro. The city goes festival crazy in summer, with the Brazil-style Summer Carnival and huge FFWD Dance Parade topping the list. Increasingly famed for its nightlife, its burgeoning clubbing scene is a major draw.
Cycling is the classic and quintessentially Dutch way of seeing the city. Try Rotterdam ByCycle (www.rotterdambycycle.nl) for tours and hire. If the weather’s a tad nippy for charging around on a bike, there’s always the charmingly eccentric-sounding Snerttram (‘pea soup tram’), a tour that runs until the end of April. An on-board accordion player entertains as you settle back and enjoy the sights while sipping hot pea soup, a Dutch winter favourite.
Down by the water
In summer, Rotterdammers head for the harbour and riverside, especially areas like historic Delfshaven and Veerhaven with their bars, restaurants and pavement cafés. Another popular spot is the man-made beach along the river Maas. Summer or winter, a Spido harbour cruise is an excellent way to get a sense of the sheer size of Rotterdam’s waterways. The spaceship-like boats cruise past miles of the port’s slightly surreal industrial landscape that’s refreshingly free of rusting containers and seagulls. Instead, you’ll pass clean futuristic buildings and regal-looking swans bobbing on the water while flames shoot from oil refinery towers like a scene from Blade Runner.
Make like the locals and start the night with drinks and snacks in a classic Dutch brown café (so called because of the tobacco stains on the walls). Beer’s the perfect partner for the ‘bitterballen’ – small breaded meatballs eaten with toothpicks and dipped in mustard. No trip to Rotterdam would be complete without sampling the city’s club scene, whether it’s a laidback lounge you’re after or a full-on dance temple. Throw some shapes and mingle with glammed-up punters in hotspots like Jackie’s, Nighttown, Now & Wow and Thalia Lounge. See www.hollandclubbing.com for more information.
WORTH A LOOK
Museum Boijmans van Beuningen
The most high profile of Rotterdam’s 34 museums has a good collection of Dutch and international art, ranging from Old Masters to works by the likes of Dali, Magritte, Monet and Kandinsky. Another good option for culture vultures is the nearby Kunsthal, a big exhibition space that hosts an esoteric range of visiting collections.
With its quirky clothes stores, coffee shops and pavement cafés, this street is one the city’s trendiest shopping thoroughfares. The record shops are popular with local DJs and the boutiques are stocked with clubbing gear. Rotown café is a good spot for taking time out with its relaxed atmosphere and live music.
Open until January 29, Winterplein’s 800m2 ice skating rink is located near the south side of the futuristic-looking Erasmus bridge. The rink and terrace are both covered so skating is possible in all weather.
The views from the top of Rotterdam’s tallest building are spectacular. More than 180m tall, the tower was designed to resemble a ship’s mast complete with bridge and crow’s nest, pretty appropriate considering the city’s maritime history. It’s got the obligatory revolving restaurant and, between May and September, you can also abseil down it.