Rotterdam – Gateway to Europe

By Steven Wright

The Erasmus Bridge across the Nieuwe Maas River connects the north and south sections of Rotterdam, designed by Ben van Berkel the bridge provides a beautiful focal point for the modern city. Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe, and one of the busiest in the world, located on the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta and the North Sea. A hub for rail, road and air, plus the inland waterways connecting to the Rhine and Meuse Rivers with access to central Europe has earned Rotterdam its title of the Gateway to Europe.

The waterways are lined with modern skyscrapers that light up at night guiding ships into the port. The city is more of an economic engine than a tourist destination, but still has a large number of museums and attractions for visitors to the city. There are patios and restaurants along the canals and waterways giving the perfect spot to grab a bite and watch the traffic on the water.

Perhaps the best way to see the port is by water, we chose a Spido Harbour Tour. Board the boat at the Erasmus Bridge for a 75 minute tour. The tour gives you the opportunity to see the magnitude of the ships docked at the many piers loaded to capacity with containers being unloaded by cranes for distribution. The number of cranes, piers and ships is overwhelming, its is amazing to see the port in action and to discover the many items that are shipped, even ships piled on a barge. Spido offers a number of day trips and other tours departing from Rotterdam.

We stayed at the Inntel Hotel Rotterdam Centre, Leuvehaven 80. A modern hotel located at the Erasmus Bridge and central to most of Rotterdam. The rooms were small but well appointed with a large bathroom and shower. The rooms overlook the canals or the bridge. The fitness centre on the top floor provides a great way to relax and exercise while enjoying an amazing view. The a steam bath, sauna, swimming pool and amazing rain showers help you wind down after a long day. There are also conference rooms on this level perfect for your business meetings or conferences.

Shopping is plentiful in Rotterdam starting with Bleurs Plien an open air multi-level shopping mall just outside the Beurs Conference Centre. Here you can find many international brands and restaurants. Continue on to the area around Lijnbaan, another open air pedestrian shopping area filled with little shops and boutiques offering a variety of hip and youthful shops. Shopping continues on Hoogstraat and Oude and Nieuwe Binneweg for interior design, furniture stores and artist galleries for other great finds and coffee shops.

The city is coloured with artist works, modern sculptures and statues made of metal and other non-traditional materials can be found all over. Some of the buildings have statues on the roof looking out towards the city, the parks along the canals include many other artist works to enjoy as you walk along the canals. If you are looking for some traditional Dutch architecture in this modern city the cross the Willembrug to Noordereiland, and walk around Prins Hendrikkade and Maaskade. This is a great place to get pictures of the bridges the city.

One of my favorite stops on my trip to Rotterdam was the Cube Houses designed by architect Piet Blom at Overblaak 70. The cube houses sit on pillars to resemble a tree and the development of houses a forest, the concept of living as an urban roof. I would recommend taking the tour to be able to fully experience the living experience in a cube. Climbing the stairs into the cube I wondered how you would move furniture into your home but once inside I was surprised by the layout and functionality of the space. I think that it would take a while to adjust to these non-traditional structures, but the views over the river and over other cube houses are riveting.

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