A weekend in Rotterdam • Part one
Rotterdam is best known for its characteristic skyline and innovative architecture which gave the city its nickname 'Manhattan aan de Maas'. The reason why the city has such a modern appearance is because it was largely bombed during World War II and it was decided to rebuild the city according to contemporary architecture standards afterwards. As a result, people either hate it or love it. Thanks to its many, many hotspots, I quickly became a Rotterdam fan and I gladly share my tips with you for a full weekend of discoveries!
Visit of the Cube Houses | Overblaak 70, Rotterdam
The Cube Houses were designed by architect Piet Bloom in the 80s and have since been a Rotterdam icon. The houses were inspired by trees and the idea was for the pedestrian area to symbolize a forest, hence its name 'het Blaakse Bos'. Should you wonder what life is like inside a cube, know that you can visit one (just look for the 'Kijk-Kubus') and you can even spend the night in one as several are available as Airbnbs!
Visit of the Markthal
The Markthal is not your average food hall. For starters, the hall has the shape of a horseshoe with a gigantic work of art on the inside (the largest artwork in the Netherlands). Another thing that makes it unique is the fact that you can live in the Markthal (the windows you see in the artwork are actual windows of apartments). About the food, there are nearly 100 stands that offer fresh cheese, fruits, vegetables and other specialties, enough to seriously open your appetite!
Shopping for Scandinavian items
Have you ever heard about Sostrene Grene? This Danish brand founded by two sisters, Anna and Clara, offers all sorts of pretty little things for your home in that Scandinavian aesthetic for pretty little prices. They don't have stores in Belgium but they do have one in Rotterdam (at Hoogstraat 183B) so you cannot miss it! Another store you should stop at is Hay (Haagseveer 99). We do have them in Belgium, but this one is made extra special by its green marble entrance. This detail caught my attention, resulting in us going in, resulting in a splurge of office supplies for our study (but more about that in a later 'cocooning' post).
Walk on the Luchtsingel
The Luchtsingel is a pedestrian bridge that connects Rotterdam North to the center as a way to bring life to an area that was abandoned for years. The wooden structure was painted by local artist and has become the place to be for street art fans (definitely the kind of location that offers possibilities for streetstyle pictures)! And speaking of local artists, make sure to stop at Groos (Schiekade 203), a concept store that proudly sells exclusively items made by Rotterdam artists (fashion, design, lifestyle, etc).
Lunch at Weena | Weena 202, Rotterdam
Weena instantly stole my heart. With its hanging plants, amazing floors and wooden furniture, it is my 'urban jungle' dream come true. It was named after the street it is located on and it's surrounded by skyscrapers. Its floor to ceiling windows make it perfect for people watching. On the menu you'll find soups, salads, sandwiches and other small dishes, as well as Cucumis, the pretties soft drinks in pastel colors.
Shopping and more in Rotterdam Noord
The small, alternative shops are concentrated in the North of the city in the parallel streets Zwaanshals and Zaagmolenkade. It's the kind of neighborhood that's on the rise and where consequently all the hipsters are heading. For the best design items, you have to be at & Designshop (Zwaanshals 520). Opfleuren (Zwaanshals 325C) has the best real flowers and Liesbeth Couvreur (Zaagmolenkade 2) the best artificial ones. You'll also cross several vintage shops and the indoor flea market Jouw Marktkraam (Zaagmolenkade 117) where you can search for the perfect vintage cups or framed butterflies.
After all that wandering you'll surely be in need of some coffee or tea so I suggest you stop at Bertmans (Zaagmolenkade 15), a cosy place that specializes in healthy, veggie friendly food, but where you can also have a matcha latte or a gin tonic. Should it be complete, don't cry, Afhaalloket (Noordplein 25) is another great coffee shop in the neighboorhood.
Dinner at Thoms | Meent 129-131, Rotterdam
After you dropped off all of your shopping bags in your hotel room and perhaps had some rest, go out for dinner at hotspot Thoms. The ancient building where this restaurant slash underground bar is located has been kept unchanged and forms a perfect combo with the industrial interior. The menu isn't very elaborate but the food is very tasty. For most of their dishes they use a Mibrasa charcoal oven that gives a specific smoked flavor. Unfortunately they do not accept reservations so you might have to wait to get seated.
For drinks afterwards, head to the Witte de Withstraat, the best street to experience Rotterdam's nightlife. If you want cocktails you go to Stirr (Eendrachtsweg 29B) and if you want wine or beer you go to Opa (Witte de Withstraat 49A).
Rotterdam is closer than you probably think. By car it will take you 1h30 from Brussels and with the Thalys it's even less. Parking is ridiculously expensive in Rotterdam so you should definitely take the following advice: Book your parking online in advance under the Markthal. It is very convenient and it will save you money!
Discover where to stay and what to do on Sunday in part two!