Rotterdam is the next stop on our European adventure! As a graphic designer, the opportunity to visit this port city full of modern architecture made my day. It was a last-minute decision, and I’m so glad that we decided to go.
Rotterdam Centraal Station
After a quick train ride from Eva’s house, we arrived at the Rotterdam Centraal Station. This architectural marvel was the perfect way to start our day. The futuristic angle of the silver roof juts into the sky at a near 45 degree angle!
We grabbed a cup of coffee and a muffin at Nationale-Nederlanden Douwe Egbert’s Cafe across the street. The interior is really artsy and modern, and the coffee is delicious. Plus, free wi-fi!
Just a short stroll south from the Centraal Station towards the Eendrachtsplein, you’ll see a controversial statue of Santa Claus holding a pine tree by Paul McCarthy. Locals call it the ‘Butt Plug Gnome’ for a reason…
Just around the corner from Santa Claus, I found the best fitting pair of jeans in life thus far in a shop called Men at Work. I’m of Dutch heritage and blessed with legs up to my armpits, but it makes jeans shopping my LEAST favourite activity. As Eva said, if there was anywhere in the world for me to find the perfect pair of jeans, it would be the Netherlands! Land of the tall people.
The first covered market in the Netherlands, the Markthal blew my mind. It’s a giant horseshoe shape, fully enclosed in glass. Offices and residences are built inside the horseshoe, with windows facing inwards to the market below.
The interior walls of the archway are adorned with the biggest piece of artwork in the world–a 36,000 square foot digital mural by Arno Coenen called the Horn of Plenty. This masterpiece is affectionately called the ‘Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam’, and was created in partnership with Pixar. It features projections of vibrant fruits, flowers, and animals against a blue sky.
We grabbed lunch from the Markthal, and sat outside in the sunshine. A couple with two Great Danes walked by and I politely insisted on petting them. They were perfectly standoffish and slobbery and reminded me of Freyja!
Our first souvenir of the trip came from the Markthal as well–a taster pack of gouda cheese! Eva offered to store it in her fridge until we left for home a few weeks later, ha. We tried sambal, pesto, mild, old as heck, something with thistles in it, and spiced gouda that I call toenail cheese because it has flecks of cumin in it that looks like toenails. Pesto was the winning flavour, and I still dream about it!
Designed by Dutch Architect Piet Blom, the Cube Houses is a bucket list-worthy feat of architecture! We were lucky that the Kijkkubus (show suite) was open, and we got to snoop through all three floors of the home. With not a single straight wall in sight, furniture arranging looked daunting, but the views of the old harbour are beautiful.
My favourite little nook in the show suite was this corner full of plants and a single chair. It made me want to try living in one of them and spend an afternoon reading in the sunlight.
Right next door to the cube houses is Het Potlood, or Pencil Tower. Also designed by Piet Blom, we only snuck a peek of it from the main courtyard of the cube houses, but the name made me smile.
The Old Harbour
Behind the Cube Houses and Pencil Tower is the Old Harbour. This area of the city in particular is such an interesting fusion of history and modernity. Known as Europe’s first skyscraper and designed by Dutch architect Willem Molenbroek, the White House is an art nouveau masterpiece. It is one of the few buildings that survived German bombing in WWII.
I love walking a good bridge. Just as I will forever remember my first stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam stands out. Nicknamed ‘The Swan’, its white form stands gracefully and asymmetrically across the water. Flecks of glass embedded in the black pavement walking path sparkle cheerfully in the sunlight! The views across the water are equally stunning.
Designed by Rem Koolhaus, De Rotterdam is what I wish more skyscrapers at home looked like. At its core they are simply large towers made of glass, but a subtle shift in different directions creates a dramatic silhouette that creates negative space depending on the viewpoint. Plus, it featured an adorable little red ‘N’ on the outside! Rem Koolhausis one of my favourite architects who also designed the Seattle Public Library, which is awe-inspiring.
After our walking architecture tour of Rotterdam, we stopped for a drink on the terrace of Hotel New York. With our drinks done and our time in Rotterdam ending, we hopped on a water taxi that sped us across the water to the Old Harbour. We hopped a train back to Eva’s house, just in time for a magical riverside dinner just outside Zeist!
Rotterdam is an incredible city that left an impression on me and dazzled me. We managed to see most of its modern architecture in one day, but I feel like we barely scratched the surface of what the city has to offer. ‘Til next time!
For more of the Netherlands: