Amsterdam, renowned for its picturesque canals and vibrant culture, has begun to address overtourism by implementing various restrictions. However, for travelers seeking a fresh Dutch experience, Rotterdam offers a compelling alternative. As the second-largest city in the Netherlands, Rotterdam is a captivating blend of modernity, multiculturalism, and innovative urban planning.
Amsterdam’s timeless charm lies in its historic canals and gabled homes from the 17th century. In contrast, Rotterdam, while not a new city, was entirely rebuilt after World War II, resulting in a cityscape defined by contemporary architectural styles. Rotterdam’s skyline features impressive skyscrapers, earning it the moniker “Manhattan on the Meuse.”
The city boasts a rich tapestry of attractions, including the pioneering Lijnbaan, Europe’s first pedestrian-only street, and the acoustically renowned De Doelen concert hall. The iconic Erasmusbrug suspension bridge, affectionately known as “the swan” by locals, graces Rotterdam’s harbor.
For those interested in Dutch coffee culture, Amsterdam’s “coffee shops” are well-known for their cannabis offerings. Rotterdam, on the other hand, presents an authentic coffee house experience, where locals share stories and traditions. In the Katendrecht neighborhood, the Verhalenhuis Belvedere (Stories House) serves as a cultural hub, housing a cafe, exhibition space, and story studio. Immigrant stories, jazz history, and a rich past as a secret jazz club and shelter for Jewish children during World War II make the Verhalenhuis Belvedere a unique space. The cafe features a daily guest chef at its Folk Kitchen, introducing patrons to a diverse array of cuisines, encapsulating the essence of Rotterdam within a pastry shell.
While Amsterdam’s streets are teeming with bicycles, Rotterdam’s layout is more expansive. Commuting by car is common, but the city’s extensive network of more than 350 miles of bike paths, many of which cater to electric bicycles (e-bikes), is transforming the way residents and tourists explore the city. E-bikes provide a modern twist to Rotterdam’s transportation, making it easier to navigate the city’s vast territory. Visitors can rent e-bikes or utilize bike-sharing services to tour scenic routes along the New Meuse River or through local parks, offering an eco-friendly and refreshing perspective on this captivating Dutch city.
For a deeper exploration of Rotterdam, guided e-bike tours are recommended, each with a unique theme that caters to various interests, from architecture to culinary delights. Rotterdam’s allure lies not just in its modernity but also in its ability to seamlessly blend history, culture, and innovation.