Updated: May 27, 2018
Whilst we eagerly awaited our van in the Netherlands (a new clutch to be fitted), we found ourselves with a few extra days than planned in the land of clogs and windmills. As we had spent a few days in the Hague, we headed towards Rotterdam.
First things first, a bit of history. During World War II, the Germans heavily bombed the port city on May 14th 1940 as part of their invasion of the Netherlands. What would become known as "The Rotterdam Blitz" wiped out almost the entire historical city center. This is incredibly obvious when exploring the different suburbs.
There are sections of canals and architecture which are stunning, followed immediately by dated post-war construction as you head towards the center.
Here are a few recommendations following our potterings around this port.
Delfshaven - a beautiful little area where the old town has survived, full of canals, windmills and excellent restaurants, bars and cafes. We found an outstanding local brewery called Stadsbrouwerij De Pelgrim; brilliant beers and friendly service. (This area was a short walk from our airbnb, a great location to stay)
Nieuwe Binnenweg - a street full of various food, drinking and coffee shop options. Our pit stop was once again a craft beer bar (are you noticing a theme yet?)
Cool district - isn't so cool. Typically when viewing any European city on google maps the bronze area in the center represents the old city. Filled with historical architecture and cobbled stone streets, it has become a routine to explore these areas. Unfortunately Rotterdam's city center 'the cool district' was obliterated in the war and is now filled with over sized malls and every fast fashion brand in existence.
Natural History Museum - one of Brigid's compulsory pit stops in every city. While a small museum it was packed to the brim with an extensive taxidermy collection (even a Kiwi and Kea were spotted). Here is a link to their current exhibitions if you are so inclined. Costing €7 per person - 1 hour approx needed.
Euromast - it looks kind of lame, but the Euromast, whilst the Skytower's uglier brother, offer's great bird eye views of the city. We paid the steep €9.75 each to head to the top. Which included viewing platforms, bar and restaurant. BONUS: For the thrill-seeker, he rotating elevator to the very top had a few fear fall moments. The safety rails are definitely not up to most city standards (so caution if you suffer vertigo).
Nieuwe Werk park - A must see/walk through the gardens.On google maps this park doesn't appear as a green area but was lush and filled with bird life (granted we were here in Spring).
Brigid was in taxidermy heaven (like the stuffed animals).
A few other tips and nuances we noticed:
VISA Acceptance - Strangely enough we found both our French VISA Debit Cards (which are obviously in the € currency) barely worked anywhere in the Netherlands, and had to ensure we carried cash around on us all the time. While we usually do anyway, this was quite annoying especially given we commonly use these throughout Europe.
Trains & Trams - The RET 2-hour pass is €3.50, this covered our journey from the Hague to Rotterdam (which was 1 hour an included 2 trains). Rotterdam Central Station is very easy and well designed. Dan caught the Thalys from Rotterdam to Paris return and it was a seamless experience.
Picnics in the Park - Don't eat out for every meal - get groceries from a small supermarket. We enjoyed homemade baguette's and chilled beers in the park for a quarter of the cost.
Unpredictable Bridges - Note the many lifting bridges along the canals. These can cause massive disruption to traffic, trams and even on foot, as often the alternative route is many kilometers away. Dan had one of these raise on his way to catch his Thalys. Luckily the raising and lowering process was quite quick. But this could cause critical delays if you are in a hurry!
Overall not a city we would actively pick as a destination, but not a bad place at all to spend a few days and explore, if like us, you have a few extra days in the Netherlands.
Bidi & Dan