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Last updated : Nov 2009
Rotterdam - Travelpuppy.com
Rotterdam is no longer content to play second fiddle to Amsterdam and in recent years has rejuvenated its city centre, much of its dockside and also hosted the European City of Culture.

Rotterdam is Europe’s largest port, and indeed the world’s second-largest, port and is the hub of the Dutch economy, but it is now also emerging as a tourist destination in its own right.

Most of the city was obliterated during World War II, and only small parts of the old city remain. Historically, the city has been an important manufacturing centre since the 14th century, but its pre-eminence as a port dates only from the early 19th century.

The best place to get an idea of the city layout is from the viewing level of the Euromast & Space Tower, which at 185m (605ft) is the highest point in The Netherlands. Rotterdam’s pride in its maritime heritage is on show at the Maritiem Museum Prins Hendrik, where outdoor and indoor exhibits include barges, ships, harbour cranes and marine archaeological artefacts. Regular boat tours also now take tourists around the city’s abundance of channels and waterways. Boat tours (Spido) through the harbour of Rotterdam are available during the year.

In the summer, there are excursions to Europoort, the Delta Project as well as evening tours, and there are also luxury motor cruisers for hire. Rotterdam’s cultural scene is also rich with the Museum Boymans van Beuningen, a unique collection of paintings, sculptures and objets d’art dating from the 14th century to the present day, and the Museum Voor Volkenkunde, an ethnological museum, amongst the highlights.

For younger visitors, Dierenpark Blijdorp (Zoo) is an open-plan zoo, beautifully laid out, with a restaurant. The exotic wildlife includes bats, wolves, rhinos and elephants, all amongst tropical forest vegetation.

A drive through the harbour of Rotterdam is also possible, the 100 to 150km (60 to 90 mile) journey takes in almost every aspect of this massive harbour. The route passes warehouses and wharves, futuristic grain silos and loading equipment, cranes and bridges, oil refineries, powerstations and lighthouses, all of which create a skyline of awesome beauty, particularly at sunset. The docks, waterways, canals and ports-within-ports are interspersed with some surprising and apparently incongruous features. At one point the route passes a garden city built for shipyard workers, while further on there is a village and, at the harbour’s westernmost point, a beach. A visit to Rotterdam harbour is recommended.

Other interesting places to visit include the 17th-century houses in the Delfshaven quarter of the city, the Pilgrimskerk, collections of maps and seacharts at the Delfshaven Old Town Hall, many traditional workshops for pottery, watchmaking and woodturning.

Rotterdam has also become something of a Mecca for designers and architects, who have flocked to the city to take part in its massive rebuilding programme, their work is often showcased both in the buildings they create and also in temporary exhibits. Rotterdam’s nightlife scene has undergone something of a renaissance over the last decade with a myriad new bars, trendy cafes and first-rate restaurants spicing up what was previously an unappealing scene, geared mainly towards itinerant sailors and students. Today, the waterfront is increasingly being transformed into a leisure oasis. The major concert venue is the De Doelen Concert Hall (classical music, plays), which has 2000 seats. The local soccer team, Feyernoord play at the impressive De Kuip Stadium, which was home to the final of Euro 2000.