We spent last weekend in Rotterdam, falling in love with the city over and over again. Rotterdam, this Berlin of the Netherlands! I guess this is what you begin to miss when living in Amsterdam for too long. A bit of edginess, a bit of imperfection… Luckily, there is plenty of this – and then some more – in Rotterdam!
We arrived Friday evening, and went to checked in to our hotel – the citizenM – right after. We literally stepped out of the metro at Rotterdam Blaak and right into the hotel. Convenient location – checked! There’s no reception desk, so we did the check-in ourselves, using one of the designated computers in the lobby. Innovation factor – checked! I could not help but notice the chic yet inviting air of the hotel’s public spaces, where people were lounging, with their laptops, reading a book, or socializing. Good vibes – checked! Our room was facing the Oude Haven – old harbour area, the heart of the city – so I could hardly stay away from the window. Lying in bed, I could see part of the Rotterdam cityscape, an interesting mix of old and new, low rise and high rise, lights and colours against the dark sky. Comfort with a view – checked!
We met Jennifer and Jork downstairs and they showed us to the first stop of the evening – Het Witte Huis – a bar on the premises of Europe’s oldest skyscraper. It was busy, but the joyful atmosphere, full of Friday evening energy, was contagious. Two glasses of wine later, we were ready to go to our next destination.
We took the metro to Wilhelminaplein, near the iconic New York Hotel. We crossed the bridge and left the hotel and the modern skyscrapers behind. The sense of arrival in the industrial-edgy Katendrecht is one unforgettable experience. Once a no-go area, this peninsula has become one of the liveliest parts in town, a paradise for foodies and urban enthusiasts. Not once I heard “I want to move to Rotterdam!” when bringing friends here.
In Katendrecht, we had a long, memorable French dinner at Bistrot du Bac, a place chosen by our friends. A red velvet curtain at the entrance, classic bistrot chairs, parisian metro tiles, vintage posters, and elegant mirrors – I could have sworn we were in Paris! The dishes kept the dream alive – there were cold cuts and various pates as starters, fish on a vegetable bed and duck with olives as main dishes, crème brûlée, moelleux au chocolat, and cheese as dessert. Very decadent, very French!
Only when we stepped outside were we reminded or location was in fact Rotterdam. In front of Fenix Food Factory, on the former docklands, people gathered around a campfire, a beer in hand, and sparks lifting up in the air. Across the Maas river, residential skyscrapers with countless lights at the window reflected into the water. Low-key and upscale brought together by a bridge – the Rijnhavenbrug. We crossed it again, on our way back to the centre, and decided to take the water taxi instead of the metro.
“Can you go fast, fast, fast?” Jennifer asked the man in front of the steering wheel, at the same time giving me a big hug, knowing how much I feared these water taxis. It’s all the guy wanted to hear. We were back to the Oude Haven in less than 2 minutes. The journey would have normally lasted 6. As you can see, I survived! The taxi dropped us at the Maritime Museum. The old cranes lit in vibrant colours and the historic boats anchored in the harbour were impressive. Impossible not to feel the soul of Rotterdam as you pass them by.
Leaving the water behind, we walked along Witte de Withstraat. We were all rather tired, but it was my wish to come to this special street in Rotterdam, peppered with bars, restaurants, boutique shops, and art galleries. The sidewalks were full of people streaming out of bars and restaurants, and terraces were packed. We had one last drink, then called it a day.
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TO BE CONTINUED