View of Rotterdam from Veerhaven - 21 More Reasons to Love Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

Last year I wrote an article called 21 Reasons to Love Rotterdam. It went a little bit viral, with nearly 4000 shares, 40+ comments, several emails and an invitation from a Rotterdam company asking me to speak at one of their conferences.

As a young(ish) British woman living in Amsterdam, but loving Rotterdam from afar, it was a strange experience, but it was also testament to the community spirit to be found in a city that too many overlook.

Rotterdammers – born or adopted – care about their city and many go to great efforts to share this with outsiders. But even internally, with only a secondary thought for visitors, Rotterdam is always changing to be a better city.

De Rotterdam Building

In response to all the comments on my last article, I promised that I would find 21 more reasons to love Rotterdam. Well, here they are.

1. Delfshaven

Delfshaven - 21 More Reasons to Love Rotterdam - Frances M. Thompson

I have no idea why it took me five visits before I made the short journey to Delfshaven, a small pocket of cute canals that in 1389 was one of the first ports in the area.

Meaning “Port of Delft”, Delfshaven was established to service vessels wanting to land at Rotterdam but didn’t want to pay the high taxes that it bestowed on ships.

Delfshaven Photos - 21 More Reasons to Love Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

Famous for many reasons – the Pilgrim Fathers set sail from Delfshaven in 1620, and it was the birthplace of Piet Hein, one of the Netherlands’ most famous naval commanders – nowadays, it is a place for domestic and international visitors to go and realise that Rotterdam isn’t all eye-popping modernist architecture; there’s a lot of tradition Dutch scenery to be enjoyed there too.

2. De Pelgrim

De Pelgrim Delfshaven - 21 More Reasons to Love Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

Also located in Delfshaven, there’s De Pelgrim, a pub, hotel and brewery that takes the name of those famous separatist sailors who went on to be the first settlers in America. With a perfect position on the canal next to De Pelgrimskerk (the Pilgrim Fathers Church), there is a sign outside De Pelgrim which boasts that this is the only brewery in the world where you can get married. I’m not sure the beer’s worth getting married for, but it’s definitely easy to drink, especially if the sun is shining.

3. Het Witte Huis

Witte Huis - 21 More Reasons to Love Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

Back close to the centre of Rotterdam, near Oude Haven “the old port” (are you noticing a theme?!), is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it white building that all but disappears compared to the giant constructions around it and on the opposite side of the Maas. But the turreted peaks and respectable 10 storeys of Het Witte Huis should be sought out and appreciated a little longer as it was once the first “skyscraper” in Europe.

Het Witte Huis - 21 More Reasons to Love Rotterdam - Frances M

Built in 1898, little did those building it know that they would be setting a precedent for Rotterdam as a haven for modern architecture. Take time to try and imagine what it looked like back then while having a coffee in the ground floor cafe.

3. Luchtsingel

Luchtsingel - 21 More Reasons to Love Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

From one of Rotterdam’s oldest architectural achievements to one of its newest – and most unique. The Luchtsingel, or “air canal”, is a wooden bridge structure that links Rotterdam’s Centraal district with the north of the city, an area many regard as being a little neglected and disconnected from the rest of the city.

Luchtsingel Rotterdam - 21 More Reasons to Love Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

Stretching over roads and railway lines, Luchtsingel does much to counteract this, not least because it was built through crowd-funding. With many calling it Rotterdam’s version of NYC’s High Line, it’s definitely worth exploring if you find yourself close by, if only to read all the names on engraved on the pieces of wood, representing all the donors who made Luchtsingel possible.

4. Groos

Groos

Meaning “proud” in Dutch slang, Groos is a shop found at the foot of Luchtsingel. It sells only products made by people living in or around Rotterdam. And these products are crazy, crazy cool. The shop space also hosts regular events so check out their Facebook to find out what’s going on while you’re visiting.

5. Sculptures 

I touched on Rotterdam’s reputation as a hub for modern and contemporary art in my original 21 Reasons article, but what I didn’t allude to were the numerous sculptures scattered around the city.

Gnome with butt plug by Metro Centric

From the debate-sparking “Gnome (or Santa!!) with a butt plug” to the moving memorial to the Rotterdam seafarers who lost their lives during the Second World War, there is much to admire and learn from Rotterdam’s sculptures. You can even do a sculpture walk of the city to make sure you see as many as possible.

6. Vintage Shopping

tony's garage sale - vintage shopping in rotterdam - by Frances M Thompson

I knew that Rotterdam had great potential for vintage shopping what with its bohemian areas and high student population. I was right, all I needed was a little time to get to know it better. Which I did and the result is this vintage shopping guide to Rotterdam. I found prices cheaper than Amsterdam and the range and variety just as good. Which means I’ll regularly be hopping on a train south to Rotterdam to get my vintage fix.

7. nhow hotel bar terrace

Nhow Hotel Terrace Bar - 21 More Reasons to Love Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

If you want a nice cocktail with a view, the bar on the seventh floor of Nhow hotel in the new-but-already-mega-famous De Rotterdam building is the place to come. It’s open air terrace offers the best views of Erasmusbrug and inside the high ceilings and minimalists design give way to a modern but stylish place to spend an evening.

8. Chess Piece Museum

I bet you weren’t expecting to see those words on this list but I wasn’t really surprised to see a chess piece museum in Rotterdam, not least inside one of the famous cube houses.

Chess Piece Museum in Rotterdam

Obviously, it’s not for everyone but this small museum boasting a wide range of chess pieces in any number of styles – modern and traditional, weird and wacky – will easily impress the right person.

9. Katendrecht

View of Kattendrecht from Kop van Zuid in Rotterdam

Found just a short walk across the water from Hotel New York, Katendrecht is an area that is undergoing quite a transformation. Now one of the hippest neighbourhoods in the city, centuries ago it was a village that lay unconnected with Rotterdam. Then, as the city’s harbour activities quickly expanded, Katendrecht became more built up, industrial and eventually was the area visiting sailors and sea merchants would head to get all the things travelling seafarers look for; places to drink, gamble and… ahem, be in the company of women.

De Roiers Sculpture in Rotterdam

Nowadays, it feels like a lively residential area which also offers beautiful views of the rest of the city though it still draws on its history with a long-standing tattoo shop and restaurant called “de matroos en het meisje” (the sailor and the girl”). Fondly called “de Kaap” by the locals, Katendrecht is well worth a few hours of your time as it is home to some of the city’s most popular bars and restaurants and more…

10. Fenix Food Factory

Fenix Food Factory - Frances M Thompson

Housed in one of the old warehouses on the waterfront at Katendrecht, the Fenix Food Factory is a relatively new Rotterdam tradition and the kind of place I could happily keep going back to. With just seven stores, but each one selling a very important food group (well, ish; beer, cheese, meat, coffee, beer, cider, vegetables & fruit), you can easily spend an afternoon or more here just grazing your way through tasting dishes while sitting on the picnic tables or vintage couches.

Inside Fenix Food Factory in Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

I have to give a special mention to Cider Cider which is the Netherlands’ first and only specialist cider shop. This guy knows his stuff and is keen to change the Dutch’s perception of what is in my fair country (UK) the most perfect thirst quencher in summer months. I wish him well as I often think that’s what my summers in Amsterdam are missing!

11. Nacht van de Kaap

Nacht van de Kaap party night

The highlight of the World Port Days festival (see below) for those who like to party is de Nacht van de Kaap and it also takes place in Katendrecht. A mini festival of its own, it plays on de Kaap’s history of being something of a refuge for sailors and so you’ll find everyone dressed up in retro sailor’s outfits or vintage dresses and 1940s style hairdos. It’s one of the biggest parties in Rotterdam and as well as one big stage (where in 2014 artists performed all the best “drinking songs”) there are also a few other stages and DJs and all the local shops, bars and restaurants open their doors and put up makeshift bars for you to buy drinks at.

Bluesgrass Band at Nacht van de Kaap in Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson Around the fire at Nacht van de Kaap Kaap Brewery in Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

 12. Veerhaven

Veerhaven in Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

Another corner of Rotterdam that I didn’t discover until my latest visit, Veerhaven is one of the oldest harbours in Rotterdam and is now home to a marina where mostly pleasure boats line up. With lots of old architecture to admire around the sides of the harbour and great views across the Maas to Kop van Zuid I wish I’d discovered Veerhaven earlier.

13. Cafe Loos

Cafe Loos Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

Just across the road from Veerhaven is Cafe Loos housed in a romantic looking art deco building that looks like it would be more at home in New York than Rotterdam. But I’m glad it is where it is because it made for the perfect spot to sit at a table outside one evening, drinking a glass of sparkling wine and watching the world go by. While eating bitterballs, of course.

14. Spido Boat Tours

I’ve known about Spido’s boat tours of the Port of Rotterdam for a while but I had assumed that what they offered was more catered to tourists who never stray from the beaten path. I was very wrong. In fact, Spido gives visitors (and locals) a rare opportunity to see a part of Rotterdam that is not easily accessible. And without seeing the port area by sailing around it, you really have no idea how huge it is, and how many massive ships, machinery and constructions it comprises of. If you have an inkling of interest in seeing the world’s third largest and busiest port you MUST take a Spido tour.

Champagne as part of Djazz Cruisezz with Spido

I especially recommend the summertime evening cruises which I did as part of my World Port Days festival experience.

15. Suitehotel Pincoffs

Breakfast Room at Hotel Pincoffs Rotterdam - Frances M

While I loved staying at the budget-friendly but design-focused The Student Hotel (and I’m still lusting after a stay at Hotel New York), I am SO happy I experienced Suitehotel Pincoffs. Cosy, charming and full of personal touches this is a lovely hotel that deserves its ranking as Tripadvisor’s #1 hotel in Rotterdam. Also the stories behind the hotel, its building and how the owners made it what it is, are so interesting. (Read my review and some of those stories here.)

 16. Indoor Markthal

Giant window of Markthal Rotterdam

I’m going to put myself out there and say that within the next year Markthal will be many people’s #1 reason to visit Rotterdam. An incredible – if slightly mind-bending – architectural feat and the Netherlands’ first indoor market hall, the huge arched construction will host 100 market stalls and stores dedicated to food and drink. It’s being hailed as a “foodiewalhalla” but even if you’re not into your grub you need to see this building to believe it, as it will also be home to over 200 apartments. It opens on 1st October 2014 and you can see more photos of the market hall here.

Inside Curved Painted Roof of Markthal Rotterdam

17. World Port Days

If you’re not from Rotterdam you won’t have a clue what “Wereldhavendagen” means (or how to say it) but to Rotterdammers the World Port Days festival is one of the year’s best weekends in Rotterdam.

Crowds admiring two biggest boats at World Port Days in Rotterdam 2014

Celebrating the city’s history as one of the most important ports in the world, World Port Days sees the port, and several other locations, open up to the general public so they can explore boats, tour industrial areas that are often restricted to the general public and soak up both the history and future of Rotterdam as a harbour city. While it’s a must-visit for anyone with maritime interests, and kids will love the opportunity to walk around boats of all sizes, shapes and vintages, there’s a real buzz in Rotterdam during World Port Days festival.

Boats lined up near Maritime Museum at World Port Days in Rotterdam

I surprised myself how much I enjoyed just wandering around the city’s many harbours (like Veerhaven above, Oudehaven, Bierhaven and Leuvehaven) and I found the fireworks display centred around Erasmusbrug which ended with a chorus of ship sirens very moving. Of course, it helped that there were poffertje stalls and cheery groups of retired sailors singing shanty songs. And yes, Nacht van de Kaap really is the icing on the cake for those who want to take the festival atmosphere into the night.

Shanty Sing-A-Long with Hooks & Crooks at Wereldhavendagen in Rotterdam

18. Cafe LaBru

I’m surprised this place didn’t make it on my last list as I already knew it well.

Though friends introduced me to this bar in Witte de Withstraat (which was on my previous list before you get all excited) I now go there by choice as I find it a really “gezellig” spot to enjoy a few drinks and a sharing platter at the beginning of a night out in Rotterdam.

Cafe LaBru in Rotterdam

LaBru also has an impressive collection of whiskys if that’s what you’re into.

19. Hopper Coffee

Hoppers Coffee Rotterdam - Frances M Thompson

More than one person told me to check out Hopper Coffee in the comments of the last article I wrote so I took that as a good sign. Confirmation that it should be included in this second list came with the coffee and the cool interior. And then I kicked myself for not going there for lunch because they looked so good. Next time…

20. Van Nelle Fabriek

Rotterdam-2014-68_web-lrg

The old Van Nelle Fabriek is Rotterdam’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site and something of a ground-breaking building. Of course it doesn’t look revolutionary with its steel structure and glass covered facades, but you have to remember that it was built in the 1920s, not the 1960s. Once a factory for the packing and distribution of tea, coffee and tobacco, it is now preserved for visitors to come and admire a building that was also innovative in putting workers’ well-being at the forefront of its design. Although I didn’t have time to visit myself my good friend Michael Turtle explored the building recently and took some great photos.

21. The possibility of Rotterdam’s future…

Rotterdam Postcard - Frances M Thompson

One of the things I love most about Rotterdam is that I don’t know what’s coming next. All I do know is that when I return it will look different. The skyline will have been added to. The people will have another new project, new building or new initiative to boast about. And that’s exactly why I will keep coming back…

Rotterdam Postcards - Frances M Thompson

All photos by Frankie except Groos, Sculptures 1Katendrecht, Cafe LaBruVan Nelle Fabriek

frankie-in-ljubljana

This post was written by Frankie Thompson who was a Travelette from 2012 – 2015. Originally from London, UK, Frankie was nomadic for several years before settling in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where she lives with her Australian partner and baby boy. She spends her time buying vintage dresses, riding a rusty old bike around the canals and writing books inspired by her travels. Frankie blogs about travel, writing and motherhood at As the Bird flies blog.