3 Days in (and around) Rotterdam, Netherlands
Day 1 - Tuesday
We stayed at a funky hotel on the outskirts of Rotterdam called “Room Mate Bruno”. Located near the water in the Pakhuismeesteren district. The actual building of the hotel is a converted tea warehouse previously owned by the Dutch East India Trading company. Though these days the halls and rooms are filled with colour and decor rather than boxes and tea leaves.
We’d arrived ahead of check in and they were still getting our rooms ready, so we headed to the food hall next door to relax for a little while.
Like the hotel, the food hall is decked out really well. The soft lit, street market aesthetic was home to a variety of foods including, Pizza, burgers, vegan, Indonesia , Mexican, Latino, cheese, desserts as well as a wine bar and a regular bar. By the time we’d grabbed dumplings and bao our room was ready, so we quickly dropped our bags and headed out to explore the city for the rest of the afternoon.
It was only about 3pm, and with daylight savings we still had lots of time before dark. Our first destination was the Cube Houses by Rotterdam Blaak station, which was conveniently only about 30 mins walk from the hotel.
The houses catch your eye as soon as they’re on the horizon. Each of them has a similar rotated cube design, and the intermingled geometry of the houses adds to the unique architecture of the complex. Though these look like the kind of thing that would be impractical to live in, they are functional and occupied. It must be odd for the occupants to have people (like us) coming around to take photos of your apartment, but I guess you come to expect that when you move into a cube like these.
Our next destination, Markethal, continued with the theme of architectural curiosities around Rotterdam. The market hall is a combined commercial and residential building, with glass frontage, a huge curved ceiling and central markets in the ground floor. Looking up at the ceiling you see a colourful and artistic representation of the fresh produce sold in the stalls below.
There are vendors for fruits, vegetables, meats, wines, cheese and desserts. All at reasonable prices. My Dutch friends back home had told me I needed to try Stroopwaffles while I was there, and I’m glad we did.
If you haven’t tried a Stroopwaffles before, they’re are thin, crunchy waffles filled with sticky caramel and (most importantly) they’re delicious. Ash and I got one each at Markethal, and that was the start of many stoops that we enjoyed throughout the Netherlands.
It was still light out, and we had one main stop left to see on the way back to our hotel. About 15 mins walk from Markthal there’s a famous statue of a “Santa with a tree”. The statue’s fame isn’t because of its craftsmanship or historical significance though… its because it looks like a, as the locals say, “Butt plug gnome” more than Santa with a tree - judge for yourself:
Day 2 - Wednesday
When people think about the Netherlands, the first thing that comes to mind for many are windmills. And the most famous ones are at Kinderdijk.
Kinderdjik is a great day trip from Rotterdam and only a 40 min ferry ride from Erasmusbrug wharf. The trip costs €15,20 per person, which includes four ferries (two there, and the same two back again). If you’re planning to make the trip yourself the one thing to be aware of is that the ferries only sell one way tickets, and the only way to buy them is on board.
We jumped on the ferry, bought our tickets and after the short ride we pulled into Kinderdjik. As we approached the wharf at Kinderdjik we were immediately greeted by the that oh so dutch sight of Windmills and beautiful countryside for as far as the eye can see.
The windmills are spread across miles all throughout Kinderdijk, with the majority clustered towards the ferry stop. The best way to see them and the surrounding countryside is to hire a bike, and you can do that easily from several nearby vendors. We expected that the bikes available from the souvenir shop outside the ferry stop would be overpriced. Instead, we walked a short 5-10 minutes into the town of Kinderdijk and found a pub called Partycentrum De Klok which had bike rentals for €8 each for the full day - bargain!
Peddling back from the pub to the windmills, Ash and I were initially apprehensive about riding on the roads and so close to the traffic. That feeling quickly went away though because the roads, cars and cyclist in Kinderdjik (like most of the Netherlands) have dedicated space for bikes, and the cars seem to be hyper aware of cyclists - often slowing down, providing extra room to cyclists or both.
Kinderdjik is a UNESCO World Heritage site too, and as you ride through it you get a sense of why. As well as the cultural significance of the dutch windmills, the area is abundant with plat and wildlife. There are many families of ducks and birds that can be found all along the canals, and there are grasses, reeds and flowers for miles. Truly an area of the world that should be preserved for the generations.
Kinderdjik has to be one of my favourite experiences in Europe so far. It was fairly cold, so we headed back at about 3pm. If it was in summer, I think we could have stayed all day.
Day 3 - Thursday
There are lots of great places to visit in and around Rotterdam, and for our third day took another day trip - this time to the city of Delft.
Delft is just a 15 minute train ride from Rotterdam Centraal. But don’t let the short distance fool you - it’s easy to spend a whole day there..
Like Amsterdam, which we visited a couple of years ago, Delft is built on a system of canals, which bring an abundance of cute little bridges, boats and waterside businesses with them that makes the place feel more intimate and connected. It also offers up lots of great sights and opportunities for taking photos around the city.
The first sight that catches your eye when exiting the station is a large, crooked church affectionately called “Oude Kerk” or “Old Church”, often affectionately called “Old John”.
After doing a bit of googling we found out why Old John has such a lean to him... The church was built in 1246, before canals lined the streets of the Delft. As cities in the Netherlands were becoming busier at the time, many decided to build canals to make it easier to get around and Delft decided to do the same. The problem for Old John was that canals aren’t the best building foundations. So as the solid soil grounds became smaller and softer from the canals, John started to lean and does to this day - with a lean of about 2 meters / 7 feet.
Following our stomachs from the station, we headed for brunch at Kek - a cafe known for its coffee and amazing vegetarian menu. Kek’s atmosphere is quite cosy, with soft lighting, a rustic and floral aesthetic comfortable seating and very friendly staff. We liked the look of several of the food options, but Ash and I both had the smashed avocado on toast - what an Australian Millenial thing to do!
The thing that attracted me to the Avocado toast was that it’s served with “rice paper bacon” - something I’d never heard of. So of course I had to try it.
As the name (and photo above) suggests, the rice paper bacon is a crispy sheet of rice paper that has been made to taste like bacon. I’m not sure of the exact process, but it works! From a cursory look it seems as if it may be a marinated rice pulp perhaps made from chickpeas, peppers and smokey chipotle. I’d love to get he actual recipe!
The rest of smashed avo was great too - fresh soft bread, juicy tomatoes and a little tahini to make the avocado even smoother.
Refuelled, we headed from Kek to the Nieuwe Kerk or “New Church” in the center of town. As the name implies, this church was built after Old John (in 1584) and looks much bigger and grander. Having seen a lot of Churches in Paris and London, we didn’t feel the need to go inside the main chapel. However, we want to climb to the top to get a view out over the city. And boy it was great.
Nieuwe Kerk is 108 metres / 356 ft tall, and you feel that as you go up the single stairway to the top that gets narrower and narrower as you go up. There is a main viewing level at the top complete with the type of metal fence you see at most tourist attractions. When we climbed the tower though, there was another door open about three quarters of the way up the tower which led to another viewing level, this time with no fence at all. We took photos and both, and feeling as if the winds could blow our phones out of our hands at any time headed back inside and made the journey back down.
From Nieuwe Kerk, we walked around the canals a bit more and then headed to our lunch spot “Hummus”. We’d felt quite full after Kek and decided to have a late lunch. That meant we had the place to ourselves. Moreover, it meant we had enough room in our stomachs for what we were about to eat.
I ordered the Black Sheep Veggie Burger which had Halloumi, babaganoush and greens on a black bun. Ash had roasted eggplant that came with a salad, cabbage and pita.
It’s getting harder and harder to compare meals the longer we travel, but this one was right up there with Sketch in London in the fight for best vegetarian food. The serving sizes were generous too, so prepare to eat! The staff were also very friendly.
For the rest of the afternoon we perused the interesting looking shops around Delft, and found several very nice clothing stores and a couple of quickly design stores.
Shortly after 5, we headed back to Rotterdam. We didn’t need dinner after Kek and Hummus, but we did wind down with a few cocktails at the New York Hotel Basement - one of the top cocktail venues in Rotterdam, and conveniently located a few minutes walk from our hotel.
I can thoroughly recommend the “You’d have to be nuts”. The other drinks we had were so good that we forgot to take pictures :/
Having thoroughly enjoyed our time in Rotterdam, we took advantage of the late checkout at Room-Mate Bruno the next day before jumping on the train to our next stop, Leiden, where we planned to see the flower festival and visit the stunning Keukenhof gardens.