Less in your face than Amsterdam, but arguably with a little more flair, Rotterdam is the cultural hub of The Netherlands. Coffee shops and sex shows are still about, if that's your thing, but it's not as prevalent. Instead, food and architecture steam ahead.
Accessible by plane, train or automobile (albeit the latter will take you seven hours from London and involves a ferry too), it is pretty easy to get to from the UK, so what's stopping you?
Food is an immersive experience in Rotterdam; traditional sit down meal times are for your Monday evening, back-at-home selves.
Pancakes are *the* thing to eat in the city and, we kid you not, there is a boat where you can just sit your booty down, take in an incredible view and eat UNLIMITED pancakes for the duration of the trip. Yep. The Pannenkoekenboot is bloody fantastic. Choose from rides that last between 75 minutes and two and half hours, travel night or day, and even attach another activity to your package. If we could, we would totally moor this boat and set up camp on it forever, tbf.
Boats not your thing? Not to worry, how about Michelin star food plus a bike tour instead? The innovative peeps at FG have teamed up with the Van Kortenhof bike shop to bring the FG Bike Tour. The tour starts at FG Bistro with homemade cakes. You can then choose your route around the city’s sights, stopping halfway at the Michelin star FG Food Labs restaurant for a serious wining and dining experience. A delectable three-course lunch awaits, accompanied by delicious wine. Once you’re ready to get on the move again, the tour ends back at FG Bistro.
Flower and Sours is a different take on a traditional food market for local traders. It's like a tasting room and laboratory all in one. They put customers in touch with local suppliers, and they endeavour to cook using only produce grown by a local network of farmers and suppliers. They even hold workshops for budding foodies!
The elegant SS Rotterdam Hotel celebrates the port history of Rotterdam. The entire hotel is set in a renovated ship and the rooms are kitted out in authentic 1950s decor. Despite being stationary nowadays, the ship is rich in history and has observed many key moments since its first voyage in September 1959. With its fine dining and deck pool, you can act out your fave Titanic scenes – starring as Rose, obvs – but without that ending.
Alternatively, the Mainport Hotel has won TripAdvisor’s Travellers Choice Award this year, which is only awarded to the top 1% of businesses in their category. Head onto the balcony to observe the harbour, or retreat to dry land if your sea legs aren’t quite ready yet. For a modern, cheaper alternative, another great place to stay is CitizenM Rotterdam. The hotel is walking distance from the downtown attractions and has great transport links nearby.
Head up the Euromast for an incredible panoramic view of the city (a meal and even a kip - there’s a hotel up there!) Then, if you’re feeling daring, zipline all the way down. The fastest zipline in Europe, you’ll hit speeds of 100kmph, so it’s definitely not for the fainthearted. Not unless you want a repeat of Jada Pinkett Smith in Girls Trip...
The public art in Rotterdam is seriously cool, too. Have a giggle at what Santa is holding, or marvel at the Markthal ceiling whilst shopping. Rotterdam’s installations are super-interesting and quirky, like the city itself. Walk around willy-nilly and you’re sure to come across some compelling art, or plot out your route and hit up the well-known pieces.
As a port city, Rotterdam’s boat tours are quite remarkable. Ride around the harbour, observe the skyline and let the buildings speed by. If it tickles your fancy, the Maritime Museum is pretty epic. Not only does the museum display their world renowned collection of Dutch maritime history, it provides a great education on the national and international impact the port has had.
As mentioned earlier, Rotterdam's food game is really strong, but its drinks bring something new to the table. Grab a detox juice at Sajoer which, unlike the smoothie we try to whip up each morning, comes in incredible tasting flavours: think watermelon, mojito and 'heartbeet'. Sajoer also offers juice cleansing programmes. Get your GPs advice before taking part, though.
Sign up to a Sunday themed walk - or do your own thing, if you prefer - through Arboretum Trompenburg. A blooming beautiful garden with a selection of picturesque trees, bushes and flowers, it's the perfect place to wander around for hours, lost in thought. With enchanting wrought iron bridges and obscure plants, it shows that The Netherlands is more than just tulips in the green-fingered world.
For a proper night out, De Witte Aap is a must-visit. Lonely Planet actually named it as the best bar in the WORLD in 2010, and they know their shiz. These days, the bar still attracts legions of locals and tourists and has a great, lively atmosphere. The bar is situated on the corner of Witte de Withstraat, a street that is always buzzing, thanks to a variety of restaurants and shops.
A little more cosy is Locus Publicus. The pub is furnished from head to foot in wood and antique ornaments and, during winter, there is even an open fire. It literally feels like a homely Irish pub. In addition, Locus Publicus sells hundreds of local and international beers. Yum.
If you're looking for more of an underground scene, literally head below street level. Toffler club, playing house and techno music, is situated in a renovated pedestrian tunnel and is well known for its movable DJ booth that uses a bespoke designed hydraulic system to get moving itself.
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