How to plan a walking tour of Rotterdam’s remarkable architecture
1. Central station
Even if you aren’t arriving by train, start at Central Station for a glimpse of Rotterdam’s architectural ambitions. Redesigned in 2014, this giant with glass walls heralded the rebirth of a once risky neighborhood. Thanks to the steel cladding of its soaring roof, locals call it ‘Kapsalon Station’ – a nod to the aluminum take-out trays in which Rotterdam’s signature poutine-like snack, kapsalon, is served .
Then, hop on a tram to Blaak Markt, the city’s largest street market, for a bite to eat and take a look at the Markthal, a horseshoe-shaped residential and dining complex designed by a local architectural firm. Under its vaulted ceiling, covered in artwork by Dutch artists Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam, the food court offers a multicultural buffet of syrupy stroopwafels (waffles), baklava, and nasi goreng.
Read more: A culinary guide to Zeeland, the “land on sea” of the Netherlands
3. Kijk-Kubus House-Museum
Directly opposite the square is Rotterdam’s most iconic architectural wonder, the Kijk-Kubus House Museum. Designed in the late 1970s by Dutch architect Piet Blom, this development comprises 38 apartments in the shape of tilted Rubik’s Cubes, each perched on a hexagonal concrete column. One of the cubes also serves as a museum and Airbnb, offering the opportunity to experience life between these geometric walls.
4. Sonneveld House
Head west at two metro stops to discover a Dutch interpretation of the functionalist architecture movement that swept across Europe in the early 20th century. Commissioned by a local family in the 1930s, the Sonneveld house was meticulously restored in 2001, down to the original furnishings. It is now a museum; tickets also allow entry into the Het Nieuwe Instituut design center, across the street.
5. Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum
Even though this fine arts museum is closed for renovation until 2026, just west of the museum entrance you’ll find its giant bowl-shaped repository, covered with 1,664 mirrors, which reflect the line of skyline of the city. When the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum reopens in November, you will be able to browse almost all of the 151,000 works of art and objects in the museum’s collection.
6. From Rotterdam
Few designers have defined 21st century architecture like Rem Koolhaas, the Rotterdam-born architect. In 2013, he added De Rotterdam to his portfolio: this gravity-defying juggernaut is the tallest building in the Netherlands. End your day here with a drink next door at Gastrobar Elvy, whose seventh-floor rooftop bar overlooks the Erasmus Bridge, another of the city’s architectural icons.
Published in the September 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveler (UK)
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