Netherlands – bicycles, windmills, canals, tulips, weed and specific architecture; I have been twice as a teenager and always wanted go travelling there again. I mostly remember Amsterdam and some other locations like the Hague and Delft, but when it comes to Rotterdam, I completely forgot everything about the city apart from the big Euromast tower so, naturally, we had to go again and refresh my memory.
Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and 3rd busiest in the world, yet, as a tourist destination, it is still quite neglected compared to the country’s capital, Amsterdam. If you managed to get to Rotterdam without knowing about its significance in maritime industry, you’re not the first one. However, seeing massive cargo ships cutting through the river and going under the big Erasmus bridge will quickly make you aware of the magnitude of the shipping industry to be found in the city.
My first two trips to Netherlands were done by bus (I really do not miss those 30+ hours in an uncomfortable bus seat). This time, we took the train. I love travelling with trains and when I realised we can get to Netherlands with the Eurostar from London, my eyes sparkled and one way tickets were bought immediately. We took tickets one way as there still is no direct line back, you need to change at Brussels and we would be returning from Amsterdam.
Getting to the Pancras station was easy, but navigating there through the lines and lines of people, not as much. Thankfully, there were loads of helpful staff navigating you to where you needed to go. It also helped not having to think about liquid and various other restrictions that are applied to the air travel. Being able to have your take away coffee with you through the security was another big plus; they even have cup holders to make sure your drink does not spill.
I found out that a lot of people working there mistook the Croatian passport for the Australian one which made me chuckle as the only similar thing is the damn colour, might as well think it American… Anyways, with 20 minutes delay (maybe it is actually run by Greater Anglia) we were on our way. Let my birthday holiday begin!!!
We got to Rotterdam around 13.00 and immediately went to the Airbnb we booked. It was a tidy little room and the house had a decent bathroom and fully equipped kitchen which made having breakfast the next morning easy and kinda like home. Getting around town is quite easy and one way tickets valid for 60 mins are €3. BTW, this is the only time we used public transport as we walked everywhere later on, it is the best way to see most of the city so put comfy shoes on! Rotterdam is not really that big but it still requires a bit of planning or at least an outline of things you would like to see/do.
We saw the Delfshaven (as that is where our Airbnb was); it’s a little part of town with the picturesque harbour. In the past, the locals here earned their living my fishing and distilling gin. Did you know the Dutch actually invented gin? Yeah, they did and they introduced it to Brits. Well, their king did (William III) while he was on the Irish, Scottish and English throne.
Across the impressive Erasmusbrug we found the Photography museum and the famous New York hotel. Another thing we stumbled across was Fenix Food Factory, a perfect place to take your first break and grab a bite to eat and wash it down with a drink. This is the place where we had the best beer of this trip. You can get many different types of craft beer and the prices are more or less ok (bit lower than in London). Food wise, nice selection of pastries, cheese platters, sandwiches, and also a bit more substantial meals.
Continuing our exploration, we went towards the Markthal market and Cube house area. It’s not too far to walk and you can walk through the Maritime museum outside area and see the Kraken!!!
One note about the Markhtal market – as every other public toilet in Netherlands, you have to pay for it. This one is €1 and you get 50 cents back to use in one of the stores/stalls so if you need to pee and wanna do some shopping, pee before so you can use the vouchers. Just bear in mind not everyone will take the vouchers so ask before. Oh, we bought 2 massive avocados for only €1 so it’s a perfect place for hipsters 😀
One thing we took on our trek around Rotterdam is that is seems not to have one main centre, more of a couple of smaller centres that each have something of their own going for them.
If the main reason you are visiting Netherlands is easy access to smoking weed, you will find plenty coffee shops here. We went to the one called The Reef and the interior is amazing! Underwater meets cyber culture – to make it a bit more interesting, there was a shark with a laser on its head and a really funky octopus.
Rotterdam by night is quite a beautiful site even with the wind blowing mercilessly but that’s apparently what you get when you are in a city by the river 😀 To keep warm you can go to one of the bars in Witte de Withstraat which is so colourful and full of people it makes you want to cancel all the plans and just sit down and enjoy the evening.
The second day we only had a half day before taking a bus to Amsterdam. We wanted to take the train, but we found Flixbus for one third of the price and decided to go with that one.
We decided to take it easy and we had a leisurely stroll to town through Het Park (you can find Euromast there as well) up to the centre, saw a big gnome holding a ginormous butt plug and some other weird and wonderful statues (like a transformer!), including Rodin’s L’homme qui marche. After a beer in one of the bar in the already mentioned Witte de Withstraat, we got on the bus and were on our way to Amsterdam to meet our friends who were flying in from England that day.