Wooden windmills. Intricate canals. Colorful tulips. Cultural icons that you hope–probably even expect–to encounter in the Netherlands. If you’re heading to Rotterdam though, you’ll have to look a little harder to find these classic Dutch symbols. Sure, you can head to picturesque Delfshaven, a historic port. But the country’s second largest city is known more for its modern architecture and progressive thinking.
Rotterdam originated as a small fishing village and blossomed into a shipping port by controlling the waterways. And then the German army bombed the city in 1940. Almost everything was destroyed. Rebuilding came slowly, at first. But eventually, reconstruction began edging toward the future instead of attempting to reclaim the past. Glass, steel, and concrete became the new normal. Now, interesting buildings keep popping up all over the place.
Rotterdam Centraal–you’ll probably arrive here–is receiving a high-tech, triangular makeover. The Erasmus Bridge, a suspension bridge nicknamed “The Swan” for its asymmetrical pylon, links the northern and southern sections of the city. The still-under-construction City Hall will look like clouds floating above the street. The bright red color of the New Luxor Theatre, now called the most beautiful theater in the Netherlands, can’t be missed. Scheepvaart, the Shipping and Transport College, has an unusual shape and lots of glass along the Nieuwe Maas. De Brug, the headquarters of a large company, seems to float above a factory. Even houses, like the hexagon-shaped cube houses, are being reimagined. The list goes on and on.
Rotterdam may be the Netherlands’ second city, but it’s trying its damnedest to ensure it’s no longer forgotten.