Rotterdam: A leading creative capital to explore

We asked Rotterdam local Huub Lakerveld to give us his personal tips for a visit to this wonderful Dutch city.

Visiting Rotterdam in the winter season means you can stroll around cosy Christmas markets, feast on local treats, and marvel at the contemporary architecture. 

Vibrant atmosphere
Rotterdam is a paradise for food lovers and architecture enthusiasts. In particular, the Blaak square hosts some of Rotterdam’s most original buildings. When I take the exit at the Blaak metro station, I see the iconic Cubic Houses on my right-hand side. The architect made the square houses turn 45 degrees, which makes them look like large hanging Rubik’s cubes. You can visit one of the houses for a unique experience. 

Next to the Cubic Houses, you can sip a drink while overlooking the Oude Haven, the old harbour, with its traditional vessels and many bars.

On the left side of Blaak square, you can find my favourite place for culinary refreshment: the Markthal or market hall, where you can revel in delicacies from all over the world. There are fresh meats, cheeses, exotic fruits, nuts, and much more to feast on. Don’t forget to look up, because the ceiling is decorated with vivid paintings of fruits and plants.  

Winter activities 
From the colourful Markthal, I make my way to the Trompenburg Garden Christmas market. The fragrance of hot chocolate fills my nostrils and snowflakes plunge onto my shoulders. Here you can taste the delightful Dutch delicacy called poffertjes: fluffy mini-pancakes covered with a blanket of powdered sugar. This Christmas market is one of many that pop up in wintery Rotterdam. 

For a wide selection of stalls and live music, visit the Christmas market in Delfshaven, the oldest neighbourhood in the city. This year most Christmas markets in the city will take place from 15th – 17th December 2018. Bring your hat and scarf, because the temperature in Rotterdam could go as low as -10C (14F) between November and January!

New Year’s Eve
The Erasmus Bridge over the Maas river is one of the sights you can’t afford to miss when visiting this vibrant port city. Its nickname, The Swan, makes sense when you see the white futuristic arch of the overpass. On New Year’s Eve there’s a bonfire and spectacular fireworks right next to the Erasmus Bridge. This firework show is one of the largest in the Netherlands. Be early to ensure your spot, as it gets very crowded. 

Book fair 
In the winter months, I prefer to spend a lot of time inside a café with an electrifying bestseller or a historical encyclopaedia near at hand. That’s why I love to visit the event hall Ahoy, where over a million books are sold during the annual gathering of bookworms called the ‘Boekenfestijn‘: literally the book feast. The next book fair will be held from 24th – 27th January 2019, and admission is free.

The ultimate food places
In Rotterdam, you can enjoy scenic views from the observation deck of the Euromast tower. Savour a lovely meal in the accompanying restaurant while overlooking the illuminated skyline of Rotterdam. You can opt for a dinner buffet or let the chef surprise you with a three-course dinner for £32. 

Another interesting culinary hotspot is the Fenix Food Factory. Similar to the Markthal, you can sample fresh Dutch staples such as bread, sausages, and cheeses. A good way of washing down the food is by drinking a beer at the Kaapse Brouwers, a local brewery. 

My favourite place for a refreshing ale is Belgisch Biercafé Boudewijn in the heart of the city. With over 200 types of beer, this is the perfect place to blend with the locals and finish your trip to Rotterdam in a friendly and relaxed way.