Rotterdam  is the second largest municipality by population in the Netherland, after the capital Amsterdam, and the largest city in the province of Zuid-Holland (South Holland). The port of Rotterdam is the largest in Europe and was the world's busiest port from 1962 to 2004, until it was overtaken by Shanghai. Rotterdam is situated on the banks of the river Nieuwe Maas ('New Meuse'), one of the channels in the delta formed by the Rhine and Meuse rivers. The name Rotterdam derives from a dam in the Rotte river.

Settlement at the lower end of the fen stream Rotte (or Rotta, as it was then known, from rot, 'muddy' and a, 'water', thus 'muddy water') dates from at least 900. Around 1150, large floods in the area ended development, leading to the construction of protective dikes and dams, including Schielands Hoge Zeedijk ('Schieland’s High Sea Dike') along the northern banks of the present-day Nieuwe Maas. A dam on the Rotte or 'Rotterdam' was built in the 1260s and was located at the present-day Hoogstraat ('High Street').


On June 7, 1340, count Willem IV of Holland granted city rights to Rotterdam, which then had approximately 2000 inhabitants. Around 1350 a shipping canal, the Rotterdamse Schie was completed, which provided Rotterdam access to the larger towns in the north, allowing it to become a local transshipment center between Holland, England and Germany, and to slowly urbanize.

The port of Rotterdam slowly but steadily grew into a port of importance, becoming the seat of one of the six 'chambers' of the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC), or the Dutch East India Company.

The greatest spurt of growth, both in port activity and population, followed the completion of the Nieuwe Waterweg in 1872. The city and harbor started to expand on the south bank of the river. The Witte Huis or White House skyscraper, inspired by American office buildings and built in 1898 in the French Chateau style is evidence of Rotterdam's rapid growth and success. It was at the time of completion the tallest office building in Europe, with a height of 45 m.

So many things to do and so little time! To make the most out of your stay and discover the best of Rotterdam, we have put together a list of 'must-see' museums and things to do in town.

Truly experiencing Rotterdam means sailing through it! Explore Rotterdam in only 75 minutes, seeing everything that lives on and around the water. It is an incredible experience to see the skyline, wharves, quays and docks from so close and to take part in the busy traffic of ocean ships and canal boats, on a river that brought Rotterdam its glory. A world-class experience that doesn’t take long at all!

Until 30 September 2007 Spido hosts ‘Architecture Adventure’, a daily round trip by boat that focuses on the city’s impressive architectural highlights. This round trip also includes a tour by mini train, to discover all the architectonic highlights of the inner city. Both trips offer information in French, English, German and Dutch. Like the Rotterdam Harbour tour this tour will last 75 minutes and departs daily at 1.15 pm. 

An exhibition hall that houses some 25 expositions annually. The Kunsthal displays culture in the broadest sense of the word: traditional art, new art, design, photography, from elitist to popular. The Kunsthal often experiments with themes that have never been used for an exhibition before. This approach produces a fascinating and widely varied repertoire. Its permanent collection consists of a repertoire highlighting master-forger Han van Meegeren, Leonardo da Vinci, the Hague School of painters, Jewels of the Orient, Pop-art and impressionism. In total, the Kunsthal has 3300 m2 of exhibition space in a striking building, designed by Rem Koolhaas and a true work of art all on its own.

Wandering through this many-sided museum you will journey through the history of art, from the Middle Ages until the present day: works by artists such as Bosch and Rubens, top works such as Bruegel’s Tower of Babel and Rembrandt’s Titus. You can also see the genesis of Impressionism and Modernism, with works by Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet and many others. Through works by Andy Warhol amongst others, you will experience the diversity of modern art.

‘Once around Rotterdam’ is a 2-hour walking tour through the centre of Rotterdam, past the many architectural and cultural highlights, providing you with surprising tips on the route, such as fun shops and extraordinary restaurants. The tour is supported by existing pedestrian signposting in the city. The brochure is available free of charge at many locations, such as the VVV Rotterdam Store (Tourist Information Office, Coolsingel 5), VVV Rotterdam Info Café (near Central Station) and many hotels, attractions and museums.

Treat yourself to a dazzling view of Rotterdam and step into the elevator of the Euromast. Within a second you are outside, on the platforms. At a height of 100 meter you can see the magnitude of the harbours, the skyline of a real big city and ‘celebrities’ such as the Kuip, Hotel New York and the Erasmus Bridge. Feel like more excitement? Get on the Euroscoop for a ride to 185 meters! 

From a modest model room in 1874, the Maritime Museum has grown and developed into a museum of stature, with contemporary exhibitions for both young and old. Hop on board the museum ship ‘the Buffel’ and discover everything about the lives of sailors or reminisce on the permanent exhibitions of the ‘Holland-America Line’ or the ‘Schatten van Nedlloyd’, showing magnificent objects from the offices of the world famous shipping company. 

The Rotterdam Zoo (Diergaarde Blijdorp) has become one of Europe’s most beautiful zoos. Dive into the fully covered Oceanium; the domain of sharks, king penguins, sea otters and jelly-fish. Walk through the Asian Swamps and meet with the elephant- and rhino family in tropical forest ‘Taman Indah’. In 2007 Rotterdam Zoo celebrates its 150th anniversary with many special anniversary activities.

Rotterdam is the festival city of the Netherlands, with both small and large-scale events. From the International Film Festival Rotterdam to the World Port Days, there is always something to do in Rotterdam. For Rotterdam the theme of 2009 will be the youth, under the name Your World, with a wide variety of festivals and events. 

Rotterdam is a lively metropolis all year round with countless cafes and restaurants representing every cuisine in the world. In the evenings and nights you can hang loose in hip clubs and trendy discotheques, such as the sustainable dance club Watt, which opened in 2008.

Like to know more about Rotterdam? For information