Welcome to Rotterdam

The other port

Having looked at the future of Thalys in our previous article, now we’ll be jumping in one of our trains to go to Rotterdam. The Netherlands’ second city and Europe’s biggest port is a truly worthwhile city break, filled with unusual sights that are just as worth checking out as anything in the Dutch capital. Known for its ultra-modern, avant-garde architecture, it makes for quite the scenic getaway too. So let’s leave Bristol, Aberdeen and Granada behind and explore this city which feels almost like it should exist on another planet.

Rotterdam brims with astonishing buildings and works of art, and the first thing you should do while in town is have a walk around. First up, make sure to tick off the Cube Houses, the Erasmus Bridge and Euromast, probably the city’s three most famous attractions, then check out the Giant of Rotterdam, a statue dedicated to the glory of the second-tallest ever Dutchman, who was 2.38 metres high and had the appetite of five men. Next, seek out the Father Christmas designed by sculptor Paul McCarthy that some call the ‘Butt Plug Gnome, then the giant fox that watches over the pedestrian pathway leading to a school, the famous multicoloured floating duck-rabbit and Sylvette, a 7.5-metre-high statue representing Pablo Picasso’s muse of the same name. There are so many such dazzling outdoor artworks here, the city is essentially an open-air museum. Definitely try to see as many as you can.

For a change of scene, now head over to the incredible floating farm located in Rotterdam’s harbour (yes, really). With 35 cows looked after by one human farmer and three robots, the farm’s roof collects rainwater then filters it so the animals can drinkit. As for food, they eat a mix of hay and grass from the city’s parks and golf courses. And when it comes to the energy that powers the place, half of it is provided by 50 solar panels. And the animals’ faeces is turned into fertilisers for the region’s fields. What you’ll find here is an exciting vision of the future of food production. Whatever your opinion on the subject, it’s well worth a visit.

If the weather is on your side, you should definitely grab lunch at De Harmonie. As its name hints at, this exceptional restaurant allows you to eat out in an small garden filled with trees and flowers. And the food isn’t an afterthought, either: chef Marco Somer’s food has been recognised by the Michelin guide. Ambitious, refined and sourced as locally as possible: you can sample his fabulous cuisine either in set menus or à la carte. But above all, it lives up to the restaurant’s credo: eat, live, share and inspire. It’s a very admirable message, we’re sure you’d agree, and one that’s aided by the stylish restaurant decor, which makes De Harmonie worth a visit even if the garden is full.

If you often read our city guides, you’ll know that we like our offbeat museums. And Rotterdam has one that really jumps out: the Schaakstukkenmuseum,or the chess museum. Hidden under the Cube Houses, this museum holds no fewer than a thousand complete games, many of which are unique. Whether really old or ultra-modern, created thanks to the latest cutting-edge technology or dedicated to pop-cultural phenomena, ths exhibits here will fascinate any visitor, regardless of whether they’re into the game. More than anything, though, they’ll remind you just how creative humans can be when tasked with reinventing one of their favourite pastimes.

In the afternoon, leave the city on bike and visit the village of Kinderdijk. Around 20 kilometres from Rotterdam, this place will be familiar to you, even if the name doesn’t mean much. Known the world over for its famous windmills, this spot is the Netherlands you’ll see framed on walls across the globe. With its canals, marshes and majestic buildings, you’ll basically feel like you’re in a postcard here. And if you’re really into the history of the place, a museum that’s far more exciting than you might imagine is housed within one of the mills. It’s a great spot to take some time out after a long cycle.

“Imagine a chef with international experience who’s obsessed with fire and innovative cooking methods. With no limits whatsoever.” Those two mysterious and intriguing sentences welcome you to the official website of Van De Leur, and you’d do very well to book a table. This creative and out-there establishment serves up dishes that probably aren’t what you’d expect of modern haute cuisine at all. Through four, five, six or seven-course menus, the chef constantly surprises diners, who don’t have any say in what they eat. The only constant is that the dishes are as refined as they are unusual. You’ll also find some excellent wine and vegetarian options. Follow the flame.

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