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Look up: the most impressive buildings in Rotterdam

By Mathilde Simon
July 30, 2021

Rotterdam is different. Where you stroll along the canals in Amsterdam and admire historic buildings in The Hague, your view in Rotterdam wanders to high heights. The fact that the history of the city has largely been destroyed and replaced by modern buildings gives mixed feelings. But we like to focus on the positive and see how the reconstruction has made the city what it is today: impressive.

When visiting Rotterdam there are a number of things that you should definitely not miss. The well-known eye-catchers, but of course also the buildings that become a fundamental part of the ever-growing skyline. Which buildings in Rotterdam can’t be missed? We share it with you below!


De Markthal

Tijdens je bezoek aan Rotterdam mag een tripje naar de Markthal niet ontbreken. Hier proef je allemaal snacks, vanuit verschillende landen, terwijl je je ogen uitkijkt.

This building is certainly impressive, because nowhere in Rotterdam will you find such a uniquely shaped and versatile building. It cannot be denied that the Markthal is an eye-catcher, but at the same time it offers housing for dozens of people and is the place for delicious street food.

Construction of this new icon started in 2009 and they soon found large-scale excavations of all kinds of medieval objects. Think of vases, tools and cannonballs. They kept this piece of the Middle Ages in the Market Hall in a very cool way, by means of a Time Staircase.

This permanent exhibition can be found in the stairwell and parking garages of the Markthal. By moving along with the escalator, you travel through time. The deeper you descend, the more you go back in time.

But what really makes the Markthal so special is perhaps the immense work of art that spreads over the walls and ceiling. Artist Arno Coenen knew what he was getting into when he created the largest work of art in the Netherlands. Colourful flowers and fruits embrace the building and make it impossible to look where you’re walking. This work of art, called the Horn of Plenty, has a surface of 11,000m2 and is also known as the Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam. And when you visit the Markthal, you immediately know why.


The City Hall

Photo: Claire Droppert

Less high, but just as impressive. The City Hall of Rotterdam is located in the heart of the city centre, on the Coolsingel, and is one of the few buildings that survived the bombing.

The foundation stone of the building was laid by Queen Wilhelmina in 1915. This stone was the beginning of an impressive City Hall in Beaux-Arts style with Byzantine, Romanesque and Art Deco influences. Both the facade and the inside of the building are decorated with beautiful sculptures and hidden symbolism.

In the Central Hall, for example, the coat of arms of Rotterdam with the saying ‘Navigare necesse est’ hangs. In other words: ‘We must sail’. Beautifully symbolic of the trade and port that made Rotterdam the city it is today. Also beautiful are the weapons of the main European trading partners in stained glass. And not to forget the monumental statue with the caption ‘Stronger through struggle’; a saying that every Rotterdammer knows.

A nice tip is to book a tour of the City Hall. Would you rather do this from the comfort of your home? Then check out this virtual tour.

But in addition to the imposing architectural style, the City Hall is of course a place where all kinds of things happen. For example, on the first floor you will find the mayor’s office, council meetings are regularly held in the Council Chamber and you will find rooms such as the Lecture Room and Reading Room. And of course we must not forget the beautiful brides and grooms who are regularly see in front of the building. Because for many, the City Hall is also the place where they say yes to each other.


The Erasmus bridge

The skyline and the Erasmus Bridge are inextricably linked. Do you Google Rotterdam? There is a good chance that you will see this imposing white bridge everywhere. We call that a real icon. But apart from the beautiful photos that the bridge creates, there is also the practical connection it offers between the center and the south of Rotterdam. Immediately crossing the bridge you drive onto the Coolsingel: the heart of Rotterdam centre and the start of your discovery through the city.

The Erasmus Bridge was designed by Ben van Berkel, named after priest, philosopher and humanist Erasmus and officially opened in 1996 by Queen Beatrix. In length, it is no less than 800 meters (you can feel that in your legs when you cycle it) and it is equipped with a 139 meter high steel pylon. This has given the bridge the nickname “The Swan”.

Of course you can admire the bridge during a nice walk along the Maas and over the bridge itself. But the Erasmus Bridge is also put in the spotlight during events such as the World Port Days, the Marathon and during New Year’s Eve.


Central Station

Architecture Route in Rotterdam, Architectuur route in Rotterdam, Markthal, Blaak, Erasmusbrug, Erasmusbridge, Museumpark, Schouwburgplein, Rotterdam Central Station, Rotterdam Centraal Station, Luchtsingel, kubuswoningen

There is no station like this one. A quirky building, the gateway to the city and with a funny nickname. The Central Station is one of those buildings in Rotterdam that you should not miss.

Opened in 2014 by King Willem-Alexander and today the place where Rotterdam receives between 100,000 and 200,000 travellers.

You will immediately recognise the Central Station thanks to the aluminum roof, the large point and the immense square. The roof is also equipped with solar panels. That’s how innovative Rotterdam is. By the way, did you know that the large point points in the direction of the centre? And thanks to the aluminum roof it has been nicknamed “Station Kapsalon” (meaning: de Rotterdam dish that you eat from an aluminum tray)?

But Rotterdam does not want to forget the old station. It was built in 1957 and designed by architect Van Ravesteyn. To honor the old building, parts of it have been included in the design of the new station. One that is not to be missed is the large clock that adorns the facade. In addition, two old sculptures (‘the speculaasjes’) have been placed above the tunnels.


The Zalmhaven tower

In the context of ‘breaking your neck’, De Zalmhaventoren is number one. Why? Because De Zalmhaven has a height of 215 meters and is therefore the highest skyscraper in the Benelux. How cool is that?

Architects from Dam & Partners and KAAN Architecten have taken on the design of this enormous building, creating a space for 452 apartments and penthouses, 33 townhouses, offices, commercial spaces, a restaurant, parking garages and a roof garden. All this with the most beautiful view of the city you could wish for.

A major upgrade of the city, because with such buildings we are not inferior to New York standards.

This residential tower is of course very nice, but what does it offer the city’s visitors? The top of De Zalmhaven will be equipped with a restaurant, bar and viewing point. At the corners of the building, the floors are up to 8 meters high and fully glazed. A publicly accessible viewpoint that you will not find anywhere else in the Netherlands.


Het Witte Huis (The White House)

Now you may be thinking: the White House isn’t that high at all, is it? And that’s right. But did you know that in 1898, when The White House was built according to American model, it was Europe’s first “skyscraper”? Which shows how progressive Rotterdam has always been..

Meanwhile, it is no surprise that the White House disappears next to all the surrounding skyscrapers, but this piece of history in the Oude Haven (Old Harbour) is definitely worth a visit.

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