Rotterdam is a paradise for cyclists, with many kilometers of bike lanes covering the entire city. But it is also a laboratory for architectural experimentation. Roaming its streets or sailing down the Meuse, observing the structures built over the years in perfect tune with the ‘old’ Rotterdam, it is impossible not to realize that the city is a tribute to bold design.
You can see many things during a 24-hour stay in Rotterdam. We have chosen the most interesting for lovers of design and architecture, who will undoubtedly want to return as soon as possible.
Museumpark, Het Nieuwe Instituut and Huis Sonneveld
The tour of Rotterdam has to begin with the Museumpark, the city’s cultural hub in a perfectly organized green area created in 1927, hosting the city’s main museums: the Chabot, featuring works of the famous Expressionist for which it is named; the Natuurmuseum Rotterdam, a museum of natural history; the Kunsthal, location of important exhibitions; and the Wereldmuseum (museum of the world). And the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, the city’s most important, with its Depot, a mirrored volume with a roof-garden designed by studio MVRDV and opened in 2021: the world’s first museum depot also accessible to the public.
Design lovers shouldn’t miss the Het Nieuwe Institut, a structure for architecture, urbanism and digital culture. The complex, designed by Jo Coenen and opened in 1993, is composed of four buildings. One contains the archives and the collections, another is set aside for exhibitions, a third contains an auditorium, café and bookshop, while the museum and research center occupy a splendid glass box.
The Huis Sonneveld (Johannes Brinkman and Leendert van der Vlugt, 1933) is an outstanding example of modern European architecture. With its transparency, use of colors and symmetry, the building is a functionalist manifesto. A construction with a perfect balance of air, light and space, for a unique visual experience.
Centraal Station, Markthal, Witte de Withstraat and the “cube houses”
The Centraal Station in Rotterdam (MVSA, 2014) epitomizes the city’s modern, functional and efficient spirit. The canopies of the platforms, for example, are made with solar panels perfectly inserted in the context and the roof of the main lobby. In the Central Station it is also possible to see some parts of the old station that have been preserved, like the clock on the façade.
The Markthal (MVRDV, 2014) is a horseshoe-shaped sheltered market that also contains private flats. The hall hosts shops, bars and restaurants, and the high vault of the building is decorated with a very colorful work, the Cornucopia by Arno Coenen, depicting the products found inside the market.
Witte de Withstraat is one of the main arteries of Rotterdam. Once with an almost bad reputation, it has been completely renovated and redesigned, at the start of the 1990s, as a lively zone for the city. The area offers stylish cafés and restaurants, galleries and shops.
The ‘cube houses’ are a symbol of Rotterdam. Created by the Dutch architect Piet Blom in the early 1980s, with their overturned cube structure they are an example of the visionary spirit of the city.
The Red Apple, the Erasmus Bridge and the Toren op Zuid
The Red Apple (KCAP Architects & Planners and Jan des Bouvrie, 2002/2009) is a futuristic structure that contains a complex of housing and offices, marked by the bright red color of the vertical ribbing of the main tower, with a height of 124 meters, and the stringcourses of the lower volume, resting on the base as in a construction game.
The Erasmus Bridge (Bas van Berkel, 1989/1996) is another symbol of Rotterdam: with a length of 800 meters, it was built to connect the northern and southern parts of the city. The main characteristic is the steel pylon with a height of 139 meters, supported by 40 cables.
Italian architecture can be seen in Rotterdam thanks to the Toren op Zuid, created by Renzo Piano designed by Renzo Piano with elements that appear to lean, like the upright of the Erasmus Bridge, while 900 luminous points generate the façade.
De Rotterdam and Hotel New York
Another reflection of the experimental spirit of the city is the De Rotterdam complex (Rem Koolhaas & OMA, opened in 2013), composed of three towers almost 150 meters in height, connected on multiple levels to form a small vertical settlement. De Rotterdam contains luxury apartments, hotels, shops, offices, restaurants and fitness centers.
The 24-hour visit to Rotterdam finishes with a visit to Hotel New York, an example of Art Nouveau style and undoubtedly one of the city’s finest historical buildings. The atmosphere is that of the early 20th century, for those who want to eat and sleep in a remarkable architectural setting.