As soon as you step out of Rotterdam’s Blaak Station, you’re looking at Piet Blom’s famous Cube Houses. Turn around and you’ll see the Markthal.

The Cube Houses form a pedestrian bridge over the highway, from Blaak Station to the Oude Haven. Across the harbor is Europe’s first skyscraper, the Witte Huis. Built in 1898, it’s one of the few buildings to have survived the war.

It’s immediately clear that Rotterdam’s postwar city council chose to build a new, modern city rather than reconstruct the old city. Few people returned to the city center after the war, so in the 1970s a concerted effort was made to build more housing and attract people downtown. You’ll notice that downtown housing mostly dates to the 1920s or the 1970s, which dramatically different architectural styles.

As you cross Spanjaardsbrug you’ll notice the goings on in the Openlucht Binnenvaartmuseum, which you’re free to walk around in. Walk down to the Maas and you’ll see the Erasmusbrug. It’s just a slight detour from here to Aloha Rotterdam.

The Willemsbrug is immediately in front of you. You can take that across to Noordereiland. Turn back to enjoy the view before you make it all the way across. Once you’ve reached the island, you have an opportunity to ride the slide down the elevation from the De Hef rail line in Ons Park. If you’re already in need of a coffee, take a quick detour to Fadi’s.

Follow the waterfront south and you can see Rotterdam’s skyline before you. Loop back up to Koninginnebrug and turn south on Stieltjesstraat. De Hef was Europe’s first rail lift bridge, which was recently restored.

If you’re ready for a break, there are lovely (boat themed) patios along Entrepothaven, as well as a large grocery store.

You’ll find yourself at the entrance to the Erasumusbrug soon enough. Walk past it for now and aim for Antoine Platekade. The little Rijnhavenbrug will take you across to the hipster haven of the Fenix Food Factory and the Dutch Pinball Museum. Go a little further to Wodanstraat and Maashavenkade and you’ll find an adventure playground consisting of a grounded boat.

Head back over the Rijnhavenbrug and you’ll have to choose between a stop at the New York Hotel or the Café Rotterdam. Or do both, with a visit to the Nederlands Fotomuseum in-between. The old Holland America Line cruise terminal has public art and a confused interpretation of a Manhattan street grid.

Cross over the Erasmusbrug and you’ll get a view of Noordereiland on one side and the Euromast on the other. Continue along and you’ll quickly end up at the Maritiem Museum. Turn left onto Witte de Withstraat to experience hipster Rotterdam’s galleries, bars, and cafes.

Once you reach the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Chabot Museum, and Het Nieuwe Institute, you can turn up to Oude Binnenweg to see Rotterdam’s pedestrian shopping district. It was the Lijnbaan that was Holland’s first pedestrian shopping district, a reminder that this biking/walking culture the Netherlands is so famous for is a relatively recent phenomena.

Follow the Lijnbaan to the Hilton Rotterdam, recently named a national monument, and you’ll see the Luchtsingelbrug in front of you.

Following the arms of the Luchtsingel will bring you to OMI (the Office for Metropolitan Information), GROOS, Rotterdam’s hippest Bar and Beergarden, Op Het Dak, Lokaaal, and FG Food Labs.

Turn up along Heer Bokelweg to Zwaanshals to discover more painfully hip Rotterdam. Whiskybase, &designshop, Ja Wol, Isis, and all the cafes and galleries you’ll pass along the way.

Assuming your feet haven’t fallen off, you can follow De Rotte back in the direction of the city center. Yes, this is De Rotte of Rotterdam. On the way you can choose between Vai Vai Vespa or Republic Moto.

Rotterdam essentials

The best place

…for a quick, cheap bite – HEMA

…to buy too much cheese – Markthal

…to pick up a phone charger – HEMA

…to print your boarding pass –

…for Brittish fare (and Anglophiles) – Vessel 11

…for the Dutch version of tacos – Supermercado

…to buy something after 9pm – nowhere

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