56 hours in Rotterdam

Sweeping canals laced with manicured green gardens and tulips, a bustling, vibrant city nightlife and a mix of contemporary and modernist architecture on the western coast of continental Europe. No, it’s not Amsterdam, but the lesser-known Dutch city of Rotterdam – The Hague, which for many, is far more fascinating than its famous counterpart.

The Kube Houses

The Kube Houses

Considered one of the most liveable cities in the world, Rotterdam is filled with culinary delights, artistic expressionism and an affection of homeliness and cultural intrigue. A perfect blend of old and new this city is rapidly developing, breaking out of the mundane reputation of international criminal courts and justice and into a hipster weekend getaway.

Stay:

Citizen M Hotel situated in the heart of the city, perfectly located to cross off all the tourist hot spots and an easy distance to some of the more interesting places on the outskirts of town. The hotel is notorious for chic, elegant, modern designs providing a full experience of dining, drinking and style making it hard for guests to feel the need to leave the hotel doors. Up there with the echelon such as Soho House, ACE Hotel and Mama Shelta, Citizen M offers the very highest level of service from electronic check-in-check-out, membership benefits, personalised in room technologies and a perfect attention to detail.

Drinks at the hotel lobby at Citizen M.

Drinks at the hotel lobby at Citizen M.

Arriving late on Friday evening is the perfect opportunity to wind down and enjoy the facilities in the lobby bar with a hand crafted cocktail selection enjoyed in one of three casual dining and living rooms across the lobby floor. Not only will you get a sample of the hotel’s high quality but also you’ll be refreshed for an early Saturday start to explore the city.

Coffee:

Saturday morning is best started at Hopper coffee. Within walking distance from Citizen M in the popular Beurs area, the café and roastery which also doubles as a sizable bakery offers developed coffee flavours and tasty brunch options fresh from the in-house bakery and kitchen. The space is large and open with developed wood benches, school classroom style chairs and of course, washed concrete floors. Other notable coffee spots include; Man met Bril Koffie and Lokaal 1e klas koffie. Both rapidly expanding café-roasteries with a penchant for lightly roasted Euro style coffee and Scandinavian fit outs, making them the perfect place to sample local brews and take in the surrounds.

Hopper Coffee bar

Hopper Coffee bar

Food:

There is no shortage of food in Rotterdam and no shortage of reconstructed marketplaces. After coffee on Saturday, travel across town to the Fenix food factory to enjoy a plethora of worldly cuisines in a cosy former factory amongst the docks at the head of the Rotterdam port. Here you’ll find the very best in locally produced ingredients from organic fruit and vegetables, local meats and dairy from surrounding farms and delicious breads and Middle Eastern dips. There is also a brewery with upwards of 15 taps on regular rotation.

Fenix Food market hall

Fenix Food market hall

On the other side of town, Markthal is a new purpose built market place in the centre of town next to the Kube houses. It is an apartment block as well as a fresh food market with local produces as well as vendors selling stereotypical Dutch foods like fish sandwiches and stroopwafel. Restaurant chains like Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant is sadly a feature alongside more local and small business owners. Popular more so with tourists than locals, the building itself and surrounding area is well worth a look. Whilst Fenix Food Factory and the Markthal are the two coolest food experiences in the city at the moment, you can’t pass through the Netherlands without visiting an infamous Febo outlet.

The Markthalle.

The Markthalle.

Febo or “the tastiest” is an automatic fast food walk up store that is more like a vending machine than restaurant. Popular not just with late night snackers on their way home after a night out, Febo serves burgers, croquettes, fries, and other fried goods. Insert your money (all items are around 1 -4 Euro) and voila! Instant gratification.

Febo. No words required.

Febo. No words required.

Moving from the kitsch to the sophisticated, Fjord Eat & Drink is by far the best restaurant in town. A fantastic Norwegian-French fusion restaurant dealing in a seasonal menu and a sizeable, heavily Spanish wine list. Often booked out months in advance, the sashimi and cured fish driven entre menu and delicious entrecôte for 2 or 4 people dominated mains is perfectly balanced with seafood dishes of whole fish. Alternatively, a surprise menu of three, four or five courses with wine paring based on chef’s choice and seasonal favourites.

Art at The Hague:

Gemeentemuseum Den Haag

Gemeentemuseum Den Haag

Whilst there’s no shortage of art to see on the streets of Rotterdam The Hague, thirty minutes northwest has some of the worlds most prized works as well as a passionate collection of national works from Dutch painters Vermeer, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Appel and de Kooning. In the town’s centre, the Mauritshuis gallery hosts a permanent collection of the Dutch Golden Age including Vermerr’s Girl with the pearl earing and Rembrandt’s self portrait. Next door, the Binnenhof offers a grand look at fifteenth century architecture. Today a popular square for musicians, markets and a meeting point, the space was formally the Holland parliament buildings. Keeping the Dutch balance between old and new, the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag a modern building designed by celebrated Dutch architect H.P. Berlage is home to masterpieces by De Stijl, Monet, Bacon, Picasso and Kandinsky but more uniquely delivers exquisite travelling exhibitions including a special Klimt and Schiele viewing of Judith and Edith over the summer.