Rotterdam has branded itself “World Port, World City”, and rightly so. Home to Europe’s largest port, the
Netherlands’ second largest city is a multi-cultural melting pot. The city also boasts a burgeoning art scene and its world-famous, modern architecture gives the city one of the most recognizable skylines in Europe.
While most of the Netherlands is known for its renaissance homes with their stepped, neck or bell-shaped gables, Rotterdam’s functionalistic 20th-century architecture is uniquely modern. After bombs destroyed its city center during World War II, Rotterdam city officials decided against rebuilding the city in the old Dutch style and instead ushered in a wave of modern architecture that is revered the world over. World-famous Dutch and international architects have given the city one of the most recognizable skylines in Europe featuring the Erasmus Bridge, Euromast and the Maastoren, Holland’s tallest office building.
The Cube houses and the Kuntshal are two more architectural treasures Rotterdam is known for. Piet Bloom designed the Cube Houses at the request of the city of Rotterdam. There are 38 attached cubes that rest on
hexagon-shaped columns. One of the houses is fully furnished and open to the public. The Kunsthal is an exhibition space in Rotterdam. The building itself is an architectural design dream and as much a draw as the art and exhibitions it houses.
Rotterdam is also a multicultural melting pot that revels in its diversity. With a population that is 25% Muslim and 50% are non-Dutch or have only one Dutch parent, it is appropriate that Rotterdam should have the country’s first immigrant mayor. Ahmed Aboutaleb, a practicing Muslim of Turkish decent, is known as “Obama on the Maas” and is the perfect ambassador for this diverse city. There is also a large presence of people from North Africa, Turkey and the former Dutch colonies: Indonesia, the Dutch Antilles and Suriname.
Rotterdam’s multicultural vibe is on display every year at its Zomercarnaval (summer carnival). Every July the annual 3-day Caribbean carnival, reminiscent of the carnival in Rio de Janeiro, makes its way through the streets of Rotterdam, bringing close to one million visitors from around Europe to see the vibrant and colorful costumes and floats and to dance in the streets to the Latin rhythms.
Characteristics of the “World Port, World City” that is Rotterdam is reflected in the cuisine, with food sourced from fishing and adopted from the Netherlands’ former colonies. Fish is a favorite in the Netherlands and deep-fried cod, known as Lekkerbek and bite sized chunks of cod, called Kibbeling, are some of the ways the Dutch enjoy their fish. However, if you really want to “go Dutch” you have to sample the herring. This shiny silver fish which is raw and served with onions and gherkin can be eaten on a bun, but true connoisseurs just tilt their head back, lift the herring in the air and eat it upwards. Rotterdam also offers ample opportunity to sample culinary traditions of the former Dutch colonies Suriname and Indonesia. Suriname is a country in South America where the Dutch brought Indonesian and East Indian slaves to work on plantations. The workers made their native dishes with local ingredients, including the exotic fruits and seafood indigenous to Suriname and which eventually blended with the Surinamese dishes resulting in modern Surinamese cuisine. Make a reservation at Toko94 where chef Joey MacNeil – inspired by traditional Surinamese cooking – brings the multicultural flavor of the city to the table.
Rijsttafel (rice table) is the Dutch interpretation of an Indonesian smorgasbord. Rijsttafel usually includes satay,
sambal, banana fritters and at the centerpiece is rice. Originated during the Netherlands’ colonial rule of Indonesia, rijsttafel remains a favorite among the Dutch and is even more popular in the Netherlands than in Indonesia. The stylish Dewi Sri has been a landmark in Rotterdam for more 30 years and is the perfect place to experience the Dutch rijsttafel.