In the Province of South Holland Rotterdam is in the west of Netherland and the south of the Randstad. Rotterdam is one of Europe's most vibrant, multicultural cities; known for its university (Erasmus), cutting-edge architecture, lively cultural life, striking riverside setting, its maritime heritage and the Rotterdam Blitz.
Settlement at the lower end of the fen stream Rotte (or Rotta, as it was then known, from rot, 'muddy' and a, 'water', thus 'muddy water') dates from at least 900 CE. Around 1150, large floods in the area ended development, leading to the construction of protective dikes and dams, including Schielands Hoge Zeedijk ('Schieland’s High Sea Dike') along the northern banks of the present-day Nieuwe Maas. A dam on the Rotte or 'Rotterdam' was built in the 1260s and was located at the present-day Hoogstraat ('High Street').
The port of Rotterdam grew slowly but steadily into a port of importance, becoming the seat of one of the six 'chambers' of the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC), the Dutch East India Company.
The greatest spurt of growth, both in port activity and population, followed the completion of the Nieuwe Waterweg in 1872. The city and harbor started to expand on the south bank of the river. The Witte Huis or White House skyscraper, inspired by American office buildings and built in 1898 in the French Chateau-style, is evidence of Rotterdam's rapid growth and success. When completed, it was the tallest office building in Europe, with a height of 45 m (147.64 ft).
During World War II, the German army invaded the Netherlands on May 10, 1940. Adolf Hitler had hoped to conquer the country in just one day, but his forces met unexpectedly fierce resistance. The Dutch army was finally forced to capitulate on May 15, 1940, following Hitler's bombing Rotterdam on May 14 and threatening to bomb other Dutch cities. The heart of Rotterdam was almost completely destroyed by the Luftwaffe; 900 civilians were killed and 80,000 made homeless. The City Hall survived the bombing. Ossip Zadkine later strikingly captured the event with his statue De Verwoeste Stad ('The Destroyed City'). The statue stands near the Leuvehaven, not far from the Erasmusbrug in the centre of the city, on the north shore of the river Nieuwe Maas.
There are about 12 larger and smaller open air markets dotted around Rotterdam. Most of them are enjoyable places to walk through. A nice place to visit is the inner City Market (Tue and Sat, in summer also on Sun a smaller version) which is a huge (about 450 stalls) open air food and hardware market. It's at the eastern end of the Hoogstraat on the Binnenrotte. Metro: Blaak. More exotic and colourful is the Afrikaanderplein Market (South of the river, Metro: Maashaven). This market is geared very much towards Rotterdam inhabitants of Antillian, South American or African descent (a lot of whom happen to live nearby). Wed and Sat, about 300 stalls.
Close to the Oude Haven area, the streets around the Pannenkoekstraat have recently emerged as a new center for shopping and going out. Amidst small boutiques, selling clothes and interior design by young, upcoming designers, you can find cocktailbars such as Level or Soho, which both attract large crowds. Espeically in the summer this is a great place for a mojito.
The most lively bar area in town is Eendrachtsplein/Nieuwe Binnenweg. Alternative, easy going and full of friendly, open-minded people. The cafés you should be looking for are Stalles, Parket and Rotown. This is the place to be for the more creative orientated people, musicians, designers and artschool students. Walk down de Nieuwe Binnenweg and arrive at Café Ari (Nieuwe Binnenweg/Mathenesserlaan) and Westerpaviljoen (grand café with the best terrace in the city). This is a good place to start the evening. Walk a little bit (3 minutes) down the Binnenweg again and go left at ‘s-Gravendijkwal (you'll see the flashy neon lights of sexclub OQ). Across the street you'll find Jazz Cafe Dizzy. A great place for a quality beer and some live jazz music. You can also eat at almost all places mentioned.
If you're into loud music, your best option would be to go to De Baroeg at the "Spinozaweg" in Rotterdam-Lombardijen. Loads of heavy metal acts play here each year. Should you not feel like making your way all the way into sub-urbia, you could also try your luck at the Rhythem on Oude Binnenweg. A popular hang out of alternative types.
- St. Lawrence Church is a Protestant church. It is the only remnant of the medieval city of Rotterdam. The church was built between 1449 and 1525. In 1621 a wooden spire was added to the tower, designed by Hendrick de Keyser. Poor quality of its wood caused the spire to be demolished in 1645. A stone cube was added to the tower, which proved too heavy for the foundation in 1650. New piles were driven under the tower and in 1655 the tower stood straight again. This basilica was the first all stone building in Rotterdam. Many important events took place here. The last priest of the Laurenkerk was Hubertus Duifhuis. The Reformation took place in 1572 and the Laurenskerk became a Protestant church. Ministers of the church include Laurens Johannes Jacobus van Oosterzee, Abraham Hellenbroek, Jan Scharp and J.R. Callenbach, who wrote a book about the history of the church a few years before the Rotterdam Blitz. The church is still used for worship of the Protestant Church.
- City Hall. Rotterdam City Hall was built in 1914 in a somewhat exuberant Art Deco style. It is nice to walk into the monumental main hall and see the statues. The courtyard is also worth a look. As the City Hall is still in use you are free to enter the public areas and have a look. The other halls will be off limits, unless you can persuade one of the guards to open the showpiece Burgerzaal for you. The City Hall also has a belltower with carillon which is often played, while the roof of the middel tower is made of gold.
- The Cube Houses were designed by Piet Blom, who saw his design as a tree and the entire complex as a forest. Blom wanted to develop a village within a large city; a safe haven where various different functions could take place. The Kijk-Kubus (Museum House) is a fully furnished show home in the Blaakse Bos, an unusual collection of cube-shaped homes. The interior was specially developed to give visitors an impression of how it’s possible to live in a cube house with sloping walls. Scale models, photo panels and a screen provide visitors with extra information.
- The World Museum in Rotterdam is the ultimate cultural meeting place, and a real delight for all the senses. The museum houses a permanent collection showcasing 1,800 exceptional pieces from across the globe. The museum also organises much-discussed themed exhibitions every year, publishes a free magazine and has a contemporary café with a sunny terrace beside the Maas River, serving international cuisine. The museum regularly organises international parties for the community of Rotterdam, Other activities include entertainment for all ages, presented in the theatre, including a variety of different film, lecture, dance, music and theatrical programmes.
The museum shop offers an international assortment of products and you can even book holidays at the travel agency, choosing from a great variety of cultural holidays.
- The Erasmusbrug ("Erasmus Bridge") is a cable-stayed bridge across the Nieuwe Maas river, linking the northern and southern halves of the city of Rotterdam. The Erasmusbrug was designed by Ben van Berkel and completed in 1996. The 802-metre-long (2,631 ft) bridge has a 139-metre-high (456 ft) asymmetrical pylon, earning the bridge its nickname of "The Swan". The southern span of the bridge has an 89-metre-long (292 ft) bascule bridge for ships that cannot pass under the bridge. The bascule bridge is the largest and heaviest in West Europe and has the largest panel of its type in the world. The bridge was officially opened by Queen Beatrix on September 6, 1996, having cost 165 million Dutch guilders (about 75 million euro) to construct.