Rotterdam is sometimes called the New York City of the Netherlands. Right here in this city the first European skyscraper saw the light, back in 1898. The 45m tall building called The White House (Het Witte Huis in Dutch) can still be admired at the Old Harbour (Oude Haven), together with some precious 18th century merchant’s residences.

A lot of high constructions were added after the famous World War II bombardment, in which almost the entire inner city was destroyed. The skyline of modern buildings lining up along the river Maas is amazing. It’s this same waterway that divides the city in two.

As modern as Rotterdam construction seems, the same modernity the city used to articulate in shopping events. The 1953 Lijnbaan has been an example to cities all over the globe. It was the world’s first car free shopping promenade where living space and commerce were disconnected completely. The Lijnbaan was followed by another novelty in 1996, when the Exchange Traverse (Beurstraverse) was built. This partly underground shopping mall crosses under the main street Coolsingel, thus connecting different commercial centres in the city. The Rotterdam population proved its ordinary signature by calling the exclusive design with sometimes luxurious shops Koopgoot, which in translation would be something like buying gutter.

Next to train station Blaak a remarkable piece of Dutch architecture attracts lots of tourists. The cube-shaped houses are the focal point of a district with wonderful old houses, cosy bars and restaurants, and historical ships. The nearby Old Harbour used to be the spotlight of the river Maas, but its important role has been taken over by the Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug), nicknamed the Swan. The spectacular bridge connects the north and south halves of Rotterdam. In summer, free musical laser projects make the architectural pinnacle even grander. Tne (new) harbour is said to be the largest harbour in the world.

Like New York City, Rotterdam also is a melting pot of cultures. The yearly Summer Carnival expresses this, with the Caribbean party developing into one of the most intense street festivities in the country. The mixture of cultures reflects in the city’s markets, shops, restaurants, nightlife, sports and theatre. Rotterdam has one of the highest bar densities in the Netherlands. Together with Porto, Rotterdam was European Capital of Culture in 2001. The so-called Cultural Axis of Rotterdam travels from the Central Station to the Kop van Zuid.

This area Kop van Zuid (literally Head of the South) has developed itself into nightlife area number one rapidly over the last few years. You’ll find many bars, cafés and restaurants at the Wilhelmina Pier and the Entrepot Building (Entrepotgebouw). At the end of the Wilhelmina Pier tourists encounter another attraction: Hotel New York, which used to be the former departure hall of the legendary Holland America Line.

Other tourist magnets include the 100m tall Euromast. A fast elevator takes you to the Crow’s Nest and the Panorama Restaurant in the top. The city zoo is called Diergaarde Blijdorp. I was there last Tuesday and was impressed by the brand-new Oceanium, where sea life is represented wonderfully.

A list of other sightseer temptations: swimmers’ paradise Tropicana (near the Old Harbour), national football stadium De Kuip (home of football club Feyenoord), the 185m high Space Tower, the Spido water bus, the city’s country estate Arboretum Trompenburg, the city district Delfshaven with its 17th century looks, and the many museums, including the World Museum (Wereldmuseum), Historical Museum Rotterdam (Historisch Museum Rotterdam) and the Maritime Museum (Maritiem Museum). By the way, London pretends to own the smallest museum in the world in a phone cell. But if you visit the address Botersloot 40 in Rotterdam, you’ll find nothing more than a display window with monthly altering exhibitions. The museum is exactly 90cm deep.

Rotterdam on the internet: http://vvv.rotterdam.nl. (The three v’s are not a typo by the way. The VVV is the national tourist information service of the Netherlands).

Rotterdam's best known contemporary citizen is right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn, who was murdered today, May 6, 2002.

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