I always like to start my visit in a new city with a walking tour. It provides me with a good overview of all there is to see in a particular city, an introduction to the city's history, and a sense of orientation of where everything is. In Rotterdam, I took a tour with Rotterdam Pages – a tour company run by Hassan and Ferah, who are both of Persian origin but grew up in the city of Rotterdam.
So here are my top ten photos from their marvelous Rotterdam walking tour…
Stop 1: The new Central Station
We started our Rotterdam walking tour at Rotterdam's ultra-modern central railway station. Here, Hassan told us everything about the new whale-shaped building that officially opened in March 2014. He also told us about the biggest underground bicycle parking lot in the Netherlands (and perhaps the world!).
Stop 2: The Markthal
Also opened in 2014, Rotterdam's iconic indoor market hall, called "Markthal" in Dutch, is a fest for the eyes as well as the taste buds! The first thing that will strike you here is the huge, food-inspired mural.
Stop 3: The exhibition in the car park
On the Rotterdam walking tour with Rotterdam Pages you will also get to see an archeological exhibition with medieval artifacts that were found here in Rotterdam.
Somewhat unexpectedly, this exhibition is situated in the underground car park of the Markthal. Sometimes it's really handy to have a local guide that shows you all the hidden treasures!
Stop 4: The Cube Houses
Together with the Erasmus Bridge, the uniquely shaped residential "Cube Houses" are one of the most iconic (and fun!) photo opportunities to be found in Rotterdam.
Hassan will tell you all about why, how and when these this totally unique houses were built.
Stop 5: The formerly largest skyscraper in Europe from 1898
Hard to believe that at the time of its construction, Rotterdam's very own "White House" ("Witte Huis" in Dutch) was the highest skyscraper in Europe!
Stop 6: The old harbour and WW2 history
While you stop here, you will also hear about the disastrous bombing of Rotterdam by the Nazis in May 1940.
It was good to learn more about this because before I went on the Rotterdam walking tour, I had heard that the Nazis had bombed the city during World War 2. But I simply assumed that Rotterdam, like so many German port towns later on in the war, had been bombed because of the importance connected to its large harbour.
What I didn't know was that there was quite a back and forth between the Germans and the Dutch, including exchanging letters on a bridge. Also, after the negotitans turned sour and the Germans eventually did bomb the city, the Dutch surrendered to the Nazis and other Dutch cities were luckily not bombed and thus spared from destruction.
Hassan will tell you the full story of Rotterdam's Blitz from a viewpoint very close to the original site of the "exchange bridge".
Stop 7: The Hot Tug pier
Rotterdam today is a very modern city with lots of innovative ideas, such as this "HotTug" – the world’s first wood-fired hot tub that can also be used as a boat and thus allows bathing and sailing at the same time.
Stop 8: Erasmus of Rotterdam
Erasmus of Rotterdam has become world-famous thanks to the EU's student exchange program, which financially supports students from European countries who go to study at a different university in Europe.
Hassan will tell you more about the man behind the famous exchange program and why he was such a forward-thinking humanist as early as the 15th century.
Stop 9: Street art on Whitstraat
"Witte de Whitstraat" used to be the infamous red light district of Rotterdam. Nowadays it's one of the best streets to eat and drink. There are also a few great street art spots to discover with some of them even invite you to do some climbing.
Stop 10: The harbour front and Erasmus Bridge
After passing by a couple of other great sightseeing spots along the route, we ended our tour with one of the best views of Rotterdam at the city's most famous landmark: The Erasmus Bridge.
Hassan also told us about the Hotel New York, which can be seen from here, and how it is connected to the history of (mass) emigration from the Netherlands to America.
This wonderful photo opportunity was a great finish to this informative, but also very entertaining Rotterdam walking tour.
How to book a Rotterdam walking tour
with Rotterdam Pages
When and where? The Highlights City Tour typically lasts 2,5 to 3 hours, is offered most days at 10:30 and 14:00, and starts at Rotterdam Central Station.
How much? The Highlights City Tour currently costs 17 Euros per person.
What else? Hassan and Ferah provide plenty of other tips for Rotterdam on their website, for example things to do, current events, where to eat and where to stay.
Unless otherwise credited, all photos by © Sonja Irani | filmfantravel.com
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ticket for the Rotterdam Highlights City Tour by Rotterdam Pages as part of the Blogger events during the Traverse Blogger Conference in Rotterdam in May 2018. However, as always, I have provided my honest and unbiased opinion about the tour in this blog post.