Home City Guide: Rotterdam Rotterdam Basics Five reasons why Rotterdam is hitting headlines
Last update on November 18, 2019

Rotterdam is unlike any Dutch city for more than just a modern skyline: its city spirit, business climate and cultural activity create this ‘Manhattan on the Maas’.

Stepping out from Rotterdam’s new, futuristic Central Station feels like a jump into the next Dutch era. Gone are the terraced houses, windmill-specked fields and medieval grote markts, and in their places rises Rotterdam’s sleek architectural skyline, which has become a symbol of the city’s regeneration and a beacon worldwide for innovative architecture.

The passion for innovation lies at the roots of Rotterdam’s ultra-modern outlook and city spirit to change and beautify the city, and it strives to become a trendsetter and breeding ground for creativity and entrepreneurship. But it’s also a city where business mixes with pleasure, from visual arts and music to cutting-edge architecture. This former European Capital of Culture can hold its own against the best of them.

Getting to know Rotterdam

An innovative vitality is being injected into Rotterdam’s downtown as the city strives to reinvent its reputation, with unique facilities such as the frescoed Market Hall with its mix of local market, restaurants and bars under glass-floored luxury residents, or the ‘city on the Maas’ De Rotterdam that adds a new mix of waterfront facilities close to the city centre; all alongside refurbished shopping areas and new cultural facilities thrown into the downtown mix.

These are just some factors boosting Rotterdam’s growing population, multinational relocation and tourism, and earned it a place on the New York Times and Rough Guide’s must-see city lists in 2014.

Rental and property prices are still relatively affordable compared to other Dutch cities, and with Rotterdam’s downtown plethora of luxury high-rise developments, the city offers a good price/quality ratio.

The city is determined to transform itself, and its thriving metropolis is fed by an inspiring pace of architectural developments, new green spaces, world-class museums, high-market shopping, and a multicultural food scene that embodies Rotterdam’s international heart.

Rotterdam’s transformation is becoming an attractive draw as its city centre springs to life with new energy. Striving forward, from architecture to enterprise to city spirit, here are five reasons why Rotterdam is known as the Dutch ‘Manhattan on the Maas’.

Rotterdam Market Hall
Market Hall, Rotterdam

Five reasons Rotterdam is hitting headlines

1. Rotterdam’s backdrop of unique architecture

Rotterdam’s regeneration is in the spotlight. ‘Stronger through struggle’ is the motto of the city, and this drive has brought forth extraordinary urban innovation and a city culture of change. Since its historical centre was destroyed in World War II bombing, Rotterdam has radically steered away from traditional Dutch style to create a city skyline that has become a magnet for architects worldwide.

Of all the Dutch cities, Rotterdam has been the modern trendsetter, from Europe’s first pedestrian shopping street, the Lijnbaan in 1953, to Piet Blom’s cube-houses at 45 degrees, the Netherland’s highest observation tower Euromast, and Rotterdam’s waterfront icon the Erasmus Bridge, chosen as the backdrop for numerous events, such as the Tour de France ‘Grand Depart’ in 2010.

Rotterdam’s new architectural focus is on building the city centre upwards to truly become a stylish metropolis. It’s already home to the New Orleans and Maastoren skyscrapers, respectively the tallest apartment block and office block in the Netherlands. Even newer residential ‘cities’, such as Calypso, 100hoog, Karel Doorman and the B-tower, are stepping up the luxury mix of the city centre’s residential supply, alongside the transformation of obsolete office buildings into trendy accommodation facilities, right downtown.

The ‘vertical city’ of De Rotterdam has created a sensation at home and abroad as it took top place as the Netherlands’ largest building. With three towers housing apartments, offices, and a hotel, it can essentially function as a town within the city, topped up by bars and restaurants at ground level and unblocked views across the river Maas.

With more projects in the pipeline, innovative architecture is developing Rotterdam’s city centre into an accessible place for working, living and leisure.

Rotterdam city

2. The Rotterdam spirit: innovation and creation

‘We’re from Rotterdam, we’ll keep going’ appeared on a placard just days after the city was destroyed, and explains how a buzzing metropolis was built from post-blitz ruins, to become a dynamic and international city that now hosts Europe’s largest port.

Embodying the city’s daring break from tradition, the city’s atmosphere is characterised by what Rotterdam DNA summarises as ‘international, enterprising and raw’. Rotterdam’s spirit defines a city of ambition, opportunity and risk-taking, which is seen in Rotterdam’s regeneration and entrepeneur scene.

Through a long history of trade and enterprise, multiculturalism runs through the veins of Rotterdam’s culture, where some 170 nationalities contribute to the city’s open and cosmopolitan vibe. Together Rotterdam celebrates its unique cultural make-up with an array of events for all residents to take part in. Colourful festivals, cultural events, nightlife and a range of entertainment from all corners of the world liven the city’s social atmosphere.

This unique spirit is embodied in every aspect of Rotterdam’s modernisation, bound together by the Rotterdam DNA, aiming to materialise Rotterdam’s innovative attitude in every project. This has opened up communication to maintain a strong Rotterdam community spirit. Even residents can propose projects as part of the CityLab010 program; the first winner (under the then named City Initiative) was a 390-metre wooden pedestrian bridge to connect an isolated area to the rest of the city centre.

3. Business zone and international enterprise

Thanks to Rotterdam’s location on an intersection of road, water, rail and air connections, it is an attractive location for businesses. Rotterdam is a worldly city due to the port being a gateway to Europe and numerous multinational companies, which in turn provides more international employment opportunities for residents.

The city is exceptionally connected by offering state-of-the-art infrastructure and logistics services, and among Europe’s highest levels of communication connection. With internationally renowned scientific institutions and a focus on research and development (R&D), Rotterdam is home to a highly productive and skilled workforce.

Including renowned institutions such as Erasmus University Rotterdam and nearby Delft Technical University, more than three-quarters of Rotterdam’s workforce has or is earning a bachelor’s degree. English is the second working language in the city.

Businesses are eased into relocation by Rotterdam Partners, the city’s one stop shop for everything to do with trade and investment decisions, offering corporate information, access to governmental institutions, independent advice, administrative support and contacts.

Rotterdam Partners also creates networking opportunities through an investor-development programme, under which it holds dozens of events each year, from seminars and conferences to networking dinners, round-table sessions, and meetings with representatives of local government.

Living in Rotterdam

4. The draw of Rotterdam’s lifestyle

Rotterdam is all about contrasts, from the highbrow to the hip. International restaurants and bars compete against an array of cinema, theatre, art, museums, and music venues, even incorporating a world-class orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic. You can go from the arts and culture street of Witte de Withstraat to sunning in a terrace bar in historic Oude Haven harbour or Rotterdam’s Biergarten with benches and shipping containers set up outside. Rotterdam’s residents get to truly feel the effect of living in a city known as the event capital of the Netherlands, with a great ethnic touch from its multicultural mix. Green parks, lakes and the beach are all close by as well.

Guided by its ‘CityLounge’ mission, Rotterdam is trying to energise the city zone by making it attractive and vibrant but at the same time a warm and open environment where all – workers, executives, students and tourists – can find something to enjoy life on the river Maas. The shops in Rotterdam’s centre open seven days a week and a 24-hour entertainment zone adds bustle to the centre. High-rise living means downtown residents get water views and cityscapes, while still being on the doorstep of a rich agenda of social activities.

The city’s latest buzz, the Market Hall arch, is strikingly curvaceous against a congruous high-rise background. Its colourful mural ceiling has been coined Rotterdam’s Sistine Chapel, and at 11,000sqm it is the Netherlands’ largest work of art. This hangout gives residents a new mix of a daily market, restaurants and bars, enclosed by luxury residents above with market views.

Diversity is key in Rotterdam, where luxury downtown living jostles with leafy quiet residential areas, historical zones, and family neighbourhoods close to international schools and children’s playgrounds. It is a city with so many different living environments that everyone, regardless of lifestyle, age or cultural background, can settle.

5. Getting connected to Rotterdam

With the city located at the heart of a transport junction, accessibility is the final key to Rotterdam’s booming population. Rotterdam is accessible to Europe via an airport with international connections, an express train to Schiphol airport (26 minutes), an international rail junction with high-speed links, and good connection via motorway.

It enables residents to enjoy the benefits of affordable and quality living, without being cut off from the Netherlands’ other major centres, attracting a mix of students, young professionals, and families who can all find aspects in Rotterdam’s lifestyle to fit their needs.