Things to Do in Rotterdam
Better known by its affectionate local nickname of “the Swan,” Erasmus Bridge crosses the River Nieuwe Maas with its elegant white spines, constructed in 1996 to link north and south Rotterdam across the harbor. Designed by Ben van Berkel, the bridge is an iconic landmark in Rotterdam, and its 456-foot (139-meter) single pylon supports 32 steel cables from which the half-mile (800 m) roadway is suspended. The southern side of the bridge includes Europe’s heaviest bascule, which lifts in order to let shipping transport through. It’s best seen at close quarters from the water on a harbor tour, from above on the viewing platform of Euromast or from the walking and cycling trails around the Port of Rotterdam.
The Swan is beautifully illuminated at night and often provides an eerie backdrop for Rotterdam’s festivals and fireworks displays. In 2005, several planes flew beneath the bridge as part of the daring “Red Bull Air Race.”
Located just 10 miles outside of Rotterdam is Kinderdijk, one of the most authentic tourist destinations in the Netherlands. The village, located on the Alblasserwaard polder at the confluence of the Lek and Noord rivers, is home to 19 windmills that were built around 1740 to help control water and reclaim the land on which the polder sits. One of the best times to visit is during early September when for one week, the windmills are lit up each night from 8:30 to 11:30pm.
Kinderdijk was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997, in recognition of the contributions made by the Dutch to the technology of handling water here. Kinderdijk has examples of all the typical features associated with water-management technology, including dykes, reservoirs, pumping stations and the original windmills. A visit allows you to walk along the canals, up close to the windmills, many of which are still operational.
Revolutionary architect Piet Blom designed and developed Rotterdam’s collection of 40 innovative cube houses in 1984, each of which has a giant yellow and gray tilted, wooden cube balancing on top of the ground level. The houses were built to resemble trees in a forest and to present an alternative to high-density urban living. Blom took the Ponte Vecchio in Florence as his inspiration for the structures and included public areas below and private living spaces above in the cubes. These bizarre apartments are centered around a courtyard playground and lean at an angle of 45 degrees over the buzzy waterfront bars and restaurants of Oude Haven. The whole complex sits on top of a pedestrian bridge over a busy road. Inside, the houses have three stories and myriad angled walls with plenty of light pouring in from the sloping, triangular, plate-glass windows. The rooms are also triangular, which makes furniture design especially tricky.
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