Rotterdam (map) is a city in the province of South Holland (40 minutes from Amsterdam by train). The city is the second largest in the country.
The centre of Rotterdam was almost completely destroyed by the Luftwaffe. Since then many relatively high buildings (for Dutch standards) have been emerging throughout and around the city centre. Daring and new styles of apartments, office buildings and recreation facilities resulted in Rotterdam becoming a city of modern architecture and the only city in the Netherlands with a modern skyline.
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And yes, the city is not the cosiest, or the most picturesque of towns, especially on drab winter days. But get acquainted with this small metropolis, easiest done on one of the festival days with nice weather.
Kubuswoningen (Cube Houses, map). These houses, designed by Dutch architect Piet Blom, are literally cubes, tilted over by 45 degrees. Oude Haven (map). The Old Harbour is a nice place to see and sit at some café nearby.
Het Schielandshuis (map). This is the only remaining 17th-century building in the city center of Rotterdam. It was once the place where French emperor Napoleon stayed, visiting his troops when they occupied the Netherlands.
Delfshaven (map). It is one of very few locations in the city which survived WWII bombings. Easily accessible by metro (station of the same name), historic Delfshaven is a very scenic walk.
Chinatown (map). A massive chinatown, full of chinese restuarants but also indonesian and other Asian restuarants.
Rotterdam has only seven windmills left. Of these, only De Ster and De Lelie are open to visitors on a regular basis. Other windmills are open to visitors when the mill is turning (easy enough to see), but there are some exceptions to this rule of thumb. A blue flag also indicates that the mill is open to visitors.
The closest good beach is about 30 km away at Hook of Holland (map). Here you will find a very fine sand beach with good swimming and enough entertainment. For a more urban-party beach experience head to Scheveningen (map) where you can find everything beach-party addicts dream about.
Summer Carnival (ZOMERCARNAVAL). A huge Caribbean-oriented parade and party in the city centre.