Before we moved to Rotterdam, we didn’t know much about the Netherlands. All we knew was that it was famous for tulips and windmills. Well, there is a lot more to know about the Netherlands and Rotterdam than that! Here are just a few fun facts to help you get more acquainted with Rotterdam and its history.
1. An Interesting Name
The name Rotterdam refers to the town that was established in 1283 AD. After a dam was constructed in the 1260s near the mouth of the Rotte river, the land was reclaimed and the town was built.
The Rotte River eventually flows into the Rhine river which is one of the longest rivers in Europe. Rotte comes from the word “rotta” which means muddy water. The original settlement, Rotte, had been around since around 900 AD.
2. The Gateway to Europe
Due to its access to the Rhine River and its extensive rail and road systems, Rotterdam has become known as the Gateway to Europe.
In fact, the Port of Rotterdam is the one of the largest in the world. Until 2004, it was the single busiest port in the world. It has now been surpassed by the ports in Singapore and Shanghai, but it remains the busiest port in Europe.
3. Erasmus University
Erasmus University is one of the top universities in Europe and is ranked in the top 100 universities around the world. The university is named after the philosopher, Erasmus, who lived from 1466 to 1536.
The first person to win the Nobel Prize for Economics, Jan Tinbergen, was an Erasmus graduate.
4. Did You Hear an Air Raid Siren?
On the first Monday of each month, at noon, the air raid siren goes off. Although this is only a test to help people recognize the sound, it holds a different meaning for others. It is a reminder of the bombing that occurred during World War II which destroyed most of the downtown center.
Only one major downtown structure, the Laurenskerk, survived the bombing, but it was very heavily damaged. First completed in the 1500s and restored in the aftermath of WWII, the church is now the only remaining Gothic building in the city.
5. The Very Modern Skyline
Due to the bombing, the city needed to be rebuilt. As a result, much of Rotterdam’s architecture is very modern. It is also home to the two tallest buildings in the country, making it the only Dutch city with a true skyline.
6. Historic Delfshaven
Delfshaven is one of the few parts of the city that survived the war bombing. It shows what Rotterdam would look like today if the city center had not been destroyed. The canal houses, which the Netherlands is famous for, now have shops and restaurants in them instead of families.
7. An Architectural Center
Rotterdam is also known for its unique architectural structures. One example is the Cube Houses, which are small homes that people actually live in. There is also one unit you can tour if you decide to visit Rotterdam.
The Markthal is another noteworthy structure. Also known as the Horseshoe because of its distinctive shape, it is famous because of the large artwork that covers the ceiling. The Markthal is home to many different food stalls featuring cuisines from around the world.
The Erasmus bridge is another architectural marvel. It has a 456 foot (139 m) high pylon with swooping cables that led to its nickname, the Swan. The bridge was finished in 1996 and has become an icon of the city. It’s even a part of the city’s logo.
8. Longest Street Market in Europe
Twice a week, outside of the Markthal, you can find the longest street market in Europe. With over 400 stalls, the market stretches 1.55 miles (2,5 km) with food stalls being more prominent on Tuesdays and stalls with non-food items featured on Saturdays.
9. Rotterdam’s Diversity
The city is also amazingly diverse due to the presence of the university as well as some major international corporations. Over half of the population is either from another country or has at least one parent who is not Dutch. Many Rotterdam residents have come from Suriname, Turkey, Morocco, and the Dutch Caribbean. The incredibly diverse population has also resulted in an incredibly diverse cuisine!
10. Rotterdam Mayor
In 2009, Ahmed Aboutaleb was appointed mayor of Rotterdam. He was the first mayor of a major city in the Netherlands who was an immigrant and a Muslim. He moved to the Netherlands when he was 15 years old and is a citizen of both the Netherlands and Morocco. Thirteen percent of the population in Rotterdam is also Muslim.
There is so much to see and do in Rotterdam, but there is also a lot to learn. Here are few activities to help you explore this wonderful city wherever you are.
Find Rotterdam on a map. Then, see how far you can trace its rivers that lead into Europe. Be sure to keep track of how many countries you move through.
Learn a bit more about other fun places in Rotterdam, like the Kralingse Bos, which is a forested area within the city limits.
Try making pannenkoek, a traditional Dutch dish, which is similar to crepes but thicker.
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