Rotterdam is well known as a modern industrial city. A city that quickly rose from its ruins after the Second World War and grew architecturally in new directions; home to the largest port in Europe and to people from all over the world. At first glance, Rotterdam oozes less "typically Dutch" charm than neighbouring Amsterdam - small canals with countless bridges and cute houseboats are (almost) in vain. But the best thing about Rotterdam is its diversity and liveliness. The cityscape is shaped by different architectural styles, cultures and people who contribute to the constant change of the city. Rotterdam pulsates and reinvents itself time and again - especially when it comes to diversity and sustainability. It is the birthplace of countless innovations and initiatives that make the city (and the world) a bit more diverse and sustainable.
We have summarized the "must-sees" for your sustainable city trip in Rotterdam.
TENT & Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art
Witte de Withstraat 50
The two art institutes TENT and Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art are located in the same historic building, a former school, in the lively Witte de Withstraat. If you want to discover contemporary art in the context of current local and global developments, this is your place to go. Both institutes both aspiring and established artists and curators a platform for exhibiting their work. TENT mainly collaborates with artists from Rotterdam.
Van Nelle Fabriek
Van Nelleweg 1
Rotterdam has developed into an open-air museum of modern architecture. Particularly worth seeing is the former Van Nelle Fabriek, designed by the architects Brinkman & Van der Vlugt in the style of the Nieuwe Bouwen (New Building) and built between 1927 and 1930. The factory is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered a symbol of Dutch modernism. Even Le Corbusier described the Van Nelle Fabriek as “the most beautiful spectacle of modern times”. Guided tours are organized by the Chabot Museum.
The world's first floating farm has opened its doors in Rotterdam in 2019. In response to the growing demand for food in urban areas and the increasing scarcity of agricultural land, the floating farm brings food production directly to the consumer. That means you can find floating cows in the city! If you want to see them with your own eyes, make sure to visit the Floating Farm. It’s open for visitors on Fridays and Saturdays between 11:00 and 16:00.
Museumpark, Westzeedijk 341
The Kunsthal in Rotterdam is one of the most important cultural institutions in the Netherlands and always worth a visit. Not only is the iconic building designed by the world-famous architect Rem Koolhaas worth seeing, but above all the constantly changing exhibitions. The Kunsthal presents both modern and contemporary artists in various disciplines, from photography and fashion to design.
Het Nieuwe Instituut
Museum Park 25
You can find Het Nieuwe Instituut, the museum for architecture, design and digital culture, in close proximity to the Kunsthal. The museum organises exhibitions, lectures and workshops which reflect on worlds of architecture and design in the light of new technologies, innovations, ideas and changing social norms. The entrance ticket also includes admission to the neighboring Sonneveld house (Jongkindstraat 12), a well-preserved residence in the style of the Nieuwe Bouwen (New Building) from the 1930s.
Stil Leven Atelier & AGORA style
A little off the main shopping street, Rotterdam has many small vintage and second-hand shops. The most beautiful selection is available at Stil Leven and AGORA. With their curations, the three creators behind the labels prove their good taste and sense for fashionable zeitgeist again and again. They share a small but nice shop area near the Nieuwe Binnenweg and open their doors every Friday and Saturday.
Dearhunter makes vintage hearts beat faster. In the light-flooded shop near the Witte de Withstraat you will find a great selection of unique dresses and accessories - from stylish classics such as Burberry trench coats to extraordinary eye-catchers.
Nieuwe Binnenweg 82
Joline Jolink is Rotterdam's go-to address for sustainable, timeless fashion. The designer behind the brand contributes to the creation of a sustainable future by designing timeless clothing and sneakers, working with more environmentally friendly materials, producing in small quantities - often not more than 50 pieces - and delivering orders by bike.
At Studio JUXm sustainable hearts find everything they desire:, accessories, shoes, care products and home wear. In addition to brands such as Armedangels, Kings of Indigo and L: A Bruket, Studio JUX also has its own label, the products of which are manufactured by hand in a factory in Nepal. Here, good working conditions are guaranteed: As the owner of the factory, Studio JUX is always on site to look after and support the manufacturers.
Op het Dak
Have you ever had breakfast or lunch on a roof top? Surrounded by flowers, vegetables, fruits and honeybees? If not, you should definitely visit Op Het Dak. Op Het Dak is the first urban roof garden in the Netherlands. In its restaurant you can order delicious dishes made with products from the same garden or from local companies. Great view included!
A piece of France in Rotterdam can be found at Laurensius. Owner Laurens is best known for his delicious galettes - and for his social and sustainable commitment. He advocates careful, conscious interaction with one another and with nature. For example, he only uses organic ingredients and trains young people who have a difficult start in life in his kitchen.
West Kruiskade 17B
Do you fancy Surinamese and/or Chinese food? Both kitchens tend to be meat-heavy, but De Kade offers a wide range of vegetarian and even vegan dishes. The restaurant is located in the centre of Rotterdam and in summer you can sit outside in the sun.
Gare du Nord
A former German train wagon from the 90s in the middle of a small, cosy vegetable garden. This is Gare du Nord. A train in which you cannot travel from A to B but enjoy fantastic vegetarian food. Of course, with matching organic wine!
Rotterdam's tastiest buffet is available at Spirit. With 50 different dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, there’s plenty of choice. But to avoid waste, guests decide how much they want to eat. You pay according to weight. Best of all: everything is 100% vegetarian, 100% organic and seasonal. In winter, you can order hearty vegetable soups in winter and in summer, fruit salad with organic strawberries.
Hotel New York
The **** Hotel New York is a landmark of the city. It opened in 1993, on the banks of the Maas river, in the former headquarters of the Holland America Line. The building dates from 1917 and makes every viewer nostalgic. It symbolizes the hope and excitement of the departing Dutch immigrants who set sail from here in search of a new life in North America. Today the Hotel New York welcomes guests who want to discover Rotterdam and thereby strives to operate as sustainably as possible. The hotel offers charging stations for electric vehicles, has a biological menu and uses environmentally friendly cleaning products.
Oranjelaan 7 (Dordrecht)
Villa Augustus is located just outside of Rotterdam in the small, cosy neighbouring town of Dordrecht. The hotel (including a restaurant) is located in a former water tower and is surrounded by a large Italian-style garden, vegetable patches and a canal. The love for tasteful design, for nature and for each other is in every detail: You can only feel comfortable here. Rotterdam is 30 minutes away by car. For boat tour fans, a trip on the Waterbus (www.waterbus.nl) is also worthwhile, as it takes you from Dordrecht to Rotterdam within 60 minutes.
+ Words: Lena Bäunker
After living in Hamburg, Shanghai, Groningen and Milan, now Lena works and studies in Rotterdam. Lena is committed to Fashion Revolution, helping sustainable brands tell their stories, and writing about the interfaces between sustainability, art, culture and business.