Rotterdam may be the Netherlands’ second city but when it comes to art and design, it more than matches up to the culture-rich capital of Amsterdam. From street art to sculptures, the city has an incredible variety of artistic styles on display within its numerous galleries and the aptly named ‘Cool District’. With eye-catching offerings at almost every turn, knowing where to begin can be a daunting task. With that in mind, we’ve scouted out five destinations where you can explore Rotterdam’s best aesthetic accomplishments, once it’s safe to do so.
Nieuwe Delftse Poort
The see-through structure pays homage to Rotterdam’s medieval history
At first glance, you might assume this skeletal structure is still under construction, but its hollow appearance is a reimagining of the original city gate which once stood as part of Rotterdam’s medieval fortification. Thanks to artist Cor Kraat, the gate was resurrected as a colourful assortment of orange metal beams – a deliberate contrast to the bleak and monotone architecture constructed just after World War II ended. The open-plan layout means you can explore every nook and cranny of the structure, including various smaller sculptures and some remnants of the original gate.
Each wooden panel bears the name of a donor who helped fund the project
At a time when the north of the city was in dire need of some rejuvenation, local architects took matters into their own hands by designing and building The Luchtsingel – the world’s first crowdfunded bridge. The name loosely translates to ‘air canal’, a fitting title considering this 400-metre-long pedestrian crossing reconnected three central districts decades after they were separated. The bright yellow elevated walkway features a park and a roundabout where you can take in views of the city’s skyline. Thousands of wooden boards line the walls of the walkway, bearing the names of donors who funded the project. The bridge also provides access to Luchtpark Hofbogen – a rooftop park filled with picnic spots, a vegetable garden and a play area for kids.
Witte de Withstraat Street Art
This trendy street is a hub for all things artistic
This foodie haven is also one of the best places to feast your eyes on some of the city’s standout street art, with more works per square metre than anywhere else in the city. The side streets are filled with artistic treasures, including a ring-bearing magpie by Tymon and Robert Rost. You’ll also discover a piece by renowned stencil artists ICY AND SOT, as well as a beautiful mural by Brazilian artist Ramon Martins. Once you’re done snapping street art, you can explore the street’s modern art galleries like MAMA and Kunstinstituut Melly.
This former school building has four floors of contemporary art to explore
Formerly known as Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, this gallery sits justifiably in the heart of the Cool District. Housed in a former school building, the inside is a strictly contemporary affair, with four floors of striking modern art to explore. You’ll discover thought-provoking works by new and established artists from around the world, as well as a chance to explore one of the various major exhibitions held each year. Previous themes include ‘Rotterdam Cultural Histories’ and ‘The 1980s Art Scene on the Witte de Withstraat’. On the ground floor, you’ll find the TENT gallery which showcases contemporary pieces by local artists.
Be sure to appreciate the Kunsthal’s impressive exterior before you head inside
The Kunsthal is another big player in Rotterdam’s contemporary art scene, with a facade as impressive as the celebrated works held inside. The award-winning design incorporates seven exhibition spaces accessed via a spiralling, sloping floor. The impressive aesthetics include roughly sawn tree trunks which are dotted around the museum. Thanks to a huge variety of exhibitions throughout the year, no visit to the Kunsthal is the same. Topics range from photography and fashion, to film and sculpture. The gallery also provides access to the Museum Park – an innovative outdoor space filled with sculptures and quirky offerings like a bridge built purely for aesthetic purposes.