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A Student Guide to Rotterdam

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Before visiting Rotterdam my knowledge of the city was little more than a reference in a Beautiful South song lyric, and an anecdote I’d heard from friends that someone they knew spent too long in a café in Amsterdam before accidentally getting a train to Rotterdam instead of back to the hotel.

RotterdamThe city often gets unfairly side-lined in consideration of Dutch city breaks in favour of the more touristy (and expensive) Amsterdam, but this could soon change.

Discovering Rotterdam is a bit like discovering an amazing album from a band you know are going to be big one day – you want everyone to know how cool is it, but are worried that by doing so they’ll take away the edginess of knowing you’re one of the only people to have discovered it so far.

A mixture of modern culture and architecture, as well as a hip burgeoning clubbing scene, Rotterdam could soon emerge was the number one cool city break destination.

Throw in an exuberant youthful vibe, heaps of things to do, and drinks prices as cheap as your average student night out, and the city bares all the potential hallmarks of overtaking Amsterdam in popularity amongst studentkind.

Badly bombed in the Second World War, a large part of the city has been built up steadily over the last fifty or so years. With a skyline that offers something different to other European cosmopolitan cities, its no wonder Rotterdam is famed for it's architecture.

A bicycle tour of the city or sailing trip through its impressive harbour are both excellent ways to soak up the brilliant architecture on offer – including the Erasmus Bridge and world-famous Hotel New York – depending on the size of your hangover.

Both allow you to see the city in original ways; although if you’re new to the Dutch way of cycling (or a bit on the short side), be prepared to have to overcome your fear of an equally impressive high-rise bike seat which makes for an interesting biking experience.

My attempts were reminiscent of losing my stabilisers aged seven; except swap the local park for a four-way road junction with tram lines, cycle lanes and foot paths, and instead of beaming excitable parents there were lots of confused Dutch people. Falling off is not as endearing aged 22 as it was when aged seven, apparently.

The Architecture Institute is also a good place to start if you want to experience more; visit www.nai.nl. Prices for both tours are less than €10 and take between 1 to 2 hours.

As well as experiencing the architecture on offer in Rotterdam, visiting at least one of the city’s great museums or art galleries is also an absolute must, even for the most culturally disinterested of visitors. Witte de With showcases Monet and Picasso alongside the best of contemporary art. Entry is free but donations are welcome:  http://www.wdw.nl/about/.

De Unie – a restaurant and arts, culture and debate forum – offers a more relaxed approach to the wealth of culture and art available in Rotterdam, and serves exquisite bruschetta.

Or, if you want to experience a bit of the city with a local ale in a picturesque beer garden in the older outskirts of the town, then the De Pelgrim brewery should head straight to the top of your To Do list.

At only €5 for five mini tasting beers, and a great atmosphere in its bar and restaurant, sampling Rotterdam’s home crafted ales is the perfect way to unwind at dusk settles, or take the edge off any symptoms from the previous night out.

Food wise, Rotterdam’s Bazaar and Blenderare just two of the local restaurants it would be a shame to miss out on; with the former offering a taste of North African and Middle Eastern dishes in a setting where fairy lights twinkle above kitsch plates that never match, and the latter bringing together sophisticated dishes and cocktails in a relaxed bar setting that evolves in to a club as the night progresses, you’ll never be short of options for meals in the city.

If neither of them hit the spot then be sure to check out Rotterdam’s sophisticated Look restaurant, specialising in Garlic dishes, and infamous for their garlic flavored ice cream (an acquired taste). Three course menus are available for under €30.

However, the nightlife on offer in Rotterdam is really where the city comes in to its own.

Voted by The Lonely Planet’s in 2009 the ‘best bar in the world’, The White Monkey (Witte Aap) is situated within the city centre and has a great vibe with parties often spilling out on to the pavement outside; it’s friendly, bohemian and bustling atmosphere is echoed throughout all the clubs and bars in the city.

RotterdamThe recently opened WORM adds to the eccentric in Rotterdam; its brilliant opening night made me feel like I was more in Wonderland than Rotterdam, with moving garden furniture, cinema seats, aisles of books pushed aside and mini hatches used as bars. Drinks here, like most places in the city, were around €3-4 and generous in size.

The two places that you’ll find yourself returning to again and again, however, are Rotown and Club Vibes, both bringing the perfect combination of home away from home student bar, and quirky hang out with great music and atmosphere.

Rotown works as a great music venue, and is notorious at picking performers before they hit big – previous acts there have included The Wombats, Franz Ferdinand and Aloe Blacc. With reasonable drinks prices, good DJs and friendly bar staff, any night at Rotown is guaranteed to be a good one.

Furthermore, its real appeal being that it doubles as a restaurant and café, those Morning After the Night Before conversations the next day over a fry up guarantees that a night in Rotown won’t be one you’ll be allowed to forget any time soon.

With Club Vibes just a short stumble down the road, both bars clearly know their market. Club Vibes plays all the cheesy classics, and is without fail accompanied by the standard fancy dress get ups from revellers that any non student would be embarrassed to be seen with.

You’ll end up at Club Vibes every night to dance in to the early hours, even if you don’t intend or remember it.

One of the classic nights during my personal trip to Rotterdam was the fifth annual Housequake Party. Set in a cruise terminal overlooking the beautifully lit Erasmus Bridge with thousands of other partygoers, the €35 ticket is worth every cent. With portable bars, various rooms, classic cocktails and DJ sets that emulate Ibiza masterpieces, the night was nothing short of epic.

Alongside Indie and Dance, Rotterdam also offers Jazz and a vast range of other music in its various bars and cafes.

With coach travel only £39 from London Victoria with Eurolines, there’s no reason why a visit to the city would break the bank.

You’ll certainly leave Rotterdam with a few more lyrics and memories stuck in your mind than any from a Beautiful South song.

 

WHERE TO STAY

The Rotterdam StayOkay Hostel offers rooms from approximately €20-70, with the cheapest going for €18.50. Price includes breakfast and Euro Lines customers can also get 20% off their stay there. The hostel makes a great place to stay due to its striking cube-shaped housing - if you’re going to be staying in Rotterdam, you need to make this your number one option. Bookings are usually recommended 3-4 months before arrival. http://www.stayokay.com/?pageID=3207&hostelID=464705&language=en

 

HOW TO GET THERE

A return ticket from London Victoria to Rotterdam costs just £39 with Euro Lines. Book online at www.eurolines.co.uk

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