12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
21 November, London Hilton Metropole
OCTOPUS TRAVEL ON TOUR: Rotterdam
Fancy a weekend away at an overseas city less than one hour”s flight time from London, which is not too expensive, where English is definitely the second language, and you can really relax. Try Rotterdam.
Let”s make one thing clear. Yes Rotterdam is a port city, still the largest in the world (but being chased by Shanghai), but visiting the city you would never know it. The massive Port of Rotterdam sits a world away from the city centre, for the most on the other side of the River Mass. Rotterdam for the tourist is a very modern, clean, friendly cosmopolitan metropolis dominated by tall (tallish would perhaps be better) skyscrapers, the road network crisscrossed by canals with a more than fair share of parks and community areas. Rotterdam is a very laid back and relaxed city. It just does not have the bustle of say Amsterdam, and even the traffic is light compared with other conurbations of a similar size. Perhaps this is because it is a city whose main mode of transport is the bicycle, followed by the equally quiet electric tram. It also has a metro system but short-term visitors staying in the centre need only their feet. Rotterdam is very flat.
ABTN stayed in the Westin, part of the Starwood Group, and right by the main railway station, which is being rebuilt (See picture left which is a bit misleading. The hotel only takes up the first 12 floors). A really friendly hotel with an excellent hot breakfast and in spite of being 231 rooms, quiet. Internet access is free (other hoteliers note). Recommended. Allow 15 minutes to Rotterdam Airport, small, clean and ideal. No long walks and linked to London from both City and Heathrow. KLM use the Fokker 50 for their services, ideal for the docklands airport but perhaps a little lost in the huge west London concrete jungle. You can check-in and even book a vegetarian sandwich on line and if you use LCY the walk from the car park will never be longer than 5 minutes.
Though not the first place that springs to mind for a holiday, Rotterdam is a lively city with a surprising amount to see and do. Almost totally flattened by the Luftwaffe during the war, its re-building far later than most of its contemporaries meaning that you will find a really modern small metropolis with a whole host of imposing glass tower blocks. Normally we recommend taking an (open top if possible) tour bus as soon as practical when arriving at a new city. You can”t do that in Rotterdam but one way around the problem is to make for the 185-metre-high Euromast in the lovely ”Het” park. A normal elevator takes you up to a halfway station, complete with a sensibly priced and busy restaurant, and it”s then into the quirky "spacetower” which propels you very quickly up the outside of the mast to a spectacular view. Not for the faint hearted mind you.
No visit to Rotterdam is complete without a visit to the docks, best viewed from the River Maas. Spido offers a series of trips on large very modern boats from a mooring just by the spectacular Erasmus Bridge. That should be your only requirement to use mechanised transport. You can hire bikes (from E6 upwards per day) or walk. The tourist office offers a splendid free booklet ”Once Around Rotterdam” which is a walking tour through the centre. They reckon two hours, we think one day providing that you don”t linger too long at any site. In the main tourist office itself is a huge model of Rotterdam, not as big as the similar effort in Shanghai, but impressive all the same.
Rotterdam is a city whose success is dominated by the sea. The Maritime Museum is as good a starting point as anywhere and the entrance fee includes the 19th century gunboat Buffel which is moored next door. Amongst the many interesting exhibits and video shows is a tribute to the North Atlantic and Rotterdam”s own steam ship line Holland America (now part of Carnival). There is a children”s experience area too (in a very child friendly city). Close by is the Historical Museum in the Schielandshuis with its regularly changing exhibits housed over three floors. The 350-year old building (left) itself is impressive and it puts together some very interesting exhibitions including, until the end of May 2006, one just called ”Shopping”, a century of consumer seduction. In the Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam has one of the best art galleries in the Netherlands outside Amsterdam. Whatever your taste in art, you are likely to find something of interest within the eclectic collection ranging from Old Masters to Decorative, Impressionist and Modern Art. Those interested in war history should make a point of visiting the harrowing yet very informative War Resistance Museum, which details the traumatic fight for freedom undertaken by the Rotterdammers during World War Two.
Rotterdam has a number of ancient docks, now the home of a real variety of craft, some seagoing and others nothing more than houseboats. Just by the Oudehaven are the Cube Houses, an example of a practical yet stylish design built in the 1980s. You can go into number 70. Adjacent is the 21st century city library, open until 2000 some evenings and a place for research, relaxation, a visit to the theatre; or refreshments. It is another cultural experience well worth a visit.
Most of the city centre has been pedestrianised but it is quiet at night, particularly in August when the locals escape to the South of France and Spain. It is a shopaholics paradise with all the major brands represented. Eating out is no problem and just like any modern European city there is a huge variety. Not an intellectual experience, or even a gastronomic occasion it is worth while taking the short ferry ride from the Veerhaven to the Hotel New York , the former Holland America headquarters for lunch or dinner. You might even find a liner berthed for the day. The big cruise ships still come in occasionally to Rotterdam. Walk back over the bridge. If the weather is good you can sit out on the (man made) Leuvenhaven beach just by the war memorial. Like everything in Rotterdam it is not far.