I know it may seem like I keep falling in love with European cities, but give me the right mixture of independent shops, cool architecture and decent fonts and I’m a very happy blogger indeed. I guess I have a bit of a formula whenever I look for things to put in my city guides, I know the kinds of things I like already, but I’m always looking for that extra ‘something something’ that you won’t always find when you do a Pinterest search. For me, Rotterdam is all about visual expression. If you saw my previous post, you’ll spot the seemingly random but perfectly placed pops of colour, as well as elegant high-rises and a few older buildings. There is so much to marvel at here if you’ve got a creative mindset and you never really know what you’re going to find (I ended up delaying my 4-hour blogging mission after getting distracted by a bright yellow bench). Here’s a little list of the places I managed to discover during my recent whistlestop trip, if only I could be this efficient in every area of my life!
So my secret’s out, one of the things I like to do is Google ‘concept stores’ before I visit somewhere new. I know it’s a bit of an overused term now but it gives me a real idea of where the less cookie-cutter areas of a city might be. After being confronted by a website that’s entirely in Dutch, I couldn’t make head nor tail as to what the concept of Keet would actually be but I thought I’d pop along anyway. I guess this forced me to ask a few questions rather than just making assumptions, the store has only been open since last May and has a revolving assortment of products every three months. Each fixture or table belongs to a different start-up business, so a good selling period means that your slot can be extended or at least provide some useful market research. It’s such an inspiring idea, especially since it can be tricky for new brands to get into stores and provide that first IRL experience. The main thing is to buy something as soon as you see it here, it’s also the perfect place to find unique gifts (I liked the look of Studio Haze) plus there’s a cute cafe at the rear.
Why is it I only seem to eat Middle-Eastern food every once in a blue moon? I do love a sharing platter and Bazar takes eye-catching to a new level with rustic tables, ornate crockery and jazzy lanterns. You could probably have a decent lunch here for under €15 (probably less if you go halves/quarters/etc with a few friends) and everything from the feta, mint and parsley appetisers to the chicken wings was out of this world. I definitely need to find a good London equivalent to tide me over until my next visit.
I’d like to move into Depot, thank you very much. Part design studio, part lifestyle haven, this dreamy world of furniture, lighting and everything in between is perfect, real-life Pinterest fodder. Did anyone else pretend to plan their own home whilst in IKEA as a kid? I have a feeling it could cost a pretty penny to actually do the same here but at least you can buy a few decorative knick-knacks and observe some of the latest design trends. They encourage you to walk around the window displays, which actually makes it harder to leave.
One of my favourite things to do when I’m away, is to visit a food market (for obvious reasons). They’re pretty fascinating and you can tell a lot about a destination by the way their markets operate. As expected the Markthal is a sleek and forward-thinking affair, with over 100 different units selling fresh produce but also serving as a multifunctional space for apartments (the kitchens actually look out onto the market) and leisure activities. It’s probably the least stressful one I’ve been too, as expected there are a lot of tourists but the spacing feels really considered and restaurants are either tucked away or have upstairs seating. I stocked up on three different kinds of Gouda (!) and asked the cashier where she’d recommend for lunch, purely because I was a little bit overwhelmed. She pointed me towards Andalus Fish, apparently serving the freshest seafood in the city with most meal options coming in at under €10. It’s probably one of my most chilled out eating experiences within a market, the food was pretty tasty and it feels rather serene to look up at the ceiling artwork spanning 36,000 square feet.
It’s tricky to put my finger on how to describe the street style in Rotterdam, but two sisters who’ve come up with their own solution are the owners of Objet Trouve. I’m used to walking into a boutique and sussing out the product mix pretty quickly but here you’ll find a mixture of the romantic french labels (think Vanessa Bruno), Scandi stalwarts (hello Hope) but also a bit of a curveball by way of MSGM. You’ll want to replicate the merchandising within your own wardrobe and stock up on the no-nonsense bits of stationery.
Another place that popped up on a few must-visit lists was Groos, a ‘concept’ store only offering products from Rotterdam based businesses. The name is also a forgotten Dutch word for pride. How’s that for ingenuity? It’s another haven for gifts (who am I kidding, I bought tea for myself thank you very much) plus those little touches to personalise any living space. One thing to note is that it’s rather 2016 and you can only pay by card.
THE MANHATTAN HOTEL
You couldn’t ask to be more central than The Manhattan Hotel. Even though it’s still undergoing renovation in some parts, the rooms have those super-sleek touches (I tend to judge a room by its coffee machines), plus the cosy beds felt like sleeping on a cloud. As Olivia mentioned, I had to delay my Rotterdam expedition for a bit due to how snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug I was feeling that morning. The promise of eggs royale did motivate me though.
You can’t escape the mish-mash of architecture as you wander around the city and that’s what really makes Rotterdam unique, its history (most of the city centre was destroyed during WW2) and the brave plans to create a new identity with the reconstruction. It seems a little bit futuristic, a little bit Brutalist (remember the Barbican) and even a little bit cubist in places. This is a place to really put any photography skills into practice as there are so many angles you can play around with. You’ll probably stumble across all sorts of ingenious structures as you walk around, but be sure to check out the Luchtsingel (a crowdfunded bridge that unites disparate areas of the city) and the Cube Houses (no explanation needed but please beware of trams as you snap).
Are you tempted by Rotterdam now? There are a few cool exhibitions popping up later this year (namely Knitwear In Fashion, just in case you missed it in London), plus there’ll be a direct Eurostar train service by the end of 2016. Make sure you check out my vlog to see everything in action!
A massive thanks to Marriott Hotels for inviting me on this trip!