3 reasons Rotterdam is the best Dutch city to visit this winter

3 reasons Rotterdam is the best Dutch city to visit this winter

As the Dutch weather cools down, Rotterdam is heating up. Not literally of course, but rather by offering some of the best events and goings-on this winter in the Netherlands.

Almost unimaginable a decade ago, Rotterdam has emerged as not only one of the top cities in the Netherlands, but also in Europe.

Recent accolades have included: ranking 8th on the list of top 10 cities to visit in 2014 by Rough Guides, being named in the top 10 of the "52 places to go in 2014" by the New York Times and winning the 2015 Urbanism Award for European City of the Year.

What the lists fail to mention is that while other Dutch cities, including rival Amsterdam, begin a hibernation of sorts, Rotterdam instead comes alive from January to March.

Riding this wave of admiration, the winter of 2014-2015 looks to be especially promising for the City on the Maas. So to pad the egos of Rotterdammers just a bit more, have a look at the three reasons Rotterdam is the best Dutch city to visit this winter!

1. New Year’s Eve in Rotterdam

Ringing in the New Year in Rotterdam means a big city celebration minus the annoyances of overpriced tickets and floods of tourists.

Fireworks at the Erasmus Bridge

The largest in the Netherlands, the National New Year’s Fireworks incorporate Rotterdam’s iconic Erasmus Bridge and the brand new, Rem Koolhaas designed De Rotterdam.

With people lining up from the Boempjeskade to Willemskade, oliebollen being distributed for free and live performances building up to the big display, Rotterdam’s show is second to none.

New Year's Eve parties & club events

Kicking-off the winter months in style isn’t easy in a city known for the wind. Yet, on New Year’s Eve, Rotterdam does it flawlessly.

Leading the pack are special parties making use of Rotterdam’s spacious industrial leftovers. Pakhuis New Year’s Eve in the Westelijk Handelsterrein offers visitors a massive eight areas with different music styles connected by lounge areas and an organic restaurant. Or buy a ticket to Nachtduik New Year’s Eve in the former grain storage complex of the Maassilo where techno legends Dave Clarke, Jeff Mills and Ben Sims will be spinning into 2015.

Rotterdam’s revamped club scene also gets in the New Year’s spirit. Constantly booking artists poised to make it big is former tunnel and forward-thinking club Toffler. A gem of a spot, none other than Michel de Hey and Benny Rodrigues will be taking the decks for New Year's Eve.

Alternatively, ditch the hip and head to Bird to enjoy Saved by the Bang in a wonderful homage to American 90s culture. The best part? None of these parties cost more than 45 euros.

2. Rotterdam’s art scene thrives in winter

Two of the largest cultural events in the Netherlands take place in Rotterdam during the winter: the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) and Art Rotterdam Week.

Discover films at IFFR

Already in its 44th edition, the IFFR draws a mix of film professionals, amateur enthusiasts and party people at the end of January.

With over 200 features and 300 short films being screened in just over a week, it’s the largest film festival in the Netherlands.

Even better, the festival has developed a reputation for being attentive to global diversity. More than just screening their films, they also offer funding and exposure to filmmakers from countries or areas where cinematic infrastructure is hindered or largely non-existent.

Not a film buff? Don’t worry. The IFFR after-parties are legendary.

Art Rotterdam Week’s showcase

A consortium of various art and design events, Rotterdam becomes the centre of the Dutch contemporary scene for a week in February.

In a line-up of programmes that include the major Art Rotterdam in the Van Nelle Fabriek, OBJECT design fair and the new Rotterdam Contemporary at the Cruise Terminal, the sheer volume of events show how far Roffa has come.

Supplementing the core fairs are showcases and openings from the flourishing Rotterdam art scene including contributions from cutting-edge institutions Witte de With and TENT.

3. Rotown's new indoor foodie scene

High quality restaurants and cafes serving delectable dishes were always present in Rotterdam. Yet, two developments in 2014 have brought the city’s winter food scene to the next level: Markthal Rotterdam and the Fenix Food Factory.

Markthal: first Dutch indoor food hall

After five years of construction, the iconic Markthal officially opened in October. Designed as a massive 10 storey arch that holds apartments and retail space, the ground floor is the highlight of the building.

Consisting of more than 100 different stalls, stands and shops, Martkhal is the Netherlands’ first true indoor food hall. Along with marvelling at the decorated floral ceiling, visitors can get top-notch, fresh products every day of the week from the assorted specialty vendors.

Fenix Food Factory’s entrepreneurs

Located in the heart of Katendracht, this former industrial space has been converted to a rotating marketplace anchored by seven entrepreneurs selling artisanal food staples that include beer, cheese, coffee, bread and vegetables.

In addition to these seven, there is also an assortment of food trucks and entrepreneurs to keep them company and the variety fresh. One of the best events put on by Fenix Food Factory is undoubtedly their monthly market.

Every third Saturday, the factory opens its doors to those looking for the newest in local food. In the summer the stands are outdoors, but in the winter everything goes inside (thankfully).

Throw in a full agenda of workshops, classes and tastings and this gastronomic spot heats up any cold Dutch day!

Benjamin Garstka


Benjamin Garstka

Raised in Massachusetts. University years in New York City. Graduate school in Utrecht. Amsterdammer by choice. Cultuurliefhebber. Urbanist. Affinity for sarcasm, craft beers, art criticism, stand-up comedy and the Dutch...

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