Rotterdam is considered the most dynamic and modern city of the Netherlands. Young, lively, and hip. The city was almost completely flattened by severe bombing during the Second World War, leaving only a few historic buildings standing. What I love about Rotterdam is the unrestrained need to rebuild and reinvent itself. The city is always changing and with every new building, with every architectural resurrection it seems to celebrate its own transformation.
Visiting Rotterdam, you for sure will be amazed by the modern architecture of this true metropolis embracing people from over 170 nationalities(!). But such a dynamic city also needs a subculture, an underlying movement for people to escape the fast developments of the modern world.
In this post, I will take you on a tour where we will explore just that: the city’s vibrant art scene! In Rotterdam, art can be found in various (sometimes unusual) places. This post describes an unpolished street art tour, and shows you the famous Witte de With art scene. Both are places where art will surprise you, hit you right in the face, or will just put a big smile on your face. Welcome to artistic (and quirky) Rotterdam! And there is a yellow surprise at the end…
Artist: LastPlak collective (the Netherlands).
1. Street art tour by ‘ReWriters010’
“And now look behind you”. If we were not guided by Cynthia Almansi of ReWriters010 we would have easily passed this piece of street art.
We turned and looked up.
Suddenly we were gazing at an explosion of colors of a giant mural covering the backside of a building. This is what street art does to you: it surprises you by its size, its colors and sometimes its message.
I have been to Rotterdam many times but never really paid attention to street art. Nor did I know the city had so many pieces of it! The moments of surprise during the tour were addictive. Every time you wonder what kind of surprise would be revealed around the next corner.
ReWriters010 was established to honor street art and artist (called ‘writers’) by exposing them to a wider audience besides local residents only. They have created their own street art tours. You can download their app in the App Store and the app will guide you through the city. Or join a guided tour of which information can be found on the ReWriters010 (or ReWriters Rotterdam) website. Both options offer interesting background information as well.
Artist: MeLikePainting (the Netherlands).
Rotterdam has a long history of street art. It brings art into public space, reviving buildings or celebrating the flourishing of worn out urban areas. Whatever the reason, I think street art supports the status of Rotterdam being atypical in its own country.
Would you like to see more pictures of our street art tour? Click here to visit the Photography section.
Artist: Bier en Brood (the Netherlands).
Another collective who are promoting street art and inviting (international) artists to come to Rotterdam are Sober Collective. Based in Rotterdam but with a global playground they are responsible for some awesome murals around the city (see picture below). Feel free to visit their art gallery at Zaagmolendrift 35.
Artists: Telmo Miel (the Netherlands) & Sebastián Velasco (Spain).
2. Witte de With: the dynamic (and avantgardistic) nightlife of Rotterdam’s art scene
This street is referred to as Rotterdam’s ‘Axis of Art’. It offers various cultural institutes, galleries and fashion boutiques. In the evening, the focus shifts to (underground) bars and restaurants. We visited Witte de With street during Kunstblock. Kunstblock is organized every Friday evening and is for free. The art venues in the area open up in the evening from 6 – 9 pm. You can visit and attend performances or exhibitions at Showroom MAMA, TENT Rotterdam, WORM/Wunderbar or de Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art. That latter being one of the most important institutes for contemporary art in the Netherlands and internationally regarded as a pioneer.
Personally, I was flabbergasted by WORM/Wunderbar. I can’t even describe that place. Director of WORM, Jan Pier Brands, introduced us to what he called the subcultures of the city. WORM is a mixture of music, performance and art exhibitions. While moving through its various rooms we encountered what turned out to be a true art surprise: guests were watching a boxing fight (!) where next to the arena a young kid in a pink rabbit costume was looking at the performance while sitting on a home trainer. Really…it was so surreal!
3. But there is more about Rotterdam art and design…much more
If you like art, design and architecture Rotterdam is your place to be. Art and design are all over the place! On this blog, I have shared the city’s 3 top art museums, but other great options are the curious Cube Houses, the 1933 Sonneveld House and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Van Nelle Factory. Of course, you have to visit the MarktHal, Rotterdam’s latest wonder of architecture. The MarktHal interior (“Horn of Plenty”) covers 11,000sqm making it the largest work of art in the Netherlands.
If you like contemporary art, consider visiting the annual Art Rotterdam Week, from 7-11 February 2018.
One final surprise: the LuchtSingel. This yellow elevated walkway starts near tramstation Pompenburg and is quite a hit on Instagram, just search for: #luchtsingel (and while you’re at it, do follow @ActofTraveling with regular inspirational travel pictures..).
Designed by Rotterdam architects ZUS this 400-meter-long pedestrian bridge is the first piece of public infrastructure accomplished mostly through crowdfunding. For Euro 25.- everyone could buy a board inscribed with their name. It definitely is a piece of art reconnecting three districts in the heart of Rotterdam.
At the end of the Luchtsingel you can enjoy a drink and snack at either the Biergarten or the rooftop bar ‘Op het Dak’ (great views!).
Rotterdam does not shy away from experimenting. The urge for innovation creates beautiful initiatives, also in the world of art and design. That’s why we love to visit Rotterdam.
This trip was organized by Rotterdam Partners. Start your stay in Rotterdam with a visit to the Tourism Office (Korte Hoogstraat, near the beautiful Schielandshuis). They offer a wealth of information in a great setting. Worth a visit!