52 Amazing Facts About Rotterdam (Facts Fully Explained)

July 20, 2021

Rotterdam is one of the best-known Dutch cities. It has global fame for several reasons and the city has been around for quite some time. There is a lot to say about Rotterdam, varying from facts about the past to famous events that take place here. Rotterdam is a city with many aspects and it is home to people from all kinds of backgrounds.

If you want to learn more about this beautiful city, you have found the right blog. Below you will find 52 facts about Rotterdam. The facts will be elaborated so you can learn all about where certain names come from or which events lead to a certain fact.

1. Rotterdam is the second-largest city in the Netherlands

While Amsterdam is the largest city in the Netherlands, Rotterdam is a nice second. Rotterdam has over 650.000 inhabitants and about half of those have some sort of migration background. The city covers about 324 square kilometers.

2. The Dutch meal called "kapsalon" was thought of in Rotterdam

Kapsalon is typically Dutch. It is often eaten after a night out, or just when people are craving fast food. Kapsalon consists of a layer of fries, covered with shawarma or kebab, cheese, garlic sauce, chili sauce, and vegetables. Hairdresser Nathaniël Gomes thought of this mixed meal back in 2003.

The Dutch word "kapsalon" means hair salon in English. Therefore, this dish is called "kapsalon".

3. The port of Rotterdam is the biggest one in all of Europe

Perhaps the best-known fact about Rotterdam is that the port is the biggest one in Europe. Thanks to this, Rotterdam plays a big role in transporting products into and out of Europe. The port has several harbor basins and industrial areas.

From 1962 until 2004 the port was the biggest one in the whole world, but this title currently belongs to Shanghai.

The harbour in Rotterdam

4. The flag of Rotterdam has two green stripes and one white stripe

Ever since the 10th of February 1949, the flag of Rotterdam consists of a green stripe, followed by a white stripe and then another green stripe. The green represents Hof van Wena, which is a castle that used to be in Rotterdam.

The white represents the Rotte, which is the river Rotterdam got its name from. You can also find these colors in Rotterdam’s coat of arms.

5. Most of the inhabitants are 25 to 45 years old

Rotterdam has many inhabitants, and most of them are in the 25 to 45 age group. There are 200.825 residents in this age group, compared to 159.775 residents in the 45 to 65 age group and 190.431 residents in the 0 to 25 age group.

6. Rotterdam has three professional soccer clubs

In Rotterdam, you can find not one, not two, but three different soccer clubs. Those clubs are Sparta, Excelsior, and Feyenoord. Sparta is the soccer club from Spangen, Excelsior is the soccer club from Kralingen. Feyenoord was the first Dutch soccer club to win a big international prize and is the most successful club from Rotterdam.

7. Sparta is the oldest paid soccer club in the Netherlands

Soccer is a popular sport in the Netherlands, which has resulted in a lot of professional soccer clubs. Sparta is the oldest one and was founded in 1888.

8. Rotterdam owes its name to a dam

In the 9th century, there was a place called Rotta where the current center of Rotterdam is located. However, in the 12th century, Rotta was flooded by the river Rotte. A dam was placed in the river, and that's why Rotterdam is now called Rotterdam. It is a combination of the name of the river and the dam that was placed in it.

9. There are 38 cube houses in Rotterdam

At the Blaak near the Oude Haven, you can find some unusual buildings. There are 38 cube houses and 13 cubes used for businesses.

These cubes were designed by architect Piet Blom and were built from 1982 to 1984. One of the cubes is open for visits, so you can see what these extraordinary houses look like from the inside.

The Cube Houses in Rotterdam

10. Erasmus bridge is the most famous bridge in Rotterdam

The Erasmus Bridge, or the Swan as locals call it, was opened in 1996. The bridge has been named after Dutch priest and humanist Desiderius Erasmus, but the nickname Swan comes from the shape of the bridge.

The Erasmus Bridge has become a true symbol of Rotterdam and is 139 meters (456 ft) high. The costs for this bridge were over 165 million euros (194 million dollars) and it weighs 6800 tons.

11. There are more than 30 museums in Rotterdam

If you like culture and art, Rotterdam certainly is a good city to visit. With over 30 museums, there is something fun for everyone.

One of the most famous museums in Rotterdam is Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Here you can find art from masters like Van Gogh and Dalí.

Other popular museums are the Kunsthal, where there are different exhibitions throughout the year, the Dutch Fotomuseum, which focuses on photography, the Maritiem Museum is the oldest maritime museum in the Netherlands, which is about the history of shipping in the country.

12. Jimi Hendrix has performed in Rotterdam

Jimi Hendrix was a famous guitarist and singer-songwriter in the 1960s. His rock music was loved by many, yet he only performed live once in the Netherlands. This was during the Hippy Happy convention which took place in Rotterdam in 1967.

There were plans for him to perform more often, but these performances never took place. In 1968 he was supposed to have performed in Utrecht during A Flight to Lowlands Paradise, but he never came.

It was said that he had broken his leg when he got on the plane, but this turned out to be a lie. In 1970 he was supposed to do two concerts, but his bass player was sick so it was canceled. A few weeks later, Jimi Hendrix died.

13. Two buildings on Kruiskade survived the bombing of Rotterdam during WWII

During the Second World War, Rotterdam was bombarded to force the Netherlands to capitulate. There was almost nothing left of the city center, Rotterdam took a huge hit. After the threat of this happening to Utrecht as well, the Netherlands capitulated.

Not all of Rotterdam went to the ground, but the fact that two buildings on the same street survived such a bombing is pretty special. The two buildings on Kruiskade that survived are the old Luxor Theater and Hotel Central.

14. Adolf Hitler saved the only building left of the medieval center of Rotterdam

The Laurenskerk is a church that was built from 1449 to 1525. It was the first stone building in Rotterdam and is also the biggest church in Rotterdam. Right after the big bombardment of Rotterdam, the church caught on fire. Adolf Hitler forbade the demolition of the church and made it a protected monument.

15. The LED screen at the station is the largest in the world

At Rotterdam Central Station there is a huge LED screen. It is 40 meters by 4.5 meters, making it the largest in the world. It was a gift from the Port of Rotterdam and therefore you often see facts about the port on the screen.

Because of the size of the screen, it is not possible to take pictures in front of it with a normal camera. There are special cameras that they use for this.

16. There is a statue that locals have nicknamed Gnome Buttplug

At the Eendrachtsplein in Rotterdam, there is a special statue. The statue is called Santa Clause and his Christmas tree and was designed by Paul McCarthy.

He made the statue to discourage the superficial consumer culture and made this to make fun of Coca-Cola’s Christmas ads. However, the Christmas tree has a bit of an unfortunate shape. Just one look at it will tell you why locals know this statue as Gnome Buttplug.

17. The motto of Rotterdam is "Sterker door Strijd"

Just like a lot of other cities, Rotterdam went through a lot during the Second World War. The most famous example of this would be the bombardment of 1940.

After the war had ended, Queen Wilhelmina wanted to add the motto "Sterker door Strijd" to the coat of arms of Rotterdam. It means stronger through battle, and it represents the courage of the inhabitants of Rotterdam during the war.

18. The artwork on the ceiling of the Markthal is sometimes referred to as the Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam

The Market Hall in Rotterdam is an indoor marketplace in Rotterdam. On the roof is a huge work of art, designed by Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam in 2014. Because it is so big it received international attention and some publications called it the Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam.

The artwork is 11000 square meters and is called Hoorn des Overvloeds or Horn of Plenty in English.

19. You can live in the Markthal (Market Hall)

While the Markthal is mainly known for its function as a marketplace, there are also some apartments in the Markthal. The penthouse costs around 1.2 million euros (1.4 million dollars), the cheapest apartment costs around 239.000 euros (282.000 dollars). The apartments are about 80 square meters.

These prices are so high because, of course, it is one of the most unique buildings to live in.

Photo of the Markthal in Rotterdam, the Netherlands

20. The Zalmhaventoren is the tallest building in Rotterdam

The title of the tallest building in Rotterdam has been passed around quite a bit. The Euromast, which is an observation tower that is open to visitors, was the highest building in Rotterdam when it was built in 1960.

After that, several buildings had the honor of being the tallest building in Rotterdam. But since 2021, the Zalmhaventoren has taken this place and is now the tallest building in Rotterdam, with a height of 203 meters (666 ft).

21. Rotterdam is the birthplace of Desiderius Erasmus

Desiderius Erasmus was a famous philosopher, humanist, theologist, writer, and a former priest. He was born in Rotterdam, and the city is quite proud of that. This pride is notable in several names of buildings, such as the Erasmus University and the Erasmus MC hospital. The Erasmus bridge has also been named after this man, and there is also a metro line named after him.

22. The Eurovision Song Contest 2021 took place in Rotterdam

After Dutch singer Duncan Laurence won the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, the Netherlands had to host the next edition of the festival. Due to the Covid-19 crisis, the show was postponed for a year. In 2021 it finally took place in Ahoy, a large event hall in Rotterdam.

The show was presented by Chantal Janzen, Jan Smit, Edsilia Rombley and Nikkie de Jager. The Italian band Måneskin eventually managed to win.

23. Every year there is an ATP 500 tennis tournament in Rotterdam

When it comes to professional tennis, there are tournaments that differ in importance. Each year, the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament takes place in Rotterdam. This is an ATP 500 tournament. ATP 500 tournaments are the highest after Grand Slams and ATP Tour Masters 1000, so it usually attracts quite some good tennis players. 

The tournament director is Richard Krajicek, the only Dutchman ever to win the men's singles at Wimbledon.

24. Rotterdam has its own airport

In 1920, Rotterdam had an airport called Vliegveld Waalhaven. The airport was damaged during the German attack and after the bombing, the Allies of World War II destroyed what was left of the airport so that the Germans would not be able to use it.

Rotterdam was without an airport for a while, but because the workers of the port insisted that they needed a new airport, Rotterdam The Hague Airport was opened. The airport also serves the Hague area, which explains the name of the airport.

25. The Euromast is called mast instead of tower for a reason

The Euromast is an observatory tower in Rotterdam that is open to the public. You can dine, have a nice look at the city or you can even go abseiling. The tower is called Euromast for two reasons.

One of the reasons is that "mast" is a word known in many languages, making it easier than the Dutch word "toren", which means tower. The other reason is the association of the word mast with the shipping industry, which was and is an important part of the city of Rotterdam.

View of Rotterdam, the Netherlands

26. The first Admiralty of the Netherlands was in Rotterdam

The Admiralty was an organization that existed from the 14th to the 18th century in the Netherlands and was the boss of the Dutch marines. It was located on the current Admiraliteitskade. One of the ships that belonged to Michiel de Ruyter was built here, among many other ships.

27. Rotterdam is split up into 13 districts

Districts help a city stay organized, and Rotterdam has thirteen of those. The districts are the Centrum, Charlois, Delfshaven, Feijenoord, Hoek van Holland, Hoogvliet, IJsselmonde, Kralingen-Crooswijk, Noord, Overschie, Pernis and Alexander.

28. Rotterdam has its own marathon

Every year an international marathon takes place in Rotterdam. The marathon starts at the Coolsingel and ends there as well. The first marathon in Rotterdam took place in 1981 and has become one of the most visited marathons in the world.

In 1985, 1988 and 1998 world records have been set on the course of the marathon in Rotterdam. If you would like to run the Rotterdam marathon, you can participate from the age of 20.

29. Rotterdam's subway system is the oldest in the Netherlands

On the 9th of February, 1968, the first subway line in the Netherlands was opened in Rotterdam. It was a line connecting the Central Station to station Zuidplein. Nowadays the subway system has five lines and is 101 kilometers (62 miles) long. There are 70 different stops and every day about 455.000 passengers use the subway system of Rotterdam.

30. There are several famous people who were born in Rotterdam

Because Rotterdam is such a big city, it is not surprising that there are several famous people who were born in Rotterdam. Several of these people are famous for their sports achievements, such as soccer player Robin van Persie, tennis player Richard Krajicek and field hockey player Fatima Moreira de Melo.

There are also a number of famous people from Rotterdam who have made it in the entertainment industry, such as singer Davina Michelle and DJ Ferry Corsten.

31. The Maastunnel was the first car tunnel in the Netherlands

The Maastunnel was built from 1937 to 1942 and it was the very first car tunnel in the Netherlands. The tunnel has a total of four different tubes, two of them are for cars, one tube for cyclists, and a tube for pedestrians.

The Maastunnel is a pretty important part of the infrastructure in Rotterdam and has a speed limit of 50 kilometers (31 miles per hour) an hour.

32. Rotterdam has water cabs that take you to 50 locations

If you want to get anywhere in Rotterdam, you can choose the more traditional ways of transportation, such as by car, subway, or by foot. Many Dutch people like to take the bicycle, but there is another way to get from one point to another.

For example, in Rotterdam, you could take a water cab. A water cab is actually a cab, only it goes by water instead of land. Prices for adults range from 4.50 euros (5.30 dollars) to 10 euros (11.80 dollars), depending on the zones.

33. Rotterdam has a temperate oceanic climate

When it comes to weather, the Netherlands does not have many extremes. Although there are not many big differences within the country, there are small variations in humidity and temperatures. Rotterdam is not that far from the coast.

This means that the temperatures are milder compared to cities further in the country. However, Rotterdam does have an urban heat island, which means that the inner part of the city is relatively warm due to a lot of human activity.

34. About half of the residents have at least one parent who was born outside the Netherlands

Rotterdam is a very diverse and international city. People from many different backgrounds live there, and about half of all residents have at least one non-Dutch parent.

Therefore, it is not unusual to hear people around you speaking a different language or to hear a store employee address you in English. The ethnicities that are most common in Rotterdam, after the Dutch, are Surinamese, Turkish, Moroccan, and Cape Verdean.

35. Christianity is the biggest religion in Rotterdam

In Rotterdam, most people who have a religion are Christian. Islam and Hinduism are in second and third place respectively. However, the majority of the population is atheist; they do not follow any religion.

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36. The stairs in the Koopgoot are awkward for pedestrians but accessible for emergency vehicles

The stairs in the Koopgoot, a popular shopping street in Rotterdam, are notoriously clumsy. There is little space between the steps and they are too wide to fit only one step per step, but too narrow for two steps per step. This may be a little annoying, but it is designed that way for a good purpose.

If an ambulance needs to go to the Koopgoot, they can drive over these stairs because of the way they are built. So for safety reasons, the stairs are built this way.

37. The McDonald’s at the Coolsingel won a German Design Award in 2016

There are many McDonald's restaurants in the world, there's no doubt about that. But they certainly don't all look the same. A small McDonald's is located on the Coolsingel. This building is almost entirely made of glass and it has two floors. It won a German Design Award in 2016 and it was named the fanciest McDonald's.

38. STAR is the largest student association in all of Europe

Rotterdam is home to many students. The Erasmus University is known for its mostly business-related studies. STAR is a study association for students studying business administration at Erasmus University.

The association was founded in 1977 and has more than 6500 members. This makes it not only the largest study association of the Netherlands but of all of Europe.

39. Rotterdam is home to the most successful baseball team in the Netherlands

Neptunus is a baseball club in Rotterdam that is the most successful in the Netherlands. It has been Dutch champion several times but also internationally they have success. Neptunus has won the European Cup several times. In 2010 they even set a record by winning 39 games in just one season.

40. The North Sea Jazz Festival is the largest indoor jazz festival in the world

Since 2006, the North Sea Jazz Festival has taken place in Rotterdam. The festival was founded in 1976 and took place in The Hague until the venue was demolished. The festival has fifteen stages and about 25,000 visitors per day.

Some famous musicians who have performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival are Amy Winehouse, James Taylor, and Herbie Hancock.

41. There are red lights in Rotterdam, but this doesn’t mean the same as in Amsterdam

While the red lights in Amsterdam are usually associated with the sex workers, here in Rotterdam it has a different meaning. There is a trail of red lights around the city marking the "brand grens".

This is the line until where the city was destroyed by the bombardment of Rotterdam and the fires in the days after.

42. Statue "de Verwoeste Stad" is a protected monument

The bombing of Rotterdam had a great impact on our country, as it was the event that led to our capitulation during World War II. The heart of the city of Rotterdam was destroyed, almost no building was spared.

Ossip Zadkine created a sculpture for this, "de Verwoeste Stad" or "the Destroyed City" in English. The sculpture shows a man with a large hole in his body, where his heart should be.

43. "Het Witte Huis" was the first skyscraper in Rotterdam

"Het Witte Huis", or "the White House" in English, is a building in Rotterdam. Unlike the White House in the United States of America, this building does not have a very important function. Currently, the building houses offices and cafes.

The building is 43 meters (141 feet) high and has eleven floors. The White House is located at Geldersekade 1. It was built in 1989 and was the first skyscraper in the city of Rotterdam.

Visiting Rotterdam - Oude Haven

44. The Holland America Line was founded in Rotterdam

From 1873 to 1989, the Holland America Line served many functions. It was a Dutch shipping company, passenger line, freight line, and cruise line. The ships mainly sailed between the Netherlands and North America. Today, Holland America is a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation, a British-American cruise operator.

45. You can visit the SS Rotterdam, which used to sail for the Holland America Line

The SS Rotterdam is one of the most famous ships in the Netherlands. It used to sail for the Holland America Line, especially between Rotterdam and New York. Nowadays it is always in the harbor.

You can now book a room there to stay overnight, they offer tours of the ships or you can have a bite to eat. It is definitely interesting to book a tour because you can learn a lot about the history of this ship and the Holland America Line.

View of the ship, SS Rotterdam

46. Blijdorp is the most visited zoo in the Netherlands

Blijdorp is a zoo that is one of the oldest zoos in the Netherlands. It is also the most visited zoo, with more than 1.5 million visitors each year. The zoo was designed by just one architect and was added to the list of Dutch-protected monuments in 2004.

The zoo is home to a wide variety of animals, from crocodiles to rays and from giraffes to gorillas. Blijdorp also cooperates with several schools for biology lessons and other educational events.

47. Rotterdam has several nicknames

Just like most big cities in the Netherlands, Rotterdam has several nicknames. One of these nicknames is "010", referring to the area code of the city. Another nickname that is mainly used by youngsters is "Roffa", which is slang for Rotterdam. Other nicknames include "Rotjeknor", "Rotje" or simply "R’dam", but those are less common.

48. Rotterdam has its own club subculture

In 1989, a rough, new sound was put forth that was different from the popular mellow house that people were used to. This new sound was soon dubbed "Gabberhouse", which became so popular that it was more than just music. People who considered themselves part of this culture also dressed a certain way, making gabber a lifestyle of sorts for some.

49. Rotterdam is the home of the annual International Film Festival Rotterdam

Every year in January the International Film Festival Rotterdam takes place. You can visit screenings of different films at locations all over Rotterdam. The emphasis is on independent and experimental filmmaking, and you'll also find a lot of arthouse films.

Every year the Tiger Award is presented. In 2021 the winner was Pebbles, directed by debutant P. S. Vinothraj from India.

50. The Van Nelle Fabriek is on UNESCO's World Heritage List

The Van Nelle Fabriek in Rotterdam is the most important industrial monument in Rotterdam. In 2014 it was named UNESCO World Heritage. The building is currently used for events, office spaces, and exhibits.

51. Rotterdam hosts the annual World Port Days

It is not surprising that a city like Rotterdam, which is famous for its port, organizes the World Port Days. During these days you can get to know the port and its ships a little better, as several activities are organized to teach you more about the port. Examples of activities are tours of ships, demonstrations, and exhibitions.

52. Ahmed Aboutaleb was the first mayor of a major European city with a migration background

When he was fifteen, Ahmed Aboutaleb moved from Beni Sidel to the Netherlands. Today he is the mayor of Rotterdam and has been since 2009. Aboutaleb was the first mayor of a major European city with a migration background. He has been compared to Obama and although his mayoralty was a bit controversial, many people love him and think he is doing a great job.

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Conclusion

Hopefully, you found out a few facts about Rotterdam that you didn't know yet. As mentioned earlier, Rotterdam is a diverse city because about half of the inhabitants have a migration background. The modern architecture has worldwide fame, but there are also some buildings left over from before the bombing.

Rotterdam is a city with many events, so if you have the opportunity I would definitely recommend you to visit this city.

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Written by

Leo van den Berg
As a Dutchman I am extremely proud of the beautiful country in which I live. My goal is to convey my passion and love for the Netherlands to as many people as possible.

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