58km (36 miles) SW of Amsterdam; 23km (16 miles) SE of the Hague
Although just an hour from Amsterdam by train, Rotterdam is Holland's most futuristic city, centuries away from the capital in both appearance and personality. Here, instead of the usual Dutch web of little streets, alleyways, and winding canals, there are spacious and elegant malls and one of the world's busiest ocean harbors. This bustling metropolis (pop. 590,000) is fascinating to see, particularly when you consider the city was a living monument to Holland's Golden Age until it was bombed to rubble during World War II. Traces of Old Rotterdam survive most vividly in only two areas -- Delfshaven (Delft Harbor) and Oude Haven (Old Harbor).
Rotterdam has an abundance of modern architecture, some of it fascinating. At the war's end, rather than try to recreate the old, Rotterdammers looked on their misfortune as an opportunity and approached their city as a clean slate. They relished the chance to create an efficient, workable modern city. The results, though they're not always elegant, are a testimony to their ability to find impressive solutions to their problems.