While visiting the Netherlands, we spent most of our week in the area surrounding Amsterdam. I wanted to take one day trip and decided on Rotterdam. There are so many amazing places to visit in the Netherlands, but Rotterdam separates itself from the rest of the country with its modern architecture and unique attractions. Here are my previous posts on the Netherlands: Part 1 (Vondelpark, the Heineken Experience, Albert Cuyp Markt), Part 2 (Het Scheepvaartmuseum, NEMO Science Museum, Verzetsmuseum), and Part 3 (Zaanse Schans, De Pannenkoekenboot, and Muiderslot).
Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands and home to Europe’s largest port. On May 14th, 1940, the city’s center was almost completely leveled during an aerial bombing by the Germans. While many of the other cities in Europe that suffered damage during the war rebuilt in a way to save the traditional style, Rotterdam took a different approach. They created a new skyline with buildings in more modern and innovative styles. It was an easy 75 minute train ride (there are also quicker 40 minute trains) from Amsterdam’s Centraal Station.
Rotterdam has a public transportation system with bus, tram, and metro options, but we didn’t even need to use it. Our first stop in Rotterdam was the Maritiem Museum- an easy 20 minute walk from Rotterdam’s Centraal Station.
The Maritiem Museum (Maritime Museum) focuses on how shipping has affected daily lives from past to present. There are a number of regularly changing contemporary exhibits that keep children in mind. The museum is open 10-5 on Tuesday-Saturday and 11-5 on Sundays and public holidays. Check their hours before visiting. Tickets are 11.50 euro for adults and 7.50 for children 4-11. Admission is free with the ICOM card, Museum Card, Rotterdam Pass and for those under 4.
Of all the museums we have visited so far (and not just in the Netherlands), this one was the favorite with Evan.
Even the large steering wheel on the first floor just past the ticket counter was a huge hit, particularly the wind that came out when the wheel was moved.
The first set of exhibits we came across feature centuries-old unique objects related to shipping including the Mataró model- the oldest model ship in Europe, dating back more than six centuries.
I liked that there were booths with screens and phones built in among the pieces. This made it easy for Evan to reach on his own and listen along.
The fun really began for the kids in the next area with The World on Your Plate exhibit. Evan and Claire were able to learn about the spices and other goods that were introduced to the Netherlands through trade and how this has affected food today. They especially loved the game-like ship pieces that could be pushed around the large world map built into the floor.
There is even more fun to be had on the top floor in the Professor Plons (Splash) exhibit. This section includes a large indoor/outdoor port-themed play area to help the kids run off some energy, perfect for those from 4 to 10.
Evan’s favorite part was helping others operate the cranes and other port-related equipment on the roof-top terrace. This area also offers some great views of the city. We ended up spending most of the afternoon here. While Claire was a bit small to play with most of the equipment, she did have a ton of fun filling and pushing around a wheelbarrow and exploring indoors.
The museum has plenty of restrooms with changing areas available. It was also easy to navigate the stroller.
For a lunch break, the Maritiem Museum has a restaurant downstairs called Lloyd’s. I had the Rundvleeskroketten met friet (beef croquettes with fries) and Chad ordered the Sandwich toast gerookte zalm, tonijn en gerookte makreel (sandwich with smoked salmon, tuna, and smoked mackerel). I also ordered the cheese sandwich for Evan and croquette with fries for Claire.
Just outside past the restaurant, there are a variety of historic ships and cranes to explore at the Harbor Museum until 4 pm.
After walking though the harbor, we walked a short 6 minutes towards our next destination, the Markthal.
Just across from the Markthal and above the Blaak subway station is another interesting piece of architecture- the Kubuswoningen (Cube Houses). These cube-shaped houses were designed by Dutch architect Piet Blom and construction began in March 1982. There are 38 small cubes and 2 larger ones. A Show Cube is set up for tours daily from 11-5 (it was already too late by the time we got there so we didn’t go inside). Admission is 2.50 euro for adults and 1.50 for children from 4-12.
The Markthal is one of Rotterdam’s newest additions. It was opened on October 1st, 2014 and designed by the architectural firm, MVRDV. Inside, there are over 100 stalls featuring a variety of restaurants and food-related items. The arch surrounding the market is filled with 228 luxury apartments. Under the Markthal is a 4-storey parking garage.
The inside wall of the arch is covered with a mural by Arno Coenen called Hoorn des Overvloeds (Horn of Plenty). It is the Netherland’s largest work of art (and maybe in the world) with 4,000 tiles and the size of two full-size soccer fields. I love that the market is enclosed by glass on either side to give it an outdoor feel while still being protected from the weather.
When we first walked into the Markthal, I wondered where all the seating for the restaurants in the stalls were located before realizing that many were built into mini-terraces directly above the stalls. It is such a great use of the space.
Evan seemed to be having pasta withdrawals and kept asking for it for dinner. We came across a stall called PastaBar Sicily. Claire had the bruschetta (she really really loves fresh tomatoes) and Evan had the pesto. He particularly loved his bowl and kept calling it Mickey. Chad ordered the bolognese and I had the lasagna. Not the most Dutch-style dinner, but just what Evan was craving.
There were so many incredible food stalls to explore selling everything from doughnuts and cured meats to smoothies, fresh produce, sandwiches, seafood, and cheese. There is even an Albert Heijn supermarket one floor down.
Before heading back to Centraal Station, we picked up some Poffertjes to go. Poffertjes are little pancake puffs made in a special pan. We had them with some butter and a sprinkling of powdered sugar, but fresh strawberries and whipped cream or a drizzling of chocolate were also options.
We walked along the Nieuwe Maas on the way back to the station to get views of the Erasmusbrug (white bridge in the top photo above) and the Willemsbrug (red bridge). There is so much more to the city that we didn’t have time to see from Diergaarde Blijdorp, Rotterdam’s Royal Zoo, and the Euromast (observation tower with great views) to countless museums, notable sites, and water-related activities.
Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Maritiem Museum in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own.
We had so much incredible food while we were in the Netherlands, but there was one on the list that I never managed to try- Patatje Oorlog. Patatje Oorlog translates to War Fries. We saw a few food stands in Amsterdam and Rotterdam selling fries with a variety of toppings (and I should have stopped then). Patatje Oorlog are fries topped with mayonnaise, a thick Indonesian-style peanut saté sauce, and raw onions. Other areas of the Netherlands may or may not include the onions.
I double-fried the fries to make them nice and crispy, first at a lower temp and then higher. If you want to avoid deep-frying, you can also bake the fries for a slightly lighter snack.
As a note: I only soaked the fries while the oil was heating, so about 30 minutes. I have since learned that soaking them in cold water for a couple of hours is ideal.
Kecap manis (ketjap manis) is a thick, syrupy sweet soy sauce from Indonesia. The sauce can be made at home, but I have not tried yet. It is available at Asian food markets specializing in southeast Asian ingredients or on Amazon (contains preservatives): ABC Indonesian Sweet Soy Sauce.
Sambal Oelek is an Indonesian hot chili sauce made with ground red chilies, salt, and vinegar. It is available at Asian food markets specializing in southeast Asian ingredients or on Amazon (contains preservatives): Sambal Oelek. I haven’t tried it yet, but it seems easy to make your own.
Another interesting fry topping is Patatje Speciaal- Mayonnaise, Curry Ketchup, and Raw Onions.
Patatje Oorlog (Dutch War Fries)
Adapted from In My Red Kitchen
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/2 onion, very finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sambal oelek
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided
1 tablespoon kecap manis
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
4 large russet potatoes
Vegetable oil for frying
Salt to taste
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 onion, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
To make the saté sauce: In a medium saucepan, drizzle the peanut oil over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Stir in the garlic, sambal oelek, and ginger and cook just until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Once fragrant, add the peanut butter. Stir to combine, then add 3/4 cup of the chicken broth, the kecap manis, and dark brown sugar. Allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add more broth if the mixture becomes too thick. Remove from heat. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use.
In a fryer or large pot, add 2-3 inches of oil and heat to 325 degrees F. Peel the potatoes and cut into fries. Soak the fries in cold water to remove any excess starch and pat dry with a towel. Add to the hot oil in batches, being careful not to overcrowd (keep the extra fries soaking in the water until their turn to cook). Fry until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a towel-lined plate and repeat with remaining fries.
Allow the first batch of fries to rest while the others cook, then fry again in 375 degree F oil until crisp and golden, about 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining fries.
Sprinkle the fries with salt and serve immediately topped with the saté sauce, mayonnaise and chopped raw onions.