Geithoorn, The Netherlands

Nestled just north of Zwolle, Geithoorn is a perfect day trip that shouldn’t be missed if you have a short time to spare (half a day is enough) whilst visiting Amsterdam. I’d actually choose it over Zaanse Schans coz hey you can actually find those old wind mills—the tourist draw in Zaanse Schans—in Amsterdam.

Geithoorn, pronounced “kheet-haw-rn” (the closest I could come up with) is actually a town but the size of the attraction is just like that of a village. Yes, the canal system isn’t as complex as Bruges’, Amsterdam’s and defo not Venice’s. Venice too sure is way way grander.

But its charm lies in the fact that there’s far less crowd (especially if you come early), it’s pedestrian-only (bikers are allowed too) and instead of buildings, you’ll find lovely old cottage homes with well-manicured gardens that seem to want to upstage the other. Plus the business establishments perfectly blend in with the surroundings, it seems devoid of commercialism. It’s really straight out of a fairy tale!

To get there, you need to hop on a train that passes by Steenwijk. Get off the station and take either bus 70 or 270. Get off at bus stop Giethoorn, Groene Kruis.The attraction is across the street from here.

It’s best to experience Geithoorn by boat. Rent boats are cheap. They’re electricity-powered and a license is required, NOT! Anybody as in anybody can easily navigate the canals by these whisper boats. I suggest you rent the one controlled via a steering wheel—far easier to manoeuvre than the ones with the engine lever. An hour is enough to circumnavigate the canal ring even passing by the lake. But if you plan to take your time marvelling at nature (man-made hehe) and explore the canal stretches, then two hours is more than enough.

Food here is relatively cheap. Cheapest and seriously not bad food is in Eetcafé Giethoorn.

Following are pictures I took just when Spring was just starting:

the making of modern Rotterdam

The post-war rehabilitation of the heavily-bombed Rotterdam abandoned the idea of restoring damaged buildings especially in and around the city centre. Instead, restoration took on a moving forward approach–completely taking down the old for the construction of new ones. There are a few historic buildings though that survived the bombardment. They blend in with the hypermodern buildings constructed in the recent decades that either reach for the sky, push the design envelop or both.

Rotterdam Centraal Station
Front view of Rotterdam’s Central Station.

Greeting visitors as they get off their trains in Rotterdam Centraal is the city’s iconic ultra-modern main station that easily puts many international airports in the world to shame. The complete dismantling of the old beggars/junkies-infested train station to give way to this new one is probably the most laudable decision the city has ever made. The new station sits north of Kruisplein grabbing attention despite being dwarfed by a sprawl of giant buildings surrounding it. The city centre is close easily reached on foot.

The Delftse Poort
Sleek “The Delftse Poort” standing tall next to the iconic train station.

The city centre was initially planned to be functional. Different city functions were clustered in different areas: shopping, leisure, banking, housing. This however resulted in a less lively, even deserted city centre especially outside of business hours. As a solution, available spaces were utilised for small-scale housing developments. One stand-out in terms of design are the Cube Houses–just outside of Blaak Metro Station. Designed by Piet Blom and constructed in the 70s, the Cube Houses is a must-see for its unique asymmetrical design.

The Cube Houses
Piet Blom’s The Cube Houses. Behind it is The Pencil Tower–another residential building in the city centre.

Just steps away from the Cube Houses is the recently built Markthal–an arched tunnel-like apartment complex that assembles the best market vendors in The Netherlands. It is also home to upscale cafes and restaurants including Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italian. Shops abound in the nearby Cool District.

Markthal–an apartment complex with shops, cafes and restaurants. Outside it is an open-air market open Saturdays and Tuesdays.

Economic boom of the past decades followed a huge labor demand, which immigration helped fill. As a result, Rotterdam now is a melting pot of cultures. Multiculturalism is evident in the diversity of people you come across, tolerance to whatever religious practice and the plethora of restaurants catering to various tastes. 50% of Rotterdam population are either non-Dutch or have a Dutch parent. Aptly so, Rotterdam sees The Netherlands’ first immigrant mayor–Ahmed Aboutaleb. And Rotterdam’s multicultural aura is apparent in the July holding of Zomercarnaval (summer carnival) patterned after Rio de Janeiro’s carnival.

Diversity on display. At Beurstraverse–a shopping street in the Cool District.

A visit to Rotterdam won’t be complete without climbing the Euromast. Its unobstructed 360-degree view of the city makes it the perfect spot for studying Rotterdam’s urban planning and development. It offers a view of the sprawling high-rises and the towering cranes further to the sea–Rotterdam is arguably the busiest port in Europe.

Spido Tours meanwhile offer views of popular attractions of greater Rotterdam onboard a ferry cruising along the River Maas. Undeniably, the most prominent attraction is Erasmusbrug–an ultra-modern minimalist 800-meter long bridge that connects the North and the South. The televised annual New Year’s Eve fireworks display is held here.


Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge)
View of Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge) on a beautiful, sunny day.

Rotterdam is second to Amsterdam in terms of tourist visits. Amsterdam’s biggest tourist draws are its canals, the Red Light District and unarguably, weed (and all sorts of drugs). And Rotterdam, cleverly, doesn’t wish to replicate what Amsterdam offers tourists. Rotterdam is an altogether different experience.