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11 Facts about Rotterdam, Netherlands

Updated on April 23, 2014
Rotterdam
Rotterdam | Source

Rotterdam is a city in the Netherlands. Its port, in volume of freight handled, is among the largest in the world. Its refineries process the petroleum that makes up the greater part of its seagoing traffic. In addition to foreign trade, the port handles the huge barge traffic that is carried on the Rhine River and associated waterways. The city has a population of 610,386 (2011).

1. The situation of the modern city at the mouth of the Rhine and Maas rivers suggests that the natural advantages of its site account for its present dominance. This is almost wholly misleading.

2. When Rotterdam developed in the 13th century as a fishing village on one of the arms of the Rhine Delta, access to both the sea and the river was difficult, and channels shifted constantly. Neighboring Dordrecht and Delft were more important. In fact, it was only with the creation in 1872 of a wholly artificial channel, the New Waterway, to the North Sea, 18 miles (30 km) away, that Rotterdam gained the full benefit of its position and began to compete seriously with its main rival, Antwerp.

Gebouw Delftse Poort
Gebouw Delftse Poort | Source

3. Thereafter it rose to preeminence. Port facilities have been enlarged, and processing industries (oil refining, food preparation) and shipbuilding have been developed. The small city on the north bank of the river has overrun older communities like Schiedam and Vlaardingen. But the major transformation has occurred on the south bank where, since 1890, the port has spread seaward, over a series of islands, toward deeper water.

4. The port now extends continuously from Rotterdam to the sea. At the mouth of the New Waterway lies the great port complex of Europoort ("gateway of Europe"). Dredged to an entrance depth of 72 to 75 feet (22–23 meters), it can accommodate supertankers.

5. Up to 1940 the medieval layout of Rotterdam was recognizable in its crowded housing and intersecting canals and docks. On May 13, 1940, German bombers destroyed this old city, devastating some 800 acres (320 ha) and eliminating more than 30,000 buildings. But plans for reconstruction were drawn up at once.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen | Source
Erasmusbrug
Erasmusbrug | Source

6. Despite further severe damage to the port in 1944, postwar Rotterdam became a model of redevelopment. The key factor was the city's expropriation of all bombed sites, which enabled the authorities to develop a master plan for reconstruction without having to negotiate with thousands of individual owners. Several old docks and defensive ditches were filled in to create broad new axes in the city center. It is along these that the principal buildings now stand.

7. The Coolsingel runs north-south past the City Hall and Exchange buildings; the Blaak runs east-west. The redevelopment includes a pedestrian precinct (the Lijnbaan area -"the Fifth Avenue of Europe") and new structures like De Doelen (a fine concert hall) and a huge wholesalers' building with 1.3 million square feet (121,000 sq meters) of floor space. Virtually the only survivors from before the 1940 raid are the City Hall and the 15th-century Groote Kerk, which has been restored.

8. Rotterdam has never rivaled Amsterdam for cultural life. But the Boymans-van Beuningen Museum has a major art collection, and the city is the home of Erasmus University, established in 1973. Rotterdam's parks and recreational lakes have become famous.

9. Rotterdam is situated in the center of a metropolitan area that includes 17 other municipalities. In turn, metropolitan Rotterdam, together with Amsterdam, Utrecht, and The Hague, forms part of the "Randstad" (literally, "Rim City"), an enormous conurbation encompassing nearly half the population of the country.

10. The city's spacious commercial center is surrounded by monotonous and crowded suburbs. Growth is not easy where much of the surrounding area is underwater and, even when dry, below sea level. Growth confronts a further problem -how to match housing with employment in a city bisected by a waterway. Cross-river movement has always been restricted, and traffic congestion is severe even though the first rail and road bridges (1876–1878) have been supplemented and replaced by further bridges, tunnels, and a subway.

11. The municipality, which grew up around the fishing village, dates from the 14th century. It was one of the first Dutch cities to revolt against Spanish rule in 1572. The Estates of Holland met there in 1574, and by 1600 there were about 15,000 inhabitants. During the 17th century it became the second city of the Dutch Republic. The commercial spirit of the city expressed itself in the construction of docks rather than fine buildings.

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    • Buildreps profile image

      Buildreps 3 years ago from Europe

      Thanks for dedicating your article to my city, Whyjoker. There are much more survivors of the great raid of 1940, by the way, like the famous 'Hotel New York', where the famous 'Holland-America line' was settled.