Visiting the Westersingel, Rotterdam, The Netherlands: A Green, Downtown Lung in a Bustling City
A surviving and revitalized moat and boulevard from the 19th century
The Netherlands is well known as Europe's most densely populated country, and Rotterdam, among the largest of the cities of the conurbation known as the Randstad, has an especially concentrated population.
So this is why the Westersingel, a large boulevard (1) in Rotterdam's Downtown area, close to the Central Station (Dutch: Centraal Station) acts as a well-established green lung in the midst of a large, bustling city of more than a million.
The Westersingel is also close to the well-known Lijnbaan pedestrian and shopping precinct.
The Westersingel dates from the 19th century: it is substantially the work of Willem Nicolaas Rose (1801-1877)(2), who, among his various rôles, served as City Architect (Dutch: stadsarchitect) for Rotterdam from 1839 until 1855.
Among European countries, The Netherlands probably went through the most spectacularly rapid process of urbanization in the 20th century; and in addition much of the Downtown area of Rotterdam had to be rebuilt after World War Two following the savage destruction wrought by the Nazi-German Blitz of 1940. It is undoubtedly a tribute to an orderly, Dutch sense of health and propriety that the Westersingel and other existing moated boulevards dating from the 19th century were preserved and revitalized in the post-World War Two era (3).
Also surviving the 1940 Blitz were a number of dwelling properties with attractive frontages facing the Westersingel and various of these buildings have been declared state monuments (Dutch: Rijksmonumenten).
One of the most prominent landmarks on the Westersingel is the Remonstrantsekerk, which dates from 1897, at No. 76.
August 14, 2018
(1) The Dutch word 'singel' is also sometimes translated 'moat'.
(2) Achitect Rose was the son of a prominent Dutch colonial administrator who saw service in the East Indies; as well as being City Architect for Rotterdam, he also led a military career, and fulfilled national responsibilities for public works.
(3) I have supplied, below, a photo of a postcard, dating from 1904, which depicts the Westersingel.
Also worth seeing
In Rotterdam itself, the City Hall (Dutch: Stadhuis) — also by architect Henri Evers (see above) — is an imposing, monumental edifice; the Sint-Laurenskerk has a striking statue of Erasmus of Rotterdam; the Euromast and the Cube Houses are major landmarks; the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum has a very widely known art collection.
Dordrecht (distance: 22 kilometres) has a historic, partly Medieval, Cathedral.
How to get there: Airlines flying to Amsterdam Airport from New York include Delta Airlines and KLM. The Dutch railroad company NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) maintains rail services from Amsterdam to Rotterdam . There is car rental availability at Amsterdam airport. Much of Downtown Rotterdam is eminently walkable. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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