Rotterdam is a port city in the west of the Netherlands, in the province of South Holland. With 587,960 inhabitants (January 1, 2020) it is the second largest city in the Netherlands in terms of population, after Amsterdam. The Rotterdam The Hague metropolitan region has more than 2.3 million inhabitants.

Rotterdam owes its name to a dam in the river Rotte. The city is located on the Nieuwe Maas, one of the rivers in the delta formed by the Rhine and the Maas. The port of Rotterdam was the largest in the world for a long time and is still the largest and most important in Europe. The port area extends over a length of 40 kilometers and is an important logistics and economic center. Partly because of the port industry, Rotterdam has the image of a working-class city and the city has a very diverse population.

After the historic city center was largely destroyed by a German war bombardment in 1940, Rotterdam has become a cradle for innovative architecture, including the Erasmus Bridge, the Cube Houses and a large number of skyscrapers. The city is also known for the Erasmus University, the art collections of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and the Kunsthal and football club Feyenoord Rotterdam.



Origin and emergence
Since the ninth century, the settlement Rotta has been located on the site of the current city center of Rotterdam. This became uninhabitable in the twelfth century due to flooding of the river Rotte. Around 1270, a dam was built in the Rotte where the Hoogstraat crosses the Rotte. Rotterdam derives its name from this. A settlement arose around this dam where people initially lived from fishing. It soon also became a trading point and the first ports were created. On March 17, 1299, Rotterdam received city rights from Count Jan I of Holland. In the past it was generally assumed that they were revoked that same year, after the death of Wolfert I van Borselen (the guardian of Jan I) and Jan I himself, but that view is no longer generally accepted. Be that as it may, on June 7, 1340, Count William IV of Holland (again) granted city rights. A city wall was built in 1360, after permission had been obtained in 1358 from Albrecht of Bavaria.

Jonker Frans van Brederode played an important role for Rotterdam during the Hoekse and Kabeljauwse disputes between 1488-1490. The wars greatly strengthened Rotterdam's position as its base of operations compared to the surrounding cities. For example, nearby Delft had lost almost all its ships and Gouda half of the houses. Thanks to Jonker Frans, Rotterdam definitely became a city of significance in Holland.

The late Gothic St. Lawrence Church was built between 1449 and 1525. In medieval Rotterdam this was the only stone building. It was an ambitious project: Rotterdam consisted of about 1200 houses at the time.

In 1572, Rotterdam was sacked by troops of the stadholder of the Spanish king, Maximilian of Hénin-Liétard, the Henegouwer. In 1573 the city sided with the Dutch Revolt. The city then had about 10,000 inhabitants. At the end of the 16th century, Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, who was Grand Pensionary of the city from 1576 to 1586, had the port of Rotterdam further developed, thus laying the foundation for the important place this city would acquire in maritime trade. At the 1622 census, the population had grown to about 20,000. By the end of the 17th century, there would be as many as 50,000.

Despite this, the city did not expand beyond its ramparts and canals. The more or less triangular space between Coolsingel, Goudsesingel and the Nieuwe Maas amounted to no more than 140 hectares, so the city became overcrowded. It was not until after 1825 that it would expand beyond these narrow borders.

From the 17th to the 19th century many Dutch ships sailed with slaves from Africa to Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles, where they were exchanged for goods that were shipped to Rotterdam, among other places. The Rotterdam firm Coopstad and Rochussen, after the Middelburgsche Commercie Compagnie, the largest slave trading company in the Netherlands, played a role in this trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Growth in the 19th and 20th centuries
In the 19th century, the position of Rotterdam as an international port was threatened by the silting up of the main connections with the sea, first the Scheur and then the Brielse Maas. To overcome this problem, between 1827 and 1830 under King Willem I (probably initially "to serve the interests of the war fleet with this connection between the naval dockyard in Rotterdam and the war harbor Hellevoetsluis") the Voorne canal was dug through the island of Voorne. , between Rotterdam and Hellevoetsluis. However, as the size of the sea-going vessels increased more and more in the 19th century, this canal proved inadequate. Engineer Pieter Caland designed an ambitious plan for a new connection to the North Sea. Implementation of this was started in 1866. The Nieuwe Waterweg was dug between 1866 and 1872. Together with the Scheur and the Nieuwe Maas, this created a direct shipping connection between Rotterdam and the North Sea at the Hook of Holland. After the opening of the Nieuwe Waterweg, the turbulent growth of Rotterdam began. Several new ports were built, which greatly increased employment. This attracted workers from all over the world. The money earned by the city was spent, among other things, on the construction of stately buildings in the center.


The city was expanded in two ways: by annexing a number of surrounding municipalities and by building many new neighborhoods. The first wave of annexations took place at the end of the nineteenth century with Delfshaven (1886), Kralingen, part of Overschie and Charlois in 1895.

The ports were expanded at a rapid pace, under the influence of people like Lodewijk Pincoffs and G.J. de Jongh. More and more ports were built, such as the Maas, Rhine and Waal ports. Attracted by the resulting employment, many farmers, especially from North Brabant, moved to the city. The prevailing agricultural crisis amplified this effect. For the newcomers, rows of cheap houses were quickly assembled, especially in the south, on the left bank of the Maas, which was therefore soon called the peasant side. Between 1880 and 1900, the population grew rapidly from 160,000 to 315,000. In 1920, the population would even exceed 500,000 inhabitants. Hoek van Holland was incorporated in 1914, followed by Pernis and Hoogvliet in 1933.

At the end of the 19th century, the construction of the new Cool, Crooswijk and Nieuwe Westen districts had already begun. From about 1914, further expansion to the west began, with successively Spangen, het Witte Dorp and Oud-Mathenesse.

The center of Rotterdam has since gained more and more allure. The city walls had been demolished some time before, but the canals, which were also part of earlier defenses, were still there. These were largely filled in around this time to make more room, partly for the greatly increased traffic. Large parts of the Rotte were also filled in. Harbor barons and the municipality invested in prestigious buildings. After the Coolvest had been filled in, a spacious boulevard was created here with a new town hall, a chic post office and the Stock Exchange. Modern architects were given a chance.

During the First World War (1914-1918), Rotterdam was a spy town because of the Dutch neutrality and the favorable location between England, Germany and occupied Belgium. Even before the war started, foreign secret services had chosen Rotterdam as their base. The British secret service was based at the offices of the Uranium Steamship Company on the Boompjes. The German secret services were run from the Imperial German Consulate General in the White House. Many Dutch people were active in the field of (counter) espionage. The Dutch government could be neutral, but not every citizen cared about it. A policy of tolerance, combined with the aforementioned favorable location, made Rotterdam the largest spy nest of the First World War.

Everything changed on May 14, 1940. At that time, the Netherlands had already been at war for five days. Already on the first day many German paratroopers and airborne troops landed around Rotterdam South. The North Island was also occupied. The Dutch garrison, supplied infantry and parts of the Marine Corps, however, kept the Maasoever and Maas bridges constantly at gunpoint, which prevented the Germans from reaching the center. After several days of fierce fighting around the bridge, the Germans sent a negotiator on the morning of 14 May. There were threats to destroy the city. The Germans turned out to have little patience: to break the resistance, the Nazis decided to carry out their threat.

The bombing of Rotterdam, which took place early in the afternoon, lasted only fifteen minutes, but the devastating effect, partly due to the fire that started, was gigantic. More than 24,000 homes were reduced to ashes. About 800 people were killed and 80,000 Rotterdammers were made homeless. When the Germans threatened to destroy Utrecht in the same way that same afternoon, this was reason for the Dutch Commander-in-Chief Winkelman to capitulate.

In Rotterdam almost the entire center, the heart of the city, had turned into a smoldering mess. At the same time as the occupation the debris clearing started. The Schie, near the current Schiekade, the Blaak and the Kolk were filled in with the many rubble. The rubble was also used for the construction of the islands in the southeast of the Kralingse Plas and for the construction of the slope of the current Willem Ruyslaan.

Because the Maas bridges, consisting of the old Willemsbrug and the adjacent railway bridge, had not been destroyed, the road and rail connections between the two city districts remained intact. In addition, the Maastunnel, construction of which had started in 1937, was opened on 14 February 1942. It was the first car tunnel in the Netherlands.

The last major annexation round also followed during the occupation. In 1941, the municipalities of Hillegersberg, Schiebroek, the remaining part of Overschie, Kralingseveer and IJsselmonde were added to Rotterdam in one fell swoop.


On March 31, 1943, the Allies mistakenly bombed part of Delfshaven, killing another 326 people and injuring 400. The Hunger Winter (1944-1945) also cost many lives in Rotterdam.

The consequences of the persecution of the Jews in Rotterdam are difficult to chart in figures due to the municipal reorganization, the bombings and the many itinerant refugees. It is estimated that of the more than 11,000 'volljuden' and 'halbjuden' who were counted at the start of the occupation, only 1,400 survived the persecution and the rest of the war.

A major raid was held on 10 and 11 November 1944, during which approximately 50,000 men between 17 and 40 were taken away. On the night before the raid, Rotterdam was surrounded by 8000 German soldiers and all important bridges and squares were occupied and telephone traffic was cut off. De Kuip was an important meeting place. The raid was carried out systematically, making escape hardly possible. Approximately 20,000 of the men from Rotterdam and Schiedam who were arrested left on foot in the direction of Utrecht, 20,000 were transported by rijnaken and 10,000 by train. About 10,000 of them were employed in the east of the Netherlands, the rest went to labor butchers in Germany.

After the second World War
After the war, reconstruction began along the lines of the Basic Plan for the Reconstruction of Rotterdam. In an urge for renewal and modernization, many damaged buildings were not repaired but demolished, such as the building of the Bijenkorf van Dudok.

In the 1950s, reconstruction was in full swing. Rotterdam acquired the image of a 'working city' and developed into a model of modernity. In 1953 the opening of the Lijnbaan took place, the first car-free shopping street in Europe. The progressive design attracted a lot of international attention. The new Central Station was completed in 1957, with the then ultra-modern Groothandelsgebouw built in 1953 next to it. On the occasion of the Floriade, the Euromast was erected in 1960. Together with the famous statue 'The destroyed city' by Ossip Zadkine, the Euromast became a symbol of post-war Rotterdam. In 1970 the Euromast was raised by the addition of a Space Tower, bringing the total height to 185 meters.

In order to alleviate the housing shortage, the municipality quickly set up a number of new neighborhoods with many flats, such as Pendrecht, Zuidwijk, Lombardijen, Ommoord and Zevenkamp.

Simultaneously with the recovery of the ports, plans were also developed to disconnect the city and port area. They wanted to achieve this by constructing new port areas in the direction of the sea. Successively, the Botlek area, Europoort and the Maasvlakte were built south of the Nieuwe Waterweg, with enormous tank storage capacity for crude oil. Large refineries were built in Pernis, Rozenburg and further west. Port activities grew so fast that the port of Rotterdam became the largest port in the world in 1962.

The construction of the Rotterdam metro began in 1960, which was opened in 1968 as the first metro in the Netherlands. This connected the 'south' districts with the center. In 1970 the opening of the new Ahoy halls took place near the Zuidplein shopping center.

Partly due to the construction of the Weena, Rotterdam got a skyline with various skyscrapers in the 1990s. Opened in 1991, the Delftse Poort building became the highest skyscraper in the Netherlands at 151 meters, but was overtaken in 2009 when the Maastoren under construction reached its highest point (165 meters). In 1993, due to the opening of the Willemsspoort tunnel, the railway disappeared from the center of Rotterdam. With the completion of the Erasmus Bridge in 1996, Rotterdam got a new symbol.

Rotterdam is centrally located in the Rotterdam City Region and borders clockwise to the municipalities of Westland, Maassluis, Vlaardingen, Schiedam, Midden-Delfland, Delft, Pijnacker-Nootdorp, Lansingerland, Zuidplas, Capelle aan den IJssel, Krimpen aan den IJssel, Ridderkerk, Barendrecht, Albrandswaard, Nissewaard, Brielle and Westvoorne.

Large towns in the immediate vicinity are Dordrecht, Delft, Zoetermeer and Spijkenisse. The metropolitan area has about 1,600,000 inhabitants.

Like all of the mainland of the Netherlands, Rotterdam also has a moderate maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. In summer, the average temperatures are usually below 20 degrees, while the average temperature in winter will not often dip below freezing. The nearby North Sea moderates the temperature, so that extremes rarely occur. The North Sea does, however, provide a humid climate. Precipitation falls at any time of the year, but spring is clearly drier than autumn.


Rotterdam is often referred to as the Maasstad, and in the city you will find many references to the river Maas (Maasboulevard, Maasgebouw, Maasbrug, Maas tunnel, Maastoren). These are historical references, because the Maas that flows near Maastricht no longer flows through Rotterdam.

Until about 1870, the Maas flowed via what is now the Afgedamde Maas to the Waal at Woudrichem, to form the Merwede together. The Merwede flowed via the Beneden-Merwede to Dordrecht and split there into Oude Maas and Noord, the latter later becoming the Nieuwe Maas together with the Lek. West of Rotterdam, the Oude and Nieuwe Maas converged (and come together) to enter the North Sea via a double estuary around the island of Rozenburg as Scheur and Brielse Maas. The water that then flowed through the center of Rotterdam contained more than half of the total Maas water and on that basis, Rotterdam can best call itself a Maasstad.

In the period 1861-1874, the Nieuwe Merwede was dug to improve drainage of the Waal, and with that most of the water from the Merwede, and therefore from the Maas, no longer went to the sea via Dordrecht and Rotterdam, but via the Haringvliet. . As a result, the Nieuwe Maas was mainly discharged from the Lek.

In the end, due to frequent flooding in the Land van Heusden in 1904, the Bergsche Maas was dug and the former Maas between Heusden and Woudrichem was dammed. In principle, this meant that the Maas water could no longer reach Rotterdam and since then the Nieuwe Maas has only been fed by Rhine water, while the Maas water goes entirely to the sea via the Haringvliet.