In Brief

A guide to Rotterdam

Cube houses and radical restaurants await in the Netherlands' second city

Amsterdam lite? Hardly. While Holland's capital offers cutesy canals, Rotterdam is heaps more dynamic. Savagely bombed during World War II, the port city has since reinvented itself as an architectural pioneer – with its thrilling food scarcely less innovative. New direct Eurostar services now connect from London in three hours.

What to see

Rotterdam's chief "starchitect" is Rem Koolhaas, and it was the Kunsthal that made his name. Part of a culture-fringed green space called Museumpark, this terrific gallery slowly spirals upwards via a series of long ramps. Its ever-changing exhibitions are as likely to focus on hyperrealist body sculpture as primitive cave art.

What to do

Order a Watertaxi – they work like Ubers – to see Rotterdam's floating farms and harp-like bridges while bouncing across the Maas River. Then make for the multicoloured horseshoe-shaped Markthal, behind whose glass frontage lurk taquerias, chocolatiers and, bubble-breakingly, a Jamie's Italian. Just opposite are 1970s cube houses, tilted at 54 degrees and intended as a model of futuristic urban living.

Where to shop

Nearby is Pannekoekstraat and its many independent stores. Vintage designer Very Cherry is especially trendy, while the chic scarves and jumpers at Granny's Finest have been knitted by actual grandmothers. Slightly further on is cool concept store Groos, whose name – an old Dutch word for "pride" – refers to a policy of only selling jewellery, multicoloured rucksacks and the like made by artisans currently living in Rotterdam.

Where to eat

Situated in arches below a disused railway line, Francois Geurds' FG Restaurant boasts two Michelin stars. Next door's one-star FG Food Labs is the chef's experimental kitchen: more affordable and even more avant-garde. Typifying Geurds' bravura and brilliance are yummy desserts of pistachio emulsion, popcorn ice cream and crispy chicken skin drizzled in olive oil.

Where to drink

Though pulsating Witte de Withstraat is Rotterdam's nightlife nexus, treasures await further afield. In the north, pretty Rose Rouge is a "hotelbar", minus the hotel: accompanying flower-print wallpaper are rare wines and quality cocktails. If the sun's out, head south to hipster haunt Fenix Food Factory and gaze across the Maas from salvaged-wood deckchairs.

Where to stay

That view includes Hotel New York. Occupying the iconic, Art Nouveau-style former headquarters of Holland America Line – where emigrants once arrived en masse – this vibrant grande dame has renowned afternoon teas and its own ferry service.

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