The port of Rotterdam is the largest in Europe and was the world's busiest port from 1962 to 2004, until it was overtaken by Shanghai. Rotterdam is situated on the banks of the river Nieuwe Maas ('New Meuse'), one of the channels in the delta formed by the Rhine and Meuse rivers. The name Rotterdam derives from a dam in the Rotte river.
Rotterdam consists of 11 submunicipalities: Charlois (including Heijplaat), Delfshaven, Feijenoord, Hillegersberg-Schiebroek, Hoek van Holland, Hoogvliet, IJsselmonde, Kralingen-Crooswijk, Noord, Overschie, and Prins Alexander (the most populous submunicipality with around 85,000 inhabitants). Two other areas, Centrum ('Center') and Pernis, do not have official submunicipality status.
As partly mentioned above already, Rotterdam is situated in the Zuidvleugel ('South Wing') of the Randstad ('Rim City') conurbation, with 6.7 million inhabitants, the sixth largest metropolitan area in Europe (after Moscow, London, the Ruhr Area, Istanbul, and Paris). The Zuidvleugel includes Leiden, The Hague, Zoetermeer, Delft, Vlaardingen, Schiedam, Capelle aan den IJssel, Spijkenisse and Dordrecht, and has a population of around 3 million.
Settlement at the lower end of the fen stream Rotte (or Rotta, as it was then known, from rot, 'muddy' and a, 'water', thus 'muddy water') dates from at least 900. Around 1150, large floods in the area ended development, leading to the construction of protective dikes and dams, including Schielands Hoge Zeedijk ('Schieland’s High Sea Dike') along the northern banks of the present-day Nieuwe Maas. A dam on the Rotte or 'Rotterdam' was built in the 1260s and was located at the present-day Hoogstraat ('High Street').
On 7 June 1340, Count Willem IV of Holland granted city rights to Rotterdam, which then had approximately 2000 inhabitants. Around 1350 a shipping canal, the Rotterdamse Schie was completed, which provided Rotterdam access to the larger towns in the north, allowing it to become a local transshipment center between Holland, England and Germany, and to slowly urbanize.
The port of Rotterdam slowly but steadily grew into a port of importance, becoming the seat of one of the six 'chambers' of the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC), or the Dutch East India Company.
The greatest spurt of growth, both in port activity and population, followed the completion of the Nieuwe Waterweg in 1872. The city and harbor started to expand on the south bank of the river. The Witte Huis or White House skyscraper, inspired by American office buildings and built in 1898 in the French Chateau style is evidence of Rotterdam's rapid growth and success. It was at the time of completion the tallest office building in Europe, with a height of 45 m.
The German army invaded the Netherlands on 10 May 1940. Germany had planned to conquer the country in one day, but after meeting unexpectedly fierce resistance, it finally forced the Dutch army to capitulate on 14 May 1940 by bombing Rotterdam and threatening to bomb other cities. The heart of the city was almost completely destroyed by the German Luftwaffe, and 800 people were killed, while about 80,000 others were made homeless. Ossip Zadkine later captured the event strikingly with his statue Stad zonder hart ('City without a heart'). The City Hall survived the bombing. The Germans carefully avoided it during the bombing, as it was assigned to be their headquarters of the region during the war. The statue is now located near the Leuvehaven, not far from the Erasmusbrug in the centre of the city, on the north shore of the river Nieuwe Maas. From the 1950s through the 1970s, the city was rebuilt. It remained quite windy and open until the city councils from the 1980s on began developing an active architectural policy. Daring and new styles of apartments, office buildings and recreation facilities resulted in a more 'livable' city center with a new skyline. In the 1990s, a new business center on the south bank of the river, the Kop van Zuid was built.
Figures are from 2006:
In the Netherlands, Rotterdam has the highest percentage of foreigners from non-industrialised nations. Nearly 50% of the population are not native to the Netherlands or have at least one parent born outside the country. Recent figures show that Muslims comprise close to 25% of the city's population. The city is home to one of the largest Cape Verdean communities in the world, as well as the largest Dutch Antillean community.
Rotterdam is divided into a northern and a southern part by the river Nieuwe Maas, connected by (from west to east): the Beneluxtunnel; the Maastunnel; the Erasmusbrug ('Erasmus Bridge'); a subway tunnel; the Willemsspoortunnel ('Willems railway tunnel'); the Willemsbrug ('Willems Bridge'); the Koninginnebrug ('Queen's Bridge'); and the Van Brienenoordbrug ('Van Brienenoord Bridge'). The former railway lift bridge De Hef ('the Lift') is preserved as a monument in lifted position between the Noordereiland ('North Island') and the south of Rotterdam.
The city centre is located on the northern bank of the Nieuwe Maas, although recent urban development has extended the center to parts of southern Rotterdam known as De Kop van Zuid ('the Head of South', i.e. the northern part of southern Rotterdam). From its inland core, Rotterdam reaches the North Sea by a swathe of predominantly harbor area.
Built mostly behind dikes, large parts of the Rotterdam are below sea level. For instance, the Prins Alexander Polder in the northeast of Rotterdam extends 6 meters below sea level, or rather below Normaal Amsterdams Peil (NAP) or 'Amsterdam Ordnance Datum'. The lowest point in the Netherlands (below NAP) is situated just to the east of Rotterdam, in the municipality of Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel.
The Rotte river no longer joins the Nieuwe Maas directly. Since the early 1980s, when the construction of Rotterdam’s second subway line interfered with the Rotte’s course, its waters have been pumped through a pipe into the Nieuwe Maas via the Boerengat.
The Erasmus University has a strong focus on research and education in management and economics. The University is located on the east side of the city and is surrounded by numerous multinational firms. On Brainpark I, Brainpark II, Brainpark III and Het Rivium are located offices of Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, AIG, KPMG, CMG,Sodexo, Coca Cola Company, Cap Gemini, Ernst and Young, etc. In the center of the city are the above-mentioned Unilever offices, but also Robeco, Fortis (including Mees Pierson and Stad Rotterdam Verzekeringen), ABN AMRO, ING (Nationale Nederlanden), and the Rotterdam WTC.
Rotterdam has the largest port in Europe, with the rivers Meuse and Rhine providing excellent access to the hinterland upstream reaching to Basel, Switzerland and into France. In 2003 Singapore took over, and in 2005 Shanghai, as the world's busiest port. In 2006, Rotterdam was the world's seventh largest container port in terms of Twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) handled.
The port's main activities are petrochemical industries and general cargo handling and transshipment. The harbour functions as an important transit point for bulk materials and between the European continent and overseas. From Rotterdam goods are transported by ship, river barge, train or road. In 2007, the Betuweroute, a new fast freight railway from Rotterdam to Germany, has been completed.
In 1872, the Nieuwe Waterweg ('New Waterway') opened, a ship canal constructed to keep the city and port of Rotterdam accessible to seafaring vessels as the natural Meuse-Rhine channels silted up. The canal proper measures approximately from the western tips of its protruding dams to the Maeslantkering ('Maeslant Barrier'). Many maps, however, include the Scheur as part of the Nieuwe Waterweg, leading to a length of approximately .
In the first half of the twentieth century, the port's center of gravity shifted westward towards the North Sea. Covering , the port of Rotterdam now stretches over a distance of . It consists of the city center's historic harbor area, including Delfshaven; the Maashaven/Rijnhaven/Feijenoord complex; the harbors around Nieuw-Mathenesse; Waalhaven; Vondelingenplaat; Eemhaven; Botlek; Europoort, situated along the Calandkanaal, Nieuwe Waterweg and Scheur (the latter two being continuations of the Nieuwe Maas); and the reclaimed Maasvlakte area, which projects into the North Sea.
The construction of a second Maasvlakte received initial political approval in 2004, but was stopped by the Raad van State (the Dutch Council of State, which advises the government and parliament on legislation and governance) in 2005, because the plans did not take enough account of environmental issues. On 10 October 2006, however, approval was acquired to start construction in 2008, aiming for the first ship to anchor in 2013.
Rotterdam has one major university, the Erasmus University Rotterdam, named after one of the city's famous former inhabitants, Desiderius Erasmus. Many of the departments are world renowned. The Woudestein campus houses (among others) the Rotterdam School of Management, which is a top ranked business school. In Financial Times' 2005 rankings it placed 29th globally and 7th in Europe. In the 2006 rankings of European Masters of Management, the school reached a second place with the CEMS Master in Management and a thirteenth place with its RSM Master in Management. The university is also home to Europe's largest student association, STAR Study Association RSM Erasmus University.
The Hoboken campus of EUR houses the Dijkzigt (general) hospital, the Sophia Hospital (for children) and the Medical Department of the University. These are known collectively as the Erasmus Medical Center, which is ranked third worldwide for medical research, behind the Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University. As a combined medical treatment and research center it is particularly noted for its patient cohort studies in which large numbers of patients are followed for long periods of time.
There are also three Hogescholen (lower lever universities) in Rotterdam. These schools award their students a Bachelor's degree and postgraduate or Master's degree. The three Hogescholen are Hogeschool Rotterdam, Hogeschool INHOLLAND and Hogeschool voor Muziek en Dans (uni for music and dance) which is also know as CodArts.
The city is home to the Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts ('Willem de Kooning Akademie').
Rotterdam is currently going through somewhat of a renaissance, with some urban renewal projects featuring ambitious architecture, an increasingly sparkling nightlife, and a host of summer festivals celebrating the city's multicultural population and identity, such as the Caribbean-inspired 'Summer Carnival', the Dance Parade, Rotterdam 666, the Metropolis pop festival and the World Harbor days. There are also the International Film Festival in January, the Poetry International Festival in June, the North Sea Jazz Festival in July, the Valery Gergiev Festival in September, September in Rotterdam and the World of the Witte de With. In June 1970, The Holland Pop Festival (which featured Jefferson Airplane, The Byrds, Canned Heat, It's a Beautiful Day, and Santana) was held and filmed at the Stamping Grounds in Rotterdam.
The self-image of the city is that of a no-nonsense workers' city. In that sense, there is a healthy competition with Amsterdam, which is often viewed as the cultural capital of the Netherlands. There is a saying: "Amsterdam to party, Den Haag (The Hague) to live, Rotterdam to work". Another one, more popular by Rotterdammers, is "Money is earned in Rotterdam, divided in The Hague and spent in Amsterdam".
Rotterdam has had a rich hiphop scene since the early 1980s. It is also the home of Gabber, a type of music popular in the mid-1990s, with hard beats and samples. Bands like Neophyte and Rotterdam Terror Corps (RTC) started in Rotterdam.
The main cultural organisations in Amsterdam, such as the Concertgebouw and Holland Festival, have joint forces with similar organisations in Rotterdam, via A'R'dam. In 2007 these organisations published with plans for co-operation. One of the goals is to strengthen the international position of culture and art in the Netherlands in the international context.
Rotterdam is also famous for its Kubuswoningen or cube houses built by architect Piet Blom in 1984. In addition to that there are many international well known architects based in Rotterdam like O.M.A (Rem Koolhaas), MVRDV, Neutelings & Riedijk and Erick van Egeraat to name a few.
Rotterdam houses several of the tallest structures in the Netherlands.
Rotterdam has a reputation in being a platform for architectural development and education through the Berlage Institute, a postgraduate laboratory of architecture, and the NAi (Netherlands Architecture Institute), which is open to the public and has a variety of good exhibitions on architecture and urban planning issues.
Rotterdam is standing in the best European SkylineTop together with Frankfurt, Warsaw and Paris. Over 30 new highrise projects are being developed at the moment, including the high 'Maas Tower', the 'New Orleans Tower', which will be about and the Zalmhaven Urban Tower .
Feyenoord, founded in 1908 and the dominant of the three, has won fourteen national titles since the introduction of professional football in the Netherlands. It won the European Cup as the first Dutch club in 1970, and won the World Cup for club teams in the same year. In 1974, they were the first Dutch club to win the UEFA Cup and in 2002, Feyenoord won the UEFA Cup again. In 2008, the year of their 100-year-anniversary, Feyenoord won the KNVB-cup. Seating 51,480, its stadium, called Stadion Feijenoord but popularly known as De Kuip ('the Tub'), is the second largest in the country. De Kuip, located in the southeast of the city, has hosted many international football games, including the final of Euro 2000 and has been awarded a FIFA 5 star ranking. And Feyenoord has the biggest supporters group in the Netherlands.
Sparta, founded in 1888 and situated in the northwest of Rotterdam, won the national title in 1959; Excelsior (founded 1902), in the northeast, has never won any.
Rotterdam has its own annual international marathon, which offers one of the fastest courses in the world. From 1985 until 1998, the world record was set in Rotterdam, first by Carlos Lopes and later in 1988 by Belayneh Dinsamo. The marathon starts and ends on the Coolsingel in the heart of Rotterdam.
In field hockey, Rotterdam has the largest hockey club in the Netherlands, HC Rotterdam, with its own stadium in the north of the city and nearly 2,400 members. The first men's and women's teams both play on the highest level in the Dutch Hoofdklasse.
Since 1986, the city has selected its best sportsman, woman and team at the Rotterdam Sports Awards Election, held in December.
Motor cycle speedway was staged in the Feyenoord Stadium after the second world war. The team which raced in a Dutch league was known as the Feyenoord Tigers. The team included Dutch riders and some English and Australian riders.
The main shopping venue in the south of Rotterdam is Zuidplein, which lies close to Ahoy' Rotterdam, an accommodation center for shows, exhibitions, sporting events, concerts and congresses. Another prominent shopping center, called Alexandrium (sometimes still called by its former name Oosterhof), lies in the east of Rotterdam. It includes a large kitchen and furniture center.
There are several motorways which run to/from Rotterdam. The following four are part of its 'Ring' (beltway):
The following two other motorways also serve Rotterdam:
Rotterdam is well connected to the Dutch railroad system, and has several international connections. The train system hosts:
The four operating trainlines serve seven railway stations within the city boundaries (Rotterdam Centraal, Rotterdam Blaak, Rotterdam Alexander, Rotterdam Noord, Rotterdam Zuid, Rotterdam Lombardijen, Rotterdam Stadion (next to De Kuip, only open for events).
In 1968 Rotterdam was the first Dutch city to open a metro system. Currently the system consists of two main lines, each of which has some variants.