It wasn’t until too long ago that Rotterdam was just a little-visited stop on the Netherlands’ tourist trail. Despite its vast size, Rotterdam’s concrete-covered city centre and shabby suburbs gave visitors little reason to stick around.

Recent years, however, have seen the city blossom into a chart-topping travel destination. Driven by smart renovation projects and new, cutting-edge architectural works, Rotterdam has reinvented itself as a design capital of global significance. Even the gritty city centre has been polished up: its post-war industrial buildings and dingy townhouses now harbour creative studios, craft-beer breweries and sleek boutiques showcasing the city’s homegrown talents with pride.

TO STAY

CitizenM

With the iconic Markthal building on its doorstep and a metro just minutes away, few hotels offer a better location than CitizenM. Rooms are compact, but thanks to their smart layouts (and access to a cosy communal living-room-slash-coworking-space on the first floor) the size is more than sufficient. All rooms come equipped with rain showers, free films and a handy iPad to control mood lights, temperature and blinds. Other perks include free iMacs (available upon request) and free bicycle rental – a perfect way to explore the city.

Room Mate Bruno

Occupying a former warehouse of the Dutch East India Company, Room Mate Bruno offers guests vibrantly coloured rooms with heaps of space. Its bold interiors mix raw concrete with nautical touches (hinting to the building’s rich history) and quirky elements like the spray-painted blue palms in the lobby lounge. Bruno’s location, right behind Rem Koolhaas’ iconic De Rotterdam building, puts you smack in the middle of Kop Van Zuid, where gleaming high-rises and historic depots house highlights like indie cinema LantarenVenster and the legendary Hotel New York. Better yet, the hotel is connected to the Foodhallen and will even deliver your order up directly to your room.

Hotel The James

Don’t let The James’ velvet chairs, boutique looks and chic logo fool you: this new three-star property comes with a surprisingly wallet-friendly price tag. Located in the Coolsingel district, within walking distance from the Central Station, it’s a perfect base from which to explore the city. Rooms are snug, decorated in black, gold and a touch of retro. Amenity wise, the basics (coffee machine, minibar, WiFi) are covered, and there’s even a small gym. It’s nothing fancy, just very good.

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