The second-largest city in The Netherlands and the busiest port city in the world, Rotterdam (pop. 590,000) lacks the quaint, classic feel that characterizes much of The Netherlands. After it was bombed in 1940, experimental architects replaced the rubble with striking (some say strikingly ugly) buildings, creating an urban, industrial conglomerate. Artsy and innovative, yet almost decrepit in its hyper-modernity, the Rotterdam that arose from the ashes filled with museums, parks, and creative architecture is now one of the centers of cultural activity in Europe.

TRANSPORTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION. Trains run to: Amsterdam (IMhr. ‚12); The Hague (25min. ‚3.60); and Utrecht (45min. ‚7.50). The VW tourist office, Coolsingel 67, opposite the Stadhuis, books rooms for a ‚2 fee. (Open M-Th 9:30am-6pm, F 9:30am-9pm, Sa 9:30am-5pm.)

ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD. If you’ve grown tired of Europe, escape to the Middle East, Africa, or South America in one of the many themed rooms of Hotel Bazar , Witte de Withstr. 16. For the best value, book the South American floor, which comes with a charming private garden. (206 51 51. Singles ‚60-100; doubles ‚65-120.) To reach the StayOkay Rotterdam (HI) 9, Rochus-senstr. 107-109, take the Metro to Dijkzigt; at the top of the Metro escalator, exit onto Rochussentr. and turn left. (436 57 63. Breakfast and sheets included. Reception 7am-midnight. Dorms ‚23; singles ‚31; doubles ‚52.) Chinese food and schwarma await along Witte de Withstraat, where you can easily grab a meal for under ‚5. Try Lijbaan for its array of pubs, bars, and all their accompanying culinary charm. Bazar , on the 1st floor of the hotel of the same name, shines with glittering colored lights, bright blue tables, and amazing Middle Eastern fusion cuisine. (206 51 51. Sandwiches and some entrees ‚4. Open M-Th 8am-lam, F 8am-2am, Sa 10am-2am, Su lOam-midnight.)

SIGHTS AND ENTERTAINMENT. The Netherlands Architecture Institute, Museumpark 18-20, is one of the most extraordinary buildings in Rotterdam. The multi-leveled glass and steel construction which traverses a man-made pool and looks out onto the Museumpark is home to several exhibition spaces, a world- class archive, and a permanent display on Dutch architecture. (Open Su 11am-5pm, Tu-Sa 10am-5pm. ‚7, students and seniors ‚5.) For a dramatic example of Rotterdam’s eccentric designs, check out the Kijk-Kubus (Cube Houses) by Ret Blom. Take tram #1 or the Metro to Blank, turn left, and look up. (Open Mar.-Dec. daily llam-5pm; Jan.-Feb. F-Su llam-5pm. ‚1.80.) Brush up on your knowledge of van Gogh, Magritte, Rembrandt, Rothko, Rubens, and Rubinstein across the street at the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Museumpark 18-20. (M: Eendractspl. or tram #5. Open Su llam-5pm and Tu-Sa 10am-5pm. ‚7.) Restored to its medieval splendor after its bombing, St. Laurenskerk, Grote Kerkpl. 15, is home to the largest mechanical organ in Europe. (Open Tu-Sa 10am-4pm. Free.) Step aboard the De Buffel, a restored 19th-century turret ship, at the Maritiem Museum, Leeuvehaven 1, or peruse hundreds of intricately detailed model ships. (Open July-Aug. M-Sa 10am-5pm, Su llam-5pm; Sept.-June Su llam-5pm and Tu-Sa 10am-5pm. ‚3.50.) Make sure to swing by the powerful Zadkine Monument, to the left of the museum. Known as the Monument for the Destroyed City and erected only 11 years after the bombing, it depicts a man with a hole in his heart writhing in agony. Museumpark features sculptures, mosaics, and monuments designed by some of the world’s foremost artists and architects; take tram #5 to reach the outdoor exhibit.

Coffeeshop-hop along Oude Binnenweg and Nieuwe Binnenweg, or dance the night away at li!0ffCorso, Kruiskade 22, Rotterdam’s hottest club phenomenon. (Beer ‚2. Mixed drinks ‚6. Cover ‚6, ‚4 with student ID. Open Th-Sa llpm-5am.)

ROTTERDAM Photo Gallery

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