After my first time visiting Rotterdam, I found it difficult to describe my experience and how I felt about the city. The right word might be “intriguing”. This non Dutch-style and architecturally varied city is so particular, it seems like everything is possible there. It also bears witness to a rich cultural history, as the German army bombed the centre in 1940 at the beginning of the WWII. The reconstruction was initiated straightaway, and especially flourished between the 60’s-80’s, giving Rotterdam its singular urban landscape counting tons of high and creative buildings designed by brilliant architects. Good examples include the Cube Houses (designed by Piet Blom), the new Central Station, or the Erasmus Bridge (designed by Ben van Berkel in 1996). This international city, paying tribute to Erasmus, has so much to offer ranging from quality museums specialised in modern art and design, shopping streets, business quarters, and is home to Europe’s largest port.
I have learned to discover Rotterdam step by step, and I could spend hours writing about this fascinating city. However, to keep it short, today’s focus is the recently born Markthal, true symbol of the second reconstruction phase of the city. First of all, this horseshoe building is really impressive, standing in the middle of a large square in the city centre – it is thus impossible to miss it. The project, officially completed in 2014, was also remarkably ambitious: to develop a multifunctional space with luxury housing, offices, stores, restaurants, and the now well-known food market. Expectations were high, and absolutely met. The outside of the building made of glass makes it possible to see, through the interior, the buildings on the opposite side. The highlight is, without any doubt, the colourful interior artwork ceiling representing the fauna and flora.
What this masterpiece of modern design hides has become my favourite activity when going to Rotterdam: the international food market. Following the trend of fast and fancy food (as illustrated by the success of food truck festivals), specialties from around the globe are on display and to taste. From Italian pastas, French cheeses and bread, Spanish tapas, Libanese falafels, Middle East nuts, Japanese sushis, American donuts, or Dutch stroopwafels; walking along the alleys is a real delight for your eyes and stomach. Some of the stands even have an above terrace with a few tables where you can order and immediately enjoy the food as well as the view over the crowd. Doing grocery shopping there might be a little pricy though, as the products are in general of higher quality. It is thus more reasonable to buy a few products to taste. Last time, I couldn’t resist the temptation and had lunch at Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant, featuring a modern and welcoming interior decoration on two storeys and an outdoor terrace. I was excited and absolutely delighted with the price-quality ratio.
Since I discovered this food paradise, I try to visit a typical food market in every city I visit. So far, I have managed to check the Foodhallen in Amsterdam, the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, the Mercado da Ribeira in Lisbon, and plan on seeing more. The famous Souks in Marrakech and the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, although more varied, might be pioneers in this sector.
Despite being a bit more expensive than normal street food, these markets contribute to bringing culture and history closer to citizens. Everybody loves food, especially when it’s tasty. Everybody likes to travel, but cannot always afford it. It is hence a wonderful way to travel and bring your minds away for a few minutes…