The second largest city in the Netherlands, Rotterdam lies on both banks of the Nieuwe Maas, the tidal southern arm of the Rhine, where it's joined by the little River Rotte. It's also the world's largest port, home to the massive Europoort facility through which so much freight passes on its way to and from the continent. Although almost completely destroyed by German air attacks in 1940, central Rotterdam was energetically rebuilt after the war and re-planned with modern shopping streets, residential districts, and high-rises, making it one of the most modern and architecturally interesting cities in Europe.
Despite it's modernity, the city dates back to medieval times and was already prosperous by the 13th century when a dam was built to separate the Rotte from the Nieuwe Maas (hence the city's name). Rotterdam has also long been important as a cultural hub, its early prosperity leading to the birth of Rotterdam's most celebrated citizen, the humanist Erasmus, born here in 1467. Today, it's as popular a destination for its vibrant entertainment options as it is for its many fine museums and splendid architecture.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, one of the Netherlands' most important art establishments, is known around the world for its superb collections of paintings, sculptures, and applied and decorative arts from across Europe. Painters of the 14th to 16th centuries are particularly well represented, with works by Hubert and Jan van Eyck, Hieronymus Bosch, and Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The 17th century is represented by Rembrandt and Rubens (26 of the latter's works can be viewed), while later centuries are represented by Monet, Gauguin, and Van Gogh. Contemporary painters represented include Picasso, Matisse, and Chagall. Another museum of note is the Wereldmuseum Rotterdam, an ethnographic museum established in 1883 with excellent displays of artifacts from ancient and modern cultures from around the world.
Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk
Great St. Lawrence Church - Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk - is all that's left of Rotterdam's medieval buildings, most of which were destroyed during WWII. In Grote Kerkplein, Sint-Laurenskerk dates from the 15th century and was built on once marshy ground giving the building a peculiar lean that was only halted after its foundation was rebuilt in 1650. Upon entering the church, you'll be struck by the beauty of the bright interior, an effect heightened by the colored glass of its windows. The church is famous for its three Danish organs, the largest of which stands on a marble base on the inside wall of the tower. The bronze doors of the main entrance, on the theme of War and Peace, are by the Italian artist Giacomo Manzu, and in front of the church is a statue of Rotterdam's most famous son, Erasmus. Guided tours and special tower climbs are available.