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A large part of the old Rotterdam has been destroyed during the bombings of the Second World War. But Rotterdam has turned that tragedy into an advantage: the city became a center for modern architecture and is the only city in the Netherlands with an impressive skyline.
The Great or Saint-Laurence Church was heavily damaged in the bombings too, but this late-Gothic cruciform church has been restored in its original state during the fifties and the sixties. In this church the bodies of sea heroes like Witte de With, the Korenaer and Johannes van Bradel lie buried. The old Rotterdam can also be found in Delfshaven (Delfs Port), a district that was spared during the war. It is a picturesque part of town, which includes a Gothic church and the town hall (Delfshaven used to be a separate municipality) from the seventeenth century.
Rotterdam is all about modern architecture. The cubic houses that were built at the end of the seventies, are still an attraction, just like the residential building Peperklip and the beautifully styled Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge) with a 139-meter-high asymmetrical pylon - on the Nieuwe Maas River. The Euromast is indeed older, but nevertheless still an iconic element of the Rotterdam skyline. The tower was built for the Floriade of 1960. It was then the tallest building in the city. Because that position was threatened by other tall buildings, a 'space tower' was added later, housing the Crow's Nest Restaurant.
The Museum Boymans- Van Beuningen has one of the largest art collections of the Netherlands. Besides old masters (including Bruegel, Bosch, Rembrandt, Hals, Steen and Rubens) the museum also houses modern artworks by Dali, Warhol, Kandinsky and Man Ray. You can see a large collection of tin, glass and silver objects here too.
Rotterdam has a number of leading Dutch museums. The Nederlands Fotomuseum (Dutch Photo Museum) at the Wilhelmina Pier is one of them. Using photos, this museum shows the history of photography as well as the history of the Netherlands. Furthermore, workshops are often organised for all ages. The world famous Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas designed the building for the Kunsthal Rotterdam. Another example of a leading museum, where modern and experimental art take the central stage.
And then there is also the Belastingmuseum (Tax Museum) in Rotterdam. For most people, not a favourite subject, yet this is a very nice museum, if only for the "smuggling basement".
The history of the city is explained in the Schielandhuis, which also happens to be a preserved historical building from the seventeenth century. The Atlas of Stolk is particularly interesting.
One of the prettiest and oldest zoos of the Netherlands is the Diergaarde Blijdorp. The zoo is divided into continents: Asia, Africa, Europe and the 'water continent' Oceanium. Diergaarde Blijdorp is constantly innovating, improving and extending.
To the west of the city, just a ten minute drive from the center of Rotterdam, lies Schiedam. This town became rich because of the shipping industry and of course the gin. In the historical center you can find the Sint-Janskerk (St John's Church), built in the fourteenth century. Furthermore, there are five beautifully restored windmills in Schiedam. One of those mills is a museum. The history of the city is the theme of the museum De Dubbelde Palmboom, where you can see how people lived in 800 BC in the Rhine delta. Worth a visit too are the National Cooperative Museum and the Jenever Museum 'de Gekroonde Brandersketel'. So only about the history of Schiedam? Nope, the city also has a large collection of modern art from the Cobra Group, housed in the Stedelijk Museum.
Street parking can pose a problem in Rotterdam. The parking meters do not accept coins but only the so-called Chipknip. You can also pay using your mobile phone, but it requires a registration. Some parking meters accept credit cards. Rotterdam has many parking garages where you can park cheaper than on the street. The electronic signs guide you to the nearest garage with free spaces. At metro stations at the edge of the town are P+R sites, where you park for free and can continue your journey towards the center using the public transport.
To the north of the city lies the Rotterdam The Hague airport, which the locals still refer to by its old name, Vliegveld Zestienhoven. The airport is easily accessible with a rental car: the airport is located right next to the A13 between Rotterdam and The Hague.