Organizer: Hellenic Institute of Cultural Diplomacy, Netherlands.


Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and a multicultural city in the western part of the Netherlands. It is the second-largest Dutch city with more than 600,000 inhabitants.

Rotterdam was founded in the mid-13th century after a dam had been constructed in the river Rotte on the site of the present Hoogstraat. Rotterdam received municipal rights in 1340 and over the centuries Rotterdam grew from a fishing village into an international centre of trade, transport, industry and distribution.

At the beginning of the Second World War, 14th May 1940, virtually the entire city centre was devastated by German bombs. This explains why there are very few pre-war buildings in this part of Rotterdam. After the war, reconstruction of what had been destroyed was given the highest priority.

The Rotterdam–The Hague metropolitan area, with a population of approximately 2.7 million, is the 10th-largest in the European Union and the most populous in the country.

A major logistic and economic centre, Rotterdam is Europe’s largest seaport. In 2020, it had a population of 651,446 and is home to over 180 nationalities. Rotterdam is known for its university, riverside setting, lively cultural life, maritime heritage and modern architecture. The near-complete destruction of the city centre in the World War II Rotterdam Blitz has resulted in a varied architectural landscape, including skyscrapers designed by architects such as Rem Koolhaas, Piet Blom and Ben van Berkel.

The Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt give waterway access into the heart of Western Europe, including the highly industrialized Ruhr. The extensive distribution system including rail, roads, and waterways have earned Rotterdam the nicknames “Gateway to Europe” and “Gateway to the World”.

Rotterdam is divided into a northern and a southern part by the river Nieuwe Maas, connected by (from west to east): the Beneluxtunnel; the Maastunnel; the Erasmusbrug; a subway tunnel; the Willemsspoortunnel (‘Willems railway tunnel’); the Willemsbrug (‘Willems Bridge’) together with the Koninginnebrug (‘Queen’s Bridge’); and the Van Brienenoordbrug (‘Van Brienenoord Bridge’). The former railway lift bridge De Hef (‘the Lift’) is preserved as a Rijksmonument (national heritage site) in lifted position between the Noordereiland (‘North Island’) and the south of Rotterdam.

The city centre is located on the northern bank of the Nieuwe Maas, although recent urban development has extended the centre to parts of southern Rotterdam known as Kop van Zuid (‘the Head of South’, i.e. the northern part of southern Rotterdam). From its inland core, Rotterdam reaches the North Sea by a swathe of predominantly harbour area.

Built mostly behind dikes, large parts of the Rotterdam are below sea level. For instance, the Prins Alexander Polder in the northeast of Rotterdam extends 6 metres (20 ft) below sea level, or rather below Normaal Amsterdams Peil (NAP) or ‘Amsterdam Ordnance Datum’. The lowest point in the Netherlands (6.76 metres (22.2 ft) below NAP) is situated just to the east of Rotterdam, in the municipality of Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel.

The Rotte river no longer joins the Nieuwe Maas directly. Since the early 1980s, when the construction of Rotterdam’s second subway line interfered with the Rotte’s course, its waters have been pumped through a pipe into the Nieuwe Maas via the Boerengat.

Between the summers of 2003 and 2008, an artificial beach was created at the Boompjeskade along the Nieuwe Maas, between the Erasmus Bridge and the Willems Bridge. Swimming was not possible, digging pits was limited to the height of the layer of sand, about 50 cm (20 in). Alternatively, people go to the beach of Hook of Holland (which is a Rotterdam district) or one of the beaches in Zeeland: Renesse or the Zuid Hollandse Eilanden: Ouddorp, Oostvoorne.

Rotterdam forms the centre of the Rijnmond conurbation, bordering the conurbation surrounding The Hague to the north-west. The two conurbations are close enough to be a single conurbation. They share the Rotterdam The Hague Airport and a light rail system called RandstadRail. Consideration is being given to creating an official Metropolitan region of Rotterdam The Hague (Metropoolregio Rotterdam Den Haag), which would have a combined population approaching 2.5 million.

In its turn, the Rijnmond conurbation is part of the southern wing (the Zuidvleugel) of the Randstad, which is one of the most important economic and densely populated areas in the north-west of Europe. Having a population of 7.1 million, the Randstad is the sixth-largest urban area in Europe (after Moscow, London, Paris, Istanbul, and the Rhein-Ruhr Area). The Zuidvleugel, situated in the province of South Holland, has a population of around 3 million.

The municipal council consists of 45 members, the largest party is Livable Rotterdam. The municipal executive consists of mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb and nine elderman, belonging to four parties.

Now, almost seventy years later, a new, modern city centre has risen from the ashes. The avant-garde architecture is famous at home and abroad. Rotterdam has become a dynamic city bustling with activity.