Tourists who travel to Holland usually have one destination in mind: Amsterdam. The Dutch capital is definitely worth visiting for its beautiful canals, leafy parks and important museums. However, most tourists tend to remain in the capital, perhaps taking a side trip during the Spring to Lisse, the city know for its tulip fields and the famous Keukenhof Park.
But traveling further beyond Amsterdam is where another side of Holland can be unveiled. The cities of Rotterdam, second largest city in the country and Europe’s largest port, and Utrecht, the small historic town of canals and cobblestones, show a different and fascinating side of the country.
Rotterdam is a modern and vibrant city. It is located less than two hours by train from the capital and there are several train connections that link the two throughout the day. Rotterdam houses several top museums and it is know for having a mixture of traditional, modernist and contemporary architectural styles. The city was heavily damaged during the Second World War, so the decision was made to reinvent spaces by innovating as opposed to rebuilding.
In all of its modern approach to architecture it is worth mentioning the Cubist Houses. Standing as a landmark in Rotterdam, this housing complex was conceived by the architect Pier Bloom and it never ceases to attract the attention and curiosity of tourists. The Cubist Houses are famous for their striking color and windows that open in unusual places.
Another contemporary landmark in the city is the building the houses the municipal market. Not only a market, the complex is a mixture of apartment buildings, restaurants and stores. It has an atmosphere of a giant indoor art gallery with its rounded walls that are painted in bright colors and floral motifs.
Continuing further into the country, and less than an hour from Rotterdam, Utrecht is a beautiful small Dutch town. With its charming canals and coffee shops along the water, history abounds. There is hardly any traffic in town, but bicycles that roam quietly the old cobblestone streets.
History also abounds in the old gothic cathedral called the Dom. With an imposing tower that rises 112 meters, part of its structure fell to the ground during a heavy storm, leaving one of its towers completely detached from the rest of the church. This section was never rebuild and instead a leafy plaza was left in its place.
As for a lodging option I highly recommend the Hilton Hotel Rotterdam for its central position, luxurious accommodations and attentive staff. The hotel is only a few blocks from the train station, close to the major sites, and next to the main pedestrian shopping streets.
The common areas of the hotel are sophisticated and the rooms are bright and filled with elegant décor. The marble bathrooms impress and silence is guaranteed through the solid doors to the hallway and the large soundproof windows. The breakfast is excellent, as it is customary at Hilton Hotels. Rooms on the executive floor are granted access to the executive lounge which offers snacks and drinks throughout the day, an extensive happy hour with food and alcoholic beverages, and a courtesy breakfast every morning.
In between modern Rotterdam and historical Utrecht, other facets of Holland are unveiled beyond the capital. The unique sites in both cities are extraordinary and make traveling outside the country’s capital a memorable and worthwhile adventure.
Gus Dantas, publisher gusdantaslife, visited Holland in several occasions, however always remained in Amsterdam. In July 2016 he traveled on his own budget to Rotterdam and Utrecht. His stay at the Hilton Rotterdam was, as expected, a five star experience from beginning to end. Translation and photos by the author.