13 reasons why Rotterdam may be Europe’s new capital of cool

Story highlights

The Netherland's second-largest city is enjoying a new, hip vibe

Residents have voted and crowdfunded some new city developments

Art and museum lovers are spoiled for choice here

CNN  — 

Rotterdam – the Netherlands’ second largest city and Europe’s biggest port – is currently enjoying its transformation from a city plagued with urban problems to a hip place to visit or live.

Long lost in the shadow of Amsterdam, crowdfunding initiatives and striking new architecture have helped boost Rotterdam’s vibe and image recently.

Some are now asking, does the city of 630,000 people from 170 nationalities have the credentials to be considered Europe’s new capital of cool?

Here are a handful of reasons to visit Rotterdam now.

There are free outdoor art galleries

Art fans don’t need to enter a museum to view art in Rotterdam.

Stroll around the city and giant sculptures are in eyesight.

Pablo Picasso’s 46 ton “Sylvette” sits at the intersection of Museumpark and Westersingel, forming part of a sculpture route that runs alongside Rotterdam’s Westersingel canal.

Auguste Rodin’s “L’homme qui marche,” a headless, armless sculpture of a walking man, returns in March after being loaned for display in Wuppertal, Germany.

Sculpture International Rotterdam curates the Westersingel Sculpture Route and public artworks dotted around Rotterdam.

It’s got a mind-blowing market hall

Fruit and vegetable market or portal to another universe?

Rotterdam opened the Markthal, a covered market hall and apartment complex in October 2014, giving the city a radical landmark to draw visitors.

Apartments arch above 96 stalls selling everything from Dutch cheeses to fresh fish, and many other local food and drinks.

The ceiling of the Markthal bears the world’s largest artwork.

Spanning over 13,000 square yards, the “Horn of Plenty” by Arno Coenen is a colorful art piece depicting fruit tumbling from a summer sky, grazing cows and flowers.

The artwork’s panels help lower sound within the market hall.

Markthal Rotterdam; 298 Ds. Jan Scharpstraat, Rotterdam

And the best new cocktail bar in the Netherlands

Cocktail-lovers should head straight to Stirr, which was named the Netherlands’ best new cocktail bar in the 2016 Esquire awards.

Mustachioed mixologists stand ready to create drinks tailored to any tastes.

They utilize the venue’s own liqueurs, bitters and syrups.

With exposed brickwork and hip hop music, Stirr offers a new scene in a city where dockworkers and industrial workforce have traditionally favored beer over cocktails.

Stirr, 29b Eendrachtweg, Rotterdam

There’s a district that’s actually called Cool District

Rotterdam's City Hall sits on Coolsingel in the Cool District.

Many cities have quarters that are widely regarded as cool but Rotterdam can claim, literally, to have a Cool District.

Pronounced ‘coal’ in Dutch, the district was a separate municipality to Rotterdam until 1816, and is now peppered with high street stores and restaurants.

Plans are afoot to redevelop “Coolsingel”, the broad street that runs in front of Rotterdam’s city hall, by 2020.

Traffic flow will be reduced, and pedestrians and cyclists will have more space when the project is complete.

Its citizens want to surf

In recent years, Rotterdam has asked its citizens to help change the city.

Residents have suggested projects to receive funding, then had a vote to choose the most popular.

One scheme, proposing an area for urban surfing at Steigersgracht, next to the Markthal, hit legal challenges but looks set to open in 2017.

The Luchtsingel, a 1,280 foot long pedestrian bridge linking the central station with Rotterdam’s northern district, opened in 2015.