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Ahoy, it’s Rotterdam!

Kubuswoningen (Cube Houses) in Rotterdam, the Netherlands (Scarborough photo)Most people think of Rotterdam as some sort of industrial seaport town without much to recommend it for family travel, but the city’s spectacular architecture and maritime heritage make it well worth a trip, even with kids.

I like to show my children interesting buildings; I don’t have a background in design or architecture but I really like to see imaginative structures, and my kids like the eye candy, too.

Rotterdam is full of “look! cool!” futuristic sights, many of them clustered on the Maas River that runs through the middle of the city.

We visited during the annual maritime festival World Port Days in September, so there were continuous daytime demonstrations on the water for us to watch plus music-themed fireworks at night.

One of our favorite activities was looking around inside the cheery yellow Kubuswoningen (Cube Houses) that you see in the photo above; their unique cantilevered design was just plain fun for the kids to look at and walk through. The “Show House” Cube House is open 11:00-5:00 daily — for a nominal charge, visitors can see the imaginative built-ins, great views and thoughtful layout inside a typical house.

Erasmus Bridge and KPN Building, Rotterdam, the Netherlands (courtesy SvdR on flickr)

To orient ourselves, we took a 75-minute narrated harbor cruise with the Spido tourboat company.

The tour showed us all the waterfront sights, including the famous Erasmus Bridge and glimpses into the seaport industrial area (complete with an entire huge tank full of orange juice awaiting shipping. The kids were in awe of that much OJ.)

For lodging, it’s hard to beat the waterfront location and reasonable prices at the Tulip Inn Rotterdam. Ask for a riverside room to look right out onto the spiky Erasmus Bridge.

Consider picking up a tourist Rotterdam Welcome Card for discounts on many popular attractions.

We didn’t get around to these but want to try them on our next visit:

  • A cruise around Rotterdam while munching on traditional Dutch pancakes; set sail on De Pannenkoekenboot (the Pancake Boat.)
  • Go to the top of Euromast for awesome views of the city.
  • From modern architecture to rows of historic Dutch windmills along a canal — take a boat trip to see Kinderdijk.
  • For older kids who are jazz fans, check out the North Sea Jazz Festival every summer.

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