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A European City With No Old Buildings

Rotterdam is a modern ancient city, and this is what makes it real.

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Rotterdam is an ancient city without really any ancient buildings. Like the cities of China, the place has a history that extends back to the dawn of history but there is little trace of it in the streets. The architecture it has are impressive specimens of modern building. In another context I would marvel at them. But here it just seems like something is missing.

A European city without old buildings is like a hamburger with no burger or a car with no air in the tires. No matter what you do there is an omnipresent feeling that something is just not there. Although this lack of aged architecture is big part of the city’s story.

“Rotterdam is an ancient port city…” I began while talking with a local university professor, trying to explain my interest in the place. He stopped me short:

“That was before the war. The old city was completely destroyed.”

Then he laughed.

“Sometimes German tourists come here and ask why there are no old buildings!”

I must add here that, for what it’s worth, I believe Rotterdam handled its rebuilding with integrity, i.e. not going the Krakow route of rebuilding new buildings that only appear old. Many old European cities were destroyed and needed to be rebuilt after the war. Rotterdam did this as well, if not better, than most of them. The place is a modern ancient city, with its true character and history honestly portrayed through its architecture.


Rotterdam architecture (2) Rotterdam architecture (4)


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Filed under: Architecture, Netherlands

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3720 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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