With a contemporary art scene, fantastic food and pulsating nightlife, Rotterdam has it all.
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The Netherlands' second city it may be, but Rotterdam's contemporary art scene, fantastic food and pulsating nightlife mean it makes a strong case for the title of coolest. With The Hague and Gouda just a stone’s throw away, there’s plenty to do in the surrounding area too.
North Sea Jazz Festival
Rotterdam boasts a jam-packed schedule of festivals throughout the year, some of which enjoy international fame. The North Sea Jazz Festival is one such; it started life in The Hague but for the last decade has found its home at Ahoy Rotterdam, in the Charlois neighbourhood. Like most major jazz festivals, the line-up also includes soul, funk, hip-hop and blues acts. Each year it attracts major international names, with past performers including De La Soul, Norah Jones and Jamiroquai. It takes place in the second weekend of July and is a must on your list of places to visit.
The undisputed highlight of Rotterdam’s festival calendar is its Summer Carnival. This Caribbean-themed street party kicks off in the last weekend of July, a riot of dancers filling the streets in the largest celebration of its kind in the Netherlands. Summer Carnival is part of the wider Rotterdam Unlimited festival, which celebrates live music, dance and theatre in venues across the city.
One of the Netherlands' biggest national festivals is King’s Day – known in Dutch as Konigsdag – which lands on 27 April. For one day the entire city of Rotterdam is blanketed in orange, in celebration of the King’s birthday. Even the water in the fountains is dyed orange, and similarly coloured food and drink is enjoyed at street parties.