Want to know a secret? Then visit Rotterdam, writes Sarah Pollok.
With 15 million visitors a year, Amsterdam may be a bucket-list-worthy destination but isn't exactly the best-kept secret. So, once you've visited Anne Frank's house, marvelled at Van Gogh's paintings and eaten your weight in waffles, escape for a day to the port city of Rotterdam.
Locomotive-lovers can board the Intercity train at Amsterdam Central for a 40-minute ride south to Rotterdam, while the 819 bus offers a cheaper, 70-minute journey. Got your own wheels? The 78km stretch between cities should take you about an hour on the A4 highway.
For those accustomed to Europe's traditional architecture, the contemporary cityscape of Rotterdam may come as a surprise. After World War II bombings destroyed the city in 1940, the Dutch took it as a chance to rebuild in a modern style. However, a few rare spots were left unscathed, so if you have a soft spot for classic Dutch architecture, wander along the Nieuwe Maas river to the charming suburb of Delfshaven for a step back in time.
What is a European city without a gigantic market full of stalls and kitsch? In Rotterdam, this is the Makthal or Market Hall, a beautiful glass dome building housing 100 food stalls and the world's largest painting on the ceiling. Made up of large glass windows, which give the feel of an open-air market with the comfort of indoors, the building may be only eight years old, but the inside is the picture of old Europe with classic stores selling Dutch trinkets and food.
If great heights sound like great fun then Rotterdam's tallest building is not to be missed. Standing at a dizzying 185m high, the Euromast observation tower treats you to a picture-perfect 360-degree view of the city. Designed by local Dutch designer Hugh Maaskant in 1960 and renovated in the 70s, the modern-style tower continues to be a highlight for visitors.
Up with the times, Rotterdam has its fair share of contemporary shops and international brands. But chances are you didn't travel to the Netherlands to pursue familiar labels. So head to the city's Van Oldenbarneveltstraat. Near impossible to pronounce and equally impossible not to love, this street is the go-to for high-quality Scandinavian homeware and fashion, featuring Danish, Swedish and French brands.
While most travellers aim to avoid the crowds, De Witte Aap attracts a lively bustle you'll want to get right amongst. With live music and good vibes, this bar is one where local Dutch beer spills from the taps and patrons spill out on to the street. Pull up a chair inside the cosy beer cafe, or settle down outside in the sun and people-watch the afternoon away.
If you haven't already filled up on tasty treats from the Makthal, then make your way to Op Het Dak, a groovy restaurant with a sustainable twist. Located on the top of the Schieblock office building, you'll share the rooftop space with a small outdoor garden that grows the produce you'll be eating. Starring vegetarian and vegan meals, this spot is perfect for fresh, wholesome food, done the Dutch way.