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Initially Rotterdam was just a small quiet fishing harbor around a dam in the river Rotte, hence the name Rotte(r)-dam. During the 16th century Rotterdam became one of the few ports that opened out to the sea and it managed to strengthen its position as an important port of trade. Explosive growth followed as the city expanded during the 17th century. The city held the seat for six chambers of the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC), known as the Dutch East India Company. By the 18th century the population of Rotterdam no longer grew significantly but remained stationary at around 50.000 residents.

The greatest spurt of growth, both in port activity and population, came with the Industrial Revolution during the 19th century. The Nieuwe Waterweg (ENG: New Waterway) was completed in 1872, which gave Rotterdam a direct, high-capacity connection to the North Sea. The city and harbor then started to expand on the south bank of the river. After the Depression of the 1930’s, with great unemployment and civil unrest, WWII broke out. On the 14th of May in 1940 Rotterdam was bombarded, which practically destroyed the entire city center. The missing heart of the city inspired the artist Ossip Zadkine to make his famous statue 'De Verwoeste Stad' (ENG: The Destroyed City). A male figure has a hole in his chest, (his missing heart) and both arms are stretching skywards. You can find this sculpture at the square in front of the Maritiem Museum.


The tragic history of our city explains how the center of Rotterdam got its modern skyline in combination with a few old historical buildings that survived the attacks. Rather than restoring damaged buildings, most were torn down to make way for a completely new look. This is the reason Rotterdam’s character is so unique from that of other Dutch cities. After WWII there was economic growth and many immigrants came to live here. Today roughly half of Rotterdam's inhabitants’ roots lie outside the Netherlands in countries like Surinam, Turkey, Morocco, the Antilles, and China. This is why Rotterdam is so multicultural! It has a richness of culture and cuisines from all over the world to offer, which makes it a great place to shop and eat.


The colorful history of Rotterdam created what you see today: a vibrant multicultural city known for its cultural diversities, modern architecture and busy port.