Rotterdam, The Netherlands

There are cows floating in the middle of Rotterdam’s Merwehaven harbor. Thirty-two of them to be exact.

No, the cows are not swimming. They’ve taken up residence there, on the world’s first floating farm.

The cutting-edge effort, dreamed up by Peter and Minke van Wingerden, is part of the city’s effort to become less vulnerable to climate change. It’s a response to a future that may very well include rising sea levels that increasingly flood farmland, rendering it unusable.

The fascinating project can be visited by tourists and is just one of many reasons why Rotterdam has been making headlines in recent years, including being named one of 52 places to visit by The New York Times.

A very modern city that has long existed in the shadow of Amsterdam (at least in terms of attracting hordes of tourists), Rotterdam is evolving into a vibrant, innovative and trendsetting destination, one that provides many compelling reasons to visit, beyond cows floating in its harbor.

Rotterdam city in Netherlands

The city’s Markthall is another point of pride for Rotterdam and one foodies won’t want to miss. The frescoed space is a mix of local market, restaurants, and bars all housed on the ground floor of a residential and office building.

There’s also new green spaces, world-class museums, and high-end shopping to be explored in the city.

“There’s a lot going on. We have, for the first time ever, a city alderman dedicated to tourism,” Catharine Kalamidas, of Rotterdam Partners, told TravelPulse during a recent meeting at the IMEX trade show in Las Vegas. “But the issue of tourism for Rotterdam goes much further back before overtourism became a buzzword because we want tourists, but we want the right tourists.”

That’s key for Rotterdam – attracting the right kind of tourists. The city is not interested in the drunken bachelor parties and tourists urinating in the street that have troubled Amsterdam in recent years. Rather, it is seeking what Kalamidas, and Antonio Koedijk, the North American Director for the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions, called an “urban explorer” or “frontrunner.”

“The city is looking for the type of traveler who is curious to see what a canal looks like when converted to a surfing opportunity,” said Koedijk.

To which Kalamidas adds: “There are a lot of unique things happening in the city that are an application of science and technology to everyday problems and societal problems.”

And Rotterdam is looking for quality tourists who are interested in exploring such innovations, added Kalamidas.

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There have also been notable infrastructure improvements that are helping to give Rotterdam a better shot at attracting more tourists.

For instance, there’s a direct train to Rotterdam from the airport in Amsterdam that gets travelers to the city in just 26 minutes, said Kalamidas. The ride is a mere five minutes longer than traveling by train from Amsterdam’s airport to the center of Amsterdam.

“The connection is that good,” Kalamidas said, explaining how it is possible to travel all the way to Rotterdam in just five minutes more time than to the heart of Amsterdam. “And it’s cost-effective,” she noted regarding the train. “It’s just 16 euros.”

Even with all of these notable developments, Kalamidas said there’s still more to come in Rotterdam, a city she described as a work in progress.

“All of this is about creating a future-facing city,” said Kalamidas. “Rotterdam is a city that was destroyed during World Warr II and a conscious decision was made at the time that we’re going to build the city of the future. So, everything we’re doing is future based.”

And as it continues to point itself toward the future, Rotterdam is getting more and more (well-deserved) attention. The world has begun eagerly watching Rotterdam’s evolution.

“There’s a buzz being created about Rotterdam and that really helps to get the city in the picture,” said Kalamidas.