Rotterdam Pub Guide
City centre - Delfshaven

Rotterdam and Amsterdam have been rivals for centuries. Their mutual competitiveness, especially when football gets involved, can have scary results. The sad events of the war gave Rotterdam an easy way to differentiate itself from its northern neighbour: it became an aggressively modern city.

Before anyone starts accusing me of any pro-Amsterdam bias, I'll point out that my first years in Holland were spent in the city on the Maas (Rotterdam). I got to know the town well during my time in Crooswijk (I lived just down the road from the old Heineken brewery). But I had no hesitation in moving to Amsterdam when the opportunity came along.

If you've read any of my other guides, you'll be aware of my enthusiasm for the thrusting glass and steel towers of brutalist architecture. There's very little else in Rotterdam city centre. I'm sure that there are some masterpieces hidden away there somewhere. I just haven't found any of them yet. (I can supply, on request, a list of modernist edifices I admire. I call it a list. It's more of a line, really.)

Wartime bombing left Rotterdam's post-war town planners with a blank canvas. They made full use of the opportunity, remodelling the city centre in a functional, rational manner, drawing upon American cities for inspiration. Unfortunately, the ideas developped by the planning community in the USA were, as we now know, total crap.

In Rotterdam, the city centre has everything - shops, flats, roads, offices, theatres, cinemas . Well, almost everything. The planners were guilty of only one slight oversight - they forgot completely about the human need for refreshment. If a first-time visitor, in search of sustenance, were to follow my standard advice and head for the tallest church or railway station, their stomach would be none too happy.

Dutch breweries (large)
Dutch breweries (small)
Belgian breweries
Bockbier Tasting 2004

Pub Index
Rotterdam City Centre Pubs

Locus Publicus
De Ridder

Delfshaven Pubs

De Oude Sluis
Beer from Rotterdam
When Oranjeboom closed and demolished their brewery on the southern bank of the Maas in the 1990's, Rotterdam lost its last industrial brewery. Not that the beer was any great loss.

Since 1996, the city does have its own brewery once more. Well, sort of. It depends on whether you think Delfshaven, where De Pelgrim is located, really counts as part of Rotterdam proper. (The council has no such doubts - Delfshaven belongs to the Gemeente Rotterdam.)

Rotterdam Pub Guide
Rotterdam city centre

't Bolwerk
Geldersekade 1C,
3011 WB Rotterdam.

Tel.: 010 - 4142142
Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 11:30-01:00,
Fri-Sat: 11:30-02:00
Number of draught beers: 5
Number of bottled beers: 10
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks, meals.
One of very few waterfront buildings to survive the wartime bombing was Het Witte Huis, Rotterdam's first high-rise (if you count 10 storeys as high-rise). The ground floor is occupied by Café 't Bolwerk. Rambling around all three sides, there are no fewer than four bar counters. The most picturesque is pictured left.

With a line of sailing barges bobbing away on the Oude Haven Quayside opposite, the vague nautical theme is no great surprise. Dusty ship models and example knots both have their spots. Though plenty of other knick-knacks crowd around them.

Yes, Bolwerk rates around 8 on the brown scale. Despite the standard Interbrew beer range, this isn't one of their "instant brown" cafés. It's a lot more genuine than that.

Another big plus point - Cambrinus is within sight.
Rating: ** Public transport: Blaak metro station.

Blaak 4,

Tel. 010 - 414 6702
Opening hours:

Mon - Thu: 12:00-01:00
Fri: 12:00-03:00
Sat: 14:00-03:00
Sun: 14:00-01:00
Number of draught beers: 11
Number of bottled beers: 150
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks, meals.
Cambrinus is a quite literally in the shadow of some of Rotterdam's more "interesting" architecture, the cube houses. It's a café/restaurant in a light brown style, which means lots of wood, but not too dark (yet).

There is seating at various levels and one wall is almost completely consumed by the long bar counter. The furniture is plain wood and there are bare wooden floorboards. It's all very simple, with the only adornment coming from a liberal sprinkling of old brewery signs around the walls.

I was impressed by the pleasant, relaxed atmosphere and the friendly, efficient service. The centre of Rotterdam isn't exactly overflowing with pubs so this is a very handy oasis.
Rating: **** Public transport: Blaak metro station.

Schouwburgplein 52,
3012 CL Rotterdam.

Tel.: 010- 414 86 88
Fax. 010 - 213 26 58
Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 11:00-01:00,
Fri-Sat: 11:00-02:00
Number of draught beers: 8
Number of bottled beers: 20
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks, meals. Beer - Westmalle Tripel €3.50.
Doelencafe interiorIn the concrete heart of Rotterdam, Doelen is a stylish and comfortable spot for cakes and coffee, or maybe something a little stronger. How do you find it? Take the big street opposite Rotterdam Central Station, then first street on your left. You could also just look opposite the Rotterdamse Schouwburg and Pathé Mega cinema.

Inside, it's a tale of two cafes. To your left, guilded chairs mark out the dining and snacking area. To yor right, bare boards and theatre posters delineate a more pubby section. Despite the obvious trendiness, there's a good spread of ages, sexes (all three) and races (all thirty). It could be necessity rather than choice - this overplanned part of town has b*gger all refreshment opportunities.

The beer selection comes as quite a shock - pretty much the whole Pelgrim range on draught. Not so susprising, when you know it's owned by the same people as the Delfshaven brewpub.

Don't worry if you come mob-handed, because a small army could fit inside. The troops can hum along to live jazz every Sunday afternoon.

A "must visit" for those with neither the time nor inclination to trek out to Delfshaven.
Rating: **** Public transport:

Meent 88,
3011 JP Rotterdam.

Tel.: 010 - 433 3102
Fax 010 - 233 0955
Opening hours: Mon - Thur 08:00 - 24:00,
Fri - Sat 08:00 - 01:00,
Sun 09:00 - 23:00
Number of draught beers: 6
Number of bottled beers:
Regular draught beers:
Modern, trendy cafe bar.
Rating: Public transport:

Bier & Eetcafe Goesting
Delistraat 2,
3072 ZK Rotterdam.

Tel 010 - 485 7517
Opening hours: Tue - Thur 16:00 - 01:00,
Fri - Sat 16:00 - 02:00,
Sunday and Monday closed.
Number of draught beers: 4
Number of bottled beers: +-30
Regular draught beers:
Food: Meals €8-15. Pils €1.40, Duvel €2.50.
Corner pub restaurant on the southern side of the Maas.
Rating: Public transport:

Locus Publicus

Oostzeedijk 364,
3063 CD Rotterdam.

Tel:010-433 17 61
Fax: 010-414 25 82

Locus Publicus interior
Opening hours: Mon - Thu: 16:00-01:00
Fri - Sat: 16:00-02:00
Sat: 16:30-02:00
Sun: 20:30-01:00
Number of draught beers: 12
Number of bottled beers: 200
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks.
Locus Publicus is one of Holland's longest-established specialist beer pubs. Just outside the city centre, it's easily reached by metro or tram. The front wall being pretty much one huge window, you get a good view of the interior from outside.

It's a very dark brown café, in the form of a single square room with a very high ceiling. For Rotterdam the building is remarkably old: 19th century. Along one wall is a long bar crowded with beer taps and behind it shelves stuffed with all manner of special beer glasses. The lower half of the walls are covered with old enamel brewery signs, the upper portion of the walls has tiles depicting scenes of rural Dutch life (apart from the one with the camels in, obviously). In the Winter, it's possible to experience the warm glow of a real open fire from the comfort of a leather armchair.

Whilst urinating in the first-floor gents, you can watch trams rattle past outside through the round window. Unusual and only slightly unsettling. I've been keeping this view in reserve for my son - the ultimate urination/railed transport combination."Dad, Rotterdam's boring. There's nothing interesting to see." "Come upstairs to the toilet, lad, and I'll show you something you'll never forget."

The beer selection is outstanding. They regularly have Westvleteren, which is always a very good sign. The staff are also helpful and well-informed. All in all, it's definitely in the Premier League of Dutch beer pubs.
Rating: ***** Public transport: Oostplein Metro station.

Oude Binnenweg 134b,
3012 JH Rotterdam.

Tel.: 010 - 4145456

Melier Bender
Opening hours: Sun - Thur 09:00-01:00,
Fri - Sat 09:00-02:00
Number of draught beers: 6
Number of bottled beers: 10
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks €2-7, meals €8-14. Westmalle Tripel €2.95, vaasje pils €1.75
I remember Melief Bender well from my time living in Rotterdam. I hasn't changed a bit in the intervening 15 years. Oude Binnenweg, Rotterdam's last authentic city-centre street, is home to many cafes. Melief-Bender is the best.

I always wondered what the hell the name meant. It sounds a bit like an obscure ancient trade. "What do you do?" "I'm a melief bender, just like my dad." The explanation is more prosaic; it's the surname of the first landlord's widow.

You could easily imagine that the walls haven't seen a lick of paint since the opening back in 1876. Just 125 years of fag smoke. It's so dark that it runs right off the end of my brown scale into pure black.

Let your eyes get accustomed to the light (or rather lack of it) and you'll see that every square inch of wallspace is covered by a photo or print. The complete lack of order or theme shout one word at you - genuine.
Rating: **** Public transport: Tram 5, Metro to Eendrachtsplein

Proeflokaal De Ridder
Mauritsweg 28,
3012 JS Rotterdam.

Tel.: 010 - 4110557
Opening hours: Sun-Thur 16:00 - 01:00,
Fri-Sat 16:00 - 02:00
Number of draught beers: 2
Number of bottled beers: 10
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks. Westmalle Tripel €3.50, pils €1.70.
Amsterdam has dozens, if not hundreds, of this type of simple, one-room brown café. The centre of Rotterdam isn't so lucky. De Ridder is a happy exception.

What will you find inside? A simple bar counter, an upright piano (which seems to serve more as a shelf than a musical instrument) and an infeasibly large collection of pewter tankards. Not forgetting an intricate beer tap, where a jolly Gambrinus is sinking a few.

On the beer front, it's another chance to marvel at the skills of the Westmalle brothers. Though the choice of witbier - Blanche de Namur is idiosyncratic.
Rating: ** Public transport: Tram 3, 4, 5, 8, 23.

Café Vermeulen
Nwe Binnenweg 332,
3023 ER Rotterdam.

Tel: 010 - 477 0596
Opening hours: Mon - Sun 11:00 - 01:00
Number of draught beers: 2
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks.
They knew how to build in the old days. Before industrial warfare made pions of us all. Vermeulen is a reminder of that innocent time.

You may have wondered: "how does he choose pubs?" I have my criteria: beer, beer, beer, something else. In this case, the latter applies. I usually insist on one beer that I can drink with pleasure. Vermeulen can't quite manage that, yet is surely worth a vist from any enthusiast.

The leaded glass windows are suberb. And they have a billiard table (a proper one without all that modern pocket nonsense). And you'll have to put in a bit of effort to appreciate its subtle charm. (Not that much effort, sadly. Just jump on a number 4 tram going west and wait until they throw you off at the terminus.)
Rating: Public transport: Tram 4.

Rotterdam Pub Guide

It's easy to believe that Rotterdam is a completely modern city. Look upon the city fathers as Hollywood executives. The slightest evidence of age is quickly excised by the surgeon's knife. Which might explain the reticence to advertise the delights of Delfshaven.

Delfshaven was once a separate town in its own right, until it was evelopped by Rotterdam in the 1800's. Being a couple of kilometres outside the centre, it survived the devastation of WW II. It has a totally different look and feel from the centre of the city, which has an unrelenting bland modernity about which it's difficult to get very excited (at least in any positivre way).

The area around the harbour has a surprising number of attractive pubs, which pretty well all have a much better selection of beer than is usually found in Dutch pubs. So, the perfect spot for a quick pub crawl, without too much dangerous exposure to the elements.

Delfshaven can be reached by taking the East-West metro line in the direction Marconiplein to the the stop Delfshaven.

Rotterdam Pub Guide
Delfshaven pubs

De Pelgrim
Aelbrechtskolk 12
3024 RE Rotterdam

Tel. 010 477 1189

De Pelgrim brewery
Opening hours:
Sun - Thu: 11:00-01:00
Fri - Sat: 11:00-01:00
Number of draught beers: 5
Number of bottled beers: 20
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks 5-9 euros, meals 15-20 euros. Beer 2.25-2.50 for 0.25 l.
De Pelgrim interiorThe building in which the Pelgrim brewpub is housed was built in 1580 and used to serve as the town hall when Delfshaven was a town in its own right.

The conversion to pub has been carried out with a good deal of sensitivity, leaving many original features, such as the beamed ceiling, visible. Through the large windows (so typical of old Dutch buildings) enough light comes in to give the place a spacious airy look and you get a good view of the small harbour. A simple wooden bar takes up most of one of the side walls and the rest of the furniture are in a similar restrained style. A small courtyard at the rear holds a few more tables for those who like to drink al fresco.

Leaving aside the building itself, beautiful though it is, the beer brewed on the premises is the great attraction. The first beer to be brewed was Pelgrim Speciaal (now called Rotterdams Stoombier). This is top-fermenting, unfiltered and amber in colour. It has a biscuity malt flavour and a good bitter finish. It's in the same general style as De Koninck or an English bitter and is fairly tasty. Ther are various seasonal beers: Pelgrim Witbier (Spring), Pelgrim Zomerbier (Summer), Pelgrim Bock (Autumn) and Pelgrim Winterbier (Winter). The brewery can be seen in a small room to the left of the entrance.

De Pegrim brewing kit
Rating: **** Public transport:

De Oude Sluis
Havenstraat 7,
3024 SE Rotterdam
Tel. 010 - 477 3068

De Oude Sluis
Opening hours: Mon - Thu: 12:00-01:00,
Fri 12:00-02:00,
Sat: 14:00-02:00,
Sun 14:00-01:00,
Number of draught beers: 6
Number of bottled beers: 30
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks.
De Oude Sluis interiorIf you're travelling to the Pelgrim by metro, then you're going to have to walk right past Oude Sluis. From the outside, it looks pretty much like all the other old buildings in the area, but I would definitely recommend taking a peak inside.

Built in 1912 (as a pub), it was owned by members of the De Nijs family until 1976.

Standing on the harbour you get a spectacular view of the back room of this pub, which hangs out precariously over the water. It's a bit like a giant version of the toilets you see stuck on the outside of medieaval buildings. It adds an extra spice to the evening, wondering if the yuppies sitting in there are going to finish off the evening with a dunking. No such luck when I was there, but it's bound to happen eventually.

The more secure, land-rooted section of the pub is rather oddly arranged, with a couple of small half rooms loitering around next to each other. But the most impressive feature is the wall carvings, depicting scenes of 17th century drunkenness and debauchery. Now why aren't pubs like that any more? The interior is very unusual for a Dutch café and I can't think of a similar one. The random collections of old junk on the walls, the peeling nicotine-stained paint - this is a very genuine café of the darkest shade of brown.

For a pub with no particular claims to being a specialist outlet, the beer selection is pretty reasonable. The atmosphere is pleasant, too, with friendly staff and good service. It's a great personal favourite of mine and even worth a special trip to Rotterdam.
Rating: ***** Public transport:

Tapperij Vanouds 't Kraantje

Schiedamseweg 2A
3025 AA Rotterdam

Tel. 010 477 0153

Tapperij Vanouds 't Kraantje
Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 12:00-01:00
Fri - Sat: 12:00-03:00
Number of draught beers: 10
Number of bottled beers: 30
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks.
Housed in a building in early 20th century mock-gothic style, this corner pub has a rather odd shape. Inside is a single, for a Dutch pub, quite large room, with a carved wooden bar occupying the whole of the back wall. The paintings, prints and odd bits of old junk which cover the walls have the genuinely chaotic look of things which have accumulated gradually over the years rather than having been bought by the yard by a pretentious interior designer. Overall, a pleasant and cosy atmosphere, without obtrusive music or other distractions. In keeping with the traditional theme, it has a billiard rather than a pool table.

The beer selection isn't at all bad and has been extended over the years. For what is esentially a locals pub, it is unusually good. The only black mark was the barman who seemed to think that I needed his permission to photograph the bar counter (he wasn't standing behind it at the time). So remember; photography is only allowed on request.
Rating: **** Public transport:

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