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With Rotterdam being the largest port in Europe it is not surprising that it has a splendid and very comprehensive Maritime Museum. Situated on the city’s main shopping street at the beginning of the port area, close the famous Erasmus Bridge, it has an extensive collection of models, paintings and other artifacts inside but, perhaps more interestingly, a large collection of boats and ships moored outside in the adjacent harbour, rather incongruously nestling beneath the surrounding high-rise, concrete and glass modern Rotterdam skyline.

It is possible to walk around and see the vessels for free but if you want to go aboard and take a look inside you need to have a ticket for the museum. Perhaps the most interesting to see is the inside of an old Dutch sailing barge which was not only the place of work for sailors but also where they lived with their wives and families. In the tiny accommodation quarters there is literally no room to swing a cat or even to stand up straight but everything is there, including a small table and chairs, a stove and beds in a cupboard. Very cosy. In the harbour there are also more modern boats like dredgers and small coasters, a lighthouse and a dockside railway engine and crane.

Inside, the museum is spread over three floors with permanent displays, exhibition spaces and a large play area for children called Professor Splash. There are many fine models of all types of ships from all periods of history. It is interesting to be able to study in close-up the ships which one is not familiar with and will never have access to, like the massive pipe-laying ship and the huge container carriers.

The pride of place in the museum, although it is very modestly displayed, is the Mataró model which is as significant to this museum as Rembrandt’s Nightwatch is to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. At more than six hundred years old, it is the oldest model ship in Europe; it was made in Spain and is believed to be an extremely accurate representation.

There are lots of paintings and books, including an extensive display on the work of Maria Sibylla Merian, the eighteenth century naturalist, entomologist and botanical illustrator, as well as charts and interactive learning opportunities for young and old. There is also a display on drug smuggling and detection with comprehensive instructions and a video on the production of cocaine. I’m sure users would think twice if they saw the recipe contained cement, petrol, bleach and other ingredients that you would not necessarily want to put up your nose or anywhere else.

One of the most enjoyable areas is one dedicated to ocean liners and cruise ships with reconstructions of cabins, ballrooms and restaurants, along with a lot of posters and other ephemera.

So, Rotterdam’s Maritime Museum would make a splendid day out for all the family but best to make sure the weather is good so as to take full advantage of the open-air part.


Rotterdam Maritime Museum

Leuvehaven 1
3011 EA  Rotterdam

Opening hours

Tuesday – Saturday:              10am – 5pm
Sunday and public holidays:  11am – 5pm