Often when visiting destinations you have two options to learn about their history and culture. The first is in the museums, and the second is by taking a free walking tour. One of the things I love most about Rotterdam though is that the city will always have a cooler alternative: enter Wereldhavendagen (a.k.a. World Port Days for those of us that don’t speak Dutch).
What is Wereldhavendagen?
When you visit a festival, it tends to take place in a certain space specifically set aside. Well, for Rotterdam’s annual World Port Days festival, the entire city forms the foundations of the celebration.
Which is appropriate as it is the city’s heritage and culture that is being celebrated.
The Port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe. And until 2004 it held the record for being the busiest port in the world for over 4o years!
So it’s not hard to believe what a strong influence the port has had on the city’s past and present. And still incredible to believe that the Port of Rotterdam grew from one small fishing village along the river Rotte.
But what is celebrated during World Port Days is more than just the history of Rotterdam.
By providing a stage for merchant and royal navy achievements, the multicultural breadth of the city’s music and cuisine, old songs sung by sailors and civvies alike, and a platform for some of the most advanced ecological, scientific and maritime thoughts of the 21st century…
Which is why, on a windy weekend last September, I joined over 380,000 other visitors keen to be immersed in the festival.
What to Expect at World Port Days
Those of you who read about my journey to Rotterdam with Flixbus will know that I arrived to the city super early!
So after dropping my luggage off at Hostel ROOM (read the review here) I decided to take a walk around to the Erasmus Bridge and grab some photos of the skyline before the festival kicked off.
Let’s just say, the area was already buzzing!
Stalls selling maritime merchandise, quaint creative artworks and traditional Dutch treats had already begun to line the Maas River alongside demonstrations by the Marines and maritime sciences.
It soon became clear that the festival wasn’t just a celebration of culture, but a great weekend for families and friends. The demonstrations are interactive and especially child-friendly. And even better was that so many people taking part had dressed up especially for the occasion!
One of my personal favourite experiences was bumping into the Sea Shanty Choirs that were dotted around the city! If you want to find them next year, they seemed to be based around the Maritime Museum!
Not only were they dressed the part, but they brought so much enthusiasm, laughter and joy to the crowds watching.
It has to be said that the crowds watching were mostly silver-haired and over 60 – I definitely stood out as I swayed along with them, grinning from ear to ear.
But I just found the shanty choirs so much fun and can’t understand at all why there were so few youngsters taking part in it!
One idea I have for the lack of young people around during the day is because they were waiting for the night. Or more specifically, the Night of the Kape (or Nacht van de Kaap in Dutch).
I’ve written about that more extensively here, and you can also experience it by clicking play on the video at the top of this post!
My Top Tips for Visiting World Port Days in Rotterdam
๏ Eat all the food! Myself and a few others noted that it was a shame that there only seemed to be fast food on every corner. But if you’re new to The Netherlands then the fast food is an experience in itself!
- My top treats are Kibbeling (deep fried white wish served with mayonnaise) and Poffertjes (baby pancakes served with piles of butter and powdered sugar)!
๏ Take a water taxi! The water taxis are the traditional way of crossing the river to the official Port of Rotterdam on Kop van Zuid.
- They only cost about €2-3 and the drivers are really fun! Most of them have ‘proper’ jobs on the side and drive the little taxi boats out of a genuine enjoyment – nothing like the grumpy taxi drivers in the UK!
๏ Step onboard. A lot of incredible cruise-liners and Marine ships dock in the port and open to the public during the festival.
- Not only will you get to walk around historic vessels and see the incredible achievements of the boat-building industry – you might also get a tour from a handsome sailor!
๏ Stay at Hostel ROOM Rotterdam. Alright, okay, I’m biased here because I love this hostel. But it’s seriously close to all the action that takes place during Wereldhavendagen and the staff really know their city.
- On a day when I spent less time at the festival I was recommended to take a self-guided tour of the city’s street art, visit an incredible exhibition at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, and tried the incredible cakes at Koekela. If you visit there – make sure to say hi to Mirjam & Monique for me!
๏ You can find out more about visiting Wereldhavendagen by visiting their official website!
I was a guest of Rotterdam Partners at Nacht van de Kaap, and hosted by Hostel ROOM Rotterdam(yay!). My transport to Rotterdam and back was provided by FlixBus, and as always all opinions are honest and my own.