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Our 3-day plan for Rotterdam

04 January 2020

While Amsterdam and Rotterdam are two of Holland’s most popular destinations, the two couldn’t be more different from one another. Often mentioned as 010 (“nul tien” in Dutch) after its regional code, Rotterdam sends off very modern, almost futuristic vibes because of its many architecturally interesting buildings. I’m normally more eager to visit old historical towns, but Rotterdam definitely felt like a breath of fresh air. It’s a great city to spend a long weekend, especially if you’re into lots of shopping and good food.



We arrived at our hotel, The James, on Friday night and then we had three full days to see the city. We planned to visit a different part of the city each day, making sure we’d get a good mix of the touristic must-sees and the more undiscovered spots.


DAY 1: Rotterdam North

 

Vintage shopping in the Zwaanshals quarter

The first morning we had breakfast at Bertmans, a local favorite close to our hotel, and then paid a visit to plant store Stek before heading north. We started our exploration in the Zwaanshals quarter, which is truly a treat if you love vintage shopping. It’s full of small independent shops like Betje Krul, Margootje Vintage and Ding&Dingen, and for an in between caffeine fix there’s Hopper Coffee. You also can’t miss the street next to Zwaanshals, called Zaagmolenkade: this is rather the place for designer clothing or afternoon tea at Lof der Zoetheid. 



Beer tasting at Brouwerij Noordt

After all that shopping, it was time for a good pint. We’d arranged to take a tour and do a beer tasting at Brouwerij Noordt. Just like in Belgium, craft beer is quite a thing in Rotterdam and this local business makes about 15 different types of beer in their little brewery located in the middle of Zaagmolenkade street. The tour guide (and owner) enthusiastically showed us around the place and afterwards we could order any two beers of our choice at the bar up front. They were quite good, and unsurprisingly more than the foreseen number followed. 



DAY 2: Rotterdam South


 

Breakfast at Bas Bakt and lunch at De Foodhallen

We started off our second day at Bas Bakt, an artisanal bakery in the artistic Witte de With Quarter. There we indulged on a lovely breakfast plate with fresh bread, croissants and jam – a real hit! Then after some strolling we crossed the Erasmus bridge to head to the Kop van Zuid, a super modern neighborhood full of eye-catching high rise buildings. Both the Dutch photo museum and the indoor food market De Foodhallen are located on this peninsula. We happily filled our stomachs in the latter, trying stuff from all the different stalls like truffle croquettes, bakpau and traditional Dutch ‘bitterballen’.


A walk through Het Park and view from Euromast

Back on the other side of the bridge, we took a walk through the stunning and one of the oldest parks in Rotterdam. In Het Park you can also find the Euromast towering high above the trees. This is the most popular spot to get a panoramic view over the city. To avoid a long waiting time, we didn’t go up there until sunset, which gave us a stunning sight of the setting sun on one side and the moon rising on the other. Such a beautiful experience!


Escape room fun and burgers

As is becoming a habit of ours during a citytrip, we ended the night tackling an escape room. At Escape010 you can book an escape for 2 people for an actual reasonable price and the ‘Book of Mystery’ theme immediately spoke to us. Though escaping the room turned out to be too big of a challenge, the setting was really well-made and there were some amazingly clever clues to be found! Ending up back where our day had begun, we celebrated our heavy efforts with a delicious couple of burgers at Ter Marsch & Co: a cozy burger place in the Witte de Withstraat.


DAY 3: Rotterdam Central


 

A visit to the Kubuswoningen and Markthal

For our last ‘breakfast’ we gave in to our sweet tooth cravings and ordered cake and coffee at Nine Bar. It was just a 5-minute walk from our next stop: Piet Blom’s Cube Houses (“Kubuswoningen” in Dutch). These 38 cube-shaped houses are probably the most famous architectural attraction in Rotterdam, with one ‘show cube’ serving as a museum for visitors – a rather strange thing to see! Also nearby is the Markthal, another food market with an almost equally remarkable horseshoe design.


Shopping in the Koopgoot and Meent street

We spent the afternoon browsing the shops in and around Meent street like concept store Keet and interior favorite Hay. Then after a late lunch at Ristorante Napoli, we ended up in the Koopgoot: a unique shopping area below street level in the heart of Rotterdam where the larger retail chains are located. Sadly this marked the end of our trip as not much later we'd be catching our train homewards!


All addresses mentioned: 


FOOD & DRINKS
Bertmans | Karel Doormanstraat 292
Hopper Coffee | Zwaanshals 474
Lof der Zoetheid | Noordplein 1
Bas Bakt | Hartmansstraat 22A
Foodhallen | Wilhelminakade 58
Ter Marsch & Co | Witte de Withstraat 70
Nine Bar | Botersloot 44A
Markthal | Ds. Jan Scharpstraat 298
Ristorante Napoli | Meent 81A

SHOPPING
Stek De Stadstuinwinkel | Nieuwe Binnenweg 195B
Ruby Lee and the vintage factory | Nieuwe Binnenweg 255A
Margootje Vintage | Zwaanshals 276B
Betje Krul | Zwaanshals 344
Ding&Dingen | Zwaanshals 508
Keet | Oppert 2a
Hay | Haagseveer 99

TO DO
Brouwerij Noordt | Zaagmolenkade 46
Nederlands Fotomuseum | Wilhelminakade 332
Euromast | Parkhaven 20
Escape010 | Diergaardesingel 67A
Kijk-kubus | Overblaak 70

Montenegro: tips for staying in Tivat

21 November 2019


While planning our trip to Montenegro, we did a lot of research on the best places to stay. Before booking at Palma in Tivat, we considered other hotels in Perast, Kotor and Budva. But Perast, however beautiful and idyllic, was both too expensive and not very practical since public transportation is limited to one bus an hour and very few guided tours have a pick-up point there. Kotor and Budva on the other hand have all the transportation possibilities you might need, but as two of Montenegro’s most touristic spots they didn’t exactly meet our wish for a more peaceful stay.


Why we picked Tivat

Looking back, Tivat really was the perfect location for us. Because it’s so central, it was easy to get to all the places we wanted to visit without having to spend the whole day driving. It’s also well suited for tourists, but not so busy that there was a queue at restaurants (that is, when we visited in July). All in all, Tivat ticked off the most qualities we were looking for, with some additional advantages:
  • central location and easy access
  • touristic, but not too crowded
  • the beautifully renovated Porto Montenegro
  • many charming restaurants and bars
  • supermarkets and ATMs at hand
  • 10 minute drive from Tivat airport


Where we stayed

We stayed at Hotel Palma in the heart of Tivat. The hotel has recently been refurbished and was very clean and modern, and honestly a joy to come home to every day. Our room looked out on Tivat’s old port and the blue water of Kotor Bay on the other side. But we mostly spent time taking a swim and relaxing in the lounge chairs on the pebble beach in front of the hotel. The staff was always friendly and tried their best at talking English, which was a lot since – as you’ll undoubtedly discover if you ever visit Montenegro – there’s a small chance at finding a local who speaks the language fluently.


We had breakfast at the hotel restaurant almost every morning. The buffet was really nice with all kinds of pastries and spreads varying from day to day. For dinner they also serve a great homemade burger which was the perfect comfort food after a long hike. The only thing lacking (sometimes) was a good wifi connection, but that’s not a surprise in Montenegro where internet in general is scarce. If I had to pick a hotel a second time, I’d definitely go for Palma again.


Where to eat & drink

Tivat’s marina, its most prominent feature, was renovated 10 years ago. The beautiful Porto Montenegro is now a home to not only a great many private boats and luxury yachts, but an equally wide range of restaurants for every taste. We kind of made a sport out of trying a new spot to eat every evening and these are the ones that stuck with me:


One

One was “the one” restaurant that stood out above the rest. It’s kind of a high-end brasserie serving an extensive menu of meat and fish options as well as risotto and pastas. We first enjoyed some refreshing cocktails and then had a really nice steak with homemade fries for dinner. The setting and atmosphere were lovely and the service very professional.

Al Posto Giusto

We had a candlelit dinner at Al Posto Giusto and it was magical. This Italian restaurant has a terrace with a lovely view over Porto Montenegro, which is beautifully illuminated at night, and I would probably recommend it for that view alone. Luckily the food is actually great too so it’s a win-win! All of their pasta is handmade and they have some really nice wines to try as well.

Bevanda

On our last night in Tivat we went for pizzas and garlic bread at Bevanda, a ‘ristorante’ and pizzeria just two minutes from our hotel. Rens went for a classic Margherita while I indulged in the Tartufata with mozzarella and black truffle. My pizza was so good I swear I can still taste it while thinking about it.  

Ukemochi

Looking for a quick bite for lunch? Right in the middle of Porto Montenegro you can find Ukemochi, a small noodle bar where you can put together your own noodle or rice box with meat or fish and a sauce of your choice. Plain and simple, but delicious!

S&M Brza Hrana

Another great stop for 'fast food' is S&M Brza Hrana. You probably won't find this small family business anywhere on the internet, but it's well-loved among locals for their delicious (and gigantic!) artisanal crepes and pizzas made on the spot. Look for the food stall close to Bevanda open from 7pm.

Moritz Eis

Moritz Eis served the best ice cream we tasted during our stay. You can't miss this little place thanks to the large cone display and vintage ice cream cart outside.

Kafeterija

To our delight, we found Porto Montenegro even had good coffee to offer. Specialty coffee shop Kafeterija became our go-to spot for a daily dose of caffeine. Tip: ask for the chocolate cake with ice cream and relish.


What to do

Tivat isn't the most interesting city in Montenegro, but you can easily spend a day there without getting bored.  


Go yacht-spotting

The obvious thing to do in Tivat is of course take a stroll along the many yachts anchored in Porto Montenegro. Part of it is reserved for the most expensive yachts and only accessible to the owners, but the rest of the quay is free for all to snoop around.

Take a dip in the Adriatic Sea 

If your hotel is in Tivat, it's very likely to have a private swimming area marked out. But even when you're just visiting, you can take a dip in the water at one of the little pebble beaches scattered across the shore for a bit of refreshment.

Hike up the hill to Gornja Lastva 

In for a little adventure? Gornja Lastva is one of the highest villages in Tivat at a 300 m altitude on Vrmac mountain. A hike up there gives one of the best views over Tivat Bay and only takes about 1,5 hours. My best advice is to wear pants or long boots for the trip as you'll encounter many nettles and thorns along the way. You can use Google Maps to find the starting point on Jadranska Magistrala and from there, there's only one road to walk up!


Transportation tips

There are a few ways to get around Tivat and visit nearby cities in case you don’t have a car or don’t want to hire one:


By taxi

Taxis are everywhere to be found in Tivat and are probably the quickest manner to get to any destination you wish. They aren’t particularly cheap – not in comparison to taking the bus. But at least you can count on an experienced driver who knows every single road, which is a lot in a mountainous country like Montenegro.

By bus

There’s one bus stop in the center of Tivat where you can take the Blue Line bus to Kotor and Perast (direction Herceg Novi). It only costs €2 to get you to your destination, but be ware this bus takes a very narrow road along the coastline so it's not exactly the most relaxing trip. You can find the time schedule at the bus stop, located next to a news kiosk on Palih Boraca street. However, keep in mind that buses in Montenegro are rarely on time so it's basically a matter of waiting to see when one shows up.

To catch buses from other companies, you can take a taxi up to the large bus station near Tivat Airport. GetByBus can be a good help to find different options for where you want to go.

Book a day tour

If like us you're limited to a week's stay, tour organizations may come in handy to make sure you get to see as much as possible. For trips to Montenegro's national parks like Durmitor, Skadar Lake and Lovćen, we made use of Globtour Montenegro and 360 Monte. We're still happy we made that decision because not only did we visit places we otherwise wouldn't have, we also learned some interesting insights from our tour guides on the way. Make sure to check out all available private and group tours for a fully arranged day of fun and surprises.



More tips on how to spend time in Montenegro?

Read my post about everything we did during our week's stay here