Rotterdam is a city in the province of South Holland in the west of the Netherlands. The city is the second largest in the country with a population of approximately 617,000 inhabitants in the municipality and about 1.3 million inhabitants in its metropolitan area. Rotterdam is one of Europe's most vibrant, multicultural cities; it is known for its university (Erasmus), cutting-edge architecture, lively cultural life, striking riverside setting, its maritime heritage and colourful summer events.
Starting as a dam constructed in 1270 on the Rotte River, Rotterdam has grown into a major international commercial centre. The port of Rotterdam is Europe's busiest port by cargo tonnage, and was the world's busiest from 1962 until it was surpassed by Shanghai in 2004. Rotterdam's commercial and strategic importance is based on its location near the mouth of the Nieuwe Maas (New Meuse), a channel in the delta formed by the Rhine and Meuse on the North Sea. These rivers lead directly into the centre of Europe, including the industrial Ruhr region, which is why Rotterdam is often called the "Gateway to Europe".
The bombing of Rotterdam on May 14, 1940 by Nazi Germany forced the Dutch army to capitulate. The centre of Rotterdam was almost completely destroyed by the Luftwaffe, with 900 civilians killed and 80,000 homeless. Rotterdam was gradually rebuilt from the 1950s through the 1990s. Daring and new styles of apartments, office buildings and recreation facilities resulted in Rotterdam becoming a city of modern architecture and the only city in the Netherlands with an impressive modern skyline. Read more