Rotterdam: Are these the rooms of the future?

From cardboard houseboats to cool campsites, the Dutch city’s new accommodation is a glimpse into the future.

By Shaney Hudson
Published 30 Aug 2019, 11:11 BST
Culture Campsite
Culture Campsite.
Photograph by Val Ross

Largely destroyed during the Second World War, the Netherlands’ second-largest city emerged from the ashes with a plan to rebuild and a focus on industry; today, it’s home to the largest port in Europe. Over the past five years, creative industries, a booming cafe culture and daring, modern architecture have helped Rotterdam evolve into a truly exciting place. 

Underpinning the city’s recent growth is a movement towards sustainability. The city’s old harbourside swimming complex is now BlueCity, a hub for more than 30 businesses experimenting with a zero-waste circular economy. At Floating Farm, meanwhile, a team of entrepreneurs has created just that: a solar-powered floating farm — home to 32 cows and open to visitors — designed to demonstrate how dairy farming and food production can be less vulnerable to climate change. 

It’s a theme that continues with the city’s accommodation offerings: new hotels like Room Mate Bruno and The Slaak Rotterdam chose to refurbish and repurpose old buildings rather than rebuild, and the upcycled Culture Campsite and cardboard Wikkelboat both champion sustainable design. While the likes of floating farms, cardboard houseboats and sleeping pods might seem like flights of fancy, dismissing the city’s innovative spirit as quirkiness would be a mistake. Rotterdam is a city being shaped with the future in mind; it’s a place travellers can visit to get a sense of what lies ahead — and bed down while they’re at it.

Culture Campsite
This spot prioritises sustainability with a selection of eight individual sleeping structures made from upcycled materials and designed by local architects. But this is no ordinary campsite: digs consist of everything from grain silos to converted greenhouses, but it’s the Floating Bricks structure — a single room constructed from glass and rejected bricks — that’s the most eye-catching. Along with shared facilities, guests also have the use of a see-through, domed common area. Doubles from €75 (£70). 

Hotel New York
The former head office of the Holland America Line is now a glamorous hotel and heritage site with a bookshop in the lobby, a barbershop in the basement and a water taxi service to the city centre. Some of the 72 rooms have fireplaces or turrets, while the former boardroom, complete with wood panelling and a freestanding bath by the window, overlooks the river. From €155 (£145). 

CityHub Rotterdam
Boldly billing itself as an ‘urban hotel for digital natives’, these quirky rooms are where Dutch design meets Japanese tech. Guests are issued a digital wristband for room access and paying for drinks and snacks. An app controls the interior lighting, while the provided bathrobes and slippers add a little dignity to the shared bathroom experience. From €56 (£51). 

Made out of 24 layers of corrugated cardboard, the Wikkelboat has become so popular the operators built a second one. Sleeping four guests in two rooms, the floating houseboat includes a self-contained kitchen and bathroom, and is designed to maximise space, with fold-down beds and pull-out sofas. From €115 (£105).

Published in the October 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

Follow us on social media 


Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us


  • Magazines
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2023 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved