Industrial city and port in South Holland province, the Netherlands, in the Rhine-Maas delta, 90 km/56 mi southwest of Amsterdam; population (2006 est) 588,700. The Rotterdam-Europoort complex is the biggest oil refining centre in the world, and one of its foremost ocean cargo ports. Other industries include brewing, distilling, shipbuilding, sugar and petroleum refining, margarine, and tobacco. A canal, the New Waterway (Nieuwe Waterweg), links Rotterdam with the North Sea.
The city dates from the 12th century or earlier, but the centre was destroyed by German air attack in 1940, and rebuilt after World War II. The philosopher Erasmus was born here.
Rotterdam's name comes from the little River Rotte, which joins the Nieuwe Maas here.
Transport A deep-water channel, the New Waterway, constructed 1866–90, is navigable for the largest sea-going vessels. 35 km/22 mi long, it connects the town with the North Sea at the Hook of Holland. The port complex, Rotterdam-Europoort, owes much of its importance to the transit trade to Germany and Switzerland along the Rhine. The Nieuwe Maas is crossed by road bridges upstream from Rotterdam and by road tunnels downstream. A metro railway links the southwestern suburbs with the central area.
Urban development Large pre-war buildings, which are still in existence, include the Exchange, the town hall, the post office, the White House, and the Boymans Museum. Post-war architecture includes a pedestrian shopping precinct, the Lijnbaan. Several suburbs which once were independent communities are joined to the town of Rotterdam. The city's port facilities extend as far as the harbour of Europoort, constructed in 1960, on the North Sea coast at the western end of the New Waterway. The city's university was founded in 1973.
History Rotterdam was given municipal status in the 14th century. It became important in the middle of the 19th century, when the increase in Rhine shipping made it a busy port. In May 1940 Rotterdam suffered a devastating German air attack, which destroyed thousands of buildings in the centre of the town. Later in the war heavy bombing attacks by the Allies against the Germans occupying the town also caused immense losses.