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Sometimes I really miss Italy, its openness, its happy attitude despite all the mess that’s going on in politics and economy. One other thing I miss about Italy are open-air markets.
Luckily, Rotterdam is also known for its weekly market. Every Tuesday and Saturday, from 8 a.m. until around 5 or 6 p.m., vendors of different cultures showcase their goods and sell them.
The market is quite big, and it starts in the part of the city commonly known as Blaak – this name is taken from the railway station that was built there in 1877. Just to refer to something that most of internationals know: it’s right next to the Cube Houses (Kubuswoningen).
If we consider Blaak to be our imaginary South, the market continues for a few hundreds of meters towards our imaginary North-West.
Here is a screenshot from Google Maps (and my awesome drawing in paint – whoho!):
The entire market area is closed to traffic during market days, and I believe it has traffic restrictions during the rest of the week.
Rotterdam is not my favourite city, and it will never be, but it’s nice to believe that up to a certain extent, people from different ethnic and religious groups are still able to peacefully live together in the same environment.
Rotterdam Blaak Market is however the proof that interracial co-existence is possible: Dutch florists have their stands right next to Turkish bakers, Moroccan sellers are next to Spanish importers, and the mixture is wonderful.
The market itself offers quite some variety not only in terms of nationalities of the vendors, but also in terms of goods one can purchase.
Most of the items can be classified as belonging to one of the following categories:
Food stands at the market are my favourite. I’m definitely not one of those people who “eats everything”, but I do appreciate fresh items when I see them.
Every single time I visit the Rotterdam Blaak Market I am impressed by the variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, and especially fishes that are available – and you have to believe me if I say that I can spend hours deciding which fish to buy!
Turkish stands are the best for breads, spices, teas, and dried fruit. I’ve never been to Istanbul, but I’m sure that those few stands are quite in line with the Turkish atmosphere!
Special attention has to go to street food you can buy at the market. Generally Dutch people opt for one of the options above: bread with haring and onions (Broodje Haring), typical Indonesian spring rolls (Loempia), typical Dutch french fries (by Bram Ladage, of course!), and stir fried fish, such as the shrimps in the picture.
But of course, if your sugar reserves are too low, you can always count on the stand that sells Stroopwafels!
The flower section of the market is my other favourite. It’s way different from the Flower Market in Amsterdam (Bloemenmarkt), but I cannot say I like it any less.
Contrary to Amsterdam’s tourist-trap, Rotterdam’s flower market (or it’s better to say, flower stands) doesn’t offer cute Dutch-related items like a little tulip in a clog, but flowers are awesome, and plants are cheap.
No matter in which season you visit the Blaak Market, the flower stands are always colourful and somehow cheerful.
If you’ll ever want to buy an orchid, you’ll never find a place cheaper than this market: prices range from 2.00€ up to 25.00€ depending on the rarity of the plant. But trust me, a blue orchid for 17.50€ is a steal!
The clothes and second-hand stands are not my thing at all. The items look cheap or broken, and nothing is really useful to an international student who lives in 25 sq meters; but I wouldn’t be surprised if in one of your visits to the market you could make a deal for a used lamp or for a Persian carpet!
- Always bring cash money (easy to withdraw at the ING or ABN-AMRO ATMs near the Blaak railway station). There are just a few stands that accept PIN cards, and they’re usually the most expensive
- Keep an eye on your purse or wallet. Rotterdam has always been a safe place for me, but there are enough stories and news that put me on “alert mood” when I go to the market.
- Don’t buy the first thing you see. If you like something, keep looking around. Chances are that it’s not so unique, and maybe you can have it (whatever it is – from fruits to shoes) for a better price.
- Go early or go late. Both times have their advantages if you want to make good deals, but avoiding the rush hours also means that you won’t live the experience the best way.
- Raincoat & Sunscreen. Make them your best friends depending on the climatic situation. Avoid umbrellas and hats for security and comfort reasons!
- Smile at the guy from the fish stand. I am sure the explanation is superfluous.