Rotterdam, Netherlands, a city in South Holland province. It is on the Nieuwe Maas River, at the delta of the Rhine and Maas rivers, about 22miles (35 km) from the North Sea.
Rotterdam is Europe's leading seaport and one of the world's great shipping centers. It serves not only the Netherlands but also the vast industrial areas of the Rhine Valley. Oceangoing ships reach the heart of the city by the Nieuwe Waterweg (New Waterway). The port includes facilities at nearby Europoort. One the major commodities handled at Rotterdam is imported crude oil, which is processed by the city's many refineries. A vast network of pipelines radiates from the city, bringing petroleum products (including natural gas) to many parts of western Europe. In addition to oil refineries, the city has food-processing plants, shipyards, and petrochemical plants.
The center of the city, rebuilt after World War II, is an outstanding example of city planning. The new Rotterdam has modern apartment and office buildings, expansive shopping areas, broad streets, and attractive parks. The most notable church is the Great Church, also called Church of St. Lawrence, a 15th-century basilica restored after the war. The Boymans-Van Beuningen Museum has many masterpieces by Dutch and Flemish painters. Erasmus University, founded in 1973, is the leading institution of higher learning.
Rotterdam began as a fishing village on the Rotte River in the 13th century. It was granted a town charter in 1328 and later prospered as a trade and port city, especially in the 16th and 17th centuries. At that time the making of cloth and carpets contributed to the city's prosperity.
A period of decline began in the late 18th century, in large part because of the silting up of the outlet to the sea. Revival came after the construction of the Nieuwe Waterweg in 1872. By the time of World War II Rotterdam had become a major world port. On May 14, 1940, during World War II, a German air raid virtually leveled the heart of Rotterdam, one day before the Dutch army surrendered.
The opening of Europoort and its deep-water port facilities in 1966 greatly increased the importance of Rotterdam as a port and strengthened the city's economy.