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Markthal (Market Hall)

Rotterdam's Markthal is weird and wonderful. The one-of-a-kind building surrounds nearly 100 market stalls, shops, and restaurants with a giant arch that contains 228 apartments.

Rotterdam Markthal (Market Hall)

Rotterdam, the second-largest city in the Netherlands, has earned a reputation as a hotbed of modern architecture.

Rotterdam's Erasmusbrug at nightThe city is filled with innovative buildings and structures, such as the Erasmus Bridge, the Cube Houses, and a whole slew of imaginative and occasionally goofy-looking skycrapers.

But for sheer whimsy and playfulness, it's hard to beat the Markthal, or Market Hall, which has wowed locals, tourists, and urbanists since it was completed in 2014.

The Markthal occupies a site near the St. Laurenskerk that was covered with asphalt when we first visited Rotterdam in 2006. At that time, an outdoor market took place a couple of times a week, but on other days the expanse of pavement was depressing.

Detail of mural in Markthal, RotterdamNow, thanks to a forward-thinking city government and MVRDV (an international architectural firm based in Rotterdam), the site has a €175 million "sustainable combination of food, leisure, living, and parking" that has become one of Rotterdam's premier tourist attractions for cityphiles and urban-design buffs.

For more information, see Wikipedia's article, Rotterdam Tourist Information's page, and MVRDV's illustrated description of the project.

More photos:

BELOW: Depending on how you approach the Markthal, you may cross a paved square or a footbridge above a vast parking area for bicycles:

Markthal near Blaak in Rotterdam

Markthal and bicycles, Rotterdam

BELOW: On the outside walls of the Markthal, you'll see windows and balconies of the 228 apartments within the structure.

The building stands 40 meters or 131 feet high, with 11 floors including four stories underground.

Oblique view of Rotterdam Market Hall

Markthal and Rotterdam Public Library

BELOW: The Markthal has two main entrances, including this one near the Blaak train/tram station and the Rotterdam Public Library.

Some restaurants and cafes have their own entrances that provide access outside of the Markthal's normal business hours.

Entrance to Markhal

BELOW: Inside, the Markthal's arch-shaped walls and ceiling are covered with a mural titled "Cornucopia" (a.k.a. "Horn of Plenty") by artists Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam.

Subjects of the mural include food, flowers, and insets.

"Cornucopia" or "Horn of Plenty" mural by Arno Coenenand Iris Roskam, Markthal

Markthal "Horn of Plenty" or "Cornucopia" mural by Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam

Interior of Market Hall, Rotterdam

BELOW: At ground level inside the Markthal, you''ll find nearly 100 food stalls, shops, and places to eat or drink.

Ground floor of Markthal, Rotterdam

Mother with stroller in Markthal, Rotterdam

Interior of Markthal, Rotterdam

BELOW: Doughnuts are featured prominently in the Markthal.

(The Dutch doughnut design aesthetic tends to involve frosting and sprinkles.)

Donut Express in Markthal, Rotterdam

Doughnuts in Market Hall, Rotterdam

BELOW: Dutch cheeses are as colorful as Dutch doughnuts, although you'll need to add your own sprinkles at home.

 Dutch cheeses in the Markthal, Rotterdam

BELOW: At Dog City Food Co., you can order a variety of snacks (including traditional Dutch herring, as shown on the banner above the counter).

Dog City Food Co., Markthal

BELOW: You can take your food and drink purchases to picnic tables for eating.

During busy times--including the lunch hour--you may need to share a table with strangers or wait for other patrons to leave.

Picnic tables in the Markthal, Rotterdam

BELOW: Market stalls offer nuts, fresh produce, flowers, and other items.

Elbnuts, Markthal, Rotterdam

Fruit stand at Markthal, Rotterdam

Flower stall in Markthal, Rotterdam

BELOW: Escalators lead down to a full-service Albert Hejn supermarket, an educational area, and underground parking.

Escalators in Markthal, Rotterdam

BELOW: We had dinner one night at Die Bierstube, a Teutonic-themed restaurant on the ground floor of the Markthal.

Durant ordered the Jägerschnizel, shown in the foreground, and Cheryl chose a Wienerschnizel.

Die Bierstube Schnizel meal at the Markthal, Rotterdam

About the author:

Durant Imboden photo.Durant Imboden is a professional travel writer, book author, and editor who focuses on European cities and transportation.

After 4-1/2 years of covering European travel topics for, Durant and Cheryl Imboden co-founded Europe for Visitors in 2001. The site has earned "Best of the Web" honors from Forbes and The Washington Post.

For more information, see About Europe for Visitors, press clippings, and reader testimonials.