Leuvehaven 77, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, mainporthotel.com. 215 rooms from about $160.
The pool at Rotterdam’s Mainport hotel has a dress code: swimming suit required. Its sauna, with a wall of windows overlooking the Maas river eight floors below, has a dress code, too: naked. Stringent Finnish spa etiquette is just one culture the Mainport draws on. Inspired by Rotterdam’s status as Europe’s largest port, the hotel unloads a container ship of influences: Japan in the tuna sashimi at its restaurant; the United States with its stylized Statue of Liberty wallpaper on one floor; and Turkey in the fragrant falling water of its steam room. What unites these cultural influences is Rotterdam itself. A port town with a bold-yet-nonchalant attitude, the city isn’t afraid to mix the foreign with the fun.
The hotel is centrally located on an inner harbour with views of the Maas river, which divides the city and leads to the shipping lanes of the North Sea. From the glass elevators, you can watch water taxis zipping about below and across the river, and the flickering lights of downtown skyscrapers at night. The Mainport is also well-placed for going to the shops and cafés of Witte de Withstraat and the stunning new indoor Markthal food market.
There is a sense of fun throughout Mainport, by no mistake a member of the Design Hotels group. From tiny jars of jellybeans at the cocktail bar to bold, wild wallpaper – on one floor Asian dragons, on another Russian babushkas, depending on the continental theme of the floor you are on – Dutch interior designer Feran Thomassen has made his mark.
Besides the spa and pool – which I often skip at hotels but would not miss here with its unusual design and panoramic views – the award goes to the sheer range of minibar amenities. There are silicone pleasure balls from the Fifty Shades of Grey collection, mini stroopwafel cookies and a Heineken bottle opener. If that’s too adventurous, you can opt for a can of Pringles. To each their own.
Eat in or eat out?
While the hotel breakfast is substantial and satiating, plan on a big night out. Start by catching a water taxi from the hotel dock to the Kop van Zuid neighbourhood on the south bank. Then stroll down to Las Palmas, a bustling top-end restaurant from Rotterdam celebrity chef Herman den Blijker. I ate tuna sashimi with a ginger-nut dressing followed by outstanding Black Angus top blade – tender, salt-spiked and served in a pool of puffed garlic. The night was capped by Jean-Luc, the charming barman, who insisted on a round of Irish coffee cocktails. “Will it keep me up at night though?” I asked tableside as he mixed chestnut syrup, whisky, double cream and Mexican coffee. “Madame,” he responded, “you will have the best dream of your life.”
If I could change one thing
The global theme is cleverly echoed throughout the hotel, but the in-room travel diaries, available for purchase, seem dated. How many people still use pen and paper?
Room with a view
If you’re looking for an oasis-like splurge, opt for a Waterfront Spa room. The deep standalone tub sits near the window, and the bathroom has its own Finnish sauna. So, whatever your stance on public modesty, you can sport your birthday suit, no worries at all.
The writer was a guest of Rotterdam Partners.