Greening Rotterdam

I don’t hesitate on this blog to point out places in the city that could be less stony. But then I also need to show when things seem to be going well, concerning greening and sustainability. So, in the beginning of summer 2024, here’s an ode to the urban nature of Rotterdam. An encouragement to keep going in the right direction!

Hollyhocks along the river Nieuwe Maas in the Rotterdam neighbourhood of Schiemond
Hollyhocks along the river Maas


“Wow, it’s clear that the Dutch excel in sustainability,” said one of the Flemish civil servants I guided through Rotterdam a few weeks ago. Well, to be honest… I actually felt that the greening of Roffa was progressing rather slowly. But seen through foreign eyes, we seem to be making a pretty good impression.

Rain garden and Hofplein railway line in Rotterdam ZOHO
The Rain Garden in ZOHO

Wet Spring

Of course, the wet spring helps a bit too. There has been a lot of complaining about the weather in recent months, but the abundant rainfall has made the city look remarkably green. Last year, when it didn’t rain for two months from early May, things looked a bit less flourishing around this time.

Yellow and purple flower growing in a flowerbed on Maashaven quay in Rotterdam
Phlomis at Maashaven quay

Good Answers

More plants, trees, flowers, and other nature in the city, why is that actually a good idea? There are many good answers to that question. I’ll give a few.

To begin with, it’s good for biodiversity, that beautiful, complex, and fragile system where every bird, flower, and insect has its role, and on which we depend so much.

More nature in the city also provides cleaner air. And during heat waves, trees and plants help to keep the temperature in the city bearable through shade and evaporation.

Furthermore, greenery retains rainwater longer, which prevents flooding and overloading of the sewage system.

The city also smells better because of all those flowers. And the city even sounds better: leaves absorb noise and produce soothing sounds when the wind plays with them.

But for me, there is also a significant aesthetic/photographic argument: the city just looks much better with all this green.

Poppies and other wildflowers at the Blijdorp highway exit in Rotterdam
Poppies in Blijdorp

Major Projects

The ambitions of the municipality of Rotterdam to green the city are certainly commendable. There are eight major urban projects that, if all goes well, will enrich the city with new green areas. I have high expectations for the parks in the Rijn- and Maashaven, the tidal park at Feijenoord, the transformation of Hofplein, and Rotterdam’s own High Line: the park on the former Hofbogen railway line.

Struiken en grassen op het dak van voormalige station Hofplein in Rotterdam met op de achtergrond het nog als park in te richten dak van de Hofbogen
The future High Line

Small Parks

Unfortunately, it will take a while before those new parks are ready. And hopefully, the ambitions won’t fall victim to budget cuts in the meantime. But in recent years, quite a few smaller parks have been added. The Grote Kerkplein near the Laurenskerk, once a parking lot, has been a green oasis for a few years now. The area around G.J de Jonghweg, once a red-light district, has been transformed to Tuschinskipark. And the formerly quite stony streets near the Boymans museum and the Sonneveld House have now been incorporated into the Museumpark.

The green square in front of Saint Lawrence Church in downtown Rotterdam
Laurenskerk square
Tuschinski Park and Little C in Rotterdam
Tuschinski Park and Little C
The New Garden with museum Boymans in the background, in Museum Park in Rotterdam
Museum Park
Flowers in a little park in Katendrecht in Rotterdam
The Wrist of Katendrecht

Green snippets

But even on a smaller scale, there seems to be progress. I don’t have hard data, but I have the impression that quite a few flowerbeds, small parks, green patches, planters, and other pieces of urban nature have been added in recent years. And all those snippets together have an impact, especially after all those rainy months. But of course, there’s always room and need for more green.

Butterfly bush in a flowerbed in a street in the New West of Rotterdam
Butterfly bush in the New West
Lush vegetation in a flowerbed on Deliplein in Katendrecht, Rotterdam
Deliplein in Katendrecht

Sidewalk Gardens

Even smaller in scale are the sidewalk gardens. In recent years, the National Tile-Flipping Championship was organized every summer; initially a contest between 010 and 020, but now nearly two hundred municipalities participate. Last year 231,048 tiles were removed in Rotterdam, and sidewalk gardens replaced most of them. In narrower streets where there is little space for trees and other greenery, removing a row of tiles along the facade can really make a difference.

Sidewalk garden with butterfly bush and other abundant greenery in the Rotterdam neighbourhood of Crooswijk
Sidewalk garden in Crooswijk
Abundantly vegetated sidewalk garden in the Rotterdam neighbourhood of Schiemond
Tiles removed in Schiemond


But it’s not just about what you do, but also about what you don’t do. Mowing, for example. Once, neatly mowed lawns were a thing to strive for. But like many cities, Rotterdam has switched to an ecological mowing policy in recent years. And it shows: in some places, mowing is less frequent and/or less tidy, giving wildflowers a chance. The rewilding of the city… As far as I’m concerned, it could happen in more places. And I don’t want to hear anyone complaining about weeds. No sir, ma’am, this is biodiversity!

Hollyhocks and other wildflowers between the cycle path and the highway exit in Rotterdam
Blijdorp highway exit
Flowers around a tree at Noordereiland in Rotterdam
Wildflowers at Noordereiland
Biodiversity between the road and the cycle path in Rotterdam
Biodiversity in M4H
Abundant wildflowers growing in Little C neighbourhood in Rotterdam
Rewilding Little C
Grasses and herbs at Westzeedijk in Rotterdam next to the Kunsthal
Sorrel on Westzeedijk
Heracleum growing two metres high near Erasmus medical center in Rotterdam
Hogweed at Erasmus MC

National Park

Anyway, we’re not there yet. Rotterdam is not yet the national park it could be. But the photos in this article show that there is indeed some progress. How green will Rotterdam be in ten years? We’ll see.

Butterfly bush in St Jacobs Park in downtown Rotterdam
Saint Jacob’s Park
Wildflowers on the roof of former Hofplein station in Rotterdam
Hofplein station
Watersquare in Rotterdam North with the Akragon building by architect Hugh Maaskant
Water square and Akragon

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