Every Rotterdamer and surely any well-informed visitor has heard of Kralingen: an out of context neighbourhood in the heart of Rotterdam that bears little resemblance to the modern architectural tag often attached to Rotterdam.
Much has been written about the history of Kralingen. Initially a separate “village” for the rich, Kralingen was merged with Rotterdam in 1895. Over the years, Kralingen maintained its architectural style that resembles that of many other Dutch cities.
So what makes this neighborhood so special? In this article I invite you, our reader, to join me in exploring Kralingen in a new way. First, I invite you to explore it through my eyes as a photographer. Second, I invite you to explore it through the words of two lovely people living in Kralingen as well. One is a dear friend of mine, Lisanne; the other is no other than Wouter, the city captain of Rotterdam! Naturally, I’ll join in the conversation and provide my views on Kralingen as well.
What’s your favorite spot in Kralingen and why?
Me: I’ve often asked myself this question. Yet, as much as I tried to come up with a concrete answer I could not because my favorite place in Kralingen is Kralingen: its wide streets with its tall, majestic, Louis XIV-XV style mansions that often resemble fairy-tale architectural structures. In Kralingen, I might still be in the big city but it just does not feel like that.
Wouter: The Kralingse Bos (and plas), for sure. I walk there a lot and I keep discovering new parts. It's a lovely green and quiet getaway not far away from the city center, and every season is great. When all the plants and trees are in bloom in spring, all the colors of the trees in autumn, people swimming and barbecuing in summer, and in winter there can be snow and ice. Unfortunately it's not cold enough to go ice-skating every year, but when the plas does freeze over, it's great. When the forest is covered in snow it's magical, obviously.
Lisanne: I love the shopping area at the Lusthofstraat. I especially like to visit the specialist retailers, such as the cheese shop. I also like Westerkaatje, it is my go-to when I'm too lazy to cook. I like to spend several hours a week around the Kralingse Plas, it's the perfect place to train for the Bruggenloop or Rotterdam Marathon.
Tip: You can see more photos of Kralingse Plas here.
What was your first impression of Kralingen when you moved there?
Me: I thought I was living in a different city than Rotterdam. I must confess that my main reason for living in Kralingen was its proximity to Erasmus University. Little did I know that this neighborhood had so much to offer from beautiful nature to dreamy architecture, and sometimes even unexpected visitors such as sheep!
Wouter: It almost had a sort of royal feel, I thought it was way too fancy for me to live here, but I live here now for 11 years and I don't want to leave. I also noticed the amount and variety of restaurants in the neighborhood. I still love that.
Lisanne: I was already familiar with Kralingen before I came to live there. What stood out to me is the contrast between the different parts of Kralingen; the east is full of beautiful old buildings, while the western part is characterized by social housing. I hope that in the future it will be less segregated.
Do you have any funny story to share about Kralingen?
Me: For a while, I used to live next to a fraternity house. Surprisingly, it was a quite house, with barely any loud parties. Yet, when the sun would come out, the guys would put a huge table outside, blocking the whole sidewalk, and enjoyed their dinner in the sun.
Wouter: Kralingen had a castle, slot honingen. The honingerdijk and slotlaan (‘castle lane’) still remind us of it. The little lake/pond that’s there was part of the moat around the castle.
Lisanne: Once I had enormous difficulty getting to my own house when a sports event was being organized throughout Kralingen; parts of my street were closed with fences and participants were filling the streets. I decided to wait it out a bit and drink a cup of coffee at the vintage shop down the street. I had a nice talk with another visitor, humorous complaining about the event hijacking the neighborhood.
Since you moved here, what was the development that you saw happening in Kralingen?
Me: There are quite some new places popping out, from art galleries to organic stores, and beautiful cafes. It makes me wonder how Kralingen will look like in 5 years from now.
Wouter: Kralingen became less sleepy, more vibrant, and way more interesting than say, 10 years ago. Also a lot more (younger) families, diverse shops, and more 'hip' places to eat and drink. The downside is that the prices of homes have doubled and it's become even harder to rent a place for a reasonable price.
Lisanne: I've seen some parts get renovated and a few new shops opened up, especially small restaurants and fast food joints. I take it as a sign that people are overall doing well in the neighborhood.
If you could improve one thing about Kralingen, what would that be?
Me: I don’t think there is anything I’d like to change about Kralingen at the moment.
Wouter: I would leave it just the way it is!
Lisanne: I would like to see Kralingen less segregated. There are parts that are very upper class, as shown by the clean streets and great facilities; while other parts are dirty and poorly maintained.
How would you describe Kralingen in just one sentence?
Me: A small cute and green city inside the big city.
Wouter: A cute but vibrant little village in a big city.
Lisanne: A vibrant, family-friendly neighborhood with enough facilities to make you forget about the crowded center.
I’d like to thank both Wouter and Lisanne for sharing with me, with us, their view on Kralingen.
We move from city to city, from neighborhood to neighborhood thinking that the neighborhoods we live in are the passengers in our life. Yet, the reality is that we are the passengers, briefly leaving our imprint on the neighborhoods in which we choose to live and on the people who live there. I’ve been lucky enough to get to live in Kralingen for over three years and I will surely miss it. If you live in Rotterdam and did not walk around Kralingen yet then that should be your first weekend activity. If you are a tourist coming to visit the architectural hub of Europe, then be sure to make a pit stop inside the city and explore a different type of modern architecture: Kralingen.
Stay inspired and never stop exploring your city!
Words and pictures by Laura M.
If you enjoyed this little tour of Kralingen, check out Issue 2 of A City Made By People! We've got more unique tours of cities and neighbourhoods for you there, don't miss out!