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Rotterdam Cinema Capital

What do cities like Cannes, Berlin,Venice, San Sebastián or Locarno have in common? Well, they all host long-standing film festivals and, for a number of days and at different spots in town, all feature both screenings and parallel events as a tribute to the seventh art. Visiting these cities during a festival reveals a different side to them. Instead of the conventional tourist escapade, it involves experiencing the city from a cultural viewpoint like any of its residents. To the above-mentioned cities we should add Rotterdam, famous for having one of the largest maritime harbours in the world. It is also an industrial centre and a capital of football, with three teams in the Dutch top-flight Eredivisie – Feyenoord, Sparta and Excelsior. Over and above that, however, Rotterdam is privileged to host a highly potent film festival which turns the city into one of the leading world cinema hubs for a period of twelve days.

This time around, the International Film Festival Rotterdam (its official name) will take place from 25 January to 5 February 2017, and the programme is dedicated to art house films, both European and international, and the leading figures of independent cinema. This year is dedicated to a retrospective of Jan Němec, one of the paramount filmmakers in Czech cinema, who died a few months ago. A tribute to his figure will involve screening his best known films, as well as a posthumous film, The Wolf from Royal Vineyard Street. The official festival lineup will feature the latest movies by Jim Jarmusch, Paterson and Gimme Danger, in addition to the long-awaited film, Jackie, by Pablo Larraín, starring Natalie Portman.

The focal point of the festival will be De Doelen, a venue with an eventful history in downtown Rotterdam. Its location gives you plenty of time to stroll around and discover the city between screenings. De Doelen was built in 1966 and is both a convention centre and the primary venue of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. The other cinemas providing screenings are also in the city centre, in such charming theatres as Oude Luxor and the Pathé Schouwburgplein. They are relatively near some museums which are well worth visiting, including the Maritime Museum, devoted to the importance of maritime culture and various aspects of sailing. Apart from the exhibition space, it features a canal in the surrounding area offering all types of parallel activities. The Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum is Rotterdam’s stellar art museum with an amazing collection, a dream come true for any painting enthusiast. Its exhibits include works by Salvador Dalí, Tintoretto, Hubert van Eyck, Willem Heda and Pieter Bruegel, among others, but it doesn’t stop there – the museum also covers other art disciplines (industrial design, installations, graffiti) and itinerant exhibitions that are refreshed each month. By the way – the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum is just a stone’s throw away from Museumpark, one of the city’s lungs and most beautiful parks.

Apart from the aforementioned films and cycles, the International Film Festival Rotterdam also hosts a number of out-of-the-ordinary special screenings. One of the most prominent is a whole, day-long session dedicated to children. This year it falls on Sunday 29 January and features a selection of films which the little ones can enjoy in the company of their parents. Other events worth mentioning include two short marathons to be hosted on 4 February. Lasting six hours each, they will be held in the Kino Rotterdam, a cinema where you can also have dinner or a drink, if you wish. Check out the rest of the festival events here.

Be sure to discover Rotterdam through the prism of its cinema festival – book your Vueling here.

Text by Xavi Sánchez for Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

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Rotterdam – the Finest Showcase of Contemporary Architecture

Situated in western Holland, on the final stretch of the river Meuse, the modernity breathed by Rotterdam is stunning, far removed from the usual image we have of European cities. Don’t expect to find a typical historic city centre, with a jumbled network of backstreets and time-worn buildings storied with its historical past. The city layout and its tall buildings are more reminiscent of New York’s Manhattan than other Dutch cities like Amsterdam or Utrecht.

The Bombing Raids and Nazi Occupation

The reason for this peculiarity – so to speak – goes back to the Second World War. On 14 May 1940, in a desperate attempt to secure the surrender of Rotterdam, the German air force bombarded the city to such an extent that hardly any building was left standing in the city centre. The air raids destroyed over 24,000 homes and led to the loss of around 800 lives.

Rising from the Ashes

After the city was liberated from the Nazis, unlike other European cities that set about restoring their historic centres as best they could, Rotterdam elected to start from scratch. In this respect, they did not hesitate to adopt the latest building trends, as evinced in every corner of the city. Herein lies Rotterdam’s chief appeal – a host of contemporary architectural discourses coexisting in harmony.

The Standout Features

As Rotterdam has a lot of architecture worth viewing, and one does not always have enough time to see it all, here is a selection of the major landmarks in the city:

The Erasmus Bridge – or Erasmusbrug – which connects the north and south parts of the city, is the work of Ben Van Berkel. Inaugurated in 1996, this imposing structure over the river Meuse has become a well-known landmark.

Near one end of the bridge are two emblematic buildings which can’t fail to attract one’s attention. One is the KPN Telecom Building, designed by Renzo Piano, one facade of which leans slightly towards the city. It is studded with green lights that generate different figures or messages. Just behind it stands “De Rotterdam”, a huge complex consisting of three inter-connected towers. Designed by Rem Koolhaas, it was inaugurated in 2013.

Another icon of Rotterdam, although of a much smaller size, are the Cube Houses (Kubuswoning), designed by the architect, Piet Blom. The original structure of these houses is the result of tilting the cubes 45 degrees and setting them on hexagonal pillars. The set of houses, made up of 32 cubes, has an unusual forest-like appearance. For those curious to see what they look like inside, there is one open to visitors.

The Kuntshal cultural centre, designed by Rem Koolhaas, is well worth seeing, both for the building itself and the collections it houses. The ample, 3,300 m2, of available space enables five exhibitions to be hosted in parallel. While it lacks its own, or a permanent, exhibition, it does act as an expositor for the latest trends in contemporary art.

The Central Library exterior, with its huge pipes painted in bright colours, is reminiscent of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, which provided the Van den Broek studio with the necessary inspiration to design this building. Opened in 1983, it is Holland’s largest public library. A quaint detail is the giant chess board inside.

The dazzling red covering the spectacular structure of the New Luxor Theatre is the first thing that catches one’s eye when approaching it. Opened in 2001, it is the work of the Australian architect, Peter Wilson. There are guided visits of the theatre interior and, for those of you who visit on your own, don’t miss the views to be had on the roof terrace.

The outstanding feature of Rotterdam Central (Centraal Station) is the entrance ceiling – shaped like a boomerang, it is made of stainless steel and covered in red-cedar panelling. Three teams of architects were commissioned to undertake the recent extension and remodelling project, namely Benthem Crouwel Architects, MVSA Meyer en Van Schooten Architecten and West 8.

Don’t miss out on one of Europe’s finest showcases of contemporary architecture – treat yourself to a Vueling, here.


Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación

Photos by bertknot, Franklin Heijnen, Luke Price, Tim van Vliet, Rory Hyde

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6 fascinating facts about eco-friendly Amsterdam

Amsterdam isn’t just coffee shops, the Van Gogh Museum and the Red-Light District: it’s also one of the most environmentally friendly and sustainable cities in Europe.

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Louvain, regarded as the Flemish Salamanca for its large student population during the academic year, is the ideal destination to head for on a getaway to Brussels as it is less than half an hour’s train ride away.

Louvain and its University

The university is a major feature of Louvain (Leuven, in Flemish). Not only is it a historic institution – it was founded in 1425 – but an international student magnet as it attracts large numbers of foreign Erasmus scholarship holders each year. Many of these will be unaware that Erasmus of Rotterdam, after whom the exchange programme of almost thirty years’ standing is named, actually used to lecture at Louvain University.

No wonder, then, that the population of this Flemish city increases by around 20,000 youngsters at the start of each academic year. They study during the day and hit the town by night, turning Louvain into one of the most fun spots in Europe. Come heat or cold, many of these students congregate in the Oude Markt, a square packed with cafés, pubs and restaurants, compounding what is considered to be Europe’s longest bar counter.

In the morning, many of these students make up for the previous night’s debauchery in the library, located in the Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein square. The library building, formerly sited on the Naamsestraat, was destroyed in World War I and rebuilt with Belgian and American funding. The square is embellished by a striking landmark – a beetle pierced by a huge, three-meter-high needle. It was unveiled in 2005 to mark the 575th anniversary of the University.

Louvain’s Historic City Centre

Some of the most emblematic buildings in Louvain, the capital of Flemish-Brabant province, are located in the Grote Markt or Main Square. The most remarkable landmark is the City Hall, an example of the mid-15th-century Brabantine Gothic, with over 230 small sculptures adorning the facade. Noteworthy, too, is St Peter’s Church with its unfinished, low belltower and the Neoclassical building known as the Round Table (Tafelrond), currently the site of the National Bank. Starting from the Grote Markt, if you head along Bondgenotenlaan street, you come to Martelarenplein (Martyrs’ Square) with its marked Spanish air, redesigned as it was by the architect, Manuel de Solà-Morales, between 1998 and 2004.

Like the city of Mechelen, Louvain has a magnificent, 12th-century Grand Béguinage. This secluded precinct is just a fifteen minute walk from the centre and once housed the Beguines, a female religious community that led an austere life. Covering an area of six hectares, the Grand Béguinage is now the residence of many exchange professors and Erasmus students. Bear in mind that Flemish beguinages are listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

Other places of interest include St Gertrude’s Abbey, the Church of St Michael – a masterpiece of the Flemish Baroque – and the statue of Fons Sapientiae (Source of Wisdom), by the Belgian artist, Jef Claerhout, which is decked out in different costumes at various times of the year.

Gastronomy and Beer in Louvain

Beer is a must in Louvain, and several beer routes have been set up, including a tour of the Domus brewery and that of Stella Artois, the best known brand in the city. Several restaurants in town offer menus paired with local beer, notably Zarza and EssenCiel, the latter situated on the crowded Muntstraat.

Now that you know how to find your way around Louvain, get your Vueling to Brussels and enjoy the university city!


Text by María Jesús Torné from tusdestinos.net

Images by Toerisme Leuven, Frédéric Van Hoof, milo-profi.be

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