“Let’s get above the noise,” our enthusiastic guide instructs us as we stand with our eyes closed, bathed in sunshine in the middle of the farm.
There are a few chickens scratching around their large coup to my right and pretty purple, pink and yellow flowers growing to my left.
In the distance is the sound of trams, cars and the bustle of a city beneath our feet.
We’re seven storeys above the streets in DakAkker – the largest open-air roof farm in the Netherlands and one of the biggest in Europe.
The place epitomises Rotterdam’s forward-thinking approach to their city, which focuses on making the best use of space while being environmentally friendly.
Here are the best ways to see the Dutch city on a high.
Esther Wienese and her colleagues at Inside Rotterdam offer year-round private guided rooftop tours in English. Take a peek at rooftops normally inaccessible to the public, such as the top of the Atlanta NH Hotel, which is one of the oldest rooftop terraces in Rotterdam – built before the Second World War.
From the rootftop of the St Laurenshuis office building – used by staff from various firms as a social lunch venue – we get a wonderful view of the only remaining late Gothic building in Rotterdam, Sint-Laurenskerk church. The bells of the church, which were badly damaged during the war, ring out to the tune of Danny Boy as we admire the view. Also open to tourists, the Luchtpark (air park) on top of the old Station Hofplein is a great place to survey the city’s rooftops while perched on one of several artificial sheep dotted across the grass.
At weekends, tour groups can climb the 11-storey Witte Huis (WhiteHouse), taking in what the guides describe as a “remarkable 360 degree view” of the city. This pretty 45-metre high building was the first Dutch skyscraper, and was once Europe’s tallest office building.
Only fully accessible to visitors as part of an organised tour, this rooftop farm features plant pollinating honey bee colonies and “worm hotels” where compost is made.
DakAkker claims to have the smartest roof in the Netherlands, due to its ability to store water according to the forecast. If extreme rainfall is expected, a smartflow control responds by making extra water storage capacity available 24 hours in advance.
If you’re not part of a tour you can still enjoy a coffee and waffle fries for less than €10/£8.50 at DakAkker’s cafe Ted’s All Day Brunch. On Fridays, watch volunteers harvest mint, beetroot, rhubarb and edible flowers.
Surrounded by a forest, planted on the top floor of the Depot, Renilde restaurant promises wild dining 34.5 metres above ground.
Guests are served a surprise menu of at least four courses accompanied by wine pairings, with a guarantee that ingredients will be seasonal, fresh and generally locally-supplied.
My delightful dessert of white peach sorbet, almond cream and jasmine tea pearls is set down in front of me – decorated with edible flowers grown at farm in the sky, DakAkker.
Where to stay
Just a few minutes’ walk from Rotterdam Centraal train station, Hotel Not Hotel is a feast for the eyes. Bedroom doors are hidden behind bright red bookcases and a vertical swimming pool runs through one corridor – making it extremely Instagrammable.
The hotel group, which also has accommodation in Amsterdam, teamed up with artists to create wacky designs for its rooms. While it might not be a five-star stay and some of the rooms are fairly compact, the bed is like sleeping on a cloud. It’s all-red restaurant/bar area – Jesús Malverde – is a great spot for a margarita and some Mexican street food.
Work on the Hofbogenpark – dubbed Rotterdam’s Highline – is due to start in 2024 and when it is completed, it will be the longest and narrowest roof park in the Netherlands, where visitors can stroll in a colourful and fragrant landscape high above the city.
Eurostar offers three direct services a day from London St Pancras International to Rotterdam Centraal. Visit eurostar.com. Doubles at Hotel Not Hotel in high season cost from £86. Visit hotelnothotelrotterdam.com
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