Interesting modern architecture, a summer full of festivals, friendly local folk and the largest port in Europe: There are more than enough reasons to visit Rotterdam, and in 2009 it promises to live up to its reputation as the first European Youth Capital.

There is always something to do here, but how can you visit to the Netherlands’ most exciting city the cheap way?

Rotterdam attracts a great deal of international interest as a city of architecture. In the Second World War, the heart of the city was almost completely destroyed by the German Luftwaffe, and was rebuilt during the 1950s through the 1970s. Over the years, many modern buildings were erected all over the city, resulting in the most beautiful skyline in the country. This innovative and adventurous period after the war is expressed in striking buildings, such as the Cube houses, Groothandelsgebouw, the Kunsthal art gallery, the Luxor Theatre and the Erasmus Bridge. The best way to see all of these buildings is to roam the city by bike. It’s cheap, fun, and very Dutch. Rotterdam ByCycle offers several cycle tours showcasing the city’s highlights, led by an enthusiastic guide, for groups of six or more.

Rotterdam is also famous for its port, the biggest in Europe. From a Spido boat tour, you can see the gigantic throughput facilities, which are shifting further towards the sea all the time.

Another must see is the Rotterdam Zoo. Diergaarde Blijdorp is one of the most popular daytime attractions in the Netherlands. The most interesting feature at Diergaarde Blijdorp is the Oceanium. Feast your eyes as you journey through this enchanting water world filled with marine dwellers, including polar bears, exotic fish, puffins, playful sea otters, snakes, sharks and jellyfish.

And last but not least: The festivals. Rotterdam is well-known for its big events, especially throughout the summer season. From Formula One cars in the streets during the Bavaria City Race to Caribbean dancers at the Summer Carnival, experiencing all of these cool events won’t cost you a cent. How sweet.

The best budget accommodation
In Europe’s first theme hostel ROOM, you can sleep for cheap in the liveliest neighbourhood in the city. There are sixteen different themed rooms, a bar, several games and a relaxed Dutch atmosphere where you’ll feel at home right away.

The best budget restaurant
Hotel New York is one of the most famous places in Rotterdam. Many Europeans left for America on ships that left from the docks here, in one of the oldest parts of the city. Hotel New York now has a very good restaurant. Sitting on the Wilhelminapier pier, you’ll have a great view of the city centre.

The best budget shopping area
Just past the World Trade Centre is a famous street called Meent, lined with unique, intimate and exclusive shops. For beautiful gifts and home accessories try Face 1 Design, and for a total new budget outfit, go to Cheap Fashion.

The best budget drinking

In front of Rotterdam’s town hall you’ll find the Stadhuisplein, where you can visit numerous pubs, bars and cafés. Have a beer at the Plein Café, a good wine at Saint-Tropez, and finish your evening in the Après Skihut, where you’ll be welcomed by some real Heidis from Austria. By the way, the Dutch word for cheers is “Proost!”

The best budget going out

WATT is the first sustainable dance club in the world. With an energy-generating dance floor, zero-waste bars and toilets flushed with rainwater, it shows that doing your part for the environment doesn’t have to be boring. Every week there’s live music, while on the weekends the biggest DJs spin their records.

If you go
• Read up on Rotterdam at www.rotterdam.info.

On a dime
Three free activities

• The National Museum Weekend: On April 4 and 5, you can visit many of Rotterdam’s museums for free or heavily discounted.

• The Metro Wednesday Night Skate: Take part in Netherland and Belgium’s biggest skate tour as it rolls through the city’s hotspots. No cars allowed!

• The Dance Parade: Every year, dance-lovers from all over Europe come to Rotterdam for the Dance Parade. Trucks with the best DJs and hottest dancers drive through the city centre.