The History of Rotterdam's Central Station

The History of Rotterdam's Central Station

The Beginnings, 1957-2008

On Friday May 10, 1940, the Luftwaffe began bombing the city of Rotterdam and by the following Tuesday had destroyed the entire historical city center. It was because of this blitz by the German army that one of Rotterdam’s four stations, ​​Delftsche Poort, became badly damaged. However, the Dutch would rebuild, and seventeen years later, on Wednesday March, 1957, Rotterdam’s first central station was born (Rotterdam Centraal Station, n.d.).

The new station was built west of Delftsche Poort and opened to the public on Tuesday May 21, 1957. It was designed by one of Rotterdam’ own, an architect by the name of Sybold van Ravesteyn (Rotterdam Centraal Station, n.d.). van Ravesteyn’s modern design featured an entrance with a large expansive glass facade. On both ends of this facade ran two floors of office space. However, to make them look taller, van Ravesteyn designed each floor with horizontal glass bands running the length of the offices. Stretching beyond these offices were large flowing granite covered walkways, giving the original Rotterdam Central Station a very grand, all-encompassing, appearance (den Boer, 2016).

At each end of the original station, van Ravesteyn had planned to commission sculptures from Henry Moore, an English artist. However, commissioning Moore would have been too expensive, so instead an employee named JH Baas created large flat stone structures. These pieces would go on to survive the original station's closing in 2007, and demolition in 2008 (den Boer, 2016). Today, they can be found inside the present day Rotterdam central station, at either end of the bicycle tunnel.

The Smurf Blue Years, 2007-2014

By 2007, Rotterdam Central Station was dealing with an ever-increasing number of trains, including a high speed line that ran between Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris. To support this growth, a new station would need to be constructed, and so a temporary station was built on Conrad Street, just outside of today’s entrance (and behind the Groothandelsgebouw - a large office building also located outside Rotterdam Central’s entrance). This temporary station was known for its vibrant blue color and yellow signage. Nowadays, you’d be forgiven if you mistook a photo of it for a modern day Ikea.

Although the temporary station itself was not entirely remarkable, outside of its blue color, it served an important role in allowing Rotterdam Central Station to evolve into the station that we know and love today. Buildings, such as it, are necessary to make major transformations and Rotterdam’s growth required some major changes.

During the smurf-blue years, Rotterdam Central station opened a new passenger tunnel that was six times as large as the original and they renovated the bike tunnel (which had served as the passenger tunnel while construction on the new one was completed).

New Beginnings, 2014-Present

In 2004, the contract for constructing the new station was awarded to Team CS - a group of organisations consisting of Benthem Crouwel Architekten (the architects responsible for the modern design of the new structure), MVSA Meyer & Van Schooten Architects, and West 8. 

On Sunday September 2, 2007, the original Rotterdam Central Station was closed for good. It had been open for 50 years and now would make way for an even better station. Starting on Wednesday January 16, 2008 demolition on the old central station began and was completed just a couple months later, at the end of March.

Construction of the new station remained ongoing until its completion in 2014. On Thursday, March 13, 2014, King Willem-Alexander officially opened the present day Rotterdam Central Station. 

The new station features a grand glass facade, reminiscent of the original station, and is encapsulated by a metal roofline that angles skyward, like an upside-down Nike swoosh. Speaking of the original station, at the request of Rotterdam’s citizens, the “Centraal Station” lettering from the original building is now featured along the outside of the new station’s glass entrance. So, even though the original station is gone, some of it still lives on (Rotterdam Centraal Station, n.d.).

Today, Rotterdam Central Station has obtained a status as a world station thanks to its inclusion on the international railway line, HSL-South – a high-speed rail line that stretches 125km (~78mi) from Amsterdam to the Belgian border with trains capable of speeds from 160-25km/h (100-155mi/h) (HSL-Zuid, n.d.). This allows for quick, efficient travel between The Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Germany. Additionally, thanks to a 2020 agreement between The Netherland’s Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and the UK’s Department for Transport, travellers can now disembark from Rotterdam to the UK, without having to deal with immigration controls (which had been the norm prior to Brexit) (Rotterdam Centraal Station, n.d.).


den Boer, A. (2016, August 8). Sybold van Ravesteyn, an exceptional Dutch railway architect. Retours. Retrieved April 13, 2022, from

HSL-Zuid. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved April 16, 2022, from

Rotterdam Centraal. (2015, January 10). Dutch Design Daily. Retrieved April 16, 2022, from

Rotterdam Centraal station. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved April 13, 2022, from

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