Despite gaining city status in 1340, Rotterdam's architectural landscape is relatively young and modern. The South Holland port city underwent a major 20th Century facelift thanks to Germany's "Luftwaffe" (air force) during World War II. The German strategy, to use Rotterdam as an example of its destruction capability, succeeded, nearly completely decimating the city and causing the Dutch to surrender without further resistance. Approximately one square-mile was fully leveled, destroying 25,000+ homes, 2,000+ stores, 775 warehouses, 62 schools and 24 churches. Laurenskerk ("St. Lauren's church") is the only structure to have survived the onslaught and is the only example of Rotterdam's medieval architecture (est. 1500's).
As a result, over the 20+ years following the War, Rotterdam was rebuilt. While possibly disappointing historians, the city's modern architecture is a tribute to Dutch resurgence and determination. Instead of cobbled streets, celebrated monuments, and historic buildings, visitors will encounter wider thoroughfares, better for joggers and cyclists, and cutting edge building design. The sprawling, harp-like Erasmus Bridge, now the city's signature landmark, is crossed twice by participants in the Rotterdam Marathon. And the famous Kubuswoningen "Cube Houses" designed by Dutchman Piet Blom exemplify the "structuralism" movement in architecture.
While Amsterdam may be the Netherlands financial and business capital, Rotterdam is Europe's largest port and arguably the more important commercial city.