Rotterdam, The Netherlands
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The largest port in Europe, Rotterdam is an intriguing mix of the old and the new. The city's lineage is ancient - Count Willem III granted city rights to the sleepy fishing village on the Rotte in 1328, yet much of the city dates from the six decades following the end of World War II. An important industrial center and a major European port, Rotterdam was among the first targets of the Nazi blitzkrieg against the West. On May 14, 1940, the German Luftwaffe firebombed the city, Rotterdam was gutted. The post-war years saw a slow rebuilding but by the early 1960s the maze of port facilities extended all the way to the North Sea. Today, this city of over half a million is the economic powerhouse, not just of the Netherlands but of Northern Europe.
The Nazi bombardment of 1940 gutted most of the old city. As a result, Rotterdam's architecture is an intriguing mix of old and new: modern glass skyscrapers often stand adjacent to 19th- and 18th-century buildings.