Amsterdam and Rotterdam: actors in the European dynamic

Port of Rotterdam. Currently Europe’s busiest port in terms of traffic, the expansion of the port of Rotterdam was made possible through the construction of artificial platforms out at sea. Its extensive, high quality navigable network assured it a strategic communication axis towards Central Europe.


At the end of the 15th century, in the wake of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish crown, the port of Amsterdam overtook that of Antwerp. This marked the beginning of a long period of prosperity for Amsterdam, symbolised by the Dutch East India Company (VOC), which lasted until the end of the 18th century. In the 19th century, the growing difficulty for large, ocean-going ships to access the port contributed to Amsterdam’s decline in attractiveness. The construction of the Nieuwe Waterweg in the 1870s gave the advantage to Rotterdam, which was also well connected to a German hinterland undergoing an industrial boom. Rotterdam gradually established itself as Europe’s foremost port, and was the busiest port in the world until the early 21st century.