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Stories from the local pub: “absolutely authentic Rotterdam”

Various neighbourhood residents reminisce in a local pub about the Hoogkwartier district. About the bull that ran riot at the Cattle Market.

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A local pub can offer a wealth of stories about the neighbourhood. Recalling anecdotes about the past is sometimes easier with a pint in front of you. Café Rubens on Hoogstraat is one of those local pubs. Various locals spent an evening reminiscing about the neighbourhood and their memories.

Proper entertainment

A pub or café has occupied the premises of Café Rubens since 1952, but not always under its current name. The place has also been known as the Thalia Bar; it was an ‘entertainment bar’ back then, but “a proper establishment”, according to one of the regulars. It became a pub later; the current landlord has been running the place since September 2013. He hopes that the pub will also bring in some fresh faces. A prominent feature on the wall of the café is a huge historic photo of Hoogstraat from before World War Two.

The place has also been known as the Thalia Bar; it was an ‘entertainment bar’ back then, but “a proper establishment”

The old cattle market

One of the regulars - “we aren’t going to talk about the past” - has been living for years in the Wereldhaven neighbourhood, tucked away between Warande and Goudsesingel. Wereldhaven, which was a highly modern, ideal place to live by the standards of that time, used to be right next to the cattle market. “They herded the cows right down the street there.” There was a huge contrast between the modern, meticulously designed, uniform buildings of Wereldhaven and the old-school bustle of the cattle market. One of the bulls broke loose once, the man telling the story recalls. He ran right across the neat and tidy Wereldhaven neighbourhood and across Goudsesingel. The creature ran straight through the window of Mr Koster’s car showroom on Goudsesingel. Another bull ended up in the man’s stairwell. The lady living beside him couldn’t leave her home until the bull was collected.

“We aren’t going to talk about the past”


The Wereldhaven local says that it’s still a quiet neighbourhood. No large families have moved into the area; the homes are simply too small for that. Social control is still strong here; local residents still keep their stairwells neat and tidy. And it’s a very green area: “you can walk right into green spaces here”.

Lots of people

A number of businesses that attracted quite a few patrons were situated in the Hoogkwartier area. Boomerang, a well-known eatery on Goudsesingel, brought in lots of people. And the Industry Building, of course, which housed some solid companies as well. Slightly farther along, behind the garage that was on Kipstraat at the time, there was an illegal gambling house. When the pub regulars were asked whether shady characters patronised the gambling house, the silence was deafening.

Friendly exchanges

Another man in the pub doesn’t currently live in the area, but he used to work in Mariniershof as a municipal employee. It was one of the most pleasant neighbourhoods to work in, he says, with everything close at hand. The service courtyards were a bit grim and the neighbourhood was a bit of a “lost zone” in the 1980s. It’s much more lively now. “There are more friendly exchanges.”


Another regular says he still runs a business nearby and grew up in the area. “Hoogkwartier, the Hoogstraat district; that’s what they’re calling it now,” he notes. He used to play football behind the library, on a field that still stood empty back then. “Or you played football on the street, and then the police officer came by and kicked your ball away. And you ran home crying, but your mother or father sided with the police officer.”

“Hoogkwartier, the Hoogstraat district; that’s what they’re calling it now”

Tailored to the locals

The regulars are not all equally positive about the buildings in the neighbourhood, but they are not particularly negative either. The architecture isn’t pretty, but it serves its purpose. It’s a practical environment. “It’s tailored to the locals. It is absolutely authentic Rotterdam.” The Industry Building is very much appreciated. A local resident comments that the building always used to be a hotbed of activity, but those days are over now. The industry has moved on. All those present confirm that prosperous businessmen used to be the neighbourhood’s main residents. It’s still a great place to live, especially compared to the rest of the city centre. Rent is more affordable here. It’s a forgotten neighbourhood, though: “the average age is getting older”. The general consensus is immediate: “let’s keep it that way!”

It’s a practical environment. “It’s tailored to the locals. It is absolutely authentic Rotterdam.”
The story of
Café Rubens