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Van Nellefabriek

By Zoe

What is the Van Nellefabriek? 

Van Nellefabriek is a factory complex near Rotterdam that dates to the 1920s. Its design followed a new concept in architecture: factory facades of steel and glass, allowing ample daylight in, and with spaces designed to be adaptable to possible changes in how they were used.

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Text: Van Nellefabriek, Netherlands.
Images: Top, front of the factory with large glass windows. Big letters on the top read "Van Nelle". Bottom, view of the white colored factory along a narrow canal.

Why is the Van Nellefabriek a UNESCO World Heritage site?

The Van Nellefabriek has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2015. According to UNESCO, its 20th-century design “embodies the new kind of factory that became a symbol of the modernist and functionalist culture of the inter-war period.” Since it was built, it has “become an emblematic example and an influential reference throughout the world.”

A view of the Van Nellefabriek from the side: the building is white with rows of big windows, closely set, on all 8-9 floors.

What can you expect on a visit to the Van Nellefabriek? 

The Van Nellefabriek buildings are still in use. On a visit today, you can see that many companies own sections of it. This changes often as each office is rented out. There are also art events here as well as other weekend events such as a pop-up market for second-hand goods. I have personally also visited during a market event and had lots of fun seeing the historical building alongside shopping. 

The building is also popular among photographers within the Netherlands, for its history and architectural design. In rain or sunshine, this building can be very photogenic with the specific details and beautiful glass lines reflecting the light.

Is the Van Nellefabriek worth visiting? 

If you have a reason to visit, such as to visit a company that is based in one of the buildings or for a photography session, then it’s nice. Once admitted, you can walk around a little and see the building. However, if you don’t really have a reason to visit, then I would suggest that it is not worth visiting. There is security at the entrance; it is not strict but they don’t want random people walking around without a purpose either. 

A view of the factory from the side, along a narrow canal. A white building with horizontal lines and rows of windows, and the words Van Nelle standing up on the roof.

What sorts of travelers would like Van Nellefabriek? 

If you are interested in modern architecture, you’ll likely want to visit Rotterdam anyway, so you could at least stop at the Van Nellefabriek and see it from the outside.

Visiting the Van Nellefabriek on the inside, though, is generally reserved for those visiting one of the companies or attending events held there. As mentioned, it’s also great for photographers whose style is architecture.

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Tips for visiting the Van Nellefabriek

It’s a unique location with lots of companies these days, so it’s not a good idea to visit during working hours when it’s busy, unless you have an appointment with one of the companies. Visit on a weekend or during an event to enjoy the location most. When visiting, respect the businesses and their office spaces, so don’t enter a location you shouldn’t.

The Van Nellefabriek combines well with a visit to the city of Rotterdam, known for its modern architecture. Get inspired to visit Rotterdam‘s museums, shopping areas or just to relax. 

Looking up at the front of the Van Nellefabriek: lots of glass, with white horizontal panels at the floor of each story. Big letters on the roof that read "Van Nelle".

Where is Van Nellefabriek? 

Its address is Van Nelleweg 1, 3044 BC Rotterdam. You can get to Rotterdam by train from anywhere in the Netherlands or neighboring countries. From Rotterdam Central station, you can reach the Van Nellefabriek by bike or bus, taking only 10-15 minutes. By car, you can also reach it from other cities easily, such as from Den Haag within 25 minutes and from Amsterdam within 55 minutes.

For more information about the Van Nellefabriek and the general opening hours, see its official website

Text and photos by Zoe of Together In Transit.

Have you been to the Van Nellefabriek? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

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