A set of recent green-minded urban-renewal initiatives has propelled Rotterdam, the Netherlands’ youngest and most multicultural city, even further into the future. Rem Koolhaas is to thank for the freshly completed De Rotterdam complex—with three mixed-use glass towers that sit CGI-like on a previously barren stretch of the south bank of the Maas River—as well as the Nhow hotel (from $176; nhow-rotterdam.com), where the 30-meter-high terrace overlooks the port. The city’s central train station has been overhauled with a brand-new retail strip; a short stroll away are Michelin-star-winning chef François Geurds’s two restaurants: the seasonal FG Food Labs, and FG, whose tasting menu includes quail jelly and venison.
Drive two and a half hours from Rotterdam past rolling farmland to Lauwersoog, and catch the 45-minute ferry. Arrive at the smallest of the Wadden Islands—technically a national park—where only a few of its 950 residents have permits to keep vehicles. But either a bus or cab will zip you to one of the island’s B&Bs like Herberg Rijsbergen (from $141; hotelrijsbergen.nl). Travel pristine dunes on horseback—a guided jaunt along the desolate beach costs $48—or take advantage of the many bike paths. Most restaurants close at nine (night owls tend to opt for nearby Texel), but enjoy a drink with the locals at the Hotel van der Werff taproom, and stroll home under the cover of darkness: The only light is from the 19th-century red lighthouse on the western edge of the island.