‘Kralingen, oh Kralingen, zijn villa’s en zijn plas. Ja Kralingen zal toch wel altijd blijven hoe het was.’ (‘Kralingen, oh Kralingen, its villas and its lake. Yes, Kralingen will forever stay the way it’s always been’). That is probably the loudest line that everyone sings along with to the popular ode to Rotterdam. And not without reason: for years, Kralingen has been the student district par excellence. Close to the campus, bang in the middle of student life and right next to one of the most beautiful stretches of nature in Rotterdam. Do these advantages outweigh the high rents and the attraction of other city districts?
Maayke van der Lelie graduated last year with a bachelor’s in Communication and Media. The 22-year-old is now doing a gap year and has been living in Kralingen for the past three years. On this sunny, windy Thursday afternoon, she is sitting at the Il Capo outdoor café in Lusthofstraat. She lives around the corner, so every five minutes someone she knows says hello to her. “It’s like a village”, she laughs, “that’s how often you run into people you know here. My house is a mixed bunch with members from Laurentius, RVSV, Skadi and people who are not in any student society. This is one of the reasons why I have a large circle of friends and acquaintances. Plus, it gets you out of the bubble of your own student association, which is also nice sometimes.”
Pricey, but more than worth it
Finding a room in Kralingen was difficult, she says. That’s why she was forced to live in West for a few months. In her search for something better, she stumbled across a message from a fellow student in a Facebook group. “I went on Facebook for the sole purpose of finding a room, and was lucky that I saw that specific message from a fellow student.” At 490 euros a month, the rent is on the pricey side. “But it’s perfectly affordable with my part-time jobs at the GGD (Municipal Health Services, ed.), and as a babysitter. What I get in return is more than worth it.”
She has a spacious room, a communal lounge and a garden, but she is especially enthusiastic about the neighbourhood. “I can’t imagine a better place. Uni, the student association, pubs, restaurants, nature, all just around the corner. Whenever we meet up with my Laurentius year-club, we can always drop by my place. A few of our friends live in Prinsenland, a few in Noord, so Kralingen is easy for everyone to cycle to.”
After having a coffee and while walking down the Lusthofstraat, Maayke talks about what it was like to live in Kralingen during the past corona year. With the university, the student association and the pubs all shut, was it still fun? “Of course, it was different. But since I was taking a gap year, I didn’t have the struggles of studying online that I saw my housemates having. The social isolation wasn’t too bad either. Many of my friends live in the neighbourhood, so I was constantly running into people I knew. Especially in the Albert Heijn here, which became a kind of regular meeting place. Everyone was shopping non-stop! Sometimes you bumped into the same people three times a day because you had forgotten something or you were just bored.”
Whole other world
The fact that the Kralingse Plas is close by proved to be a welcome bonus last year. The green oasis north of the neighbourhood is for many students the perfect place to enjoy a barbecue and a beer, particularly on sunny days. The vast expanse of water is a three-minute bike ride from Maayke’s house.
“Whether it’s for a lawa [long walk, ed.], kowa [short walk, ed.], a round of inline skating or just chilling out, I can usually be found here two or three times a week. When my parents come by and I take them to the lake, they also have the impression that I don’t live in the city at all. No noise, no cars. As if you’re living in a village next to the forest. I love that peace and quiet. It’s only when I go shopping in the city centre and cycle along the Blaak that I realise: oh yeah, it’s pretty busy here. That’s great sometimes, but it’s a whole other world.”
It is a few minutes’ bike ride from the lake to the Oostplein, where a handful of student bars set the scene. Once we reach the iconic wooden façade of the Locus Publicus, the conversation turns to possible disadvantages of living in Kralingen. Not an easy question, as Maayke’s thoughtful gaze reveals. “Well, let’s see… The residents really only come in two flavours: student or rich. That’s why the shops are so expensive, so that is something that could be improved. As far as housing is concerned, in principle, it is also possible to find an affordable place via Stadswonen or SSH, although those waiting lists are pretty daunting.”
Essentially, Maayke has everything she needs in Kralingen. “I usually go to my student society or have a drink here on the Oostplein, for instance. If you’re not in a student association and you go out in the city more often, it’s a bit of a bike ride. So, for someone else, Kralingen may not necessarily be the best neighbourhood. But for me, it’s absolutely perfect. It’s not that I avoid the rest of the city, but basically everything happens here: from work to hanging out with my friends and how I spend my spare time. Sometimes I don’t leave the neighbourhood for weeks at a time.”
With a huge smile, she adds: “Kralingen is a bit of a bubble, but a very fun and friendly one. I’m really comfy with living here over the coming year for my masters.”