Recently voted the ‘best bar in the world’ by Lonely Planet readers, Rotterdam’s Witte Aap fills up quickly, even on a quiet Monday afternoon. There has been a surge in interest since it was awarded the title but the bar has always been popular with locals as well as tourists.
With voters rating the Witte Aap ('white ape') above drinking holes everywhere from New York to New Delhi, owner Ron Sterk, who took it over eight years ago, says he was surprised but honoured to be awarded the title.
“The travellers who come to Rotterdam are mostly very interested in architecture and museums and galleries, and they come to this street because its one of the nicest in Rotterdam. They come in the bar and the people who work here have good suggestions about restaurants or bands playing. It’s very personal. The visitors here are very free-spirited, open minded people and there’s good interaction between all kinds of people.”
A white gorilla
Named after Snowflake the white gorilla, who lived in Barcelona’s zoo during the 1970s, the Witte Aap looks like a fairly typical Dutch brown café during the daytime but its ability to attract local people as well as visitors to Rotterdam means it is rarely empty.
Fun on tap
Mohammed, who recently moved round the corner, says: “The greatest thing about this bar is that you can have fun every day of the week.
“In the evening there are people who just finished work, and after 10pm the crowd who love to have a beer until 3 am. All day you can have fun here.”
The all-male bar staff ensure a steady stream of female customers; Sterk says one of the bar’s selling points is that women feel comfortable when they come on their own.
But barman Cornell Wink, who has worked there for a year, says it’s also about the atmosphere.
“It’s not special but we’re a small team and very close. In the past women have worked here but now we have only men and it works very well. We attract a lot of lovely ladies but it’s not the only reason people come.
“Some folks come over to see whether this is the best bar in the world… Usually they’re kind of disappointed since it’s very small and not in your face. It’s just a bar, but it’s a very good bar.”
Listen to a full report on the Witte Aap