22 In Dark Tourism/ Europe/ Netherlands/ Rotterdam

Maastunnel Tour Behind The Scenes

Maastunnel tour north side viewpoint

Have you ever wondered what its like in the non-public areas of the famous Rotterdam Maas Tunnel? With a Maastunnel tour offered by the Gemeente Rotterdam you can now explore the behind the scenes! It’s currently only given in Dutch by an enthusiastic volunteer. But dont let that stop you as it’s pretty cool to be able to tour through the building and usually unaccessible areas.  

We had reserved two spots on a Saturday in May to join the Maastunnel tour. This was a group of max 15 people. The website (also only in Dutch for now) is not clear what you would be really seeing or how long it would take, so we reserved a 12:30pm spot and made no plans afterwards just in case.

The tour started at the South side of the tunnel at the Ventilation building. We were greeted by our friendly tour guide Kim, who had been volunteering for a while now. Signing a consent form and gathering together in a clean room with drinks, we were ready to explore!

Maastunnel tour viewpoint of Euromast in Rotterdam

About the Maastunnel

Opened in 1942, the Maas Tunnel was the first sunken and rectangular tunnel constructed in the Netherlands. It was also the first tunnel that could accomodate cars to drive through. The 1373 metre tunnel connects Rotterdam North and South.

On average per day there are up to 75,000 motor vehicles and 5000 cyclists/pedestrians using the tunnel.

What you get to visit

As it was not clear on the website, here is a summary of what we got to see during the tour in order:

  • The ventilation building on the South side of Rotterdam
  • Working and storage areas (new escalators currently being installed)
  • Plan B pipe in WW2 – read below for more info!
  • The walkway tunnel
  • The camera and security control room on North side of Rotterdam
  • Underneath the escalators!

The Maastunnel Tour

South Side Maastunnel

The Ventilation Building

Being lead straight from the coffee room, we were greeted with 8 ventilation pumps up the first stairs. There were 4 that sucked the air out and 4 that would push air in. Even though they were not all in use, they had all been maintained and well kept. We were told that the North side building was a complete replica of the South side.

Maastunnel tour me standing next to one of the pumps

Maastunnel tour pumps

Maastunnel tour pumps

Working and Storage Areas

From here you are guided deep below the ground to the storage levels, currently where the new escalators are being stored. Everything is a little tight and small to walk around, with the stairs being pretty steep too! Explanations on each level gave us an impression to work life in the tunnel.

Maastunnel tour new escalators being installed

Maastunnel tour stairs to the 4th level

WW2 Plan B

On level 2 from the storage levels we are shown a pipe and a blocked off hole where the pipe used to go. This pipe was basically plan B to WW2. German soldiers had placed TNT on the ceiling of the car tunnel, with wiring that lead outside where they could blow the tunnel onto oncoming Dutch troops. However three Dutch soldiers were hidden within the Maas Tunnel storage area for 3 days, waiting for the right moment to cut the wires.

If they were not successful, water from the Maas could have been let in through the pipe to flood the tunnel to block it. This was made possible as the tunnel was being constructed during the War from 1937 to 1942. Due to the timing, there was actually no official opening ceremony, but in secret the Dutch did celebrate without Nazi participation. 

The 3 Dutch soldiers were hiding behind this storage door, that can be found above the car tunnel.

Maastunnel tour storage door

Maastunnel Facts:

  • The oldest sunken tunnel in the Netherlands
  • Length = 1373 metres (including access roads) / 1070 metres (underground only)
  • Depth = 20 metres below sea level 

We had some little viewpoint of the car tunnel too. This included seeing how the emergency exits look for pedestrian. I think seeing this turned out to be one my coolest photos!

Maastunnel tour looking through to the car tunnel

North Side Maastunnel

The Walkway Tunnel

Taking the walking tunnel through to the North side, we headed to the control room. A security guard was spotted though our guided tour while walking down to the walkway tunnel.

Maastunnel tour security guard looking through the window

Maastunnel tour walkway tunnel

The Camera and Security Control Room

No photography was obviously allowed in the control room, however employees on duty explained what kind of things are monitored. We could also see for ourselves all the cameras in use throughout the car, walking and bike tunnel sections. It was interesting to see how you can follow an on duty police car moved across the screens one by one.

Underneath the Escalators

Lastly on the Maastunnel tour, and what I think was the coolest, was taking some stairs below the escalators to see underneath! Here we could see two escalators moving which the general public was using above us. Two were not in use and under construction. We found it very interesting to see below how it all looks and the behind the scenes of the machinists.

Maastunnel tour escalator room underneath the building

Conclusion

In total the tour took around 1.5 hours and we had plenty of time at each spot to ask questions and take photos. As it was just a group of 15 we could all easily move around and hear our volunteer tour guide Kim really well too. I was a little worried since my native language is not Dutch but I could follow really well.

As this tour is only in Dutch we can only recommend it those who can understand Dutch. Understanding the history behind the locations will otherwise be limited. However it is pretty awesome to go behind the scenes, and as an expat in the Netherlands I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Rotterdam and the history behind the tunnel.

If you are interested in taking the tour yourself, you can find the contact details on the Gilde Rotterdam: Tour Website.

Maastunnel tour old police telephone

Tips:

  • Suitable shoes for the steep stairs
  • Ask questions – tour guide knows rather a lot!
  • You start the tour on the South side of the Maas but you can end it on the North.  You finish the Maastunnel tour there, else you just need to walk back through the tunnel.

Pin for later:

Take a guided tour in the Maastunnel in Rotterdam. Take a guided tour in the Maastunnel in Rotterdam.

Take a guided tour in the Maastunnel in Rotterdam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you taken this tour before or wondered about the history of the Maas Tunnel? Let us know in the comments!
Are you looking for more things to do in Rotterdam? Check out our posts here

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    Amy
    13th June 2018 at 11:48 am

    What a neat way to find out more about the place you’re visiting! There aren’t many places where you get to explore a tunnel!

    • Reply
      Togetherintransit
      13th June 2018 at 1:19 pm

      Thanks for commenting Amy! We sure did love it as it’s not the typical touristic thing to do, but found it very interesting with the building process during WW2.

  • Reply
    Emily
    13th June 2018 at 12:22 pm

    I’ve only been to Rotterdam once and I must admit that no, I had never thought about it! But I LOVE this kind of thing—truly a behind-the-scenes experience.

    • Reply
      Togetherintransit
      13th June 2018 at 1:20 pm

      Thank you Emily. These things are not often advertised to tourists either so it’s hard to miss! We loved these things too and hope others will enjoy it after us 🙂

  • Reply
    Ketki
    13th June 2018 at 6:36 pm

    Was this started recently? I did not hear about it when i lived in Rotterdam in 2015! Looks like a good experience.

    • Reply
      Togetherintransit
      14th June 2018 at 11:47 am

      I only discovered the tour this year so its possible that its rather new! Are you not living here no more? You’ve left a great city! 🙂

  • Reply
    Kathryn
    13th June 2018 at 6:58 pm

    Fascinating… and kinda creepy! I can imagine this as a set for a scary movie!

    • Reply
      Togetherintransit
      14th June 2018 at 11:48 am

      Completely agree! I loved the eerie feel to it walking around the off limit areas. Some sections had lights blinking too, just waiting for someone to jump out!

  • Reply
    Rosie
    13th June 2018 at 7:02 pm

    How interesting to get behind the scenes. I bet it was really cool to see the bottom side of a working escalator. I LOVE learning about stuff like the three soldiers stashed behind the door.

    • Reply
      Togetherintransit
      14th June 2018 at 11:50 am

      It was truely facinating and I didn’t even know about the WW2 story until the tour! There is also an organization that will also reuse the old escalators and recreate them into benches – a great initiative for recyling unique old material in Rotterdam.

  • Reply
    Mayi Mac
    13th June 2018 at 8:11 pm

    This is an interesting way of discovering a city or learning about its history. I mean there all these things happening beelow our feets that don’t pay attention to. Engineering is a beautiful thing! Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Togetherintransit
      14th June 2018 at 11:51 am

      Thank you for commenting Mayi! Seeing as Rotterdam was mostly bombed in WW2, this type of tour is unique to see and hear stories of how Rotterdam was before and during the war. Many unique buildings in Rotterdam now are very modern and abstract compared to cities like Amsterdam and Delft.

  • Reply
    Mohana
    13th June 2018 at 10:12 pm

    This is such an offbeat thing to do in Rotterdam. Never heard of it! The tunnel looks cools with all those machinery and neon signs.

    • Reply
      Togetherintransit
      14th June 2018 at 11:53 am

      Thanks for commenting Mohana! We loved it, tours like this really give you information of how a city also was back before the war and bombing of Rotterdam.

  • Reply
    Catherine
    14th June 2018 at 4:07 am

    Interesting to know and read about a maastunnel tour. I honestly haven’t been to a place like this but seems of course, very nice! It’s a kind of different tour. In the Philippines, going on a tour like this could be prohibited, unsure but mostly tunnels aren’t for tours or sightseeing . lol anyways, love your outfit, looks sexy and comfy!

    • Reply
      Togetherintransit
      14th June 2018 at 11:57 am

      Thank you Catherine – I was super comfy with my outfit choice 🙂 And Yes these type of tours are usually off bounds – I believe it’s a fairly new tour (for small groups at a time) as they are resurfacing the tunnel road and walls so it might also be temporary! We definitely enjoyed this ‘different’ urban tour than the usual city tours we do!

  • Reply
    Marvi
    14th June 2018 at 4:32 pm

    Too bad about the tour being offered in Dutch. I’m pretty sure a lot of people (especially those engineering geeks like me) will enjoy this! I’m particularly curious on seeing how escalators work from underneath. I’ve seen some pretty scary accidents of people on the escalator on FB that it’ll be good to understand the machine more… I’d agree about your photo of the emergency exits, btw.. Cool shot!

    • Reply
      Togetherintransit
      14th June 2018 at 10:47 pm

      Thank you for kind words Marvi 🙂 I completely agree with your statement and that I hope it will also be offered in English soon – perfect for those visiting the city and want to explore these things more. Underneath the escalators were pretty awesome, I didn’t have a clue what they would look like until I was below them!!

  • Reply
    Liza - Studying the World
    15th June 2018 at 2:33 pm

    Interesting look behind the scenes! I’m still to visit Rotterdam, and this looks like a nice place to visit, particularly if they will start tours in English!

    • Reply
      Togetherintransit
      16th June 2018 at 10:54 am

      Thank you for commenting Liza! Hopefully soon they do them in English too 🙂

  • Reply
    Siarra | Wander.Focus.Love
    15th June 2018 at 7:41 pm

    I wish I understood Dutch! I enjoyed the shot beaneath the escalators–it’s always fun to see happens behind the scenes.

    Slightly related, lol, I got to see what went on behind the scenes in a hotel and loved it. I didn’t even know all those extra rooms existed.

    • Reply
      Togetherintransit
      16th June 2018 at 11:05 am

      Thanks Siarra, these behind the scene things are always interesting! I visited a hotel once for a similar tour but it was more for photography so we were taken to the presidential suits and the luxurious rooms instead.

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