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!
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 accommodate 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.
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.
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.
- 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!
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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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!