The Weekend Guide to Rotterdam
Rotterdam is known for its interesting architecture that sets it apart from other Dutch cities, as well as expansive river views. Its a dynamic city that seems to change daily and is always an exciting place to explore. Here are some of my favorite activities and sight in Rotterdam, cool things to do in Rotterdam and a few places to drink and eat. At the end you’ll also find some recommendations for places to sleep as well.
If you only have limited time you can also choose what to see in Rotterdam in one day from this list. Rotterdam is a great day trip from Amsterdam.
Getting to Rotterdam and Getting Around
Rotterdam is easy to reach from other cities in the Netherlands and as it is in the south of the country, is close to Belgium as well.
Hop on the train from Amsterdam and you’ll arrive at Rotterdam Centraal in about 45 minutes. The cost of a full price ticket is currently a little over €15. There are faster direct trains that take only 30 minutes but you will need to pay an additional supplement of €2.40 to ride those routes.
Trains also serve Rotterdam from London, Brussels and Paris. Check Trainline for ticket and route options.
Probably the least expensive way to travel to Rotterdam from other cities in Europe is with Flixbus. You can find ticket prices as low as €4. Check here for prices and schedules.
The closest airports are Rotterdam The Hague (RTM) and Amsterdam (AMS). You can connect to Rotterdam The Hague airport from Italy, Spain, Portugal and many other destinations. If you are arriving from an overseas destination you will likely arrive in Amsterdam, where you can catch a train to Rotterdam. Check Skyscanner for the best prices and schedules to Rotterdam.
Once you are in Rotterdam it is easy to get around using public transit, on foot, or by bicycle. Locals use website and app 9292.nl to plan public transit trips in the Netherlands. Google maps works as well but it is worth downloading the 9292 app on your smartphone if you will be in Rotterdam for a few days.
You can get unlimited free city transit as well as discounts to museums with the Rotterdam City Card.
Rotterdam has a good network of Metro lines, trams and buses. They also have something unique in the Netherlands and that is water taxis. You can read more about these below.
Tons of Fun Things To Do in Rotterdam
Rotterdam is an awesome city with tons of fun things to do and places to explore. Let’s get started!
There are museums to suit every taste in Rotterdam. Are you a fan of art? Check out the Kunsthal or Boijmans van Beuningen. More interested in culture? Visit the Wereldmuseum. Want to learn about plants, insects and animals? Stop into the Natural History Museum. Another great museum to visit with kids is the Maritiem Museum. And if you want to see some great exhibits about Rotterdam history, stop by the Museum Rotterdam.
You can get free city transit as well as discounts to museums with the Rotterdam City Card.
Rotterdam Food Halls & Markets
Rotterdam has awesome food! You can find Korean restaurants, Surinamese tokos, Vietnamese eateries and more!
The city is also famous for its food halls. The new Markthal is an architectural wonder in a giant arch with flying fruits and veggies decorating the inside. Pop in for a snack or shop at the many market stalls. My favorite spots include Bram Ladage for Rotterdam’s best fries, and the wine & beer shop World of Drinks. Head up to their second floor to enjoy a beverage overlooking the market.
For a more laid back vibe make your way to the Fenix Food Factory. Housed in an old warehouse, this market is a fun place to spend an afternoon or evening. Grab something to eat from one of the vendors and get a craft beer from Kaapse Brouwers or cider at Cidercider. On a sunny day sit outside by the water and enjoy the views. Fenix Food Factory regularly hosts special events – don’t miss them, they are super fun!
If you’d like to discover more of Rotterdam’s dynamic food culture you can also take a walking tour with a local guide.
Rotterdam has lots of water, and therefore several famous bridges. One of the most popular and picturesque is the Erasmusbrug, also known as De Zwaan. Take a look – it really resembles a big white swan! Another cool bridge is De Hef.
Speaking of bridges, I love the Luchtsingel pedestrian bridge project! Check it out.
Take a Watertaxi or Cruise
Since there is lots of water around Rotterdam a good way to get around is by watertaxi. Hop on at one of the stops and go for a speedy ride across the water. I love watching these bright yellow boats jet under bridges.
Another way to experience the city from the water is to take a 75 minute sightseeing harbor cruise.
Want to get on the water and learn about Rotterdam’s architecture at the same time? Take an UrbanGuide cruise!
Rotterdam is known for being different from the other big Dutch cities like Amsterdam. It was heavily bombed during WWII and much of the old traditional architecture was destroyed. Thus the city has an unusual look from other parts of the Netherlands and is home to some wonderful and interesting modern architecture. Rotterdammers also have terrific nicknames for their icons.
Some of my favorite places in Rotterdam are repurposed and reused spaces like Aloha Bar, the restaurant housed in an old waterpark, Vessel 11 a restaurant on a lightship, or a bar on a rooftop parking lot at DÂK. I also love the concept of Uit Je Eigen Stad, an urban farm with two of their own restaurants.
Start at the cool new Centraal Station with its angled roof. Wander over to the Hofbogen, and grab a coffee under the former railway arches. (did you know they are working on a project inspired by New York’s High Line?) Make your way to the Kubuswoningen and the nearby Markthal. There is so much to see in this vibrant city.
If you want to learn all about Rotterdam’s iconic architecture, you can take a 2.5 hour walking tour.
Rotterdam Public Art
Walking Rotterdam’s streets you will start to notice sculptures everywhere. Maybe one of the most famous is the Santa Claus by Paul McCarthy better known as “Kabouter Butt Plug” for obvious reasons. Another favorite of mine is a sculpture over the Maas by Auke de Vries known as the “wash line”.
Be sure to also visit the Westerkade to see the public gardens created by famous Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf.
If street art is more your style, download the Rewriters app for a guide to the city’s best! Spotting public art and street art is one of my favorite cool things to do in Rotterdam. You can also take a guided tour to discover the street art of the city with a local expert.
Day Trips from Rotterdam
As mentioned above, it is easy to reach other Dutch cities from Rotterdam. The closest large city is The Hague, which would make a terrific day trip. You could also take a half day boat cruise to Kinderdijk to see the historic windmills.
Of course, if you’d like to see Amsterdam it is less than an hour away on the train. Click here for a complete city guide of everything you might like to explore in Amsterdam.
Antwerp is also less than an hour away by train. Check here for our weekend guide to awesome Antwerp.
Places to Stay in Rotterdam
Did you take a day trip to Rotterdam or will you spend a night or more? There are often less expensive deals to be had in Rotterdam, and there might be vacancies here when Amsterdam is full!
Rotterdam has wonderful hotels that may suit your needs. Good hotels in Rotterdam include citizenM Rotterdam, Mainport Design Hotel and Hotel New York. Take a look at Cherrycake & Chocolate B&B and B & B Maria for cozy bed and breakfasts.
You’ll find that Rotterdam has many apartments available to rent for travelers, perfect for those who like a little more space and independence. Take a look at Urban Residences Rotterdam and PREMIER SUITES PLUS Rotterdam for fully stocked lodging with kitchens and bathrooms.
You can also find lovely places in Rotterdam on sites like Airbnb. Use this link to register and you can save €30 off your first reservation!
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Check out today’s best lodging deals.
You might like these books about Rotterdam:
Traveling around the Netherlands? Take a look at our great guides to things to do in Haarlem, Utrecht and Amsterdam.
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