These are the best things to do in Rotterdam, a city that shines on its own despite the widespread ‘eclipsed by Amsterdam’ feel. Enjoy!
Rotterdam has an energetic lifestyle but is also covered with some of the most iconic buildings and landmarks in the Netherlands. Let’s find out why this little city manages to capture the imagination of tourists from all over the world.
1. Discover Witte de Withstraat For Art Lovers
If you’re an art junkie, then this street is for you. Witte de Withstraat is currently visited by art lovers who can take advantage of numerous arts, museums, and street art. The street is also famous for its bustling nightlight and multiple coffee shops.
2. Visit the Kinderdijk’s Windmills
Anything with windmills is often associated with the Dutch. These windmills were named after a famous legend that describes a baby’s cradle being stranded during the St. Elizabeth’s Day flood of 1421.
Kinderdijk translates as “the “children’s dike” and is one of the country’s most frequented places. Here, you can also enjoy the famous Dutch countryside.
3. Visit the stunning Markthal
Markthal is one of the biggest giant food markets in Europe and is also home to 228 residents whose windows face directly to the market. The food market hall has around 50 food stalls from all over the world.
Get an exclusive look at Rotterdam’s Foodwalhalla on a GYG 1-hour guided tour. Sample some delightful cuisine and finish with a stunning view from Het Witte Huis rooftop.
From Spanish food to Moroccan chicken dishes, this food market has it all. Once you enter the Markthal, you will not miss the giant painting once you look up directly at the ceiling. It is sometimes called the largest artwork in the world or The Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam. A must-visit place in Rotterdam!
It is located in the lively Stadsdriehoek district or City Triangle in English. A name that refers to the historical triangular form of the city bordered by the Nieuwe Maas to the south, the Coolsingel and the Schiedamsevest to the west, and the Goudsevest to the northeast.
4. Experience the Weird-Looking Cube Houses
One way to describe the city of Rotterdam is its architecture. These cube houses will catch your eye once you visit Rotterdam. Designed by Pieter Blom in the seventies, the cube houses were intended to represent a forest where each house is a tree. The tips of the houses represent the pine trees. The concrete pillars that support them are meant to represent the tree trunks.
It’s not only the exterior of the houses that will amaze you but the interior – that can be visited – as well. Aside from being residential spaces and tourist attractions; it is also a hostel and a pedestrian bridge for people and tourists to cross one of Rotterdam’s busiest streets.
Nearby, the iconic Witte Huis (White House), a 10-story art nouveau building built in 1889 and one of the first high-rise buildings in Europe is also worth checking out.
5. Experience the most stunning view of Rotterdam from the Euromast
The best way to view the entire city of Rotterdam is on top of the Euromast tower.
This tower is one of the highest structures in Rotterdam. If you’re a thrill-seeker, you might want to look into booking a zipline experience.
Once you are done with the views, you can always keep exploring Euromast surroundings.
The Maastunnel and its ready-for-the-Gram Tunnel of Love are a stone’s throw away.
6. Grab a coffee at Delfshaven
Also nearby, the historic district Delfshaven will keep you entertained for a while. Its brick houses, cafes, and chill atmosphere are well worth a stroll.
7. Enjoy the Beautiful red Nieuwe Luxor Theatre
Another architecture in Rotterdam is the Nieuwe Luxor Theatre; known for its stunning and bold red façade. Visitors can go to the rooftop terrace and enjoy a panoramic view of the river and other breathtaking architectural structures, including the Erasmus Bridge.
8. Admire the Historic Van Nelle Fabriek factory
This attraction is especially worth a visit for all the industrial architecture lovers out there. The Van Nelle Fabriek was a well-functioning factory for producing tea, tobacco, coffee, chewing gum, and rice. The antique industrial designs were well-preserved here, which makes it one of the most beautiful factories today.
Because of its history and antique look, the factory has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
9. Enjoy arts and culture from all over the world at the Gallery at Kunsthal Rotterdam
This trendy gallery hosts a variety of constantly changing exhibits of visual arts, design, architecture, and culture worldwide. The highlights at the Netherlands Photo Museum include a broad collection of historical images by a number of Dutch photographers.
10. Stroll or ride a bike on the Erasmus Bridge
One of Holland’s most famous bridges, the Erasmus Bridge is another spectacular feat of engineering and architecture. The bridge was built to represent a swan and it makes the perfect backdrop for a stunning photo.
Visitors can reach the by metro or tram and they have the option to join the locals riding their bikes or join a walking tour. It is also highly recommended to visit the bridge at night as it is usually lit up with colorful LED lights, giving it a futuristic look. You will feel like you’re in a Sci-Fi movie.
11. Experience the Fairytale Park Schoonoord
The Park Schoonoord is one of Rotterdam’s hidden secrets, a fairytale park near the Euromast. Visitors can immerse themselves in the beautiful sounds of nature, such as the sound of the chirping birds and waterfall while enjoying the sights of the fishes and old trees. It’s a perfect place to take refuge when you want to get away from the city.
12. Stop by the oldest Maritime Museum in the Netherlands
One of the oldest and largest museum harbors of the Netherlands would have to be the Maritime Museum, where you can visit historic vessels and cranes.
Dedicated to naval history, it was founded in 1874 and in 2014 merged with the open-air Maritime Museum Harbour. A must.
13. Experience the historic Hotel New York
If you’re looking for a traditional building then this will be right up your alley. The Hotel New York is located right across the Erasmus Bridge.
The hotel was first the headquarters for the Holland America Line Shipping company but was then remodeled into a luxury hotel. Each room is decorated with fireplaces and balconies overlooking the Nieuwe Maas river. If you want something to see other than the modern and shiny structures, you might want to visit the Hotel New York.
Once there, cross the Rijnhavenbrug to check the nearby and fresh produce market ‘Fenix Food Factory’, open until 6 PM.
14. Discover the Museum Boijmans-van Beuningen
This museum is one of the Netherlands’ most important art centers. The art and culture enthusiasts will be in for a treat. Divided into three buildings, each building is composed of brick, copper, and glass; it houses the collections of Frans Jacob Otto Boijmans and Daniël George van Beuningen.
Boijmans-van Beuningen Museum is known for its superb contemporary art collections of sculptures, paintings, and applied and decorative arts. The works of 14th to 16th centuries artists are here, such as Rembrandt and Ruben.
Another museum to see is the Wereldmuseum Rotterdam, an ethnographic museum that holds beautiful artifacts.
15. Learn about the City’s History in Museum Rotterdam
Museum Rotterdam – previously known as Historical Museum Rotterdam – is the best place to visit for tourists who want to learn more about this fascinating port city’s history. Museum Rotterdam has a rich collection of documents and artifacts, including artworks from the 17th and 18th centuries.
16. Enjoy the boats in Old Harbour
The Old Harbour, also known as Oude Haven, is a must-see location. If you’re into old boats, you will see many restored historic boats.
Visitors can sit outside one of the cafés and restaurants and enjoy strolling around and watch the boats being painted or repaired. There are plenty of houseboats where many of the locals live.
17. Learn about the Laurens Church
This is the only medieval church left in Rotterdam, which is in Grote Kerkplein and near the Markthal and Cube houses. Visitors can also go up the tower and take a great photo of the city of Rotterdam below.
Much of it was destroyed during WWII and was built on the once marshy ground giving the building a peculiar lean.
18. Take a harbor boat tour
One of the best ways to explore this city is from the water. Jump on a Rotterdam boat tour or river cruise and enjoy a peaceful ride through the ports and harbors of Rotterdam.
You can even go from Rotterdam to Amsterdam by boat through the old Dutch waterways!
Check this stunning timelapse:
19. Go SUPing
Alternatively, give paddleboarding a go by renting a stand-up paddle surfboard and explore the canals at your own pace. When things go back to normal, and if you are into SUP, check the Wednesday Night SUP’s Up community gatherings for 2 hours of free fun with a terrace drink afterward.
It looks like so much fun!
20. Take a photo at the Rotterdam Central Station
The Rotterdam Central Station is another of the Rotterdam architectural marvels well worth a visit. The iconic part of the station would have to be at the entrance.
The station is made of solar panels, known for being some of the largest solar panels on the planet.
21. Try eating at the Dudok
The Dudok started as an insurance firm, but after construction, it became one of Rotterdam’s best places to eat.
Visitors can’t help but admire the decor, which can be seen around the green plants and high ceilings.
Ask The Dutch Guy your go-to guide when it comes to The Netherlands and of course this particular city. The goal of Ask The Dutch Guy is to showcase the beauty of The Netherlands and to inspire others to explore the country. Read more about Ask The Dutch Guy at https://askthedutchguy.com. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.
This article has been edited and completed by the team at A World to Travel, in love with this city since they were teens.