Best things to do in Rotterdam Netherlands

Best Things to See and Do in Rotterdam Netherlands 

Rotterdam is a major port city and the second largest city in the Netherlands after Amsterdam. Its combination of modern architecture, museums, rich history, cultural diversity, and maritime heritage makes it a top destination for visitors. There are so many amazing things to do and see in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

It is located in the province of South Holland along the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt River delta. It is the largest port in Europe and the third largest in the World behind the Asian giants. Rotterdam needed to be rebuilt to what it is today after it was almost entirely destroyed during WWII bombing.

Apart from its famous port, Rotterdam has some amazing architecture to see like the Iconic Cube Houses, the Arch Markthal and the Euromast Tower. They also have some of the best museums in the Netherlands, like the Maritime Museum Rotterdam and Natural History Museum. Plus a wide variety of restaurants, and bars.

See Rotterdam Netherlands from the Euromast tower, one of the best things to do

See Rotterdam Nehterlands from the Euromast Observation deck

I went to Rotterdam from Amsterdam by train for a few days, after spending time in Edam and Zandvoort. I wanted to explore and see what this port city had to offer and it didn’t disappoint. It was well worth adding this city to my Netherlands travel itinerary.

You can check if you require a visa for the Netherlands and if there are any requirements.

Best things to see in Rotterdam Netherlands

Rotterdam is popular for its unique architecture, new and old, its maritime tourist attractions and museums amongst other things. It is hard to narrow down what to do if you only have a short period of time.

To help you get the most out of your trip, here are the best things to see and do in Rotterdam Netherlands.

 

Book your Rotterdam Netherlands Tours

Visit the Rotterdam Discovery Exhibition

Start your day by getting your bearings of the city at the free Rotterdam Discovery Exhibition. It is located in the basement of the Tourist Information Office, near Rotterdam Centraal station. The exhibition will take you on a journey through the past, present and future through interactive displays that both adults and children will enjoy.

Rotterdam Discovery Exhibition is a great introduction to learning about the biggest port cities in the Netherlands and should take about 30 minutes to see. It is open daily from Mon-Sun – 9:30 – 18:00 and entry is FREE.

Modern buildings outside the Rotterdam Centraal station

Outside the Rotterdam Centraal Station

Maritime Museum Rotterdam

Head to the Maritime Museum Rotterdam and learn about the history of the largest port in the Netherlands. This is a great activity for all the family to enjoy. The museum is located in the Maritime District, 5 minutes walk away from Markthal. It is also where the water taxis leave and dock.

The Maritime Museum Rotterdam is one of the largest of its type in the world. There are historical ships, cranes in the harbor and even the oldest ship model in Europe, plus hands-on kids’ exhibits. Buy an entry ticket online here or get a 25% discount on the entry price with your Rotterdam Welcome Card.


What to wear for Rotterdam Netherlands

Explore and taste the food at The Markthal

See and explore Markthal (Market Hall) Rotterdam, an impressive Netherlands architectural structure. This residential and office building is built in the shape of an arch with one market hall underneath. On the ceiling of the arch are 4,000 colourful tiles known as The Horn of Plenty and the largest artwork in the Netherlands. 

It is the biggest indoor market hall in the Netherlands with over 96 stalls, a supermarket, shops, restaurants and bars. Wander around the market stalls and try traditional Dutch cuisine, have a drink and admire the stunning tiles above. Dutch food worth trying in Rotterdam are Bitterballen, deep fried crispy balls or Patat or Frites thick cut fries.

If you love history, head down to the car park and see the exhibition on Roman artefacts that were found while building the complex. The market hall is open 7 days a week from 12:00 noon to 18:00 and the Bars and Restaurants are open until midnight. Book an hour behind the scenes food tour at Markthal and go on the rooftop of Het Witte Huis.

The arch shaped building of the Markthal Rotterdam Netherlands - What to see

 Markthal is one of the best things to do and see in Rotterdam Netherlands

Oude Haven

Take a visit to Oude Haven (old harbour), Rotterdam’s first port dating back to 1350, located behind the clubhouses. Today the harbour is a blend of modern and historical architecture and is known as Rotterdam’s entertainment area.

Oude Haven is lined with trendy restaurants, cafes and bars along the waterfront with most having outdoor terraces. Walk along the old harbor, stop for a drink and enjoy some people watching. This is also a great spot if you are looking for things to do at night in Rotterdam.



See the Witte Huis

Nestled within the Oude Haven and worth seeing is the historical Witte Huis or White House. This 11-storey, 45m-high building built in 1898 was Europe’s first ‘skyscraper’ and one of only a few structures that survived World War II bombs.

Designed by Willem Molenbroek in art-nouveau style, today Witte Huis is a National heritage site and an important Rotterdam landmark building. You can easily see this building from the old harbour or if you like book a tour that takes you to the rooftop. 

   Take a look at the guided tours and experience you can book online for Rotterdam Viator.

Wander around the famous Cube Houses

Wander around the famous Cube Houses (also known as the Pole Houses or Tree Houses). A popular Rotterdam landmark for photographers and Instagrammers. Designed by architect Piet Blom these bright yellow cubic houses are somewhat interesting to see in Rotterdam Netherlands. 

Visit the Kijk-Kubus Museum-house if you want to experience what it would be like inside one and learn about their history. It is open daily from 11 am to 5 pm and costs just €3 per person. Cube Houses are situated near Oude Haven (old harbour) and just across from Markthal. It is a great option to do before or after you have been at the market hall.

See the famous yellow cube houses in Rotterdam Netherlands

Underneath the Cube Houses, one of Rotterdam’s iconic landmarks 

Head to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Head to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen located in Museumpark in Rotterdam. It houses an impressive collection of artworks spanning 700 years, as well as metalworks, ceramics and crafts. Some of the masterpieces include works by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Monet, Bosch and many other masters.

Visitors can participate in a free 30 minute guided tour of the Museum. Watch artists restore original artworks’, listen to special presentations and see changing exhibits. Art enthusiasts will love this place and should be on their bucket list. Book an Art and Architecture Highlights guided walking tour that includes Museum Boijmans.


Have Brunch or lunch at Picknick

I am a huge fan of brunch especially because some breakfast meals are just meant to be eaten any time of day. If you have time during your day trip to Rotterdam or are hungry, I suggest brunch or lunch at Picknick.

This cafe has a wide choice of breakfast items that can be served as a meal or as a sharing platter. Picknick prides itself on making sure that everything is homemade and only use seasonal products that are grown locally if they can. I had salmon and poached eggs, which were really delicious.

Picknick is centrally located near both Blaak station and the Markhal building. You can even stop here for a takeaway coffee if you just want a break while exploring. The café is open Mon-Sat – 8:00 – 16:30 and Sun – 9:30 – 16:30

Rhubarb Salad served with fresh bread - Rotterdam Netherlands

Rhubarb Salad is a brunch option at Picknick Cafe

Rotterdam Zoo (Diergaarde Blijdorp)

Spend half a day or a few hours at the renowned Rotterdam Zoo, located in the northwestern part of the city. It is one of the oldest and prettiest zoos in the Netherlands and is home to a wide variety of animals from around the world.

Rotterdam Zoo is known for its spacious enclosures and commitment to conservation and animal welfare. Wander around on your own or with your family and learn about the animals.

If you are going to take public transport you can either get the number 40 bus or the 125 train. It is included with a Rotterdam Welcome Card or if you don’t have one you can buy a ticket online.

 

Book your activities with Rotterdam Netherlands

Take in the views from the Euromast

Go up the Euromast Observation Tower and see the impressive 360 views of Rotterdam Netherlands. Built in 1960, its original height at the time was 100 meters, until 1970 when the Space Tower was added making it nearly double its height at 185 meters. 

Euromast Tower has 2 viewing platforms one above the other which are connected via stairs. If you are feeling daring, then you can go up to the Euroscoop, Rotterdam’s highest panorama elevator with a glass floor. There is also a coffee and souvenir shop downstairs and a Restaurant.

If you love the view and want a unique sleeping experience, you can stay at Euromast Hotel and wake up to 360 views of Rotterdam. Euromast even offers abseiling from the observation tower, if you dare. You can book your tickets in advance online to save time.

See Rotterdam Netherlands city skyline from the Euromast tower

See the views from Euromas Observation Tower of Rotterdam Netherlands

Have a coffee at Man Met Bril Koffie

Pop into Man Met Bril Koffie for a coffee and a break from exploring Rotterdam attractions and sites. It is considered to be the best coffee in the city. The coffee shop roasts its beans and has this area visible to the public to see.

Man Met Bril Koffie encourages their customers to learn about how they roast their beans and the countries that they source the beans from. They even offer coffee cards with your coffee, so you can see the type and where the bean comes from. It was refreshing to see that the staff loved their jobs and enjoyed talking about coffee. 

I tried 3 different types of coffee that they sell and distribute to cafes and restaurants all around Rotterdam.

  Here are some top tourist attractions in Rotterdam that you can book in advance.

Tour Rotterdam by Bike

The people in the Netherlands ride bikes everywhere, so it is no surprise the best way to see Rotterdam is on a bike tour. You can do a full day or half a day tour around the city with most starting from Rotterdam Centraal station.

A bike tour is a great way to spend 1 day in Rotterdam seeing its highlights and attractions, as well as lesser-known places. It is also a good option if you want to cover a lot of ground in the port city. Another place to bike ride in the Netherlands is Amsterdam Beach Zandvoort.

I did a half-day Bike & Bite Tour and it was one of the best things I did in Rotterdam. Not only did I learn some interesting things, but I also got to taste some amazing local products. The company’s mission is to offer a genuine connection while enjoying the sights, sounds and tastes of the city. You can book your spot in advance online.

Another option is 3-hour private bike tour that takes you to see some of Rotterdam’s popular landmarks like the Erasmus Bridge. Don’t forget to strap on your GoPro for all those action shots while cycling around Rotterdam.

Selfie my Rotterdam bike tour guide

Seeing the Rotterdam attractions with a bike tour guide

Eat at Fenix Food Factory

If you are a foodie you are going to love Fenix Food Factory, an old warehouse converted into a food court. It is located in Fenixloods just across Rijnhavenbrug Bridge from the historical Hotel New York.

There are a variety of local stalls and shops that include a bakery, deli, brewery, cheese, wine and even a soda shop. The main Kaapse Kitchen showcases different Rotterdam chefs that vary weekly.

You can buy fresh products here, enjoy a variety of classic Dutch dishes, have a drink or simply just browse. There is seating inside as well as a terrace that offers great views of the Rotterdam skyline. It is open daily and at various times depending on which day and it’s free to enter.


Best Things to see and do in Rotterdam Netherlands

Cross over Erasmus Bridge

Bike or take a stroll across the Erasmus Bridge, also known as “The Swan”, over the Nieuwe Maas. The bridge connects central Rotterdam’s Nieuwe Werk and Kop van Zuid neighbourhoods and is free to use.

This iconic cable-stayed and bascule bridge offers stunning views of Rotterdam’s skyline and the Maas River. You can easily hire a bike and cross over or take a guided tour like I did. Viator offers a 3 hour private tour on a bike that takes in Rotterdam highlights and crosses the bridge.  

 Erasmus Bridge one of the top sits to see in Rotterdam Netherlands

Admiring The Erasmus Bridge while walking along in Rotterdam Netherlands

Take a unique boat tour

Embark on a boat tour to explore and see Rotterdam’s bustling port, one of the largest in the Netherlands. This unique bus drives through the city and cruises along the Maas River and is known as the splash tour.  

You will see some of Rotterdam’s major landmarks that includes shipyards and modern architecture from both land and water. The duration is only 1 hour and it is great to do if you only have a short amount of time. You can check times and book online here.



Have Dinner at Bazar

If you looking for somewhere to eat for dinner then head to Bazar Restaurant, along Witte de Withstraat. The bright and colourful Moroccan restaurant was a delight to go to after a long day of exploring Rotterdam. Bazar Restaurant offers North African or Middle East cuisine.

All of their meat is halal and food is reasonably priced for the location. I had the El Couscous (meat) grilled kebab chicken and vegetables it was delicious and filling. The staff here were efficient, friendly and professional which made my experience all the more enjoyable.

The restaurant gets really busy, so best to make a reservation beforehand online or by phone.

⇒ Read More – Edam Netherlands (The home of Edam Cheese)

Kebab on a colourful plate from the Bazaar Rotterdam Netherlands - One of the best restaurants

El Couscous (meat) grilled kebab chicken and vegetables at Bazar Restaurant Rotterdam

Getting to Rotterdam 

Closest Airport

Hague is the closest Airport to Rotterdam and just 20-25 mins away from the city centre by car. Alternatively, you can fly to Amsterdam Schiphol which has more flight options. Then take the train from the capital to Rotterdam which is about 30mins to an hour depending on the train.

  If you are flying from any of the airports in the UK, instantly save on airport parking with Purpleparking before leaving. 

Amsterdam to Rotterdam

If you are going from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, use an OV-Chipcard. You can buy an OV-Chipcard at the station and you can top it up when required. It is like the same system as using a London oyster card. It is cheaper than buying two one-way tickets from Amsterdam and it will also save you time.

How to see Rotterdam Netherlands sites

Get a Rotterdam Welcome Card to get around and see all the top sites and landmarks that are spread out across this Netherlands port city. You can get 1, 2 or 3 days and it includes public transport and most of Rotterdam’s top attractions. Purchase a Rotterdam Welcome Card here.

Scale model Rotterdam tourism Netherlands

A display in the Rotterdam Discovery Exhibition of the whole city – of Rotterdam Netherlands

Discover other countries near the Netherlands

Why don’t you discover other countries near Amsterdam Netherlands that involve culture, food and history? 

Thank you for reading my article ‘Best Things to See and Do in Rotterdam Netherlands ‘. It is such a fun, vibrant city and definitely worth going there for a weekend.

Have you been to Rotterdam Netherlands? Please feel free to share your experience in the comments below or if you know any other places to see while there.

If you liked this article on the Netherlands, please pin it for later!

Best Things to do in Rotterdam Netherlands  Things to See in Rotterdam Netherlands

Disclaimer: Even though I was a guest of the Rotterdam Tourist Office. All views are my own and based on my own experience.

Useful booking links for Rotterdam Netherlands

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60 thoughts on “Best Things to See and Do in Rotterdam Netherlands 

  1. Nicole Anderson | Camping for Women says:

    Rotterdam looks to be such an attractive, fascinating and diverse city with so many different type of things to see. My fiance’s family comes from the Netherlands (a city called Delft where they make the famous Delftware) which is not too far at all from Rotterdam. I am so looking forward to seeing and experiencing Rotterdam for myself when we visit his family. Bookmarking this post will give me a great list to start with.

  2. Ha says:

    I think I will love the Rotterdam Discovery Exhibition thanks to its special design. I would love to have lunch at Picknick too. Picknick seems like a nice place with delicious dishes. I will definitely not miss Man Met Bril Koffie. The design looks awesome, and coffee must be tasty since you had 3 😀

  3. Emmalene says:

    Great article Melissa; I’ve never visited Rotterdam but definitely looks like it could be a great weekend city break destination in 2018!

  4. Abigail Sinsona says:

    Rotterdam looks amazing and I love the photos you took. The architecture is breathtaking and it looks gorgeous in your photos – I would probably be in awe seeing those in person. The food looks amazing too. I could probably spend all day just walking around the city – it seems like there is so much to see!

    • Melbtravel says:

      This is such a fun place to go especially for a weekend exploring. I was on my own here exploring and it is a really safe city too. Btw thanks about the photos

  5. Joanna says:

    You got me all excited about Rotterdam and all the amazing things there are to see there! I will be visiting this city next year for the Traverse 18 conference and I will be taking my time to explore as much as I can of the city as well. The Markthal sounds lovely, I bet you will find me there many times for lunch or dinner. I have been wanting for some time now to see the Cube Houses and figure out the architecture mystery behind them 🙂

    • Melbtravel says:

      You are going to Traverse? That is great, I went this year and it was a really good conference. You going to learn a lot and make a heap of new friends. Have a great time and I look forward to the pictures

  6. Lance says:

    The city looks amazing. My Great Grandfather and his family left the Netherlands to go to the United States in the early 1900s. So, I have always wanted to make the trip to see our ancestral birthplace. Thanks for the great info, especially the great restaurants. When we go, we’ll have to check out the Air BnB at the cube houses. The kids would love to stay in one of those (and so would I).

  7. Divyakshi Gupta says:

    An interactive exhibition is such a unique way to study a place! 4000 colourful tiles ! WHOA! That should be some architectural marvel 🙂
    Looks so so pretty.I had never seen the Cube houses before. Damn creative and so vibrant! Loved the concept of the Bike and bite tour.Man Met Bril Koffie Is totally my kind of coffee shop. That art looks beyond beautiful! Very interesting post.

    • Melbtravel says:

      It is the biggest artwork in the Netherlands and it looks really cool lit up at night, as you can see in my pictures. If anything I definitely recommend the bike tour it is was so much fun and I really learnt alot from it.

  8. Juergen Klein says:

    Thanks for sharing this post about Rotterdam. I love to go to local markets, but the size and architecture of the Markthal really surprised me! I can’t really get a concept of the Cube Houses – are the walls inside sloping out? So I would probably look for an airbnb rental just to experience it inside. My question as an urban art aficionado: isn’t there any street art in this city?

    • Melbtravel says:

      I have no idea I never went inside the cube houses but it would be a great thing to know. Yes, there is street art and I was going to visit it but I just ran out of time unfortunately.

  9. Alouise says:

    This is perfect timing because I’m going to be visiting Rotterdam next year for a conference. Love the tip about visiting the Rotterdam Discovery Exhibition at the tourist center. It’s always nice to find a free learning attraction. And the bike and bite tour sounds like a lot of fun. Definitely adding a few of these to my trip plan.

    • Melbtravel says:

      Definitely perfect timing and yes go there, they also have alot of free information there about the city. Everything is within walking distance too. Have a great trip when you go 🙂

  10. Paulina says:

    I am in love with your Rotterdam guide, Melanie. Even though the city is so close from where I currently live, in Luxembourg, I have never been. The modern art and architecture is such a contrast with the fairytale imagery that I am used to see about the Netherlands (tulips, cheese, bikes etc.)

  11. Martha says:

    I love cities with unique features. I feel like all major cities have museums and the typical hot spots, so I always try to visit cities that have unique architecture or city art. Looks like Rotterdam has both! Loved the cube houses and the Markthal. Any must buy things from the market travelers should add to their souvenir list?

  12. Dominic says:

    Love that you tacked it on to a work trip – I often do the same. I feel like Amsterdam always get the Netherlands love. I’ve been quite a few times, but have never made it out to Rotterdam. Looks like a lovely city and one worth a visit next time I am in the area.

  13. Dany says:

    We absolutely loved the indoor market hall in Rotterdam! The food is indeed delicious and not at all expensive, also we had the chance to buy many nice things we brought back home!

  14. Dada says:

    Rotterdam in the Netherlands looks like to be a very modern city and very cool city to explore! The Markhal and the Cube houses…wow! Another city to add on my list to visit this year! Hopefully for this spring, perfect for the tulip viewing!

  15. Bhusha says:

    Been to Amsterdam but missed Rotterdam. Hope to get here next time.
    Those cube houses are super interesting. Thanks for the tip that one of it is available in Airbnb!

  16. Agness of eTramping says:

    Rotterdam seems simply astonishing, Mel. This is an awesome and detailed guide which everyone should use when planning to go there. 😉

  17. Lara Dunning says:

    We had a short layover in The Netherlands this summer, and I so want to go back. Thanks for the tips on what to do in Rotterdam, and I love that you’ve included so many culinary adventures. Would love to do the bike and bite tour!

  18. Lisa says:

    This is a lovely and really detailed itinerary for Rotterdam. I’d love to spend a night in the cube house, thanks for the tip on Airbnb, I’ll look out for it! I also love Dutch coffee, so would like to visit your choice, and get my coffee card to see where it’s from!

  19. Chesca says:

    What an awesome list of things to do in Rotterdam! I have always overlooked this city in favour of Amsterdam, but not any more. Those yellow cube houses look so cool, and that coffee shop sounds amazing too. I’d definitely want to try the zipline! What a way to experience the city 🙂

  20. Indrani says:

    I am not a big fan of modern architecture but those cube houses fascinated me a lot. So sad I didn’t do Rotterdam, I spent one whole day in Amsterdam. Very detailed useful itinerary.

  21. Corinne says:

    The only thing I’ve done in Rotterdam is get on a ferry, but I’ve booked a weekend there this spring. I’m always happy to have a couple of restaurant recs before I go, so I’ll check in on Morocco.

  22. Kate Storm says:

    Those cube houses are so cool!! The view from the observation tower is gorgeous as well–looks like y’all had great weather for your visit. I had never thought about Rotterdam as a travel destination before, but it looks like it’d be a great secondary travel destination to add onto a trip to Amsterdam!

    • Melbtravel says:

      I got sunburnt when i was there, which is something rare for me for sure. Rotterdam is definitely a great place to visit for a weekend and there was so much to do. Hopefully, you will make it there one day.

  23. Lois Alter Mark says:

    I am so bummed that I didn’t take the chance to head to Rotterdam when I visited Amsterdam! Everything about the city seems absolutely dreamy, from the Markthal to the various architecture hot spots. Will have to add this to the top of my must-visit destinations of 2018!

  24. Aditi says:

    Wow… Rotterdam looks like an amazing place with lots of things to do. I’d love to tread the streets on foot and stop by the food at The Markthal. I like the idea of heading to Euromast to gain a bird’s eye view of the place. Cheers!!

  25. lisa says:

    This is Rotterdam as I have never seen it before your photo’s are amazing! It is such a clean city and I have always read that the people of Netherlands are some of the nicest. That arch! wow so photogenic this city really looks modern and colourful, I hope I get to see it one day.

  26. Punita Malhotra says:

    The cube houses are so interesting. I would like to know more about these! And the restaurants and cafes that you have recommended look wonderful. Will make a note of these.

  27. Sandy N Vyjay says:

    Rotterdam is a lovely place with so much to see and experience. I read about Rotterdam some time back and the fact that this place is underrated and lesser known as compared to say Amsterdam. The food looks really amazing and the Rotterdam Discovery Museum looks really fascinating.

  28. Marya says:

    if i can add something on the list, that would be watching a football match derby between the teams from rotterdam: sparta vs feyenoord. 😉

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