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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Markthal is one of the best things to do and see in Rotterdam Netherlands
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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)
El Couscous (meat) grilled kebab chicken and vegetables at Bazar Restaurant Rotterdam
Getting to Rotterdam
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.
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?
- Alpbach Austria – Fun Summer Activities to Do
- Chambery France – Best Things to do in the beautiful city
- Tellaro Italy –The local Italian secret
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!
Disclaimer: Even though I was a guest of the Rotterdam Tourist Office. All views are my own and based on my own experience.