Between beach escapes and city breaks, the little country of the Netherlands is home to more than its fair share of stunning attractions, cities, and scenery. And if you’re looking for a place in which to base yourself for exploring the wider region, the city of Rotterdam is close to all the attractions and is much cheaper than Amsterdam. Here are eight epic day trips from Rotterdam worth taking!
Rotterdam to Delft is easily one of the best Rotterdam day trips. After all, if you’ve ever read about European pottery, then no doubt you’ll have come across the iconic Delftware blue, a Dutch tin-glazed earthware that originates in the city.
Other highlights of Delft include a Vermeer Centre, several churches, and a stunning view from the top of the Nieuwe Kerk. If you’re short on time, then a visit to Delft and Leiden can easily be combined into a day trip thanks to both cities proximities with one another.
#2 The Hague
Located around twenty minutes away from Rotterdam on the train, many people make the mistake of skipping the Hague by thinking that it’s ‘too boring’ or ‘simply full of politics’. And while there are plenty of political sites to be explored within the city, The Hague is so much more than that!
After all, within the city centre, there’s the Mauritshuis to explore (this is where The Girl With the Pearl Earring can be admired), plenty of vegan and vegetarian eats, as well as countless hofjes in which to get lost. If you’re looking for family-friendly activities, then aside from a wide array of museums, Madurodam is the miniature Netherlands and is one of the oldest theme parks in the country!
Though technically a district of The Hague, thanks to its unique seaside vibe and laid back atmosphere, Scheveningen is a beach district home to an impressive stretch of sand, several historic hotels, and plenty of board-walk eateries (especially in the summer months).
If you’re looking to catch a bird’s eye view of the place, then a trip on the Scheveningen Ferris Wheel is an absolute must! Nearby, the former town centre (but what is now a suburb of The Hague) is best-known for its fishing history and historic cobbled lanes complete centuries-old old churches.
The pretty university city of Leiden is easily one of the most beautiful places in the Netherlands. And not just because of its endless canals, tree-lined walkways and 17th-century canal houses. Instead, the entire city has a charm seldom found in larger settlements. And thanks to Leiden’s location at just over half an hour on the train from Rotterdam, a day trip to Rembrandt’s birthplace couldn’t be easier!
The Dutch capital city of Amsterdam can be visited as a day trip from Rotterdam as the train only takes around forty-five minutes between the two cities. Of course, everyone knows that there are plenty of secret and small museums to visit in Amsterdam, as well as a plethora of canals to wander around.
But what you may well not know is that Amsterdam is also home to some of the best eats to be had anywhere in the Netherlands as well as some incredible green spaces. While in the city, be sure not to miss out on the Jordaan district (which is easily the prettiest area of Amsterdam) as well as numerous churches dating back centuries.
Of all the day trips from Rotterdam that you could possibly take, Dordrecht is one of the easiest places to reach. A little more off the beaten tourist trail that some of the other Dutch destinations you could visit, Dordrecht traces its roots back to at least the 13th-century, when the metropolis was granted city rights by William I, Count of Holland.
Today, Dordrecht is also known locally as Dordt. Some of the best things to do in the city once there include ascending the impossibly high (and incredibly leaning) Dordrecht Minster and admiring the town from above and checking out one of the many museums the city has to offer. While in town, I highly recommend grabbing a bite to eat at the vegan-friendly Coffeelicious.
You’ve probably heard of Gouda before thanks to the cheese of the same name that originates in the city. Home to a historic cheese weighing house, countless cheese tasting opportunities, and a museum partially dedicated to the dairy stuff, Gouda also has a whole other history worth exploring as well.
Things to do in Gouda include talking a self-guided walking tour on the city’s most historical features (canals, hidden churches, a still-in-operation windmill grinding its own flour) and enjoying the laid-back vibe of the city. Truth be told, of all the day trips from Rotterdam, Gouda is probably my favourite city o them all!
#8 Kinderdijk Windmills
The world-famous Kinderdijk Windmills can be found in a town of the same name, just over 10 km away from Rotterdam’s city centre. Easy to reach on either bicycle or on public transportation, the windmills are of such historical importance that they’re now designated as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Tips for visiting Rotterdam
If you’re planning a visit to the second largest city in The Netherlands, then there are several things you should know before you go. Firstly, don’t go with any prior expectations of what you’ll see in Rotterdam! The city is like no other place you’re likely to see in The Netherlands.
After all, the architecture of the city will surprise you and entice you in equal measure. Many people make the mistake of thinking that they’re venturing into a quaint cobbled town. However, following the Blitzkrieg of the Second World War, Rotterdam rose like a phoenix from the ashes, into a futuristic time-warp that’s a must-see on any adventure through Europe.
As such, I highly recommend exploring the city on foot via this self-guided walking tour. While in The Netherlands, you’ll likely want to cycle around as this is the best way to explore the flat country. However, truth be told that the bicycles may not be like what you’re used to back home; there are often no handle brakes (instead a back pedal brake) and gears are rarely present.
Finally, while Rotterdam is an escape from the hustle and bustle of the crowds of Amsterdam, the city can still get pretty busy! This is especially true of the high season (summer) when events like Summer Carnival take place. As a result, you’ll want to book your place to stay as far in advance as possible. Check here for the best Rotterdam accommodation rates.