Rotterdam is a vibrant city that’s sure to surprise and entice you in equal measure. Full of must-see attractions and world-famous architecture, there’s also a whole other side to the Dutch city that’s worth exploring. Here’s your guide to the best of secret spots in Rotterdam, the futuristic city of the Netherlands!
Much like the Belgian city of Antwerp, Rotterdam has an equally interesting pedestrian tunnel that takes the cyclist/ pedestrian/ vehicle below the Maas River, connecting two sides of the city. Constructed in 1937, the tunnel was opened in secret in 1942 in a bid to hide the tunnel’s existence from the Nazis.
Maastunnel is the oldest car tunnel in the Netherlands and is a multilayer passage, meaning that cyclists, cars, and pedestrians all cross under the water on different levels. Its rectangular shape and tiled interior give the tunnel a vintage feel, as do the old wooden escalators leading deep into the ground.
Witte Huis in Rotterdam is the first skyscraper in Europe
Though it may not seem like it today, the pretty Witte Huis (literally translated into English as ‘White House’) is the oldest skyscraper in Europe! Located on the edge of the Oudehaven (Old Port) in central Rotterdam, the building was one of the only places in the city to escape the bombings of WWII. Constructed in the Art-Nouveau style during the 1920s, the building stretches 10 storeys into the air
Erasmus Statue, Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk
If you’ve looked into studying abroad in Europe, then no doubt you’ll have heard of the Erasmus scheme. This programme is named for Desiderius Erasmus, a Dutch scholar who was born in Rotterdam in the 15th-century and went on to teach at the University of Basel in Switzerland.
Well, as a commemoration for the city’s most famous resident, on the lawn in front of Rotterdam’s Cathedral, there’s a statue dedicated to the great academic. This is the oldest statue in the Netherlands and dates all the way back to around 1622, making it close to four hundred years old!
A piece of the old Rotterdam city wall, Blaak Station
If you’re looking for even more historical sites in Rotterdam, then you need to look no further than the Blaak Station. Situated somewhere between the impressive Markthal and the Rotterdam Cube House, once underground, you’ll soon discover a small slice of the former Rotterdam city walls.
Close to Rotterdam Station and missed by many tourists in favour of more popular tourist attractions, the Luchtsingel is a wooden walkway which is raised high above the pavement. The world’s first bridge of its kind to be funded by crowdsourcing, the walkway was built so as to serve as a safe passage above the streets connecting the Northern and Central districts of Rotterdam.
Paul McCarthy’s Santa Claus
One of the ruder hidden gems of Rotterdam is Paul McCarthy’s, Santa Claus. Commissioned by the City of Rotterdam in 2001, the artwork was created by American artist, Paul McCartney, for a square close to the Opera House and is supposedly a Santa Claus holding a pine tree.
However, truth be told, the piece was never approved to stay in the Schouwburgplein and was to spend the next few years touring the city. In 2008, Santa Claus was moved to the Eendrachtsplein, where it can still be seen today.
Much like Düsseldorf in Germany, Rotterdam has an abundance of street art worth discovering. Other street art in the city you should be sure to check out during your stay includes a work by Picasso and plenty of incredible murals. More sculptures can be found in the strangest of places, including the Wall Relief in the bricks by Henry Moore.
The Cube House Hostel, Staykay Rotterdam
Though the Cube House of Rotterdam is not exactly a hidden gem (in fact, it’s one of the must-see destinations in the city!), what you may well not know is that you can book a stay in one of the topsy-turvy yellow boxes. Stayokay Rotterdam is well-reviewed, is obviously home to incredible architecture, and is close to many of the city’s major attractions. Check prices and availability here.
Fenix Food Factory
While everyone should make their way to the Markthal for one of the best indoor eating and marketplaces in Europe, what many don’t know is that another culinary experience
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 and makes a great place from which to take day trips to the rest of the country.
In order to get to know the city on a more local level, I highly recommend exploring the city on foot via this self-guided walking tour. While in The Netherlands, you’ll likely also want to cycle around as this is the best way to explore the flat country. However, be aware of the fact that many bikes don’t have gears and have a backpedal!
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.