A vibrant city with incredible architecture and a fantastic foodie scene, Rotterdam is one of the largest cities in the Netherlands, second only to Amsterdam. Here are some amazing reasons to visit Rotterdam on your next Europe trip!
The history of Rotterdam
Though most of the city was flattened during the Blitzkrieg of WWII, leaving behind an empty space on which some of the most challenging architectural pieces of Europe have been built, some of the historic city centre of Rotterdam remains to this day.
For example, one of the first skyscrapers in Europe can be found near the Overblaak Development in the form of the Witte Huis. Nearby, the Oude Haven (old port) part of the Maritime district is filled with old boats and ships, and surrounded by the bars and cafés where all the locals hang out. Further into the city still, the
Rotterdam makes for a great alternative to Amsterdam
The second largest city in the Netherlands certainly packs a punch and its modern architecture and fast-paced vibe certainly feels worlds away from the charming Dutch capital. Rather than quaint canals and canalside houses, Rotterdam is filled with futuristic architecture and an incredible foodie scene.
Art, design & Museums in Rotterdam
Throughout Rotterdam, there’s an abundance of plenty of beautiful art galleries and modern museums to explore. Some of the best Rotterdam museums include the Maritime Museum (which was founded in 1874 by Prince Henry of the Netherlands) and the Kunsthal (an art museum which opened in 1992).
Even if you’re ‘not a museum person’, the entire city is filled with works of street art. Around nearly every corner, a new mural can be found. For example, close to the train station, there’s a Picasso sculpture, while street art can be found around nearly every corner.
If you’re spending a considerable amount of time in the Netherlands, then you might consider investing in the Holland Pass which allows for free entry to up to six museums/ attractions. Included in the pass are a skip-the-line feature and a Holland Pass discount card.
The architecture of Rotterdam is incredible
Even those who are unfamiliar with the Dutch city of Rotterdam will have likely seen those yellow cube houses posted somewhere on the interwebs. Highlights of Rotterdam architecture include the Overblaak Development (i.e. those cube houses by Piet Blom), de Rotterdam (a uniquely shaped block of three connected towers), and the Centraal Station (make it your mission to at least arrive or depart Rotterdam via train).
Other architectural must-sees in the city include wandering across the Erasmus Bridge, which is known locally as ‘the swan’, the Van Nelle Factory (a former factory which is now a designated UNESCO world heritage site), and the beautiful historic old harbour. For more information on Rotterdam’s harbour, you might consider taking this Rotterdam Harbour Tour.
Rotterdam is a great city to cycle (or walk) around
One of the very best reasons to visit the Netherlands is that it’s pretty easy to cycle, pretty much anywhere. Due to the incredibly flat nature of the country, renting a bicycle and exploring another side of Rotterdam couldn’t be easier. Alternatively, if you only have a limited time in the city, then I recommend taking yourself on this free and self-guided walking tour of Rotterdam.
One district of Rotterdam is called the ‘Cool District’
And while we’re on the subject of nightlife, bars, and clubs, it’s worth talking about the hippest area of the city. There’s one word for a certain district in town, and that word is ‘cool’. Home to plenty of bars, restaurants, and clubs, this area is where all the best nightlife of Rotterdam can be found.
The food scene of Rotterdam
Rotterdam is one of the top foodie destinations in the Netherlands. From cafés to fancy restaurants to lunch hotspots, this city truly has it all when it comes to culinary experiences. For the quirkiest food encounter of all, however, be sure to head to Fenix Food Factory. This daily market can be found in the heart of a former warehouse and is open daily, with the exception of Monday.
For one of the best lunch spots in town, visit the Markthal. Open every day of the year, once there, in the largest glass archway in Europe, you’ll find a plethora of restaurants, bars, cafés, and take away spots which will cater to any foodie whim. Housed within one of the trendiest buildings in town, head there to snap some photos, even if you’re not hungry!
The Mills of Kinderdijk
Now a recognised UNESCO world heritage site and located just a short cycle ride away from the city centre, the Mills of Kinderdijk are easily one of the most ‘Instagrammable photo spots in Rotterdam’. Constructed in around 1740, these nineteen original windmills demonstrate how the Dutch dealt with the problem of water over the centuries.
Easily one of the best places to visit in the Netherlands, other examples of original mills include those at the pretty Dutch town of Zanse Schans. If you want to enjoy a less touristic example of windmills close to the Hague, then you might consider a trip to the Molendriegang close to Leidschendam.
Practical advice and tips for planning your visit to Rotterdam
If you’re looking for a great weekend escape in Europe, then you may well want to plan a visit to Rotterdam. Easy to cycle or walk around, much of the city’s major attractions can easily be explored over the course of a long weekend. If you’re short on time, then Rotterdam is an easy day trip from Amsterdam or any easy day trip from The Hague.
If you’re planning to stay overnight, then when planning your trip, you’ll want to book your accommodation well in advance (quite literally as soon as you’ve secured your transport). Check here for the best accommodation rates in Rotterdam.
I highly recommend at least arriving or leaving by train (the train station architecture is fantastic!) and Schipol airport is a short 25-minute ride away on the train! One of the best views of Rotterdam can be found from above at the Euromast Tower. Constructed from 1958 to 1960, the tower offers particularly great views of the Erasmus Bridge. Check here to book your ticket in advance.