When describing beautiful Rotterdam, the recommendations seem to be endless. Despite being a relatively small city, the ‘dam has a lot to offer to both tourists and locals, making it a must-do stop when visiting the Netherlands. To help you out a little bit, I have compiled a list of 11 things you need to do when in Rotterdam. Although I am sadly not a local, living there for 5 months was enough to get me acquainted with a lot of cool spots in the ‘dam. I included touristy spots and a couple of local things to see, so that you can get the best of both worlds. If you see all this, you can rest assured you have made the most of your stay there. I also kind of cheated by putting two (or three) things together, but hey ho. Here we go!
Erasmus Brug + Noordereiland
Designed by dutch architect Ben van Berken, the Erasmus bridge is a stunning piece of architecture in the heart of Rotterdam. Connecting North and South of the city, the Erasmus brug is a regular tourist attraction because of its spectacular design, which matches the avant-guard vibe of the city. Completed in 1966, the bridge is named after Erasmus of Rotterdam, a Christian Renaissance humanist – hence the name – and is the second largest bridge in the Netherlands after the Zeelange bridge. From here, you can admire the beautiful Rotterdam Maas (river) as well as Noordereiland, the small island in the middle of the Maas, rightfully re-named small Manhattan by some.
2. Visit Rotterdam Centraal
It would not be a trip to Rotterdam without a visit to the Central station. Then again, if you are in Rotterdam, chances are you have gone past this place when you arrived (duh) so it’s not exactly rocket science. However, if you haven’t, there you go. Aside from being the main railway station in the city, Rotterdam Centraal is an architectural wonder reflecting the artsy vibe of the city. Developed in recent years and officially opened just in 2014, it never fails to amaze tourists (as well as serving as the ultimate selfie spot).
3. Museums, museums, museums
Rotterdam is an art city. The hipster city of the Netherlands, some say. Because of this, you will not get bored if you are an art lover. A walk through the Museum Park will take you to the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, the Kunsthal (contemporary art) as well as the Netherlands Architecture Institute and the Chabot Museum, dedicated to dutch painter and sculptor Hendrik Chabot. Additionally, the Museum Park also offers the Natuurhistorisch Museum, a.k.a. the museum of natural history.
On top of this, Rotterdam is bustling with art galleries, from the Kunstuitleen on the Goudsesingel, to the Centre of Contemporary Art on Witte de Withstraat, to the numerous art shops on the Nieuwe Binnenweg. Finally, a shoutout to the famous Rotterdam Maritime Museum, which attracts masses of tourists each year.
4. Stroll around the Oude Binnenweg
The Oude Binnenweg is the centre of Rotterdam. Here you will find bars, pubs and all sorts of shops, from small independent venues to international chains. Always crowded with locals and tourists alike, this lively street will take you from the end of the Nieuwe Binnenweg to the city centre of Rotterdam, where you can enjoy a pint in company (or by yourself) or shop your heart away among the multitude of retail choices. The Oude Binnenweg will then eventually take you to the Coolsingel, another central street which runs the city parallel to the OB and where several clubs can be found. Alternatively, proceeding on your way through the centre you will eventually end up at the Markthal, where you can happily proceed with the following travel tips.
5. Visit the Markthal, Cubic Houses and Oude Haven
If you’re a food lover, the Markthal is the place for you. Located right at the end of the Blaak, the Markthal is a culinary heaven with its multitude of stands, selling traditional dutch foods as well as international dishes from all over the place. In here, you can buy unique products as well as trying out new things thanks to the endless taste samples filling up its hallways. Designed by architectural firm MVRDV, the Markthal is once again a representative of the avant-guard vibe of the city. The insides of the building are decorated with artwork by Arno Coenen, named “Hoorn des Overbloeds” (Horns of Plenty) and depicting flowers, fruits, vegetables and natural elements, which are reflected back in the food stands on the ground floor.
The Markthal overlooks a beautiful square and the world-famous Cubic Houses, designed by architect Piet Blom and the result of an art experiment to optimise the city spaces. Once again, this spot works as a great background for selfies, as well as beautiful photos to show off on your social media. Finally, walking past the Cubic Houses will lead you to Oude Haven, one of the oldest harbours in the Netherlands as well as a great spot to six back and relax, surrounded by bars and pubs to experience some Dutch nightlife.
6. Check out the Saturday market by the Markthal
If you happen to be visiting the Markthal on a Saturday, chances are you will run into the Blaak Market. Made up of endless stands selling all kinds of things, this is the place where you can find anything from fruits and veggies, to clothes, to antiques and home furniture. It’s a great place to buy fresh produce at lower prices, as well as finding unique pieces that you can’t find in shops and generally having a good time in the bustling heart of the city. Once you’re done, you can walk back to the Markthal and finish off your morning with some samples of the amazing Dutch cheeses. Can you describe a more perfect day?
7. Go to Rotown (and V11)
We have been talking a lot about art and architecture in Rotterdam, but what about its music scene? With Amsterdam constantly stealing the spotlight in terms of concerts and live venues, Rotterdam often goes unnoticed on this front when it really shouldn’t be. Aside from hosting numerous music festivals throughout the years, Rotterdam also owns a small gem on the Nieuwe Binnenweg called Rotown. Home of most of my Erasmus nights, this pub hosts weekly live music shows by emerging artists coming from all over the globe, at extremely reasonable prices. Here I had the opportunity to see artists like Ben Caplan, I Am Oak and Tash Sultana for as cheap as €10. An absolute bargain if you ask me!
On top of that, Rotown works in collaboration with Vessel 11 (V11), a red beast located in Wijnhaven amongst the Rotterdam canals. V11 is an anchored boat which serves as a restaurant / pub upstairs and a live music venue downstairs (check out this blog post to find out more about food in Rotterdam), the icing on the cake being that they have board games too. Although it can get a bit steamy when there’s a big crowd, this place is absolutely incredible and, I mean, where else are you going to attend a concert on a fucking boat!?
8. Visit Witte de With
Witte de Withstraat is a bustling street in the middle of Rotterdam, adorned with bars, pubs and small shops to cater to all tastes. Usually described as a must-see in Rotterdam, it also the home of the Witte Aap, which apparently won the title of Best Pub in Europe offered by Lonely Planet a few years ago. Despite locals being extremely proud of this achievement, I found the pub to be pretty basic and way more crowded than it should be, which makes it difficult (and frustrating) to even find a seat. So try at your own risk. Aside from that, Witte de Withstraat also sports the Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art, a public institution which hosts exhibitions and events as well as being a stage for emerging artists, both locally and internationally. As a plus, they also organise routine art tours, usually free of cost, which is great to explore the Rotterdam art scene and spend a nice afternoon.
9. Visit Delfshaven
Originally part of the city of Delft as its main access to the Maas, Delfshaven became part of the city of Rotterdam at its own request in 1886. Nestled in the East side of the city at the end of the Nieuwe Binnenweg, this magical place is a small treasure that can easily go unnoticed if tourists only visit the city centre of Rotterdam. Nowadays, aside from being a popular neighbourhood for students in the city, it is also the home of numerous privately owned boats, which adorn both sides of the Nieuwe Maas. A walk through the Voorstraat will guide you along bars, pubs and floating homes, creating an absolutely peaceful corner to unplug for a while. Additionally, a stop at Pelgrim, a pub right by the water, will freshen up your mind with their in-house brewed selection of beers.
10. Kralingse Plas
A bit far out of the city centre, Kralingse Plas is definitely worth the trek. Nestled in the student neighbourhood of Kralingen and not far from the Erasmus University, KP is a huge park with an even bigger lake within it. I stumbled upon it almost by accident while visiting my flatmate at University and was immediately mesmerised by the beauty of the place. Starting with a walk through the woods, where people spend their afternoons either running, walking their puppies or simply strolling with their loved ones, you will gradually make your way towards Kralingse Plas a.k.a. the magnificent lake. In cold and warm temperatures, during the day and at night, this place will never fail to amaze you with its natural and simple beauty. Here, locals like to hang out with friends, jump into the lake when the weather allows it, have picnics and relax, away from the chaos of the city. Either by bike or by foot, one can easily enjoy a run through nature as you slowly explore the countless paths through the woods.
11. Euromast Tower and Gardens
You thought I’d forget about this eh?? Nope. Member of the World Federation of Great Towers, the Euromast is the tallest building in the whole of the Netherlands. It towers over the Euromast Gardens and overlooks the entire city, gifting visitors with a beautiful view of Rotterdam from above. The entrance to the Euromast is €9 and it grants you access to the tower as well as the restaurant inside, which is a pretty extortionate price but it works. Once you’re in, you have the option of either toning up your muscles and walking up the stairs, or be lazy and take the elevator instead. When you reach the top, a round terrace will welcome you, giving you a 360º eye on the city. Additionally, a second elevator ride will lift you up to the final top of the tower, during which a soothing voice will fill you in on stories about Rotterdam. The second elevator does not actually allow you to step outside, as it is completely glass-protected and only enables you to look out through the windows, but it’s very relaxing and gives you the opportunity to sit back and relax. Finally, a trip to a lower floor will take you to the Euromast restaurant, which is the perfect way of dining with a killer view over Rotterdam!
Once you’re down again, you can relax by taking a stroll through the Euromast Gardens, a stunning park where flea fairs and other events routinely take place. In nice weather, you will also find friends, families and kids playing, having picnics and generally enjoy the peace and quiet that this place provides. By walking through the Gardens, you will also eventually end up right by the river side, with a view of ferries and cruises sailing across the waters as well as a beautiful sight of the Erasmus brug from below.
These are all the tips I have for you today! If you have any further advice or would like to add something to the list, please feel free to comment or message me to let me (and everyone else) know!
As always, I hope you’re having a lovely day.
Until next time,