The Best Things To Do in Rotterdam for Curious Travellers

Western Europe

Mar 03
Things to do in Rotterdam the Netherlands

Things to do in Rotterdam the Netherlands

Things to do in Rotterdam

All ritzy and glitzy in an urban reinvention way, you'll find plenty of unusual things to do in Rotterdam.

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Introducing Rotterdam: Putting the Otter into Rotterdam

No, not really. No otters to be found (or none as far as I'm told...)

But Rotterdam does like to put the provocative into its cityscape, its art museums and pretty much every factor of daily life.

When the Nazis bombed the city centre, Rotterdam decided not to "rebuild" but to start anew.

When the old port faltered as fewer emigrants fled to New York , Rotterdam redesigned its waterfront.

And when the EU threatened to ban the outdoor sale of fruits and vegetables (which turns out not to be quite true,) Rotterdam responded with Europe's largest indoor market (and most spectacular one to boot.)

Cool Architecture

Cool architecture is to Rotterdam what yellow taxicabs are to New York: ubiquitous and characterful. Unlike the taxis, some of the buildings are easy to miss if you don't have a helping hand to put them into context. Enter ArchiGuides (and if you take a tour with Willem Besselink you get an insight into the city's visual art scene too.)

Take a tour to catch the highlights and understand the stories behind Rotterdam's chrome and glass. 

Spectacular indoor market in Rotterdam

Spectacular indoor market in Rotterdam

Visit the Hendrik Chabot Museum

Check out work from the less well known local boy Hendrik Chabot at the museum that bears his name.

Catch the Classics in Art

Take a tour through Rembrandt and Van Gogh in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (and in addition to the art, enjoy the free wifi and banter about the nearby big city that we shalt never mention by name.)

Look for Bubbly Buildings

Marvel at the bubbly floating buildings that represent Rotterdam's scientific efforts to combat the threat of global warming.

Did You Know? 

It is RIDICULOUSLY easy to link together the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague by train. City hop between all four over a weekend and get a brief taste of each. Or hunker down in one and explore it thoroughly. 

Where to Eat in Rotterdam

Cafe-Restaurant Rodin - a light and airy restaurant in the vibrant Witte de Withstraat, this place brought warmth to my shivering bones through its truffle and mushroom soup and uber-friendly service.

Las Palmas - taste the city in all its modern glory in Las Palmas, creation of Dutch TV chef Herman den Blijker. Sea bream on pearl barley can seem dry and dull in lesser hands; here it's perfection.

And watch out for another local boy: Erasmus. Not only does his name decorate the backpacks of hordes of European students each year, but he also has a bridge. The Erasmus Bridge, in fact ;-)

Where to Stay in Rotterdam

As a member of the delicious Design Hotels Group, The Mainport matches Rotterdam's sense of style. It's modern and funky with an international flavour (each floor has themes from a different part of the world and as Europe's largest port, Rotterdam claims to be one of the most international cities in the world.)

The Mainport suffers from a common affliction among modern hotels - difficult-to-find-all-the-light-switches-to-turn-them-off-at-night-itis but the view from the glass walled elevator more than makes up for that.

Putting it together: logistics

Each city (Rotterdam, Utrecht and the Hague) can be reached with ease by train from Amsterdam Schiphol airport.

You can buy tickets on arrival at the yellow ticket machines - and instructions are also given in English. The highlights of each city are close enough to manage on foot as long as you're wearing a sturdy pair of shoes and are happy to clock up the miles (8 1/2 miles and counting, for example, on my Rotterdam trip.)

All that said, there are buses and trams in each city and plenty of helpful, friendly people about who speak spectacular English and are happy to help you out.

Disclosure – The challenge to explore the three cities of Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague in three days came from easyJet (as did the flights.) I put the itinerary together myself, with some assistance from Rotterdam Partners and Den Haag Marketing. The pick of what appears here was entirely down to me, as ever, as always etcetera etcetera. After all, if I’ve had a bad time somewhere, why on earth would I recommend it to you?!

What did I miss? What other things are there to do in Rotterdam?

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more. Find out more.

  • De'Jav says:

    Well written post with great tips.

  • What an awesome post! Easy to follow and so informative. The next time we find ourselves in the Netherlands, we will most definitely check out all three cities! :)

    • Abi King says:

      Ha – the deadline helped me organise my thoughts! Glad you found it useful…

  • It’s been so long since I’ve been back to Holland—lived there in 2005—so thanks for this peek at what it looks like now!

    • Abi King says:

      The worst thing? I looked at that and first though…2005, that was yesterday or thereabouts! Ah, how time flies…

  • I fully intend to take myself to all of these places in the near future. I love the spots you suggested to check out! Can’t wait to go see them for myself!

    • Abi King says:

      Looking forward to seeing your grand London based adventures!

  • Looks like you managed to see and do a lot in three days! I really enjoyed all three cities, too, in particular Utrecht. The city really surprised me with its beauty, and I loved the Rietveld Schroder House museum.

    • Abi says:

      Ah, interesting. I enjoyed all three but Utrecht was probably lower on my list…Perhaps because I had less time there to really get under its skin (and I didn’t manage to make it to the Rietveld Schroder House…) Ah, next time, next time!

  • Adam says:

    The EU has never theatened the outdoor sale of fruit and vegetables, that’s a very tired old myth.

    • Abi King says:

      Ooh, I like a good myth. Where did it get started do you think? Was something misunderstood? Or pulled out of thin air? Because I heard it several times…(which is how things get labelled tired old myths I suppose.)

  • Chris says:

    Great post! Massively inspired me to travel in Holland again, especially Utrecht!

  • Esther says:

    As a Utrecht local I say… you missed quite a lot! ;-) But thank you for including Utrecht in your trip in Utrecht. not many tourists do and I think it’s refreshing to see someone wander past Amsterdam for a change. If you ever decide to come back (and I hope you do!), maybe my wee guide will help you along:
    http://mooistestedentrips.nl/nieuws/utrecht-a-real-dutch-city
    Groetjes,
    Esther.

    • Abi King says:

      I do hope to come back – yes! It felt like quite a busy day just getting around these and Utrecht definitely deserves more time. Thanks for the tips :-)

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