Rotterdam is a major port city in the Dutch province of South Holland and popular for its lively culture, trendy nightlife, maritime heritage, urban architecture and artistic character. We have created this 1 day itinerary to deliver you the best experience of Rotterdam.
How to get there: You can reach Rotterdam by train using NS. If you fly in, you can land at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport or Brussels Airport, which are both 1 hour of a train ride away.
Where to stay: Stayokay Hostel Rotterdam is housed in one of the famous cube houses. You can also choose to stay at the New Ocean Paradise Hotel. It’s a floating hotel, which is decorated in full classical Chinese style located next to the harbour of Rotterdam.
When to come: The Dutch weather can be very windy and rainy, so we recommend that you visit between May and September.
How long to stay: Rotterdam can be covered in 1 day if you don’t plan on visiting any museums. However, if you do plan to incorporate additional activities such as a visit to a museum or taking a cruise, you should stay for an additional night. You might also choose to make this your hub and explore the rest of the Netherlands from here.
If you’ve already covered all the basics of Rotterdam, check out our list of 10 more amazing things to do in this Dutch city.
Marvel at the Urban Architecture
Your day in Rotterdam begins at the Central station, which immediately shows you that Rotterdam is different than other Dutch cities. The station hall’s urban design reflects the rest of Rotterdam’s metropolitan architecture that more closely resembles a tiny New York than the typical Dutch you may know with its canals and tiny brick houses. The reason why Rotterdam looks so different is that most of it was destroyed in WW2. Only in areas such as Old Rotterdam will you get a glimpse of how the city used to look like before the war.
Explore the City Center
As you exit the Central station you will find yourself in the city center of Rotterdam. You can walk through the Lijnbaan, the main shopping street of Rotterdam. It was reopened in 1953 after the main pedestrian street has been completely destroyed by the German airforce. Stop by at Koopgoot, a big shopping mall, where you can grab a quick bite if you feel hungry or do some shopping. Finally, take a look at the Stadshuis, the Rotterdam City Hall before heading to our next stop which is 6 minutes away.
Discover Grote Sint Laurenskerk
After seeing the city hall, head to Grote Sint Laurenskerk, which is unlike other churches in that its space can be rented out for concerts, theater and performances. This Gothic church is the only Medieval remnant of the Rotterdam city center. In the 21st century the church was used in an increasing multifunctional purpose. Unfortunately the restaurant De Swaarte Leeuw that was housed in the church closed. From Wednesday until Saturday from May until October you can climb the tower. Tickets are €7,50 per person.
Have breakfast at Markthal
If you arrive in Rotterdam hungry, you could also head to the Markthal first as this is the perfect spot for food lovers (try the pho at Pho Asian Noodle Bar!). Build in 2014 it is actually a residential and office building with a market hall in a horseshoe-format draped underneath it. The Markthal houses 100 fresh food stalls, 15 food shops, a supermarket and various restaurants. Look up as you wander through the Markthal, because only then will you discover the Horn of Plenty, a magnificent ceiling artwork for which Markthal has been referred to as the Dutch Sistine Chapel.
Head to the Cube Houses
After getting some energy in, you’re up next for an architectural marvel. Piet Bloom designed the cube houes, otherwise known as the tree houses. Piet had a forest in mind when he designed the houses. If you look closer at the houses you will notice that they look like the top of a tree with the trunks being the canopy. The Kijk Kubus is the a model cube house that you can explore from the inside in order to get a feel of what it might be like to live in one of the cubes. There is even a hostel, where you can book a room to experience this form of living overnight.
Visit the Rotterdam port
Rotterdam’s port is the largest port in Europe and the largest seaport worldwide outside of East-Asia. From 1962 until 2004 it was the world’s busiest by annual cargo tonnage. The port stretches out over a length of 40km that you can walk or cycle along. You could also take a 75-minute long cruise along the Rotterdam port and see parts of it that are inaccessible on foot. On the cruise you will also see the famous boat turned hotel SS Rotterdam, the Scheepvaartkwartier – a neighbourhood that survived the WW2 bombings and De Nolet, the highest windmill of the world spanning an impressive height of 55 meters in total.
Have lunch in Witte de Withstraat
Witte de Withstraat is iconic as it boasts with cafés, restaurants, bars, art galleries and shops. The street is adjacent to the museumpark, where you will find a collection of different museums such as Kunsthal or Huis Sonneveld. Head to Hamburg for the best Hamburgers (they have amazing vegan options as well) or to Supermercado for a South-American dinner experience with amazing tequila-filled cocktails. Afterwards you can go to Wunderbar, a German inspired rustic bar with an underground twist. It’s also an exhibition and performance space showing new work on a regular basis.
Walk over the famous Erasmus Bridge
Walking over the Erasmus Bridge is a must-do when you’re in Rotterdam. Not only is the bridge stunning itself, but when you walk on the bridge you will also get an amazing skyline view over the city of Rotterdam as well as its port. The Erasmus bridge is a cable-stayed and bascule bridge that was completed in 1996. It crosses the Maas river and divides Rotterdam into north and south. With its 40 cables that hold the bridge over the water, the Erasmus bridge is the second largest bridge in the Netherlands. Locals call it ‘the swan’, because of its swan-like shape.
Explore the Old Rotterdam in Delfshaven
Delfshaven, otherwise known as Rotterdam West or Old Rotterdam is the area that remained most intact after the WW2 bombing in 1940. Here you can find canal houses, Rotown – a popular concert venue, the Kunsthal, the Euromast, Turkish bakeries, Surinamese shops, the Pelgrimvaderskerk, the museum park and even an old-school windmill at De Distillierketel. Head to Nieuwe Binnenweg to end your day trip to Rotterdam with a dinner at Happy Food & Health, a vegan restaurant offering healthy and delicious meals with fresh ingredients. If you still have some time left check out our second guide with even more things Rotterdam.