City Guide Rotterdam | Your Dutch Guide

Rotterdam is undeniably the most futuristic and cutting edge city in The Netherlands. It’s a right metropolis with Europe’s busiest port, groundbreaking museums, fantastic architecture and a multi-ethnic community that seeps through in every aspect of the town. Rotterdam is also the only Dutch city with a proper skyline due to the many high rises and bridges. You’ll need at least two days to see it all. Check out all the top things to do in Rotterdam.

About Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Rotterdam’s history is inextricably linked to the sea. The first people settled there when a dam was built in the 13th century in the river Rotte. And sea trade started not long after. The city’s famous university owes its name to 15th century Renaissance humanist and social critic Erasmus.

But a big drama caused others to settle their name in Rotterdam, such as the now renowned architects Rem Koolhaas, Piet Blom and Ben van Berkel. After the invasion of Germany in 1940 on May 10th, Hitler pretty much forced The Netherlands to capitulate by bombing Rotterdam and basically destroying the entire city. 

Rotterdam was slowly rebuilt in the 1950’s, but it wasn’t until the 1980’s that the city council developed an architectural policy and the creation of daring new office buildings, apartments and bridges started slowly but steadily, to form the now so famous skyline.

Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Top things to do in Rotterdam

How to get to Rotterdam

  • If you’re in Europe, you may be able to fly into Rotterdam. There are flights to Rotterdam from many European destinations, such as London, Barcelona, Vienna and Lisbon.
  • Alternatively, take a flight to Amsterdam and take a train to Rotterdam. The trainride should take about 30 minutes.
  • If you’re travelling from Belgium, France, Germany or the UK? Take a (direct) train to Rotterdam. If you book 3 months ahead of your dearture date, you’ll be able to find the cheapest train tickets.
  • To travel on any type of public transport in The Netherlands, you’ll need a OV Chip Card which you can charge as you go. 

Hotels in Rotterdam

SS Rotterdam

Photo by SS Rotterdam

Staying at the SS Rotterdam is not just staying the night, it’s a real experience. The SS Rotterdam used to be a famous steamliner between Rotterdam and New York in its hayday and thousands of immigrants boarded this ship on their way to a new life. Nowadays there are many kind of huts on the SS Rotterdam, as well as restaurants, a swimming pool and spa options. The SS Rotterdam is docked near the top sights in Rotterdam. 

The James

Photo by The James

Hotel The James is a perfect place to stay when you’re in Rotterdam, it’s one of the best places in town. Tis designhotel is located in the heart to town, near all the best sights, shops and restaurants. The rooms are freshly decorated with nice furniture and cool and fresh colours. 

Supernova Hotel

Photo by Supernova Hotel

The Supernova Hotel has the perfect location for exploring Rotterdam. It’s near all the top museums and all the fabulous bars and restaurants in Witte de Withstraat. The hotel has fine rooms, a fun bar en a lovely garden where you can relax after a day of sightseeing. 

Top things to do in Rotterdam

Rotterdam City Card

Rotterdam City Card, photo by Iris van den Broek

There are loads of things to do in Rotterdam and I highly recommend buying a Rotterdam City Card. This card grants you free access to all public transport in the city and a vast discount to loads of sights, like the Euromast, Museum Kunsthal and the Zoo.

Rotterdam by bike

Rottetdam guided bike tour, photo by Iris van den Broek

You’re in The Netherlands! So the best way to explore is by bike. During this guided bike tour you’ll hear all there is about the interesting and devestating history of Rotterdam and see all the interesting sights. You’ll marvel at all the cutting edge architecture and enjoy views over the river while you cycle across the famous bridges. 

Rotterdam by boat

Rotterdam by boat, photo by Iris van den Broek

Rotterdam is a great city to discover by water. It’s great to watch the most famous skyline of The Netherlands, plus the shipyards and docks during a boat cruise


Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Top things to do in The Netherlands: Euromast

The 185-meter high Euromast is probably the most famous landmark of Rotterdam, alongside the Erasmus bridge. You can take the elevator up and enjoy a wonderful 360-degree view of Rotterdam. You can also have a drink and lunch up in the tower. And if you’re very brave you can even try abseiling from Euromast, this will set you back around €60.

Erasmus bridge

Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Top things to do in The Netherlands: Erasmus Bridge

This bridge has become the symbol of Rotterdam since it was built in 1996. It’s nicknamed The Swan as from afar it looks a little like a large white bird with its wings spread out. From the Erasmus bridge, you can enjoy the wonderful view over water and skyline of Rotterdam, and it’s a short walk from the bridge to Hotel New York or one of the famous Rotterdam museums.

Hotel New York

Things to do in Rotterdam, Hotel New York

This amazingly located, and beautiful 19th-century building is not just a hotel or restaurant. It’s an important piece of Dutch history. Hotel New York is situated in the old Holland America Line head office and many 19th and 20th century immigrants to the new world took their first steps towards the new world right here. You can have a (really good) bite to eat at Hotel New York, or visit the barber shop or bookshop. And if you really feel like splurging, you can stay the night.

Cubic houses

Top things to do in Rotterdam, Cubic Houses (photo: Ossip van Duivenbode)

Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Top things to do in Rotterdam (photo: Iris van den Broek)

If you take the metro or tram to Blaak you will immediately notice the forest of bright yellow cubic houses (kubus woningen). They were built in the 1980’s by architect Piet Blom and have been the topic of admiration and discussion ever since. You can see one of the buildings from the inside. But you can also stay in one.

Laurens Church

Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Top things to do in Rotterdam, Laurens Church

The Laurens Church is a breath of historical nostalgia amidst all that modern architecture, it’s right next to the newly built modern Markthal. The church was heavily damaged during the 1940 bombings, but it’s now well restored. In summer you should go up the tower for a nice panorama over Rotterdam.


Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Top things to do in Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Markthal.

Top things to do in Rotterdam: Markthal

De Markthal is one of the youngest additions to the long list of interesting Rotterdam architecture. The ceiling of the large covered market is the highlight of the structure, covered in bright illustrations of flora and fauna. Admittedly, the restaurants and cafés are a little bland for me (there are more interesting options nearby), but the building is an absolute must-see.

Museum Boijmans van Beuningen

Depot Boijmans van Beuining, photo Iris van den Broek

Museum Boijmans van Beuningen is of the best museums in The Netherlands and I highly (highly!) recommend a visit. The permanent collection holds the best Dutch art throughout the centuries. From Hieronymus Bosch and Rembrandt to Van Gogh and Appel. The collection of surrealists is also mighty impressive, including works by Magritte and Man Ray. The collection by Salvador Dalí is the largest outside of Spain. Unfortunately the museum is currently closed for extensive renovation. But, you can visit Depot Boijmans van Beuining, a recent addition to Rotterdam cutting edge buildings holding the amazing art of the museum until its doors open again.

Het Nieuwe Instituut

Top things to do in Rotterdam, Het Nieuwe Instituut

Het Nieuwe Instituut was born from a merger between Netherlands Architecture Institute, the Netherlands Institute for Design and Fashion and e-culture Institute Virtueel Platform. The museum looks pretty amazing with bricks on one side and steel and glass on the other, surrounded by a moat and a small park. The museum hosts alternating exhibitions on design, digital culture, and architecture. 

Natural History Museum

Top things to do in Rotterdam, Natural History Museum

On the far end of Museum Park (on the Erasmus bridge side), you will find Natural History Museum. Now, the Rotterdam natural history museum is nothing like its New York or Londen sister museums. It’s small, very small, yet so adorable that it’s totally worth a visit. There’s a collection of almost 400,000 species, but I actually was more impressed by the exhibition about prehistoric finds in and near Rotterdam, like the remains of a wooly mammoth from the river Maas. 


Top things to do in Rotterdam, Kunsthal (photo Ossip van Duivenbode)

If you love art, Kunsthal is for you. It celebrates art in the widest sense of the word and it’s some of my favourite museums in Rotterdam as they always manage to put on really interesting exhibitions, whether they’re about painting, applied arts or science. I especially appreciate their fashion exhibits. The café is a nice place for coffee or lunch.


Photo by Remastered

Remastered is one of my top things to do in Rotterdam! This audiovisual experience lets you meet the great Dutch masters in an amazingly fun way. Have a chat with Jeroen Bosch’s crazy creatures, walk through the house that Vermeer used to live in and hop along to Mondrian’s Victory Boogie Woogie. 

Sculptures along Westersingel

Sculptures Rotterdam, photo: Guide Pijper

When the sun is out, you probably don’t want to be stuck in a museum all day. That’s quite alright because next to museum park is Westersingel where you will be able to spot sculptures made by world famous artists. Across the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum you spot Sylvette by Picasso, but you can also walk along L’Homme qui marche by Rodin and the sculpture of Erasmus.

Street art in Rotterdam

Things to do in Rotterdam, street art Rotterdam (photo Iris van den Broek)

Things to do in Rotterdam, street art in Rotterdam (photo: Eric Fecken)

Things to do in Rotterdam, The Netherlands: street art in Rotterdam

Within a one minute walk from Museum Boijmans van Beuningen you will find yourself in Witte de With straat, probably the hippest street in Rotterdam with lots of bars, restaurants, hotels, and clubs. But it’s also a good place to start a bit of a street art tour. You can download the app for a self-guided walking tour past the most interesting murals in Rotterdam. Read more about street art in Rotterdam.

Fenix Food Factory

Top things to do in Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Fenix Food Factory

For me, Fenix Food Factory is simply the best Rotterdam has to offer. A couple of years ago you wouldn’t be caught dead in Katendrecht. It was all old wharves and deserted warehouses along some docks. But a couple of local food entrepreneurs decided to buy a warehouse or two for the city council and turn in into food heaven. You can visit brewery Kaapse Brouwers here, buy some amazing bread, cheese and meat. But the best part is taking a seat and ordering some of that amazing food and share it with friends at one of the large tables in the hall.

Restaurants in Rotterdam


Photo by Koekela

Ready to kickstart your day? Head to Koekela. Grab a table, order some coffee and one of the beautiful cakes that are on display. There are also glutenfree and vegan options.

De Matroos en het meisje

Photo by De Matroos en het meisje

An absolute Katendrecht delight. De Matroos en het meisje, clad in Delftish blue and starched white table cloths offers the very best Dutch cuisine has to offer. But, you eat whatever the chef is preparing that day. It’s a modern, yet cosy, and very popular restaurant. Better book ahead.


Photo by Foodhallen

If you don’t feel like picking just one particular type of food, visit Foodhallen during your visit to Rotterdam. At this food market you’ll find 12 market stalls where you can have everything from curry to sushi and from dim sum to hot dogs.


Photo by Ballroom

Witte de Withstraat should be on your list when visiting Rotterdam, as you’ll find most cool bars and restaurants per square meter than anywhere else in Rotterdam. Ballroom is the place to visit when you’re ready for a cocktail. The bar specialises in G&T’s, there are dozens of gins on the menu, from allover the world. The friendly staff will make you a beautiful cocktail. Feeling hungry? The food is pretty good, too.

Kaapse Brouwers

Photo by Kaapse Brouwers

Want to do a brewery visit during your stay in Rotterdam? Tucked inside Fenix Food Factory are Kaapse Brouwers, one of the most fun breweries to visit in The Netherlands. You can book a brewery tour or simply order a tasting with samples of all the different beers on the menu. 


Photo by: Botanero

Food at Botanero is inspired by traditional South American cantinas. Order a fine cocktail, some tacos or nachos and find a place on the outside terrace to enjoy it all while watching the world go by.

Rotterdam, The Netherlands
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Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Top things to do in Rotterdam | Your Dutch Guide (photo: Iris van den Broek)
Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Top things to do in Rotterdam | Your Dutch Guide (photo: Adriënne Wildeman)

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