Rotterdam is the Europe’s biggest seaport city and in the top 10 biggest in the world. This city is also one of the famous destinations in Europe because of its magnificent, creative and strange architectures, diversity in culture, vibrant festivals as well as wonderful natural scenery. So, is Rotterdam worth visiting, how to visit Rotterdam, what to do in Rotterdam and how to plan a budget trip to Rotterdam for the first-time perfectly? Let’s check out our Rotterdam travel blog (Rotterdam blog) with the fullest Rotterdam travel guide (Rotterdam visitor guide, Rotterdam tourist guide, Rotterdam city guide, Rotterdam guide) from how to get to Rotterdam, best places to visit, best time to come, what to eat as well as top things to do in Rotterdam to help you maximize your trip as follows!
- What to buy in Amsterdam? — 14+ must have gifts, best Amsterdam souvenirs & best things to buy in Amsterdam
- The Hague blog — The fullest the Hague guide for first-timers
- Utrecht travel blog — The fullest Utrecht guide for first-timers
- Amsterdam travel blog — The fullest Amsterdam travel guide for first-timers
- What to buy in Netherlands? — 15+ best gifts, souvenirs & best things to buy in Netherlands
Rotterdam is a young, modern, and rapidly growing city. Uniquely designed architectures, a dynamic pace of life, important international trading ports, many restaurants with multinational delicacies and countless unique festivals are the reasons why Rotterdam is in the Top 10 Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016. This city with many of the most innovative architectural works in Europe will surely surprise you. The article shares detailed guide of the port city of Rotterdam so that you can easily make a trip to explore this city.
Overview of Rotterdam (#rotterdam travel blog)
Rotterdam is located in the southwestern part of the Netherlands, near the River Maas. The most modern city in the Netherlands, which originated in a fishing village in 1328. Although it is no longer the biggest port in the world, the port accounts for nearly 40% of the maritime transport of goods into Europe.
Rotterdam Netherlands was the world’s largest port from 1962 to 2004. Although later surpassed by Singapore and Shanghai respectively, until now, Rotterdam is still Europe’s largest port city.
Although mostly destroyed by German air raids in 1940, Rotterdam has been rebuilt with busy shopping streets, high-rise buildings, making it one of the most modern with unique architectural cities across Europe.
Heavily damaged in World War II, the rebuilding of the new port of Rotterdam was soon carried out, and it was completed surprisingly quickly. This is the period when many buildings in Rotterdam were designed differently from the traditional Dutch architecture in other cities.
The Netherlands is a multicultural country, and Rotterdam is the most multicultural city in this multicultural country. The residents here possess more than 160 different nationalities. The mayor of the city, Ahmed Aboutaleb, is also a Moroccan.
Because it is the largest seaport in Europe, Rotterdam is a city of immigrants. About 40% of the people here are from other continents. The most are the Mediterranean, British, American, Asian… This is what makes Rotterdam such a diverse city in terms of culture, religion, cuisine and peoples.
Just walk around the port city of Rotterdam, you will see all the strange and very special structures. This is the result of constant creativity along with the “can-do” spirit of the Rotterdam people.
When to visit? (#rotterdam blog)
The climate of the Netherlands in general and of Rotterdam in particular is characterized by a temperate oceanic climate. The average temperature in the town ranges from 10 degrees Celsius to 25 degrees Celsius. Winter in Rotterdam is not too cold lasting from December to February. Spring from late March to June, summer from late June to September, it’s not too hot. Autumn starts from near the end of September to mid-December.
Each season in Rotterdam has its own beauty, so you can choose for yourself at any time. However, the time that most tourists choose is the time in spring and autumn.
How to get to Rotterdam? (#rotterdam travel blog)
If you depart from Hanoi to the city of Rotterdam, you can take a flight of Vietnam Airlines, you will have to transit via Hong Kong and London airports. From Rotterdam The Hague Airport to the city center is about 5.6km, you can take a bus or taxi to your hotel.
From Amsterdam to Rotterdam (#rotterdam travel blog)
The distance from Amsterdam to Rotterdam is about 80 km. The two most popular ways to get from Amsterdam to Rotterdam are by train and bus.
- Train is faster but more expensive, ranging from €16 to €22. It takes 37 minutes to 1 hour 14 minutes.
- Bus from €5 € to €9, takes 1 hour 10 minutes – 1 hour 45 minutes. The bus companies for this routes are Flixbus, Eurolines bus… I took Flixbus.
Or you can take a flight of Thai Airways to Bangkok and then fly directly to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport and then from the airport you take the shuttle bus with the sign A4 to The Hague, then change to bus A13 to go straight to the city of Rotterdam.
Getting around Rotterdam (#rotterdam travel guide)
Transport in Rotterdam is very convenient and easy to go. Moreover, Rotterdam is quite small, so tourists usually just need to take the tram to reach the main attractions.
The city has a transportation system of tram and metro, but the most convenient and fastest way to travel in the city is by bicycle. You can rent them at the central station for an average price of around 3 EUR or 15 EUR per day. In addition, you can also travel by other means of transport in Rotterdam such as buses with an average price of about 7.50-16.50 EUR.
Otherwise, you can use the public transport system here to get around. The metro will have a trip every 4 minutes and there are only 2 lines that take you to the outskirts of the city.
Buses here are not as popular as trams, so you can hardly find any bus stops on the street, because most bus routes run long distances, even reaching cities around Rotterdam. If you want to go far, you can take the bus, but only in the inner city, it is best to take the tram. This is the most popular means of transport in Rotterdam city because there are many lines and stops, you will be able to get around more easily and quickly.
Taxis are the most expensive means of transport in Rotterdam costing at least 5 EUR and the fare is 2.10 EUR/km. If you want the most economical taxi ride then go with the Uber app, you can save $15 on your first Uber ride with this code: jlx6v.
When traveling to Rotterdam self-sufficient, almost everyone uses the Rotterdam Day Ticket. The 2023 ticket price is 9€. This ticket goes on unlimited trams, buses and metros in Rotterdam. You need to swipe your card every time you hop on and hop off.
Where to go and what to do in Rotterdam? (#rotterdam guide)
Church of St. Lauren (Sint Laurenskerk)
Address: Grotekerkplein 27, 3011 GC Rotterdam, Netherlands
Hours: 11 AM–5 PM/Monday; Sunday: Closed
St. Lawrence Church is Rotterdam’s only remaining main medieval church in the city. The late Gothic structure, built between 1449 and 1525, was originally consecrated as a Catholic church before being converted into a church after the reforms in 1572. Much of the meticulous designs of its interior has been removed at that time.
Between 1619 and 1642 the Church of St Laurent was designed by the architect Hendrick de Keyser with a wooden spire but after a period of damage was converted to a stone top. Visiting this famous place, visitors will admire the Carillon bell and take pictures as a souvenir here.
Rotterdam Zoo (Diergaarde Blijdorp)
Address: Blijdorplaan 8, 3041 JG Rotterdam, Netherlands
Hours: 9 AM–5 PM
The Rotterdam Zoo is the largest zoo in the Netherlands and one of the most active in Europe, running both conservation and breeding programs. There are many species for visitors to see according to the zoo’s theme, from lions, antelopes or ostriches and giraffes in the savannah of Africa to tigers and elephants from the rainforests of Asia, plus polar bears and arctic foxes. Cute otters splash in the pools, penguins roam around the aquarium and gorillas play on Phi Gorilla Island at the Rotterdam zoo. Even on a rainy day tourists can visit the sharks and rays in the Oceanium or admire thousands of butterflies in the Amazonica.
Address: Overblaak 70, 3011 MH Rotterdam, Netherlands
Hours: 11 AM–5 PM
Rotterdam is home to many works of modern architecture, much of it inspired by the city’s seaside setting. This architectural standout is the city’s famous Cube houses (Kubuswoningen).
The most eye-catching architecture in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam is probably the Cube Houses. For that reason, Cube Houses is one of the most famous Rotterdam tourist attractions.
Designed by Dutch architect, Piet Blom, this block, with its unique cubic upper stories, is clearly visible from a walk through the Old Port, and one of them, the Show Cube , is open to visitors and contains historical information about the building through displays on the design. This is an ideal place for you to take unique and strange pictures in Rotterdam.
Another architectural gem is the White House (Witte Huis). Once the tallest building in Europe, this stunning ten-story Art Nouveau structure was built in 1898 and is now a National Heritage Site with superb rooftop views.
Cube Houses is located on Overblaak Street, right on Blaak Subway Station – a crowded station surrounded by unique architectures and many famous restaurants.
Each house has 3 floors. The 1st floor is the living room and kitchen, the 2nd floor is 2 bedrooms and the 3rd floor is the rooftop. Because of the cube shape, the 1st and 3rd floor will be much smaller than the 2nd floor.
There is a museum here that is open to visitors, so if you want to see the interior, buy a ticket to the museum.
Architect Piet Blom’s idea is that the top of each of these cube houses can be imagined as a tree and when they stand side by side, they create a forest.
Address: Kolk 90, 3011 MD Rotterdam, Netherlands
Next to Cube Houses is a building with a design like a giant pencil. This is the name of the building: Pencil Tower.
Remember what I said at the beginning? In the architectural city of Rotterdam, every time you open your eyes, you will see a very strange architecture. For example, the building next to this “Pencil Tower” uses a giant fancy yellow plumbing system to create a distinct highlight.
Market Hall Rotterdam Blaak is the perfect combination of space for dining, entertainment, apartments, and other amenities. Market Hall’s design prioritizes taking in natural light, helping the whole building to have an open space and full of sunlight.
Entering the building, everyone is sure to be captivated by the impressive design on the ceiling, created by artists Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam.
With more than 11,000 square meters of 3D design with images of giant colorful fruits, this is considered as “The largest artwork in the world” or another very easy comparison is “The Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam.”
Pixar – the famous American animation studio is the unit that makes 3D software to produce this huge Horn of Plenty.
Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam wanted to make people feel like children eager to explore the colorful and vivid world of nature. Indeed, when I walked in here, my friends and I looked at it and discussed enthusiastically about how beautiful and sharp this and that fruit are.
Inside the Market Hall are many restaurants. Therefore, visitors to the port city of Rotterdam often come here to enjoy unique Dutch dishes.
You’ll find fast food of all kinds and restaurants serving everything from traditional Dutch dishes, like Stroopwafels, to Balkan dishes, Spanish tapas, and exotic Indonesian dishes here.
The Red Apple
The Red Apple is located in the most prominent location of Wijnhaven Island. The building overlooks the Maas River and Old Harbor.
Wijnhaven Island is the connection between the central area of Rotterdam and the Maas River. This area is currently being developed gradually with careful consideration between the construction of modern buildings in harmony with the existing works here so as not to make too big a difference in terms of landscape for the city of Rotterdam.
The Red Apple is a complex that includes offices, restaurants, cafes, shops… From the outside, it doesn’t look like an apple, does it?
Next to Cube Houses and not far from The Red Apple is Old Harbor. The most prominent in Old Harbor is the White House.
White House (Witte Huis)
The White House is the first high-rise building in Europe. The building was inspired by the design of the high-rise building in Manhattan, New York. White House was built in the Art Nouveau architectural style. Because of its historical character, the White House is on the list of Dutch national heritage.
Unfortunately, it was already 8pm, so I could not go inside to visit the White House.
Rotterdam City Hall
Address: Coolsingel 40, 3011 AD Rotterdam, Netherlands
Hours: 8:30 AM–5 PM/Saturday, Sunday: Closed
Rotterdam City Hall is famous building in the Netherlands. The vast majority of the city was destroyed to ashes during the German Air Force’s destruction of the Rotterdam Blitz in 1940, but this building miraculously survived. Built between 1914 and 1940 at the request of Queen Wilhelmina, it has a symmetrical design and a Renaissance style, unlike other Dutch cities halls.
The most impressive thing about this sightseeing place in Rotterdam is, the tower is 70 meters high, with a statue of the angel of peace and a clock. If you come to Rotterdam City Hall on Christmas, you will admire the giant pine tree in front of the door and also a favorite virtual living place for many tourists.
The 800m-long bridge The Erasmus Bridge crosses the Maas River and connects the South and North banks of Rotterdam. This suspension bridge has piers up to 139 m high and is supported by 40 cables. With a shape like a swan and covered in white tones, Erasmusbrug is also known as The Swan.
The two bridgeheads of The Erasmus Bridge are two completely opposite areas. On one side is Delfshaven – a small village in the middle of the port carrying many historical values. This is one of the rare areas of Rotterdam that was not destroyed during World War II. So here you will see buildings built in traditional Dutch architecture.
This area is also home to the tallest building in the Netherlands. Maastoren Tower is 165m high and is the main office of the world famous auditing firm Deloitte.
Anyone who likes large spaces will definitely like The Erasmus Bridge. Standing here, looking out into the distance while admiring the scenery while enjoying the windy breeze.
Erasmus Bridge was designed in 1989 and built in 1994 named after a great man of the city as the symbol of the city of Rotterdam. This is a cable-stayed bridge, the largest and heaviest swing bridge in Europe connecting the North and South banks of the city.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Address: Museumpark 18, 3015 CX Rotterdam, Netherlands
The museum was built in 1849 and is open daily from Monday to welcome tourists to visit. Note that you will have to pay a fee to enter the museum to visit.
For only 15 euros, the Boijmans van Beuningen museum is home to an extensive collection of masterpieces such as Pieter Brueghel the Elder or an important collection of Salvadoran surrealism and Rene Magritte.
This is the iconic tower of Rotterdam that you need to visit. The tower has an elevator lift up to 185m high with an entrance fee of 9.50 EUR. There is also a very good restaurant on the tower, but it’s also expensive.
Rotterdam Centraal Station
Brief history, Rotterdam Centraal Station was built in 1957 by architect Sybold of Ravesteyn. However, with the rapid development of the surrounding modern architecture and the increasing number of visitors, this old design is no longer suitable. So in March 2014 Rotterdam Centraal Station was expanded, changed towards more modern, more convenient, and more international.
The impressive roof of the Rotterdam Centraal Station is made of stainless steel and has a spire towards the city center. This is the most outstanding feature of Rotterdam Centraal Station.
10,000 m2 of the total roof area of 26,000 m2 is designed with transparent glass to convert sunlight into electrical energy. This is the project that takes advantage of the roof of a public building to generate the largest electric energy Netherlands in particular and Europe in general.
Miniworld Rotterdam is the largest indoor miniature world in the Netherlands, with miniature versions of the city’s cityscape, the harbor and the model train passing more than 2 km on the tracks.
The Rotterdam experience, complete with historic architecture and modern towers, includes buildings like Erasmusbridge, the Euromast, the new Central Station Rotterdam and City Hall, Hotel New York. There is even a scale model of the port of Rotterdam, once was the largest port in the world.
It takes about 25 minutes to visit Miniworld Rotterdam, visitors will learn about the Netherlands through this model. To get to this famous place, take the metro to Rotterdam Central Station and then walk to Miniworld Rotterdam located at Weena 745.
Located just 10 miles outside of the city of Rotterdam is Kinderdijk, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Netherlands. The village, located on land that juts out into the Alblasserwaard Sea at the confluence of the Lek and Noord rivers, is home to 19 windmills that were built around in 1740 to help control water and hold the land. The best time to visit is in early September when the windmills are lit up every night from 8:30am – 11:30am.
Kinderdijk village not only has a beautiful landscape, but also has a cafe, souvenir shop for visitors to relax, admire the scenery and buy gifts. Experiences when exploring the village of Kinderdijk that visitors should not miss are walking, biking to admire the surrounding scenery.
Old Harbour and the Museum
Address: Leuvehaven 1, 3011 EA Rotterdam, Netherlands
Hours: 11 AM–5 PM/Monday: Closed
Old Harbour (Oude Haven) is a beautiful sightseeing place in Rotterdam that recreates the image of a historic boat and the trading activities of the Dutch people. The museum is a sightseeing attraction that draws visitors back to the heyday of the trading port and shipyard in the city of Rotterdam. Visiting this place, visitors can also walk around to learn about repair scenes, paint ships or enjoy coffee.
An interesting destination that many visitors love when coming to Old Harbour is, the Harbour museum with old lights and an iron ram ship on display. If you are a lover and want to learn about the maritime industry, then Old Harbor is the ideal place that you should not miss.
Boat Tours of the Europoort
Rotterdam’s huge port occupies half of the city’s total area of 247 square kilometers, most of which is occupied by Europoort, a huge complex known as the Gateway to Europe.
One of the most popular excursions begins at Maeslantkering near Hoek van Holland (Hook of Holland) and includes a close-up view of the city’s giant hedge. Evening harbour tours are also fun, especially with Rotterdam’s most famous landmarks, including the amazing, spectacularly illuminated Erasmus Bridge.
Delfshaven and the Pilgrims – pilgrimage to the promised land
The old district of Delfshaven, unlike the extant Rotterdam during the Second World War, is largely untouched, so it’s one of the most popular spots in this huge bustling city.
It is revered by the Dutch as the birthplace of Admiral Piet Hein, a 16th-century hero of a long war with the country of Spain. For Americans, notable is the Pilgrim Fathers Church (Old Church, Oude Kerk), where the last service was held in 1620 by pilgrims before sailing to the New World to found Plymouth, Massachusetts. This place is chosen by tourists traveling to the Netherlands as a destination on pilgrimages.
Kunsthal: Rotterdam’s Art Hall – trendy art hall
Another example of Rotterdam’s modern architecture is the Kunsthal, or Art Hall. This trendy gallery opened in 1992 and hosts ongoing exhibitions in visual arts, design, architecture and culture from around the world.
Another notable collection is the Chabot Museum with works by Dutch painter and sculptor Henk Chabot, housed in a white mansion built in 1938.
Photographers should head to the Nederlands Fotomuseum as part of their exploration of Rotterdam, Netherlands, featuring an extensive collection of historical images by several Dutch photographers.
Where to shop?
For those who love shopping: 10 minutes from Market Hall, you will arrive at Beursplein Square.
Beursplein square: Is a collection of many flagship stores brands such as Zara, H&M, Forever 21, Monki… In addition, there are Dutch brands such as Hema, WE…
Actually Beursplein Square has a good thing that even though this is a shopping area, it’s not very crowded, but the surrounding landscape is beautiful, so if you don’t plan to buy anything, you can still come here for sightseeing.
Museum Rotterdam is also located in this area.
In addition to the above places to visit, you can visit other famous tourist attractions in Rotterdam. For example, Kunsthal Rotterdam Museum, Art Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Museum Het Nieuwe Instituut, Museum Het Nieuwe Instituut, City Hall Stadhuis, Oude Luxor Theater…
Where to stay?
In the city of Rotterdam, there are many choices of accommodation, from beautiful luxury hotels, hostels, guesthouses and apartments. Camping and houseboats are also fun and unique options that you’ll want to try.
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- ART Hotel Rotterdam (Agoda, Booking)
- The James Rotterdam (Agoda, Booking)
- nhow Rotterdam (Agoda, Booking)
- Holiday Inn Express Rotterdam – Central Station, an IHG Hotel (Agoda, Booking)
- Hotel Mainport Rotterdam (Agoda, Booking)
- NH Atlanta Rotterdam Hotel (Agoda, Booking)
- Rotterdam Marriott Hotel (Agoda, Booking)
- citizenM Rotterdam (Agoda, Booking)
- Room Mate Bruno (Agoda, Booking)
What to eat?
Rotterdam’s cuisine reflects the multicultural identity of the Netherlands. Visitors to this city must try the specialties such as: kibbeling (raw herring), stamppot, poffertjes, Traditional Dutch Split Pea Soup (Snert), Herring fish or bitterballen, erwtensoep…
Cheese is also a famous specialty in Rotterdam, with a variety of flavors and colors, cheese has a delicious taste, a strange feeling for first-time visitors to enjoy. You can easily find these dishes in high-end restaurants or popular eateries in the city.
The Netherlands also owns famous beer brands such as Amtel and Heineken, in addition to equally attractive local drinks such as curacao, parfait d’amour or triple sec.
The cost per meal in Rotterdam at budget restaurants averages around 15-25 EUR for a main dish with a drink. You can choose smaller restaurants or eat at the markets to save money with prices only about 5-10 EUR. If you want to save more, you can eat at fast food restaurants in supermarkets like Maoz or Walk to Wok so it will only cost you 50 EUR a week for groceries including pasta, vegetables, chicken and other basic foods.
Nothing is impossible, especially for architecture and creativity. The buildings with one-of-a-kind designs in the world, going against the boring and monotonous architecture of other skyscrapers is what impressed me most in Rotterdam. Coming here, you will feel the breath of modernity, freshness, innovation and development of this most youthful city in Europe.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Rotterdam you can refer to
- Rotterdam, Delft & The Hague Small Group Tour from Amsterdam
- Rotterdam Harbor Cruise Tour
- Grand Holland Full Day Tour: Rotterdam, Delft, The Hague & Madurodam Miniature Park
- Rotterdam Welcome Card (1, 2 or 3 Days)
- Rotterdam Architecture Walking Tour
- Euromast Tower Ticket in Rotterdam
- The Visit Rotterdam Deal: Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour and Harbor Cruise
- Bike and Bite Tour in Rotterdam