With architecture any other city in the Netherlands, Rotterdam is often overlooked by is more charming sibling, Amsterdam. When most people think of the Netherlands they imagine brick houses leaning elegantly against each other to keep from toppling over into the canals – not a cosmopolitan city filled with modern buildings. Rotterdam is completely worth visiting, though, and makes a great day trip from Amsterdam! Visit Rotterdam to see a different side of the Netherlands. There are so many things to do in Rotterdam Netherlands, you certainly won’t find yourself bored here. Rotterdam sightseeing is just as fun as in Amsterdam and there are tons of places to visit in Rotterdam.
In this Rotterdam guide you’ll find places to visit in Rotterdam, Rotterdam Netherlands points of interest, and where to stay in Rotterdam.
Rotterdam used to be as quaint and charming as Amsterdam, until it was bombed in World War II and nearly all of the city was leveled. Despite having this tragic past, Rotterdam rebuilt itself afresh and now features some of the most interesting architecture in Europe by world famous architects. If you’re looking to escape the rain in Amsterdam, I might need to break your heart… Rotterdam weather is pretty much the same as Amsterdam weather, give or take a degree or two!
Still need a little more inspiration to excite you to visit Rotterdam? Read on about these Rotterdam Netherlands points of interest and what to see in Rotterdam in one day.
Looking for more great things to do in the Netherlands? Check out these posts:
- Flower alert! How to see tulips in Holland
- 10 quaint Amsterdam day trips
- Getting off the beaten path and over to the Dutch island of Texel
- Let’s get muddy: Wadlopen in the Netherlands
- How to rent your own canal boat in Amsterdam
- 10 Amsterdam museums you need to visit
- Getting your drink on at the best outdoor bars in Amsterdam
- 4 Microbreweries in Amsterdam that beer lovers shouldn’t miss
- See Amsterdam like a local: Tips from local travel bloggers
Visit Rotterdam to see the Cube Houses & Modern Architecture Everywhere
What would a trip to Rotterdam be without seeing the famous Cube Houses? They have somehow gained infamy. Personally, I think they are pretty ugly (sorry!), but they are as iconic to the city as canals are to Amsterdam and have become one of the main Rotterdam tourist attractions. You can take a tour of the Cube Houses, or if you’re like me, maybe you’ll find that it’s enough to appreciate their balancing act from the outside.
Rotterdam Cube Houses are located at Overblaak 70. If you arrive to Rotterdam through Blaak station or if you are on public transport simply step out of Blaak station and you will see the cube houses! The Cube Houses are one of the most popular Rotterdam tourist attractions.
Rotterdam Central Station itself is impressive – it’s definitely the most modern train station I’ve ever seen. Enjoy a break from traditional brick buildings in Rotterdam and take in the insta-worthy designs – it’s ok, you can do it for the ‘gram. The great architecture alone is a Rotterdam must see.
Right across from the Cube Houses you’ll find the newly opened Markthal at Rotterdam Blaak hits all the right notes : modern architectural design? Check! Great location? Check! All the cheese and dutch delights you could want? Check and check!
If you like the famous market halls in Barcelona (La Boqueria) or Madrid (Mercado de San Miguel), then the Markthal in Rotterdam will be right up your alley. The Markthal is one of the best Rotterdam attractions, and for good reason. The Markthal replaced the previous daily market which took place in the same location in Rotterdam for years.
Now, this new structure features not only market stalls but a ton of restaurants for you to check out (Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant is just one of them). Stop by for a quick stop, or a long meal, and you won’t be disappointed.
The Markthal is also located at Blaak, so you can easily kill two birds with one stone by visiting the cube houses and the Markthal at the same time. Don’t miss putting the Markthal on your list of places to see in Rotterdam.
Looking for tips on more underrated but fabulous destinations in Europe? Click here
The modern Erasmus Bridge
Just simply admire the architecture of the bridge – it’s very photogenic! This is one of the best places to see in Rotterdam Netherlands. This is what to visit in Rotterdam – the incredible architecture of this modern city!
Take the water taxi to Hotel New York
One of the best ways to enjoy the city is to admire it from the “other” side of the Nieuwe Maas River where you can get great views. And, there’s no better way to cross the river than to take a water taxi – unless, of course, you want to walk across the Erasmus Bridge – but I’d recommend taking it in from afar.. once you’re on the bridge you might feel like you’ll be blown off in the wind!
Hop on a water taxi from various locations in the city (my personal recommendation is to take it from the Maritime Museum, which is walking distance from the Markt Hall or Cube Houses if you’ve visited those first), and take it across to Hotel New York for lunch. Hotel New York is in the historic headquarters of the Holland America Line, the cruise line, which had a famous route from the Netherlands to New York.
Not only is it one of the most important Rotterdam sights, but Hotel New York is also my recommendation on where to stay when you visit Rotterdam – their rooms have a great nautical theme – and feature portholes! When I stayed there I was charmed by the decor and old school feeling of this historic hotel. Follow this link for more info on Hotel New York.
On a sunny day, sit on the terrace of Hotel New York and take in the Rotterdam sky line while watching huge vessels drift by on the river – you are in Europe’s biggest port town after all – and I think this is one of the most fun things to do in Rotterdam.
Port of Rotterdam
If you are like me and have an engineer as one of your parents (or maybe you’re an engineer yourself), then you might have adopted a slightly nerdy interest in massive structures, water management or shipping – and why not?
These things are hugely important to facilitating our daily life. So, anyway, if you’re into that, then consider taking a tour of the Rotterdam Harbor. Sightseeing in Rotterdam wouldn’t really be complete without a visit to the famous port, this is one of the best places to visit in Rotterdam.
Rotterdam is famous for more than its architecture – it is the biggest port in Europe. Until 2004 it was the busiest port until that claim to fame was taken by Singapore and then Shanghai (thanks Wikipedia).
Book a ticket with Spido to take a 75 minute tour of the port, plus, get even more views of the city. When I took the Rotterdam boat tour, I couldn’t help but be impressed and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of goods that pass through the Port of Rotterdam every day, and the machinery and logistics it takes to make it happen.
Hit Witte de Withstraat for shopping, eats and drinks
If you ask any local where to hang out in Rotterdam, their advice will surely be Witte de Withstraat. This hip street is home to boutiques, local bars and restaurants just begging for you to enter. Don’t miss Bazar, a HUGE Middle Eastern/north African restaurant complete with all the lantern vibes you could ever need, and NRC, two of the city’s most popular restaurants. This is the place to go in Rotterdam city for eats and drinks.
See some of the strangest public artwork
I don’t know how to say this but… Ok I’m just gonna say it. There is a giant statue of Santa holding a buttplug in Rotterdam. The official name for this sculpture is Santa Claus but it’s also known as kabouter buttplug (gnome buttplug). You probably weren’t expecting to see this on the list of places to go in Rotterdam, but hey this city is full of surprises!
Seriously, this could only exist in the Netherlands, then again, only in Rotterdam! Not saying this is necessarily a must-see in Rotterdam, but then again, when else will you see a sculpture like this in public?
How to get from Amsterdam to Rotterdam
From Amsterdam Central Station there are several trains running per hour that will take you directly to Rotterdam Central Station. Check ns.nl for the most current times and fees. Be sure that if you book an Intercity Direct train from Amsterdam that you also pay the supplement. If you don’t this could get you into a bit of trouble on the train if they catch you.
Where to stay in Rotterdam
No list of what to visit in Rotterdam would be complete without some hotel suggestions, am I right? By now you shouldn’t be surprised that even Rotterdam accommodations have a unique look to them!
Here are a few of my favorite Rotterdam accommodations:
Hotel New York
I mentioned it above, and I’ll list it here too – Hotel New York is one of the best paces to stay in Rotterdam and for good reason. It has a great restaurant, even better views, and its a historic building.
Want to get a real taste of Rotterdam architecture? Then stay at nhow Rotterdam, located right next to the Erasmus Bridge in one of the most eye-catching buildings in the city. If you’re on the city side, you’ll get sweeping views of Rotterdam, plus the street cred of staying in a hotel designed by legendary Dutch designer Rem Koolhaas.
Wait a minute, where is Rotterdam?
Rotterdam is located just 40 minutes away from Amsterdam by train. Rotterdam is located in the Zuid Holland province of the Netherlands, in the south west of the country. The closest other big city to Rotterdam is The Hague. Rotterdam is the biggest port in Europe making it a crucial key to the Dutch economy! If you want even more info on who the Dutch are, check out this post on the difference between the Netherlands and Holland.
What to bring to the Netherlands
What did I miss? Leave me a comment with your favorite places in Rotterdam!
Looking for other day trips from Amsterdam? Consider these:
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Gabby is a native (Northern) Californian who spent the majority of her 20’s living the expat life in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, exploring Europe and beyond. 27 countries later, she’s relocated back to her home base in California where she explores her passions for the travel and the outdoors.