Perhaps best known as a port city, Rotterdam, in the south of Holland, is often overlooked as a place to visit. However, it is actually the second largest city in the Netherlands and therefore well worth visiting, hence this 2 day itinerary for Rotterdam.
After being nearly completely destroyed during the war, Rotterdam has been entirely rebuilt, using bold, innovative and modern design to attract people to this contemporary city.
It now has a truly urban feel to it, with plenty of attractions and museums to explore, festivals to attend and street art to find, amazing restaurants to try and nightlife to challenge Amsterdam, meaning there are plenty of things to see and do in Rotterdam during a weekend trip.
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How to get to Rotterdam
One of the best ways to reach the city of Rotterdam, Netherlands, is via train. If travelling from the UK, you can get a direct train from London, St Pancras International to Rotterdam Centraal, in just over three hours.
Likewise, if you are doing multiple city breaks within the Netherlands, there is a high-speed, intercity train system that is extremely popular.
For those looking to fly in, the closest airport is Amsterdam Schiphol. After landing, head to the train station and within 45 minutes you will be in Rotterdam for around 20 euros.
While for those looking to take the ferry from the north of England, you can travel from Hull to Rotterdam directly in under 12 hours.
Getting around Rotterdam
Rotterdam is pedestrian-friendly, and strolling down the canals and traffic free areas is often the best way to see the city. The Netherlands are also renowned for their cycle paths, and Rotterdam is no exception, with plenty of cycleways leading into the centre from the outskirts and bike parking available in abundance.
For those looking to use public transport, there is a great network of buses, 9 tram lines and a metro system consisting of 5 different lines. The most cost-effective way to travel on any of these is via an OV-chipkaart which you can top-up online and then use to tap on-tap off any transport links you use.
You could decide to purchase a Rotterdam Welcome Card, valid for 1,2, or 3 days costing between 15.50 euros and 25.50 euros and includes both public transport as well as bike hire and ferry discounts, and plenty of discounts for attractions, tours, restaurants and cafes.
The best time to visit
While Rotterdam is a city that can be explored throughout the year, the most popular time to visit is between June and September while it is warmer, especially if you also want to attend one of the many festivals that take part during this time of year.
This is obviously during the height of the tourist season however, so accommodation is likely to be more expensive and the city itself will be more crowded.
For those that still want to experience Rotterdam during the warmer months but wish to avoid the crowds, consider visiting in May.
Where to stay in Rotterdam
Rotterdam can be broken down into five different areas or districts. For those looking to explore the shops and the cultural elements of the city, the vibrant central (Centrum) is perhaps the best place to situate yourself.
Inntel Hotels Rotterdam Central is situated in a lively area close to the many waterside bars, museums and the food market. Alternatively, if you are after something more unusual, CityHub Rotterdam, is a pod-type hotel that will appeal to budget travellers and those visiting on their own.
If you would prefer to stay in a tranquil setting, try the historical centre of Delfshaven, which has a more traditional feel to it and offers accommodation at very reasonable costs.
La Marin Boutique Hotel is beautifully decorated and at only 10 minutes from the central station on public transport, you can easily return to the centre. Perhaps an area to consider if you are looking to spend longer than 48 hours in Rotterdam.
The areas of Kralingen-Crooswijk, Kop van Zuid and Katendrecht are more upscale and exclusive, making accommodation more expensive.
If you are looking to spend a few days in absolute luxury consider staying at The Slaak Rotterdam, a former newspaper pressroom. While if you are travelling with youngsters Rotterdam Noord has several family-friendly options surrounded by parks and greenery.
48 hours in Rotterdam Itinerary
As previously mentioned, this is the second largest city in Holland and therefore while 2 days in Rotterdam will allow you to see most that the central part of the city has to offer, if you have longer to explore both centrally and on the outskirts you will see that this is a very diverse part of the Netherlands.
Therefore, if you are wondering how many days in Rotterdam is too many, the answer will vary. However, if you have just a weekend this itinerary will highlight the best places to visit in Rotterdam in two days.
Day 1 in Rotterdam
What better way to start your trip than with breakfast on the waterfront in Rotterdam. At Harvest Cafe and Bakery, they pride themselves on serving excellent coffee and good food, and because they serve breakfast staples like Eggs Benedict all day, it doesn’t matter whether you are an early riser or prefer a lie in.
From here, head into the heart of the city to start your first day of exploration.
The Maritime Museum
No trip to one of the largest port cities in Europe would be complete without a stop off at the Maritime Museum, which highlights what impact the shipping industry has had on this part of the world and dates back to 1874.
Once you have explored the exhibitions and gallery that include navigational instruments, maps, ship models and manuscripts, head to the open-air museum which is home to an impressive collection of historical ships and a lighthouse for you to explore.
City Hall Rotterdam
From the Maritime Museum walk towards theWestblaak and up Coolsingel. Once you have passed the iconic Beurs building, the Rotterdam World Trade Centre, you will shortly see the city hall.
Built between 1914 and 1920, this is one of the most traditional looking landmarks in all of Rotterdam, being one of the few that survived the bombings of World War II and is now a national heritage site.
Take a guided tour inside to see more of the grandiose rooms which were designed by Henri Evers who took inspiration from Byzantine and from the Renaissance and Romanesque style.
Make sure you allow time to explore the well-maintained courtyard full of sculptures and a spectacular water fountain.
Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk
After touring the city hall head towards the canal, cross over the bridge and head to Grotekerkplein where you will find the only remaining structure of medieval Rotterdam.
Again, this was another casualty of the war and at one point only the walls and tower remained. However, the people of the city soon got to work restoring this magnificent building and it is now seen as a symbol of resilience and is now one of the best places to visit in Rotterdam.
If you visit between March and October, the tower itself is open, and you can climb the 300 steps to the top, where you will be greeted with a 360 degree view of the city.
While inside the church you will find bronze door panels depicting war and peace, a brass choir screen dating back to the 18th century, the largest organ in the country and tombs dating back to the 17th century.
Kubus Museum House
Next on your itinerary and close to the Central Library is the famous Cube Houses, Kijk. These unique homes are a must-see attraction in Rotterdam and are considered an architectural phenomenon.
Dutch architect Piet Blom known for his innovative and unconventional designs has created one of his most famous works with the cube houses, a series of homes built in the 1970s in the Overblaak neighbourhood of Rotterdam.
The cube houses are made up of a series of cubes tilted at a 45-degree angle, and they are connected by a series of walkways and bridges. Visiting the cube houses is a must-do activity for anyone interested in architecture or design.
You can take a tour of one of the houses to get a sense of what it’s like to live in such an unconventional space. The Kijk-Kubus Museum House is open to visitors and is furnished to show what it’s like to live in one of the cube houses.
If you’re interested in learning more about Piet Blom and his work, you can also visit the Blaakse Bos Visitors Centre. This centre is also located in a cube house and offers information about the history and design of the cube houses, as well as other works by Piet Blom.
Lunch at Cafe Vader Kleinjan
After a full morning of sightseeing, and close to the cube houses, Cafe Vader Kleinjan is situated in the trendy neighbourhood of Rotterdam West, which is known for its diverse restaurants, cafes, and boutique shops.
The cafe is known for its cosy atmosphere, friendly staff, and great selection of drinks and food.
One of the unique features of Cafe Vader Kleinjan is its interior design. The walls are decorated with vintage posters, paintings, and other eclectic pieces, creating a cosy and quirky atmosphere that is perfect for hanging out with friends or enjoying a solo drink.
The menu features a range of classic dishes, including snacks and light meals, such as sandwiches, salads, and soups.
Take a Free Walking Tour
After lunch head towards the main entrance of the Markthal and take part in the 2 hour walking tour. It is during this tour that you will learn more about the history of this city including why Eramus has both a university and a bridge named after him.
Find out more about the destruction of World War II and how this changed the face of the city while also learning more about the modern aspects of Rotterdam and the surrounding area.
After learning more about the city, finish your first day exploring with a wander around the Markthal, the iconic arched market hall-cum-apartment building, full of fresh produce market stalls, food shops and restaurants.
It is here that you can wander around trying local foods, including dutch cheeses and herring or try one of the many different sweet doughnuts available.
Even if you are not yet in the mood for some food, make sure to take a wander through the market to look at the mural that covers the underside.
A Casual Dining Experience
To finish off the first of your 24 of 48 hours in Rotterdam itinerary, head for a casual dining experience at Restaurant Panzero‘ close to the market hall.
This Italian Street Food restaurant focuses on food from Puglia and serves authentic pizzas and paninis, with vegan and gluten-free options available. The outdoor seating area is perfect for a relaxed dinner with friends or family.
Day 2 in Rotterdam
Breakfast at Lebkov and Sons
Start the second day of your 2 days in Rotterdam itinerary with breakfast at Lebkov and Sons, a family run business situated in a historic building next to Centraal Station with high ceilings and an industrial interior.
It is here that you will find some of the best coffee in all of Rotterdam and fresh, handmade breakfast goodies baked right there on the premises.
Explore the mini world of Rotterdam
Just around the corner from your breakfast stop you will find Miniworld Rotterdam, a unique and fascinating attraction that offers visitors a chance to explore the city of Rotterdam, its history, and its architecture in a miniature world, covering an area of over 600 square metres.
The miniature world has been designed and constructed with great attention to detail and offers a bird’s eye view of the city of Rotterdam complete with the Erasmus Bridge, the Rotterdam Centraal Station, the Euromast, and the Markthal.
Visitors can marvel at the intricate details of the miniature buildings and landmarks, watch as trains pass through the miniature train stations, and see the miniature ships sailing through the miniature harbour.
Apart from the miniature city of Rotterdam, visitors can also explore vast rural Dutch landscapes filled with windmills and typical Dutch villages. The miniature landscapes are also highly detailed and realistic, providing visitors with a unique perspective of the Dutch countryside.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Wander past Sonneveld House, a villa designed back in 1933, and head towards the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen which is one of the oldest museums in the Netherlands, located in the Museumpark area in Rotterdam.
It was established in 1849, making it one of the earliest museums to collect art and display it to the public. The museum’s collection includes a vast array of artworks from different periods and styles, ranging from medieval to contemporary art, and everything in between.
The museum’s collection is extensive, with over 150,000 pieces, including paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings and is known for its outstanding collection of applied arts and design, which includes furniture, glass, ceramics, and jewellery.
The museum’s most famous works include paintings by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Monet, among others.
One of the highlights of the museum is the Boijmans Van Beuningen Depot, which is a storage facility that houses the museum’s entire collection.
It was designed by Rotterdam-based architectural firm MVRDV and is located in the Museumpark. The Depot is a six-story building with a futuristic, mirrored exterior that reflects the surrounding park, creating an illusion of transparency.
The Chabot Museum
Today is definitely the day dedicated to museums, so just a short distance from the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is the Chabot museum dedicated to expressionism art.
Housed within a unique white villa dating back to 1938 in Museumpark, Chabot is home to the work of Dutch artist and sculptor, Hendrik Chabot as well as work by other artists, writers and poets.
Located on the edge of Museumpark, Kunsthal is another marvel of modern architecture added to the city. Designed back in 1989 it is newer than many of the other buildings in this part of town and therefore, stands out in its surroundings with its glass walls and high tower.
Inside, there are several constantly changing exhibitions and activities, any art lover will enjoy spending time here.
Have lunch with a view
After spending the morning exploring museums, head to Euromast, Rotterdam’s iconic tower offering a stunning view of the city.
The Euromast is 185 metres tall, making it the tallest building in the city and visitors can take a high-speed elevator to the top of the tower in just 30 seconds, where they can enjoy stunning panoramic views of Rotterdam and its surrounding areas.
On a clear day, visitors can even see as far as the city of The Hague, which is located over 30 kilometres away.
In addition to the observation deck, the Euromast also features a restaurant that rotates 360 degrees, allowing diners to take in the breathtaking views while enjoying a delicious meal.
The restaurant serves both lunch and dinner and offers a range of international cuisine, so if you don’t want to stay for lunch and have longer than 48 hours in Rotterdam, consider returning for a romantic dinner one evening.
For the adventurous types, the Euromast also offers the opportunity to abseil down the tower. This activity is available every weekend from May to September and allows visitors to experience an adrenaline rush while taking in the stunning views from the tower.
The Erasmus Bridge
After lunch, head to the Erasmus Bridge, a stunning architectural landmark in Rotterdam, and it is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the city. It spans the Nieuwe Maas River and connects the northern and southern parts of Rotterdam.
The bridge is named after the Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus, and is known as the Swan or the Swan Bridge due to its graceful curves and shape resembling a swan’s neck.
The Erasmus Bridge was designed by the architect Ben van Berkel and completed in 1996. It is an iconic example of modern architecture, and it has won numerous awards for its design and engineering.
The bridge is 802 metres long and has a 139-metre high pylon, which is the tallest structure in Rotterdam.
It is a perfect place for photographers and offers a stunning view of Rotterdam’s skyline. Visitors can walk or cycle across the bridge or take a boat tour and pass under it.
There is a viewing platform on top of the pylon, accessible by an elevator, which offers a breathtaking view of the city and the river. While at night, it is illuminated to give it an even more striking appearance.
Enjoy Rotterdam from the waterways
After nearly two days on your feet, spend the afternoon relaxing on the water and there are several boat tour companies to choose from, with tours lasting between 1 – 2 hours.
During the boat tour, you can admire the city’s skyline, which is dotted with impressive skyscrapers.
Visitors can also see some of the city’s most iconic landmarks from the water, including the Cube Houses, the historic Delfshaven district, and the Markthal.
Most boat tours provide a guided commentary that gives visitors information about the city’s history, architecture, and culture while longer tours will see you heading towards the port of Rotterdam.
During the tours, visitors can admire the impressive harbour and see the enormous container ships that dock there.
Overall, a boat tour in Rotterdam is a must-do activity for anyone visiting the city. It’s a relaxing and enjoyable way to explore the city’s architecture and landmarks.
It provides a unique perspective that can’t be seen from land which everyone, young and old will enjoy. It is also one of the most popular things to do alone in Rotterdam.
Pre-dinner drinks at The Fenix Food Factory
After whiling away an hour or two on the water, head to the Fenix Food Factory is a unique market hall located in the Katendrecht district of Rotterdam.
This area has been transformed from an old red-light district into a trendy and vibrant neighbourhood, with the Fenix Food Factory being one of the highlights. Inside the food hall, you’ll find several food stalls offering a variety of local and international dishes.
There are also several bars serving beer and other drinks. The atmosphere is lively and convivial, with people from all walks of life mingling and enjoying good food and drink.
A favourite is the Kaapse Brouwers brewery, which offers a variety of craft beers brewed on-site. If you’re looking for a full meal, you could try the fish and chips from the Fishtales stall or the wood-fired pizzas from the Old Scuola stall.
A final dinner in Rotterdam
For those looking to end their Rotterdam experience with something special head to Ze
ezout, located just half a mile from the Erasmus Bridge. The restaurant serves French and Dutch cuisine, including seafood and is a Michelin-starred restaurant, making it a perfect spot for a fancy dinner and a great place to end your 48 hours in Rotterdam.
Whether you are visiting for just 48 hours or looking to spend longer in the city, there are plenty of things to see and do in this often underrated Dutch city.
This comprehensive 2 day in Rotterdam Itinerary can easily be extended to include more museums, attractions and day trips to nearby locations including Amsterdam, The Hague, Leiden and the Kinderdijk windmills.
Recommended Tours in Rotterdam
- Rotterdam Highlights Bicycle Tour
- Rotterdam in half a day: All-inclusive, Authentic private Tour of Rotterdam
- Cultural Walking Tour in Rotterdam
- Architecture Highlights Walking Tour in Rotterdam
- Private Tour: Rotterdam Walking Tour Including Harbor Cruise
- Rotterdam Rooftop tour
- Walking Rotterdam Food Tour
- Rotterdam + Kinderdijk: All Inclusive, Guided Private Tour in Rotterdam