Not sure what to expect in Rotterdam? Looking for travel tips for the Netherlands? With our Rotterdam Travel Guide, you can be sure not to miss any of the must-see spots and main attractions! Prepare yourself for incredible natural and historical sites, vivid cultural life, great shopping opportunities and a bustling culinary scene, we will be sharing with you our best travel tips such as Van Nelle Fabriek, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Netherlands is located in Rotterdam and can be visited on your trip.
This ultimate travel guide to Rotterdam will show you all the most beautiful places in Rotterdam, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Rotterdam and things to do in Rotterdam which will help you in planning a trip to Rotterdam.
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How to get to Rotterdam
With many cheap flights (eg. with RyanAir or EasyJet) it is both easy and inexpensive to fly to the Netherlands. From many European destinations, travellers can book flights directly to Rotterdam The Hague Airport, which is just a few kilometres from the city centre, easily accessible by taxis and public transportation.
Travellers coming from non-European destinations can book the flight to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, which is connected with Rotterdam by fast train, and a one-way ticket from the national airport to Rotterdam Centraal Station is around 14 € (approx. 16 USD). There is also a FlixBus connection between Schiphol and Rotterdam city. The bus fare is lower than the price of the train ticket, approx. 8 USD.
If Rotterdam is a stop on your European road-trip, you’d be happy to know that there is also a ferry connection from England to Hoek van Holland, so you can even drive from the UK. The duration of the sailing is approx. 6,5 hours, but it definitely saves you a lot of driving!
What to expect in Rotterdam
Even though Rotterdam is not the main Dutch city, you can expect an international crowd, and communicating in English will be easy for you. People in Holland speak English well, so you should not expect any communication problems, but road signs and public messages eg. in public transportation, are still mostly in Dutch.
Being a part of the European Union, Euro is the currency used in Holland, but all major international credit cards will be accepted as well. Unlike other European countries, the majority of the shops and restaurants does not have minimum spending so even the small purchases can be easily paid with a card if you don’t have cash on you.
The tipping culture in Holland is interesting. No one speaks about it openly, and yet tips are expected! For extraordinary service you should usually leave around 10% in service fee, otherwise, it is common to “round up” to a full Euro amount. Sometimes the restaurants will mark (eg. on their menu) that the service fee is either included in the price or will be added on top of your bill, and then, of course, you don’t have to worry about leaving additional change, unless you have had a superb experience.
How to get around Rotterdam
Holland is a country famous for its biking culture. In Rotterdam, you will see both locals and tourists using the bike as one of the main means of transportation. There is, in fact, a big bike rental shop right at the city’s main train station so travellers coming from Schiphol Airport without too much luggage can rent a bicycle immediately when they arrive. You will also see that most hotels offer bike rental services. Check with your host before you arrive – maybe the service is already included in your stay with no additional rental fees!
With Rotterdam Welcome Card it is both easy and cheap to travel around the city with public transportation. Available for 1 (12 € = 13,5 USD), 2 (18 € = 20,5 USD) or 3 days (23 € = 26 USD) the Welcome Card works in buses, trams and metro, and in addition to unlimited transportation, it also gives you a minimum of 25% discount at top Rotterdam attractions!
In Rotterdam city centre we recommend walking. You will most likely end up discovering places and hidden gems, you otherwise would have overlooked!
The best time to visit Rotterdam
It is usually recommended to visit Rotterdam from April through October. In the spring and summer, the weather is very pleasant, summer, of course, is the peak of the tourist season.
For budget travellers, we would recommend going to Rotterdam in March. Even though some rain may occur, the heavy winter will be over. In March, you can expect the hotel prices to drop to approx. 50 € (57 USD) per night because of low season. If you are a botanist of a flora-enthusiast, March will also be the best time to go. Like the “Sakura” Cherry Blossom time in Japan, Holland is famous for its tulip season. The season starts in March through mid-May, usually the middle of April is the best time to admire the flowers.
Like in many European cities, the Christmas season in Rotterdam is very charming. You will encounter Christmas markets filled with traditional, seasonal stalls selling gifts and souvenirs and, of course, you will experience the city beautifully decorated for the festivities. The cold winter weather will be balanced out by a warm atmosphere, so consider visiting Rotterdam in the winter holiday season too.
Things to do in Rotterdam
Visit the abstract forest of Cube Houses
Designed and constructed by Piet Blom in the 1970s, the Cube Houses were the architect’s way to build houses on top of a walking bridge. The cubes are tilted, mounted on a robust, hexagon-shaped pillars and they are perfectly livable spaces. The fact that the residents got disturbed by tourists, led one of the owners to open his house up for visitors. He fully furnished and decorated the flat and is now inviting tours inside.
Go on a street art tour
Impressive street art is Rotterdam’s pride. Meander around looking for the large-scale murals and more subtle, hidden pieces of graffiti art. We recommend downloading the REWRITERS APP – it will lead you through a labyrinth of graffiti artworks by local artists and expose you to non-touristy places to visit in Rotterdam. You can walk the REWRITERS’ route without access to WiFi since it can be easily downloaded to your phone as an offline map to which new works and highlights are added all the time.
Visit Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
With an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures and cultural artefacts, as well as an exquisite selection of prints and drawings, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is one of the oldest museums in the Netherlands. Its impressive collection is built on gifts from over 1700 private collectors who, throughout a period of 170 years, have donated over 50,000 artifacts to the institution. Before visiting the museum, don’t forget to have a look at the programme of temporary exhibitions and special events – the activities calendar is filled with exciting happenings.
Explore the Maritime Museum
Looking for family-friendly Rotterdam attractions? The Maritime Museum is Rotterdam’s naval museum – unveiling the maritime past and present of the city. It is a great pick for families, as the exhibitions are interactive and many of them are targeted to children. The temporary and permanent expositions explain the impact that shipping has on our everyday lives. The popular “Euromast” is also a part of the Maritime Museum. Built to resemble a ship’s mast, it is a viewing platform from where, on a clear day, one can see as far as Antwerp!
Admire the city skyline and the Erasmus Bridge
Also called “The Swan”, Erasmus Bridge is one of the most prominent landmarks of the city. Spanning the Nieuwe Maas River, the bridge connects northern and southern parts of Rotterdam. The bridge is named after Desiderius Erasmus (also known as Erasmus of Rotterdam) who was a Christian renaissance thinker. With its unique architecture and its urban significance, the bridge often becomes the setting for various events – from cultural shows to sports events like the Marathon of Rotterdam and even Tour de France!
What to eat in Rotterdam
To start your food adventure (and your day!) right, you must try “koffie verkeerd”. The direct translation of the name is “wrong coffee” and it is a mix of automatic drip coffee and warm milk. This way of serving coffee is purposely referred to as “wrong”, since the coffee and milk are mixed half-half, as opposed to a coffee with a “wolkje”, a small drop of warm milk.
Whereas it can be difficult to name one traditional main dish in Holland, there is one thing not to be missed on a Dutch table: the appelmoes. It is a sweet apple sauce served on the side of the savoury meals. A Dutch main course will usually consist of boiled potatoes, fried or blanched vegetables and a serving of meat, so try spicing it up with some appelmoes!
If you want to taste locally produced delicacies and artisanal food in a hip, modern setting, you should go to Fenix Food Factory.
The Factory is a small food hub, located in the Fenixloods that used to serve as a warehouse at the Katendrecht peninsula. You will have the opportunity to taste Dutch cheeses, cold cuts from Firma Bijten Butchery and spice up the tasting experience with beers from local Dutch breweries!
Where to stay in Rotterdam
For travellers who come to the city for a short stay, eg. only spend a weekend in Rotterdam, we suggest choosing accommodation in the city centre. We recommend Ibis Rotterdam City which is situated near the Oude Haven (old port). It is an area within the city centre, filled with cafes and restaurants but also floating houses and hotels. Oude Haven is close to the Maritime Museum, and the Ibis Hotel is also within walking distance from Beurstraverse Street, the main shopping district.
The Oude Western district is, on the other hand, the perfect pick for budget travellers. It still falls within the city centre, but the accommodation is cheaper, and you will be able to rent an Airbnb instead of having to check into a hotel. It is also the area of Rotterdam’s Chinatown, so prepare yourself for a multi-cultural experience.
Tours to do in Rotterdam
Curious to see Rotterdam by night? The city is beautifully decorated with lights and you can experience it going out with a group of friends and a local guide who will not only tell you about the city and show you the most beautifully light-up spots, but also introduce you to places to visit and things to do in Rotterdam at night! You will stop at De Witte de Withstraat, Rotterdam’s nightlife street filled with restaurants, cafes, restaurants and even art galleries!
Do you want to know more about the styles and stories of the buildings in the city? Rotterdam is a meeting point for modern architecture, post-war reconstruction and urban trends. You can join a tour led by a duo of a local architect and an artist/landscape designer who will introduce you to the creative variety of building styles in different areas of the city.
Day trips from Rotterdam
Keukenhof (also referred to as the “Garden of Europe”) is one of the biggest flower gardens in the world. Admire the many types of flowers walking around the garden lawns. On-site there will also be flower exhibitions and shops too. Note that the garden is only open seasonally. In 2019 it will be open for 59 days from March 21st of March through May 19th. It is therefore recommended to book a tour also to be sure that the Garden will be open and accessible to tourists.
With less than 80 kilometres between the two cities, we recommend you to go on a day-trip to Amsterdam. Over 100 trains are travelling every day between the two cities, and the fare is 16.4 € (approx. 18,5 USD), and you will reach Amsterdam in less than 40 minutes. Take this short trip to find yourself in the city of beautiful museums like the Van Gogh Museum or the Stedelijk Museum of modern and contemporary art and design. Take time to wander around the small alleys, cross the charming bridges over the city’s many canals and enjoy modern and traditional cuisine in the hip neighbourhood of De Pijp.
Recommend budget tours in Rotterdam
- Private Tour: Rotterdam Walking Tour Including Harbor Cruise
- Day Trip to Keukenhof Garden and Flower Fields from Rotterdam
- Cultural Walking Tour in Rotterdam
- City Sightseeing Rotterdam Hop On Hop Off Tour
- The interactive city discovery game of Rotterdam
- Entrance Ticket to Miniworld Rotterdam
- Euromast Entrance Ticket: Enjoy a Spectacular 360 View of Rotterdam from the Highest Tower of The Netherlands
- Rotterdam Welcome Card Including 1, 2 or 3 Days Public Transport
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