12 Things to do in Rotterdam

Historical Delfshaven district in Rotterdam in the evening

Rotterdam in the Netherlands might not be known to everyone, but if visiting this vibrant city is a part of your travel itinerary, you are in for a treat! It is the second largest city in the Netherlands famous, among others, for its modern architecture, and great dining scene.

The city also has a long maritime history, and is known as the birthplace of the famous cruise company “Holland America Line”. Rotterdam will amaze and entertain if you are a lover of arts and culture, and if you are looking for spots to relax, try some of the many cosy city cafés.

Dine at superb restaurants or simply meander the town and chat with friendly locals. Get ready for loads of open green spaces, too! In this guide, we gathered some of the top things to do in Rotterdam Netherlands.

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About Rotterdam Netherlands

To best prepare you for sightseeing in Rotterdam we will list a few practicalities. The easiest way to get to Rotterdam Netherlands is by regional train from Amsterdam, so if you are coming from abroad, book your flight to Amsterdam.

As a part of the European Union, the Netherlands use Euro, and even though you can pay by card in most restaurants and all convenience stores, some smaller cafés may only accept cash. It is good to ask before you order to avoid unpleasant surprises!

Rotterdam. Cityscape image of Rotterdam, Netherlands during twilight blue hour.

Rotterdam best time to visit

Ultimately, the best time to visit Rotterdam Netherlands will depend on your personal preferences and the type of trip you are planning. We can list a few recommendations for you to keep in mind to aid your travel planning!

Spring (March to May) is a great time to visit Rotterdam as the weather starts to warm up and the city comes back to life after a long winter. The tulips in the nearby Keukenhof Gardens are also in full bloom during this time, which makes a springtime visit to Rotterdam popular among tourists.

Summer (June to August) is the warmest and busiest time to visit Rotterdam, with many outdoor cultural events and festivals taking place throughout the city. If you enjoy outdoor activities, this is a great time to visit, but be prepared for crowds and higher accommodation prices.

Fall (September to November) is a quieter time to visit Rotterdam, with fewer tourists and cooler weather. Those who enjoy indoor activities such as visiting museums and galleries will still have a great time and enjoy the cultural sites with fewer tourists around.

Winter (December to February) can be cold and damp in Rotterdam, but the city is still a great destination for those who enjoy indoor/cultural activities. Likewise, if you want to experience traditional Dutch Christmas markets, Rotterdam is a great place to visit in late November or December!

Now that you have an idea of what to expect from the city at different times of the year, let us guide you through some of the best Rotterdam attractions!

Rotterdam view from Euromast tower at winter sunny day. another Rotterdam views available

Rotterdam Central Station

If you are arriving in Rotterdam Netherlands by train, there is no way you can avoid the city’s central station. And you would not want to miss this sleek-looking building, either! It is a major transportation hub, connecting the city of Rotterdam with other parts of the Netherlands and the rest of Europe.

The “new” Rotterdam Centraal opened in March 2014 and replaced the old Rotterdam Central Station from the late 19th century. Now the new building has become one of the city’s architectural icons. Solar panels partly cover the roof above the tracks, which connects with the roof above the station hall. 

Rotterdam, Netherlands - Exterior of Rotterdam Central Station in the evening with the Delftse Poort buildings in the background

Erasmus Bridge

Rotterdam’s “Erasmusbrug” spans the Nieuwe Maas River, connecting connects the northern and southern parts of the city is a cable-stayed bridge. It opened in 1996 and is named after the famous Dutch philosopher and humanist Desiderius Erasmus.

The Erasmus Bridge is a modern, landmark in Rotterdam, known for its characteristic design that features a large, white steel tower in the shape of a swan’s neck, which is why the bridge is sometimes referred to as “The Swan”.

The bridge is also famous for its extensive use of glass and steel, which makes it a popular spot not only for tourists but also for professional and amateur photographers.

Whether you’re interested in architecture, or urban design, or just want to take in the views, the Erasmus Bridge is a must see in Rotterdam.

Rotterdam Netherlands - Waterfront with colorful abstract sculpture named Marathonbeeld toward Erasmus bridge with De Rotterdam modernist high-rise in background..

Fenix Food Factory 

Something for the fellow foodies out there! We recommend you visit Fenix Food Factory which is a unique food market located in Rotterdam’s Katendrecht neighbourhood. The market is housed in a former industrial building and offers a variety of artisanal food products and locally-sourced ingredients.

Fenix Food Factory was created as a response to the growing demand for high-quality, locally-sourced food – to the delight of locals and tourists alike. The market features a range of food stalls offering a diverse selection of products, including artisanal cheeses, fresh produce, cured meats, baked goods, and much more.

Apart from the food stalls, Fenix Food Factory also has several restaurants and cafes, where you can enjoy a meal or a snack while people-watching and take in the lively atmosphere of the market. 

The market is a popular destination for local food lovers and tourists alike, so chat up a friendly local while you are there!

Whether you’re looking to stock up on ingredients for a meal back at home (or your Rotterdam Airbnb!), or simply want to enjoy a delicious meal in a unique setting, Fenix Food Factory is worth a visit during your time in Rotterdam.

Rotterdam, Netherlands,  people relaxing and enjoying the sun on the quay of Kattendrecht, in front of Fenix Food Factory in Rotterdam.

Maritime Museum Rotterdam

Located in the heart of Rotterdam, the Maritime Museum Rotterdam is an institution fully dedicated to the history and culture of seafaring. Housed in a historic building, the museum features various exhibits and interactive displays that introduce visitors to the city’s maritime history.

Maritime Museum Rotterdam also offers a comprehensive overview of the country’s maritime heritage, from the days of the Dutch East India Company to the modern era of shipping and transportation.

If you are curious to learn about the history of shipping and trade and the various technologies and innovations that have shaped the maritime industry, we highly recommend a visit to the Maritime Museum Rotterdam.

You will be fascinated by the large collection of artefacts and historical objects, including models of ships, maps and navigational instruments.

If you are travelling with children, the little ones will surely appreciate the interactive exhibits and multimedia displays that allow guests to experience what it was like to be at sea.

South Holland, Netherlands, Rotterdam - The Maritime Museum Harbour, a tourist attraction in the heart of the city

Natural History Museum

Do not let its (relatively small) size fool or discourage you! The city’s Natural History Museum is a must see in Rotterdam. Kids and adults alike will be entertained, and regardless of what age you are, you will surely learn a thing or two about natural history!

Natural History Museum Rotterdam, as you might have guessed, is dedicated to the study and preservation of the natural world, including botany, geology, zoology, and palaeontology. It offers a wide range of exhibitions, educational programs, and events, so check out the museum calendar on its website – maybe you are in town when an interesting movie screening or a talk is taking place!

Whether you are a student, a scientist, or just someone who loves nature, the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam Netherlands is a great place to learn about and explore the wonders of the natural world, and one of our recommended things to see in Rotterdam.

Old Harbour with Restored Historic Boats 

The historical hub of Rotterdam’s city centre is known as “Old Harbour” (Oude Haven for locals) with the oldest port dating back to the fourteenth century. Now the Old Harbour has grown into a bustling neighbourhood to the north of the Maas river.

It is a charming and atmospheric area, popular during the day (take a stroll around to see numerous historical structures and the famous Restored Historic Boats), but it is also a great option if you are looking for things to do in Rotterdam at night.

You will have many cafés and bars to choose from! You can reach the Old Harbour by metro or train (get off at “Blaak”) or, if you want to add some excitement to your Rotterdam attractions, try getting there by water taxi!

Rotterdam, Netherlands from Oude Haven  Old Port at Twilight.

Rotterdam Markthal

Ready for another architectural pearl and one of the most recommended things to do in Rotterdam for young adults? Rotterdam Markthal is a lovely indoor market that is also a work of art! It is a remarkable and eye-catching building that serves as both a residential complex and a market hall.

It was designed by Dutch architect Winy Maas and was completed in 2014. The Markthal features a horseshoe-shaped arch that spans over one hundred meters and is made of steel, glass, and ceramics.

The arch houses the market hall, filled with over a hundred stalls selling fresh produce, meat, fish, and other speciality foods. You will find loads of cafes and restaurants there too!

The market hall is surrounded by residential units, making the Markthal a mixed-use development that combines living and shopping in one convenient location. The Markthal’s design is unique, and once there, make sure you do not miss the large mural by artist Arno Coenen that covers the entire inside of the arch.

The mural – one of the largest indoor murals in the world – is known as the “Hoorn des Overvloeds” (which translates to “Horn of Plenty”). The artwork is a colourful and abstract representation of food and nature which fits perfectly with the theme of Rotterdam Markthal.

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS -  Modern Market Hall in Rotterdam at night. The Markthal is a residential and office building with a market hall underneath, located in Rotterdam.

Cube Houses

One of Rotterdam’s most well-known landmarks is the Cube Houses. Locals would refer to them as “Kubuswoningen”.

This residential complex, created by Dutch architect Piet Blom, stands out because each home is a true cube that has been turned over by 45 degrees. The asymmetrical Cube Houses were created to resemble an abstract forest with each triangular roof standing in for a treetop.

Are you curious about a tour around a fully furnished Cube House? Tourists and bystanders kept disturbing the Cube Houses’ residents, which led one of the owners to open the “Show Cube Museum” (Kijk-Kubus). It gives visitors the chance to take a tour around an authentically decorated Cube House!

You can also spend a night in one of the cubes, and you can do so even when you are travelling on a budget! There is a hostel in one of the Cube Houses (Stayokay Hostel Rotterdam) – no harm will be done to your wallet!

The hostel also has a bar where you can meet fellow travellers. Late-night hanging out in Cube Houses could be one of the fun things to do in Rotterdam at night and among recommended things to do in Rotterdam for young adults!

Rotterdam, The Netherlands -Modern City Architecture Design Elements Known as Cubic Houses Designed by Piet Blom in Rotterdam City in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Van Nelle Factory 

Did you know that there is a UNESCO world heritage site in Rotterdam? Van Nellefabriek is a remarkable piece of industrial architecture.

Made entirely of steel and glass, it shows the influence of Russian Constructivism, but the site is also a reminder of the Netherlands’ commercial and industrial history.

You can easily just walk into the Van Nelle Factory! It is an active, functioning space, and with offices and event spaces. You might have to check in, but otherwise, you’re free to walk around and explore the site!

Rotterdam,The Netherlands - View of the Unesco industrial monument Van Nellefabriek from across the Schie river in Rotterdam

Rotterdam Zoo

If you are travelling with kids, this one is a must, but even if you are on a solo trip to Rotterdam Netherlands, the city’s zoological garden is worth a visit. It was established in 1857 and has since been one of the most visited attractions in the city.

In addition to its animal exhibits, Rotterdam Zoo also features several themed zones and attractions, such as the Oceanium, a massive indoor aquarium that takes visitors on a journey through the world’s oceans.

On its website, you can always read the latest news and learn about and see pictures of newborn members of the Rotterdam Zoo family. Rotterdam Zoo is open daily, and if you buy tickets in advance through the website, you will get a slight discount. Happy exploring!

Rotterdam, Netherlands -  Group of beautiful giraffes in zoo enclosure

Kunsthal Rotterdam

Designed by famous Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, the city’s Kunsthal (exhibition space for contemporary art) has become a world-famous icon of modern architecture and a catch among Rotterdam attractions!

Designed in the late 1980s, and officially opened in November 1992, Kunsthal Rotterdam attracts not only art lovers for what is inside, but also architecture enthusiasts who are curious to see the building structure itself.

We recommend visiting the city’s Kunsthal during your stay in Rotterdam Netherlands. Be mindful of the opening hours! Kunsthal Rotterdam closes at 5 PM every day, so make it an early-afternoon excursion!

With its vibrant café that attracts creative locals, visiting Rotterdam’s Kunsthal is one of the things to do in Rotterdam for young adults.

Rotterdam Netherlands - Auditorium of Kunsthal museum in Museumpark Rotterdam. The building was designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.

The Willemsbrug Bridge

Also known as “The Willems Bridge”, the Willemsbrug Bridge is a swing bridge in Rotterdam Netherlands and the city’s iconic landmark. It is located at the end of the Willemsdock and spans the New Meuse River.

Named after King William III of the Netherlands, the bridge was opened in 1878, yet completely renovated in 1981, so what you see today bears very little resemblance to the original design. Historically, Willemsbrug has been a critical component of Rotterdam’s busy port.

Architecture enthusiasts will surely find the history of the bridge and the evolution of its style interesting, and amateur photographers should try to catch the bridge by night – it is impressively lighted up!

Rotterdam, Netherlands - A view at the Willemsbrug, a cable-stayed red bridge with a total span of about 318 meters.

FAQ for Rotterdam

Is Rotterdam worth visiting?

Absolutely, yes! Rotterdam Netherlands is worth your time and visit. With its modern architecture, rich maritime history, and vibrant cultural scene, the city offers something for everyone.

Whether you’re interested in art, or history, or just want to have a good time, Rotterdam is a must-visit destination in the Netherlands.

It is a unique and exciting destination, and home to some of the country’s best restaurants, bars, and cafes. Shopping enthusiasts will not feel bored either!

What is Rotterdam most known for?

Rotterdam is most known for its stylish architecture, and vibrant art- and cultural scene with numerous museums, theatres, and music venues.

The city is also known for its long maritime history, celebrated at the Maritime Museum Rotterdam.

The city is often referred to as the “architectural capital of the Netherlands” due to its many innovative and distinctive buildings, including the iconic Cube Houses and the Markthal.

Netherlands Traveling. Attractive Cityscape of Rotterdam City with Canal and Boats in The Netherlands. Horizontal Image Composition

Is Rotterdam nicer than Amsterdam?

There has been a long “battle” between the two cities, but whether Rotterdam is nicer than Amsterdam is a matter of personal preference. Both cities have their special charm.

Amsterdam is known for its beautiful canals, historic buildings, and rich cultural heritage, making it a popular destination for travellers who appreciate history and traditional architecture.

Rotterdam is more modern, with an emphasis on innovative and experimental architecture, a booming arts and cultural scene, and a bustling port, making it a great destination for those who enjoy contemporary design and city life.

If you are travelling with children, busy Amsterdam may be a bit difficult to navigate around, but ultimately, the choice between Rotterdam and Amsterdam will depend on your interests and travel goals. Both cities have a lot to offer, so it may be worth considering visiting both to get the full Dutch experience!

Recommended tours in Rotterdam

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Author

  • Samantha King

    Sam, a seasoned traveler across four continents and 49 countries, is a leading authority in travel planning. Her website, Travelling King, offers tailored itineraries and expert guides for seamless trips. Sam's expertise in luxury travel, fast travel, and destination guides keeps her at the forefront of the travel community.

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