8 Best Things To Do In Rotterdam, Netherlands – Discover the City’s Hidden Gems

Things To Do In Rotterdam

Welcome to Rotterdam, a city that epitomizes the very essence of modernity while preserving its rich historical roots. As one of Europe’s most dynamic and cosmopolitan urban centers, Rotterdam stands tall as the second-largest city in the Netherlands and boasts an array of attractions that leave travelers awe-inspired at every turn.

With a skyline punctuated by futuristic architectural marvels, Rotterdam’s unique charm lies in its bold departure from traditional Dutch aesthetics. The city’s storied past, once ravaged by war, has been masterfully resurrected into a beacon of creativity and innovation. As you wander through the streets, you’ll be captivated by the seamless blend of gleaming skyscrapers juxtaposed with quaint canals and vibrant neighborhoods.


In this blog post, we’ll take you on a virtual journey through the 8 best things to do in Rotterdam. Whether you’re a history buff, an art enthusiast, a foodie, or simply seeking an unforgettable urban adventure, Rotterdam has something extraordinary to offer.

So, join us as we delve into the heart of this captivating city and discover the top attractions that have earned Rotterdam its well-deserved spot on every traveler’s must-visit list. From cutting-edge architecture and world-class museums to culinary delights and an electric nightlife, Rotterdam promises an experience like no other.

Place To Visit In Rotterdam

Let’s embark on this adventure together and uncover the very best of Rotterdam’s treasures.

Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug)

The iconic Erasmus Bridge, locally known as Erasmusbrug, is an architectural marvel and a symbol of Rotterdam’s modernity and innovation. Connecting the northern and southern parts of the city across the Nieuwe Maas River, this stunning cable-stayed bridge is an absolute must-visit attraction for both locals and tourists. Here’s what makes the Erasmus Bridge a standout experience:

Scenic Strolls and Cycling: Take a leisurely stroll or rent a bike to cross the bridge and soak in the breathtaking panoramic views of Rotterdam’s skyline. The bridge offers an excellent vantage point for capturing stunning photographs of the city’s ever-changing landscape.

Iconic Architecture: Designed by the renowned architect Ben van Berkel, the Erasmus Bridge’s sleek and elegant design is a testament to Rotterdam’s architectural prowess. The bridge’s asymmetrical pylon, resembling a swan in flight, adds to its distinctive and eye-catching appeal.

Bridge Lights and Illuminations: As dusk falls, the Erasmus Bridge transforms into a mesmerizing work of art with its vibrant illuminations. The bridge’s LED lights create a dynamic display, often changing colors and patterns, making it a spectacle that should not be missed.

Spectacular Events: The Erasmus Bridge serves as a spectacular backdrop for various events and festivals throughout the year. From fireworks displays during New Year’s Eve celebrations to cultural festivals and concerts, the bridge’s presence enhances the overall atmosphere of the city’s festivities.

Water Transport Views: Standing on the bridge, you’ll have the opportunity to observe various watercraft passing beneath, from cargo ships to elegant river cruises. The constant flow of maritime activity adds a unique charm to the Erasmus Bridge experience.

De Rotterdam and Wilhelminapier: The southern end of the Erasmus Bridge leads to the Wilhelminapier, an area teeming with modern architecture and cultural attractions. Here, you’ll find the impressive De Rotterdam building, a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, along with museums, restaurants, and lively terraces to explore.

Museum Park (Museumpark)

Nestled in the heart of Rotterdam, Museum Park, or Museumpark, is a vibrant cultural oasis that houses some of the city’s most renowned museums and green spaces. This beautifully landscaped urban park is a haven for art enthusiasts, nature lovers, and anyone seeking relaxation amidst the bustling city life. The city has some prominent museums such as the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and the Kunsthal, and the beautiful green spaces for relaxation.

Here’s why Museum Park is a must-visit destination:

Museum Galore: As the name suggests, Museum Park is home to an impressive collection of museums, making it a paradise for art and culture aficionados. The park’s surroundings boast world-class institutions such as the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum, the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi), and the Kunsthal Rotterdam. Art lovers can revel in a diverse range of exhibitions, from classic masterpieces to contemporary works.

Architectural Marvels: Aside from the captivating art housed within its museums, the park itself boasts outstanding architectural design. The modern structures of the museums complement the surrounding greenery, creating a harmonious blend of nature and human creativity.

Picnicking and Relaxation: With its lush lawns, shady trees, and tranquil ponds, Museum Park provides an ideal setting for a leisurely picnic or a peaceful retreat. Visitors can unwind, read a book, or simply soak up the serene ambiance while being surrounded by beautiful sculptures and art installations scattered throughout the park.

Events and Festivals: Throughout the year, Museum Park serves as a venue for various events and festivals. From outdoor concerts and art fairs to cultural celebrations, there’s always something happening to add extra flair to your visit.

Sculpture Route: Wander along the Sculpture Route that winds its way through the park, showcasing an intriguing collection of contemporary sculptures and art installations. Each piece contributes to the park’s artistic charm and provides a unique perspective on modern art.

Gateway to Rotterdam’s Museums: Museum Park’s central location makes it an excellent starting point for exploring other cultural gems in the city. After a delightful time in the park, visitors can easily venture to nearby attractions, such as the Maritime Museum or the Natural History Museum.

Year-Round Beauty: Museum Park’s beauty changes with the seasons, offering a different experience throughout the year. Whether it’s the blooming flowers in spring, the vibrant foliage in autumn, or the serene winter landscapes, the park never fails to enchant visitors with its ever-changing allure.

Cube Houses (Kubuswoningen)

The Cube Houses, or Kubuswoningen in Dutch, are one of Rotterdam’s most iconic and innovative architectural wonders. Designed by the visionary architect Piet Blom in the 1970s, these unique cube-shaped homes are a striking sight that defies convention. If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind experience and a glimpse into Rotterdam’s architectural ingenuity, the Cube Houses should be at the top of your must-visit list. Here’s what makes them so special:

Architectural Marvels: The Cube Houses are a true testament to Rotterdam’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of modern architecture. Piet Blom’s design aimed to create a “village within a city,” and the result is a cluster of 38 tilted cube-shaped houses, tilted at a 45-degree angle, resting on hexagon-shaped pylons. This audacious and unconventional design challenges traditional concepts of living spaces.

Kijk-Kubus (Show Cube): To truly appreciate the innovative interior design and experience what it’s like to live in a Cube House, visit the Kijk-Kubus, or Show Cube. This fully furnished museum cube allows visitors to step inside and explore the unique layout, giving them a glimpse of how residents utilize the angled spaces creatively.

Residential Living: Despite their unconventional appearance, the Cube Houses are functional living spaces. The interior design optimizes the available space and natural light to create cozy and comfortable homes for the residents. Living in one of these houses is a distinctive experience that offers a sense of living in a work of art.

Central Location: The Cube Houses are strategically located near Rotterdam’s city center, making them easily accessible for tourists and locals alike. Their proximity to other attractions, such as the Markthal and the Old Harbor, makes them an essential stop on any Rotterdam sightseeing itinerary.

Photography Hotspot: The Cube Houses are a photographer’s dream. Their unique geometry and bold colors make for stunning visual compositions, offering endless opportunities for capturing captivating shots from various angles.

Cultural Heritage: Recognized as a cultural heritage site, the Cube Houses represent a significant architectural contribution to the city’s landscape. They have become an iconic symbol of Rotterdam’s resilience and innovative spirit, having withstood the test of time and even surviving the devastating bombing during World War II.

Public Rooftop Terrace: For a bird’s-eye view of the Cube Houses and the surrounding cityscape, head to the public rooftop terrace located on top of the neighboring building, the Het Potlood (The Pencil). This vantage point provides an excellent opportunity to admire the unique architecture and understand how the houses fit together like an intricate puzzle.

Markthal Rotterdam

The Markthal is a dazzling architectural gem and a culinary haven that showcases Rotterdam’s flair for innovative design and gastronomic delights. Opened in 2014, this impressive horseshoe-shaped building quickly became one of the city’s most popular landmarks. With its striking mural-covered interior, a diverse range of food stalls, and a vibrant marketplace atmosphere, the Markthal offers visitors a unique and immersive experience. Here’s why the Markthal is a must-visit destination in Rotterdam:

Iconic Architecture: Designed by the architectural firm MVRDV, the Markthal’s horseshoe-shaped structure features an impressive glass facade that creates a sense of openness and grandeur. The interior is adorned with an expansive artwork called “Horn of Plenty” by artist Arno Coenen and depicts an explosion of colorful fruits, vegetables, flowers, and insects, celebrating the abundance of fresh produce found within.

Food Paradise: The Markthal is a culinary paradise that caters to every taste bud. Inside, you’ll find an array of food stalls, specialty shops, and restaurants offering an incredible variety of local and international cuisines. From Dutch cheeses and Mediterranean delicacies to Asian street food and sweet treats, the options are virtually endless.

Fresh Market Delights: The market’s ground floor houses a bustling marketplace where local vendors sell fresh produce, meats, fish, and other delectable products. This is the perfect spot to discover seasonal ingredients, chat with friendly vendors, and embrace the lively atmosphere of a traditional European market.

Indoor Shopping Experience: Beyond the food offerings, the Markthal also features boutique shops, fashion stores, and artisanal goods, making it an ideal place to pick up unique souvenirs or indulge in a bit of retail therapy.

Events and Activities: The Markthal hosts various events and activities throughout the year, including food festivals, cooking demonstrations, and cultural celebrations. Check the schedule during your visit to see if any exciting events are happening during your stay.

Relaxing Atmosphere: With its vibrant ambiance, high ceilings, and abundance of natural light, the Markthal provides a welcoming and comfortable space to sit back, relax, and enjoy a meal or a drink with friends and family.

Perfect Rainy Day Escape: Even on a rainy day, the Markthal offers an excellent retreat. Its covered interior ensures you can explore, shop, and dine without worrying about the weather.

Central Location: Situated in the heart of Rotterdam, the Markthal is conveniently located near other attractions, including the Cube Houses and the Laurens Church. Its central position makes it easily accessible by public transportation, making it a popular stop for both tourists and locals.

SS Rotterdam

The SS Rotterdam, lovingly referred to as the “Grand Dame” of the seas, is an iconic ocean liner that now serves as a unique and fascinating maritime heritage destination in Rotterdam. With a rich history as a luxurious cruise ship and ocean liner, the SS Rotterdam offers visitors a chance to step back in time and experience the grandeur of a bygone era of travel. Here’s why the SS Rotterdam is a must-visit attraction in the city:

Nautical History: The SS Rotterdam was launched in 1958 as a flagship for the Holland-America Line, and it played a significant role in transatlantic travel during the mid-20th century. Exploring the ship allows visitors to learn about its fascinating history, from glamorous cruises to serving as a troop transport during times of war.

Preserved Elegance: As you step aboard the SS Rotterdam, you’ll be transported to a world of elegance and luxury. The ship’s interior has been meticulously preserved, and many of the public areas and cabins retain their original decor, allowing visitors to imagine the opulence and sophistication of past passengers.

Ship Tours: Guided tours are available throughout the SS Rotterdam, providing insights into the ship’s history, architecture, and life at sea. You can explore various decks, visit the engine room, and gain an understanding of the ship’s operation and daily life for both crew and passengers.

Historic Cabins: The SS Rotterdam offers the opportunity to experience authentic maritime accommodations by staying in one of its historic cabins. Spending a night on the ship adds a unique and nostalgic touch to your Rotterdam visit.

Restaurants and Bars: The SS Rotterdam offers an array of dining options, ranging from elegant restaurants serving gourmet cuisine to casual bars with stunning views of the city’s skyline. Enjoy a delightful meal or a refreshing drink while immersed in the ship’s vintage ambiance.

Panoramic Views: The SS Rotterdam’s decks provide panoramic views of Rotterdam’s bustling harbor and the surrounding cityscape. These vantage points offer excellent photo opportunities and a chance to appreciate the modern contrast against the historical backdrop of the ship.

Special Events and Functions: The SS Rotterdam hosts various events, such as themed parties, live music performances, and cultural gatherings. It also serves as an extraordinary venue for weddings, conferences, and other special occasions.

Children’s Activities: Families with children will find plenty of activities to keep the little ones engaged, including a playground, a treasure hunt, and a special kids’ tour tailored to their interests.

River Cruise

Embarking on a river cruise in Rotterdam offers a unique perspective on the city’s architecture, history, and vibrant waterfront. As you cruise along the scenic waterways, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of iconic landmarks, modern architecture, and the ever-changing landscape of this dynamic city. Here’s why a river cruise is an exceptional way to explore Rotterdam:

Stunning Waterfront Architecture: Rotterdam’s skyline is a fascinating mix of historic buildings and avant-garde architectural masterpieces. From the Erasmus Bridge and the Cube Houses to the striking skyscrapers, a river cruise provides an unobstructed view of these impressive structures, allowing you to appreciate their beauty from a different angle.

Historic Harbor: As you glide through the harbor, you’ll witness the rich maritime heritage of Rotterdam. The historic ships and dockyards, juxtaposed with modern infrastructure, offer glimpses into the city’s illustrious past as one of Europe’s major ports.

Illuminated Night Views: If you opt for an evening cruise, you’ll be treated to a magical experience as the city’s lights come alive. Rotterdam’s illuminated architecture creates a dazzling spectacle, turning the waterfront into a shimmering panorama that’s perfect for romantic outings or capturing stunning photographs.

Landmarks and Attractions: A river cruise allows you to cover a lot of ground effortlessly, passing by numerous key landmarks and attractions. Along the way, you’ll see places like the Markthal, the Euromast tower, the Maritime Museum, and the impressive Kop van Zuid district.

Guided Commentary: Many river cruises provide guided commentary in multiple languages, giving you insights into Rotterdam’s history, architecture, and noteworthy sights. This adds depth to your experience, helping you better appreciate the significance of what you’re seeing.

Relaxation and Comfort: River cruises provide a relaxing environment where you can sit back, unwind, and take in the city’s sights at a leisurely pace. The gentle sway of the boat and the soothing waters create a tranquil atmosphere that complements your exploration of the city.

Customizable Cruise Options: Whether you prefer a short sightseeing cruise or a longer tour with lunch or dinner onboard, there are various cruise options to suit your preferences and schedule. Some cruises even offer themes such as jazz music, wine tasting, or family-friendly activities.

Cruise Across the Maas River: The Maas River is the lifeline of Rotterdam, and a cruise along its waters provides a unique perspective on how the city interacts with its waterfront. The river cruise enables you to witness the city’s vibrant energy from a different vantage point.

Rotterdam Zoo (Diergaarde Blijdorp)

Diergaarde Blijdorp, commonly known as Rotterdam Zoo, is a captivating and family-friendly attraction that allows visitors to embark on a global wildlife journey without leaving the city. As one of the oldest and most celebrated zoos in the Netherlands, Diergaarde Blijdorp offers a delightful blend of animal encounters, beautiful landscapes, and educational experiences. Here’s why a visit to Rotterdam Zoo is a must for animal lovers and nature enthusiasts:

Wide Range of Animals: Rotterdam Zoo is home to an impressive collection of animals from all corners of the globe. From majestic elephants and playful primates to elusive big cats and colorful birds, the zoo showcases a diverse array of species, both large and small.

Natural Habitats: The zoo’s habitats are designed to mimic the animals’ natural environments as closely as possible. As you explore the various exhibits, you’ll find lush rainforests, arid savannas, and aquatic worlds, providing an immersive experience for both visitors and animals.

Oceanium: The Oceanium is a highlight of the zoo, offering an underwater adventure through different marine ecosystems. Walk through a tunnel surrounded by sharks and other sea creatures, and marvel at the mesmerizing displays of colorful coral reefs.

Butterfly Paradise: The Amazonica exhibit transports you to the vibrant rainforests of South America, where thousands of butterflies flutter around you in a captivating and enchanting experience.

Savanna Experience: The spacious savanna exhibit allows animals like giraffes, zebras, and rhinos to roam freely, giving visitors a taste of an authentic African safari adventure.

Conservation Efforts: Rotterdam Zoo actively participates in conservation programs aimed at protecting endangered species and their natural habitats. By supporting the zoo, visitors also contribute to vital conservation efforts worldwide.

Kids’ Corner and Play Areas: Diergaarde Blijdorp caters to young visitors with special play areas, interactive exhibits, and educational activities. The zoo ensures that families have a memorable and educational day out.

Historical Charm: Opened in 1857, Rotterdam Zoo boasts a rich history and retains some of its original architectural charm, adding a nostalgic touch to the modern animal exhibits.

Botanical Gardens: The zoo is adorned with beautifully landscaped gardens, featuring a wide variety of plants and flowers. This creates a serene and picturesque setting for a leisurely stroll amidst nature.

Photography Opportunities: With the animals in spacious and naturalistic enclosures, Rotterdam Zoo provides ample opportunities for capturing stunning photographs of wildlife in a setting that closely resembles their natural habitats.

Witte de Withstraat

Witte de Withstraat is a vibrant and lively street located in the heart of Rotterdam. Renowned for its artistic and cultural offerings, this bustling thoroughfare has earned a reputation as the city’s “Cultural Strip.” From art galleries and museums to trendy bars and restaurants, Witte de Withstraat is a must-visit destination for locals and tourists alike. Here’s what makes this street so special:

Art and Culture Hub: Witte de Withstraat is a haven for art enthusiasts and culture lovers. The street is lined with numerous art galleries, contemporary art spaces, and cultural institutions, showcasing works by both local and international artists. Art installations and murals adorn the walls, adding an artistic flair to the entire area.

Museums and Exhibitions: The street is home to several museums, including the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art and the TENT Rotterdam, offering thought-provoking exhibitions and programs. These institutions play a vital role in shaping Rotterdam’s dynamic art scene.

Cosmopolitan Dining: Witte de Withstraat is a paradise for foodies, with a diverse range of restaurants, cafes, and eateries representing cuisines from around the world. Whether you crave traditional Dutch fare, exotic Asian dishes, or mouthwatering Mediterranean delights, you’ll find an array of options to satisfy your palate.

Vibrant Nightlife: As the sun sets, Witte de Withstraat comes alive with its vibrant nightlife. The street is dotted with hip bars, lively pubs, and stylish cocktail lounges, making it a popular spot for locals and visitors to enjoy a night out on the town.

Street Festivals and Events: Throughout the year, Witte de Withstraat hosts a variety of street festivals, cultural events, and art installations that contribute to the street’s lively and dynamic atmosphere. These events add an element of surprise and excitement to any visit.

Fashion Boutiques and Design Stores: Fashionistas will delight in the eclectic mix of fashion boutiques and design stores found along Witte de Withstraat. From unique clothing pieces to handmade jewelry and contemporary design items, the street offers plenty of shopping opportunities.

Urban Atmosphere: The atmosphere on Witte de Withstraat is youthful, trendy, and artistic. The street exudes a sense of creativity and experimentation, attracting artists, designers, and creative minds from all walks of life.

Public Art and Installations: Witte de Withstraat embraces public art, with sculptures and installations scattered along the street. These artistic interventions add an element of surprise and provoke thought while enhancing the overall urban experience.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a visit to Rotterdam promises an unforgettable experience, where the city’s rich history and modern vibrancy seamlessly converge. From the bustling Port of Rotterdam to the cultural oasis of Witte de Withstraat, the city offers an array of exciting attractions and fun things to do. Whether you find yourself in the east, central, or any part of Rotterdam, there are captivating places to see and explore.

A day trip to Rotterdam is a gateway to discovering the city’s architectural marvels, maritime heritage, and artistic treasures. You can venture through the iconic Cube Houses, indulge in a culinary journey at the Markthal, and embrace the grandeur of the SS Rotterdam. For a dose of nature and wildlife, a visit to Rotterdam Zoo offers a delightful escape.

As you traverse Rotterdam’s scenic riverbanks, embark on a river cruise to admire the city’s panoramic views from a different perspective. The Erasmus Bridge, Witte de Withstraat, and Museum Park stand as shining examples of the city’s innovative spirit and cultural richness.

So, whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, remember, you’re in Rotterdam—a city of dynamic energy, artistic wonders, and a maritime legacy that continues to shape its identity. Embrace the charm of the old and the allure of the new, as Rotterdam invites you to experience its captivating fusion of history and modernity like no other place can.

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I am Sarah Waqas. I’m a professional content creator with a passion for writing travel blogs. I enjoy researching and writing about new places to visit.  My goal is to always provide my readers with the most accurate and up-to-date information possible. I also enjoy interacting with my readers and hearing their feedback.

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