Traveling to Rotterdam is a unique experience for every traveler. Here, everyone will find something for themselves. Many tourists note that the impressions of their first trip turn out to be much more vivid and rich than they expected. And this is not surprising.

Rotterdam is a vibrant and modern city located in the Netherlands, known for its innovative architecture, diverse cultural scene, and bustling port. It is the second largest city in the Netherlands after Amsterdam.

Rijnhaven, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Rijnhaven, Rotterdam, the Netherlands via Unsplash

Rotterdam is home to the largest port in Europe and one of the largest in the world. The Port of Rotterdam is a major maritime hub situated in the city and plays a crucial role in global trade and logistics.

The city combines modern architecture, cultural heritage, and an inspiring atmosphere. Therefore, if you are still wondering whether it’s worth visiting Rotterdam at all, don’t doubt, it’s worth it. Today we will try to make you fall in love with this small town in the Netherlands.

10 Reasons to Visit Rotterdam

Walking through the streets of Rotterdam, everyone can feel like they are part of a modern work of art, in which every corner of the city seems thought out to the smallest detail. We offer 10 reasons why you should visit it.

1) Rotterdam rose from the ashes

Rotterdam’s history dates back to the late Middle Ages, and while the city has undergone significant changes over the centuries, its origins can be traced to the 13th century.

Rotterdam originated as a small fishing village around the Rotte River. The first recorded mention of Rotterdam dates back to 1283 when a dam was constructed in the Rotte River, giving the settlement its name. The dam served as a means to control water levels and prevent flooding.

One of the notable structures from the 13th century was the Delft Gate (Delftse Poort), which served as one of the entrance gates to the city. While the gate no longer stands today, it was a significant part of Rotterdam’s medieval fortifications.

Today Rotterdam is the pearl of the Netherlands. It is a city that rose from the ashes of the destruction of World War II to become an incomparable work of modern architecture, cultural richness, and innovative technology.

Despite its history and the many remaining reminders of war destruction, the city demonstrates incredible strength and desire to become a solid attraction in the eyes of tourists.

Moreover, the city hosts cultural events and exhibitions all year round, making your trip rich and exciting. Try to plan a trip around the dates of one of them, and you will understand that the residents of this city know a lot about quality recreation.

2) Technological, Engineering & Architectural Marvels

Kubuswoningen - the Cube Houses of Rotterdam
Kubuswoningen – the Cube Houses of Rotterdam via Unsplash

Rotterdam City is unique in its architectural palette, represented not only by innovative cubic houses by the Dutch architect Piet Blom but also by outstanding engineering masterpieces.

Apart from the iconic Cube Houses (Kubuswoningen), you can admire iconic structures like the Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug), and the Markthal, a horseshoe-shaped market hall with stunning ceiling artwork.

Since after the war the city was almost completely rebuilt, it has many objects worthy of attention. For example, the Port of Rotterdam is an ultra-modern port, considered one of the largest in the world. There’s also a futuristic station building, the Meuse tunnel, which provides transport for the city, and much more.

Rotterdam also has the world’s longest drawbridge, the Erasmus, which connects the two sides of the Nieuwe River. It received a second name – swan, due to its unique and sophisticated shape. Part of it is opened to allow ships to pass through, and in the evening it is a real pearl that amazes with the beauty of its illumination and elegance.

3) Lively Atmosphere & Nightlife

Witte de Withstraat, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Witte de Withstraat, Rotterdam, Netherlands via Unsplash

Rotterdam offers a lively nightlife with a variety of bars, pubs, clubs, and live music venues. Areas such as Witte de Withstraat are known for their vibrant nightlife, featuring a mix of traditional Dutch pubs and trendy establishments.

Witte de Withstraat is a well-known street in Rotterdam, Netherlands, located in the city center. It is often considered the cultural heart of Rotterdam. It is home to numerous art galleries, theaters, and cultural institutions, making it a popular destination for art enthusiasts and those interested in contemporary culture.

Rotterdam offers a lively and diverse live music scene with various venues catering to different musical tastes. Check out places like Rotown, Baroeg, Bird Rotterdam, Annabel, LantarenVenster, Maassilo, Dizzy Jazz Café, Grounds, and WORM.

4) Museums

Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, Museumpark, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, Museumpark, Rotterdam, Netherlands via Unsplash

This city is a perfect place for spending a vacation as there are a lot of exciting things to do in Rotterdam. It is rich in a variety of museums, including Boijmans van Beuningen, which offers a superb collection of art from the Middle Ages to the present day. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is one of the most prominent art museums in the Netherlands and is located in the Museumpark area of Rotterdam.

A visit to the Art Nouveau Museum, the National Museum, the House of Cubism, and other cultural sites will allow you to enjoy art and history. Fans of unusual buildings and unique urban landscapes will also find many worthwhile places here.

5) Walking and cycling

Rotterdam Cycling
Cycling in Rotterdam via Unsplash

Rotterdam is a fairly green city. It has large parks and long canals which create a pleasant atmosphere for walking and relaxing in nature. Walk or cycle near Laurenskerk, also known as the Laurens Church, it is one of the oldest buildings in Rotterdam. Go to Markthall and then Witte de Withstraat.

Therefore, if you have several days to visit the city, try to just walk around it for one day. You can also rent a bicycle and ride it. Rotterdam is bike-friendly, so you can feel safe during your ride.

6) Canal Trips

There are many ways to explore Rotterdam – on foot, by bike, or by bus, but many tourists come here to explore the local canals.

Include a canal trip in your Rotterdam itinerary, this way you can see most of the architectural masterpieces, listen to many interesting stories from guides, and take a break from the bustle of the city, enjoying the silence of the water.

A canal cruise will be highly appreciated by couples because it is a real romance.

7) Culinary Scene

Market Hall and Foodhallen, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Market Hall and Foodhallen, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Rotterdam offers a rich culinary experience reflecting the diversity of cultures and world cuisine. Tourists will be greeted here by pleasant markets, restaurants, and cafes. In addition, the city is actively promoting a variety of street food. Local food trucks can offer options from sandwiches to Thai cuisine. Therefore, while walking along the streets, you will not go hungry.

Just like Amsterdam, Rotterdam also has a Foodhallen which is a big industrial building converted into a modern food hall. You will find loads of eating and drinking options here. It is on Wilhelminakade 58.

Fenix Food Factory Katendrecht, Rotterdam
Fenix Food Factory Katendrecht, Rotterdam via Unsplash

Another interesting place for foodies is the Fenix Food Factory. It is a unique and popular food and cultural space located in the Katendrecht neighborhood of Rotterdam, Netherlands

There is also a thriving coffee culture and love for cheeses and sausages. Travelers should try the local Gouda and Edam cheeses, as well as visit several cozy coffee shops. The city is also home to fine dining establishments serving gourmet dishes using local and seasonal ingredients.

8) Waterfront and Cityscape Views

The skyline of Rotterdam. Photo taken on the Euromast next to Het park
The skyline of Rotterdam. Photo taken on the Euromast next to Het Park via Unsplash

Rotterdam offers a variety of stunning views, from modern architecture and bustling cityscapes to scenic waterfronts. Here are some notable viewpoints and areas in Rotterdam where you can enjoy impressive views:

Euromast

The Euromast is an iconic observation tower in Rotterdam, providing panoramic views of the city and its surroundings. You can take an elevator to the top for a breathtaking 360-degree view, and on a clear day, you can see as far as The Hague and Antwerp.

Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug)

The Erasmus Bridge is one of Rotterdam’s most recognizable landmarks. Crossing the Nieuwe Maas River, the bridge offers excellent views of the city skyline, especially when viewed from the Kop van Zuid area.

Willemsbrug

Another picturesque bridge in Rotterdam is the Willemsbrug, connecting the northern and southern parts of the city. It provides a lovely view of the skyline, particularly at sunset.

Kop van Zuid

This waterfront area on the south bank of the river is known for its modern architecture, including the Erasmus Bridge and the De Rotterdam building. It’s a great place to stroll and take in the skyline views.

Maastoren

The Maastoren is the tallest building in the Netherlands, and it offers impressive views of the city and port. While it’s primarily an office building, some events and open days provide the public with the opportunity to enjoy the views.

Katendrecht

The Katendrecht neighborhood, once a port area, has transformed and offers a mix of historic and modern elements. It’s a vibrant district with great views of the skyline, especially from places like the Fenix Food Factory.

Market hall Rotterdam with restaurants inside
Market hall Rotterdam with restaurants inside via Unsplash

Markthal

The Markthal is an architectural marvel with its colorful interior and impressive arched ceiling. While exploring the market, you can enjoy views of the artwork on the ceiling and the bustling market below.

Laurenskerk Tower

The Laurenskerk, or St. Lawrence Church, has a tower that you can climb for panoramic views of the city. It provides a different perspective on Rotterdam’s architecture and layout.

Skyline from the Water

Consider taking a boat tour or water taxi to see Rotterdam’s skyline from the water. This perspective offers a unique and picturesque view of the city’s architecture.

Central Library (Bibliotheek Rotterdam)

The top floor of the Central Library in Rotterdam offers a quiet place to enjoy views of the city. It’s a hidden gem for those seeking a more relaxed setting to appreciate the panoramic views.

8) Relaxation with children

Another big advantage of Rotterdam is the possibility of traveling with children. Even kids will find it interesting here. For example, there are children’s museums “Maritime Museum” and “Delft Science Center”.

Both museums offer interactive activities and a variety of exhibits that little explorers will love. For example, in Delft, you can create your ceramic gift. In local parks, you can feed the ducks and organize a family picnic. Children may also enjoy the floating forest, which consists of 20 artificial trees.

9) Good Public Transportation

Rotterdamse Elektrische Tram
Rotterdamse Elektrische Tram via Unsplash

Rotterdam has a well-developed and efficient public transport system that includes trams, buses, metro, and water taxis. The system is operated by the Rotterdamse Elektrische Tram (RET) and connects various parts of the city and its surrounding areas.

10) Good Base for Exploring the Nearby Destinations

Den Haag

Den Haag is a popular beach destination located just a 20-30-minute drive from Rotterdam. It is commonly called “the Hague” in English. You can even arrive in Den Haag on a bicycle from Rotterdam.

The Scheveningen Beach of Den Haag is a popular destination for relaxation, water sports, and dining with a view. It is a beautiful sandy beach and a lively promenade so offers a change of scenery from Rotterdam.

Schokland

Schokland is a former island located in the Zuiderzee, a large inland sea that existed in the central part of the Netherlands. The island was once part of the historical region of Flevoland, and its history is closely tied to the challenges of living in a low-lying, marshy environment.

This is a cultural landscape in the former Zuiderzee region, featuring archaeological sites and remnants of settlements and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Leiden

Leiden is a historic city with a medieval city center that features charming canals, historic buildings, almshouses, and cobblestone streets.

Leiden is home to one of the oldest universities in the Netherlands, Leiden University, founded in 1575 which has produced numerous influential scholars and Nobel laureates. Hortus Botanicus Leiden is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, dating back to 1590.

If you want to do it the Dutch way, then you can make a day trip to Leiden on a bicycle from Rotterdam. The cycling path will take you via Zoetermeer and is 33 km on each side.

How to Reach Rotterdam

Rotterdam Centraal Train station
Rotterdam Centraal Train station via Unsplash

Rotterdam, being a major city in the Netherlands, is well-connected and accessible by various modes of transportation. Here are common ways to reach Rotterdam:

  1. By Air:
    • Rotterdam The Hague Airport (RTM): Rotterdam has its own airport, Rotterdam The Hague Airport (RTM), located about 5.6 kilometers (3.5 miles) northwest of the city center. It primarily serves regional and European flights.
    • Schiphol Airport (AMS): Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) is the largest international airport in the Netherlands. From Schiphol, you can easily reach Rotterdam by train in about 30-40 minutes. Trains run frequently between Schiphol and Rotterdam Centraal station.
  2. By Train:
    • Rotterdam is well-connected to the Dutch and European rail networks. Rotterdam Centraal is the main railway station, and it serves as a major transportation hub.
    • High-speed trains, Intercity Direct, and Thalys connect Rotterdam to cities like Amsterdam, Utrecht, Brussels, and Paris.
    • An intercity train from Amsterdam Centraal to Rotterdam Centraal takes around 1.5 hours or more. High-speed trains take as little as 38 minutes.
  3. By Car:
    • Rotterdam is accessible by car, and the city is well-connected to the Dutch highway network. Major highways leading to Rotterdam include the A16 from the south (coming from Belgium) and the A13 from the north (coming from Amsterdam and The Hague).
  4. By Bus:
    • Intercity buses connect Rotterdam to various cities within the Netherlands and neighboring countries. Bus services are operated by different companies, including FlixBus and Eurolines.
  5. By Boat:
    • Rotterdam is a major port city, and if you’re traveling by cruise or ferry, you may arrive at one of the city’s ports. Passenger terminals are located along the river, offering easy access to the city.

So Is Rotterdam worth visiting?

It depends on what you are looking for. If you’re seeking one of those European cities with a medieval town center, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and historic buildings, then Rotterdam isn’t for you.

Rotterdam is a city that provides new experiences at every turn. It surprises with its modern energy, while at the same time immersing you in history and culture. You should visit it.

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