One of the world’s greatest festival cities, Rotterdam, started as a small fishing harbor on the Rotte river. Over the centuries, Rotterdam expanded fairly peacefully to a trade and transport center until it all came to an abrupt pause! During World War II the city center was bombed left within ashes of its former glory. A phoenix takes on a new life by being born again from the ashes, and that’s what Rotterdam did. They used this as an opportunity to re-design the city to fit modern standards. Before WWII, Rotterdam was a typical Dutch city with narrow canals and narrow streets. Today, Rotterdam is designed with high-rise buildings and multi-lane streets, famous for its architecture, extraordinary skyline and breathtaking monuments.
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Best time to visit Rotterdam
The most prominent time to visit Rotterdam due to the warm and sunny weather is from June to September. September is the driest month. If your schedule doesn’t allow for a September visit, there is an abundance of Rotterdam things to do all year round. November to March are generally extra affordable, and Tulip season is in full bloom in April and May. Whenever you visit you’ll find things to do in Rotterdam, but try to stick to the warmer seasons because of the nicer weather!
A few facts about Rotterdam
– Your dog could get fined – If your dog is creating a problem either in the surroundings or at night with its barking or crying, you could be fined around 140 euros!
– Rotterdam is the city of architects – it has the largest number of architectural companies in Europe.
– Look for the red lights on the floor – there are around 400 small red lights across the city. They mark where the bombs dropped during WWII.
– Rotterdam is home to plenty of events, festivals, concerts and theaters such as the Summer Carnival, International Film Festival and World Port days and it’s why they call it one of the world’s greatest festival cities.
One Day in Rotterdam Itinerary
The brilliant thing about Rotterdam is that most of the attractions are contained within walking distance. Use One Day Itinerary as your Rotterdam tourist map and follow our guide for top things to do in Rotterdam in one day.
Start Your Day at Rotterdam Central Station
The central station is most likely to be the starting point of your one day in Rotterdam. Honor the architecture of the station and the angled roof that points its aim towards the city center. Great for those who have challenges with spatial orientation! Visit the stores, shops, and food stalls in case you want to grab a quick bite before you figure out what to see in Rotterdam. There is a fantastic hostel just five minutes down from the central station, Sparks Hostel, where you can check-in as soon as you reach Rotterdam.
Stop by St. Lawrence Church
Walk 15 minutes from the central station, or take the innercity train to Rotterdam Blaak station. You will reach the lovely Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk or St. Lawrence Church. The church is one of the few things left from the medieval times! The interior consists of a broad center and warm colors beautiful in its simplicity. The entrance will cost you 3€ and the Laurenskerk tower is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays from March to October. Climb up to see the entire city. Take your obligatory Instagram photos and head to the next stop!
Step Into The Cube Houses
You will find the Cube houses on Overblaak street or just above the Blaak station. Architect Piet Bloom woke up one day and decided he’s going to switch the whole concept of a standard house around. His main idea was to optimize city space, while the design of houses represented a forest where each house is a tree.
Walk around the 38 small houses and two “super houses”. People do live here, but the tourists annoyed them to the point one resident decided to open a “show house” so all the curious visitors get to see what the houses look like from the inside.
Visit The Witte Huis At The Old Harbor
Williem Moengroek designed The White House or The Witte Huis near the end of the 1800s and at the time they couldn’t believe such a tall building could exist. Not only did it manage to endure its height, but it’s one of the rare buildings that survived WWII bombings. Check it out and then walk along to the old harbor. A lovely little area at the Rotte river, a fabulous place to walk, hang out, and observe local scenery. Have a drink, take your photos and move on! This will be a great walk along the river the next stop on your one day in Rotterdam
Have Lunch At Markthal Rotterdam
Giant, vibrant, creative! The “Horn of Plenty” artwork located in the Markthal is the biggest artwork in the world! 11,000 square meters of remarkable architecture that combines luxury apartments, offices, shops, and the incredible food market.
As soon as you enter it’s easy to see why it is nicknamed the “Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam”. Go to the lively food hall with stalls to suit any taste. A few of the stalls have small terraces or you can relax at one of the picnic tables. Try Kapsalon, a meal invented in Rotterdam, consisting of french fries, shawarma meat, and gouda cheese!
Learn at The Maritime Museum
Located just a few minutes southwest from the Markthal, the Maritime Museum is a Rotterdam must-see. Established in 1874, the museum is dedicated to Rotterdam naval history. Step into the world of the extraordinary collection of working vessels and cranes, and learn how the machines operated in the past! There is an exhibition for all ages, children especially love all the hands-on activities and the open-air harbor. Admission costs from 10€ to 14€, depending on your age, but the museum is entirely worth the price.
Take Photos by The Erasmus Bridge
You didn’t go to Rotterdam if you didn’t see the Erasmus Bridge. A 10-minute walk from the Maritime Museum will take you the striking fixture and a backdrop for numerous Rotterdam events. Light-blue steel, 800-meter long and 139-meters tall, the bridge also goes under the name the “De Zwaan” or “The Swan” due to its Swan-like shape. It is one of the most fascinating things to see in Rotterdam. If you’re in Rotterdam during the summer and have time, cross the Erasmus Bridge and visit the floating forest!
Have a Drink at The Euromast Tower
From Erasmus bridge, head to The Euromast tower across the Het Park. If you’re ahead of schedule, take your time to visit one of the nearby art museums such as Boymans-Van Beuningen or Beuningen Kuntshal, otherwise, head straight to the top of Rotterdam.
Built in the year 1960 by Hugh Maaskand and J.P. van Eastern as a symbol of the international flower and garden exhibition, the Euromast tower offers the best views of Rotterdam from its observation platform. You can try a cocktail at the bar, take the rotating glass elevator that takes you up to 185 meters, or even spend the night here!
Have Dinner at Delfshaven
You will find the Delfshaven district next to the Euromast tower, and it is a must on things to do in Rotterdam. Situated on the right bank of the Nieuwe Maas river, the district is important to Rotterdam because it is one of the few places where you can still feel the atmosphere of pre-war Rotterdam. Have dinner and an authentic Rotterdam beer at De Pelgrim or Het Eethuisje van Delfshaven. Looking for something a little different? Try De smaak van Afrika!
Shop And Party at The Cool District
Head back to the city center to “The Cool District”. We didn’t just decide it’s cool, the actual name of the area is the “Cool District” and it’s the best place to stay in Rotterdam. Shop on Van Oldenbarneveltstraat (yes, the name is a mouthful), check out The Santa statue or locally known as “the buttplug gnome”, you’ll see why, and be a part of the lively crowds gathering here after dark.
Visit “the best bar in the world” as voted in 2009 called De Witte Aap. Check out Rotown for a live show or dance the night away at Annabel. If you’re looking for a cool hotel near the cool district, check out Hotel New York with astonishing views and authentic decorations!
Where to Stay in Rotterdam
You know what to do in Rotterdam in one day, but wondering where to stay in Rotterdam? If you have an early flight and want to stay near the airport there are a few places. The airport is quite close to the city so if you are trying to use your one day in Rotterdam wisely, here are a few hotels we recommend.
Derde Katendrechtsehoofd 25, Feijenoord, 3072 AM Rotterdam
The coolest hotel in the city, you actually get to sleep on a former Holland-America line ship right next to the Europort harbor. The hotel features elegant decor, modern restaurant, terrace, and cocktails served in the Ocean Bar. You can explore the ship and learn all about its history and the free shuttle takes you to the city center!
Westersingel 1A, Centrum, 3014 GM Rotterdam
Not only is it a budget-friendly option, but it is in the city center, comfortable and a great place to socialize. Surrounded by shopping, restaurants, clubs, bars and everything you need for one day in Rotterdam to be a success. There’s an on-site bar as well! Great for travelers looking to meet new people while being in the center of the city!
Hotel New York
Koninginnenhoofd 1, Feijenoord, 3072 AD Rotterdam
From Hotel New York, you can enjoy the views of the Rotterdam skyline, the harbor, and the river. The hotel offers a water taxi that can bring you to the city center, and you can relax in unique rooms. Each room has it’s own shape and color. You are close to everything while safely excluded if you wish to be.
Best Day Trips From Rotterdam
An hour away and a well worth day trip from Rotterdam, Kinderdijk is home to the famous Dutch windmills. Located in the Alblasserwaard polder (a low-lying tract of land that forms an artificial water entity), the windmills were built as a system to drain the polder. Surrounded by canals, hills, and mountains it is a wonderful place to experience true Dutch culture. Enjoy the scenery, nature, history, and architecture of this small village and spend the day relaxing by the waters of Kinderdijk! Definitely try pastries from one of the bakeries!
An hour north of Rotterdam and you’ll reach Hague. Many people know Hague as the home to the U.N.s International Court of Justice so make sure to visit the Peace Palace where the court is located. There is more to Hague than that! Check out the Mauritshuis museum located in the 17th-century mansion with paintings of Dutch and Flemish art. Explore Maurodam – the miniature park showing all the famous Dutch landmarks!
Go just 45 minutes west and you will arrive at the Gouda, where the cheese comes from! If you happen to be there on a summer Thursday, you can relish in the cheese market and indulge in all the dairy. Check out the cheese museum! If you’re lactose intolerant, but still want to have a good time, you can shop at the Lange Tiendeweg street or visit the Sint Janskerk church! While cheese lovers will have the time of their life in Gouda, everyone can find something to explore in this quaint town.
Extra tips for visiting Rotterdam
- Visit the Europort – if you happen to extend your stay, make sure to check out Europort, the largest port in Europe and one of the world’s busiest ports!
- If you’re in Rotterdam at the right time, visit Mini World – It’s located two minutes from the Central Station and it is a whole indoor miniature Rotterdam. Check the opening hours as they vary.
- Avoid wearing fur or leather – Many people in Rotterdam are active animal rights supporters and you’ll sure to run into some negativity.
- Restaurants open late – People eat dinner later in the day, so plan accordingly.
- Rent a bicycle and use the water taxi – Rotterdam is easy to get around to, rent a bicycle if you’re short on time and take advantage of the many water buses and taxies!
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