In these articles I would like to introduce you to Rotterdam, a city with a thousand faces, constantly changing, with a somewhat painful history but incredible strength, which nine years ago adopted me and always made me feel at home.
Unfortunately, this city is not always the first choice when deciding to spend a weekend in the Netherlands. Hidden from the limelight by the renowned Amsterdam, our New York of Europe always remains a bit behind the scenes. With this article on things to visit in Rotterdam, I want to offer you a virtual tour that will introduce you to something new, and give you the right key to understanding the true essence of this city. Are you ready to set off with me and find out what to see in Rotterdam?
What to see in Rotterdam? All the places of interest!
Living in a foreign city is not the same as visiting it as a tourist, so I hope these tips of mine will be really helpful to you. Here are what places to visit in Rotterdam!
Need information on where to stay in Rotterdam? Read my article on where to sleep in Rotterdam, simple!
1 – The Central Station – Centraal Station
Our city discovery tour starts at Rotterdam’s Central Station. Recently built, the building is one of the most important hubs in the Netherlands, not only in terms of domestic but also international connections. In fact, from Rotterdam you can easily reach Antwerp, Brussels, Paris e London!
Rotterdam’s ultra-modern Central Station, which opened in March 2014 after 10 years of reconstruction, reflects the face of the city, looking toward the future but fondly recalling the past. In fact, the clock and part of the letters that make up the word “Centraal Station,” found at the main entrance, were part of the original building.
Take afew minutes to admire its interior structure and the adjacent square from which you can also see some of the most famous buildings and skyscrapers such as the Groot Handelsgebouw, the Nationale Nederlanden, the Millennium Tower and the Calypso.
2 – The heart of the city of Rotterdam – Luchtsingel, Coolsingel and Stadhuis
Leaving the station behind, turn left and go straight ahead following the streetcar lines until you reach the hofplein square recognizable by its fountain placed in the center. For many citizens and tourists visiting Rotterdam, this is an important landmark for different areas of the city.
To theleft of the square you will find the old Hofplein station district. This area is part of an urban redevelopment project. The goal is to bring back to life some of the neighborhoods that had unfortunately lost their charm over the past two decades, and to reconnect them through a wooden bridge.
Among the most popular venues in this area of Rotterdam we must name the Biergarten, an open-air pub with excellent beer, Annabel, a disco and concert hall where you can rock the night away. Another venue of interest in Rotterdam is BIRD, a café and restaurant during the day and a temple of jazz, soul, hip hop and funk at nightfall.
Well, are you ready to set off again to visit Rotterdam? Head back toward the fountain and this time continue to the right and enter Coolsingel.
Unfortunately, the boulevard is currently under reconstruction and the project is scheduled to end in March 2021, but what better excuse to return? I promise you will not be disappointed! In Coolsingel you will find the town hall, one of the few buildings and sights in Rotterdam that survived the 1940 bombing. The only part accessible to the public is the small but lovely garden at the back and the entrance hall, but if you are interested in seeing the entire structure, guided tours can be booked.
Coolsingel is also a great area if you are in a shopping mood. Among Rotterdam’s shopping streets you have to mention Beurs, Meent, Lijnbaan and Koopgoot.
3 – Laurenskerk, Blaak Market, the Markthal and the Cube Houses
From Coolsingel it is possible to reach the square of Laurenskerk. In this part of Rotterdam you will find the Protestant church of the same name, which was dramatically damaged by German bombing, but rebuilt in later years at the behest of Queens Wilhelmina and Juliana. In the small square in front of the church, you will also see the oldest statue in Holland dedicated to the guru of every university student, Desiderius Erasmus.
As you go deeper into the narrow streets parallel the church, you will reach Blaak Square where the market takes place on Tuesdays and Saturdays. I recommend that you visit Rotterdam on one of these two days as this will be an excellent opportunity to savor the city’s culture at its best.
Juggle the multicultural stalls dedicated to selling fish, spices, cookies, dried fruits, cheese, plants and flowers. If you haven’t had lunch yet, here you can try the famous Dutch fries, kibbeling (fried fish bites) and raw herring…like a real Dutchman!
As you can see, there are indeed many things to do and see in Rotterdam; on the right side of the square you will find thefuturistic Markthal.
What is so special about this Rotterdam building?
Well, you stand before a “monster” of architecture. Still don’t believe me? Then let the numbers speak for themselves: completed in October 2014, the complex houses 228 apartments including 24 penthouses, 4600 sq. m. dedicated to retail stores and 1600 sq. m. for dining, a 4-level underground parking garage for 1,200 cars. A 40-meter-high arch with an 11,000-square-meter mural created by artists Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam and known as “Cornucopia.” I told you so…a monster of architecture.
Turning, however, your gaze to the left, you will find the world-famous Cube Houses, a bizarrely shaped apartment complex.
Climb the stairs to immerse yourself in this parallel universe and you will find yourself surrounded by yellow cubes where gravity seems to follow different laws.
We bet the first thing you will think is, “but what will they look like inside?”
Well, don’t worry, there are two ways to satisfy your curiosity: the first is by visiting the Kijk-Kubus museum. Personally, I don’t consider this museum to be much, but it is the easiest and cheapest solution to find an answer to your questions. Another solution is to stay right in a cube house during your visit to Rotterdam. In fact, the Dutch hostel chain StayOkay has rooms in the very famous Cube Houses.
4 – Oude Haven, Rotterdam’s marina
From the Cube Houses head to Oude Haven, Rotterdam’s quaint old harbor now a gathering place and great location for a drink or an aperitif.
Along the waterfront of this quaint harbor you will find several bars and restaurants where you can try the very famous bitterballen.
Warning: the internal temperature of this snack is equal to a volcanic eruption; consume with caution.
To enrich the scene you can see in the background the Willemsbrug, indistinguishable by its red color, and the De Witte Huis, one of the city’s first skyscrapers and a survivor of the terrible bombings.
5 – A romantic walk under the wing of the “Swan”
If there is one thing I love most in the world, it is river cities, and how could my beloved Rotterdam have missed one? The Meuse (De Maas) is one of Europe’s most important waterways and trade routes. At its mouth stands one of the largest commercial ports in the World.
Among the things to do in Rotterdam is definitely the beautiful walk along the river bank. You can admire the magnificent skyline and the impressive bridge that connects the north and south of the city. At 802 meters long, theErasmus bridge falls on the list of the city’s landmarks. In honor of Erasmus of Rotterdam, this elegantly shaped linear structure resembles the silhouette of a swan, which is precisely why it has been renamed “The Swan.”
If you love boat tours and are interested in seeing part of the harbor, then I recommend adding a ride on the Speedo to your list.
Crossing the bridge you will head into the southern part of the city also known as Kop Van Zuid. In recent years, I have to say that this area of Rotterdam is changing a lot and, more importantly, for the better. New skyscrapers are rising on the river bank making the view even richer and more interesting!
From the bridge turn to the right and walk up to the pier where the very famous Hotel New York is located. In the past, the Holland America Line offices resided here, while today it is home to one of the city’s most renowned hotels and restaurants. If you are in the mood for fresh fish and shellfish for dinner, you are in the right place but I recommend making reservations in advance to be able to get a seat.
6 – The Delfshaven district in Rotterdam
When we hear about Rotterdam, skyscrapers and futuristic buildings build brick by brick in our minds. Some people end up calling it a cold city precisely because of this architectural choice. For the romantics and lovers of small towns, however, there is a little surprise: a hidden corner of the city reminiscent of the paintings of the famous Dutch painter Vermeer. This Rotterdam neighborhood is named Delfshaven.
This secret garden is also home to a small but very famous brewery, De Pelgrim. Absolutely recommended to stop by for a visit and taste a local beer.
7 – A view of beautiful Rotterdam from above
A fantastic spot where you can watch the sunset and be dazzled by the little lights that slowly light up as night falls is undoubtedly the Euromast. This tower is located near a wonderful park and is a great spot to see Rotterdam from above. At 96 meters high you will find the viewing terrace and a restaurant. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to try it but I assure you that the view is breathtaking.
If you are a thrill-seeker, don’t forget to take a ride in the Euroscoop, a rotating glass elevator that will take you all the way to the top. And if that’s not enough to awaken your adrenaline, I’ll tell you more: during the day and in the absence of wind, you can rappel down from the tower with ropes. Why take the elevator back to the base? Refrain those who suffer from vertigo.
8 – What to do in Rotterdam in the evening? Gazellig
If you are not yet tired of visiting Rotterdam by getting lost among its sights, and you feel like savoring some Dutch nightlife, I recommend you head to Witte De Withstraat for one last waltz ride.
Here you will have a wide choice of clubs and pubs, and in some of them you can also dance. Among the most’ renowned clubs I would like to mention De Witte Aap, NRC and Wunderbar.
And so we have come to the end of this mini-tour of Rotterdam that can be accomplished in one day. I usually strongly recommend spending at least two if not three days in Rotterdam. In fact, with a little extra time it is also possible to visit somewhat lesser known places and also the city’s surroundings.
I don’t want to give it all away just yet! See you soon with a new post about this city’ which I love and which I hope you now love a little more.
Tip: Rent a bike to better enjoy the city and to move easily from one area to another.
*For this article, both photographs and text were written by Cristiana, a friend who has lived in Rotterdam for years. Who better than she could give you some insights into seeing Rotterdam. *