Rotterdam is a city different from any other Dutch city. Rotterdam has a unique mix of authentic nostalgic neighborhoods and very modern architecture in its center. In addition, the river Maas divides Rotterdam into two parts, and this vast river provides Rotterdam with breathtaking skylines nowhere else to be found in The Netherlands.
The 10 Best Tourist Attractions In Rotterdam
- The Markthal, a modern indoor food market of unique design
- The Erasmus bridge, spanning the river Maas
- Euromast provides a breathtaking view of Rotterdam
- De Kuip, the football stadium of the local football team Feyenoord
- Koopgoot, a modern underground shopping center
- Zoo “Diergaarde Blijdorp” for a lovely afternoon with the kids
- The Cube Houses, an example of innovative architecture
- The Old Harbour, experience Rotterdam like it used to be
- The SS Rotterdam, a former cruise ship in the style of the ’50s
- The statue “the destroyed city” from Zadkine
Taking a harbor cruise will give you a good first impression of Rotterdam because it will already show you some of these highlights. A harbor cruise is one of the most popular tourist activities in Rotterdam.
Map Of 10 Best Tourist Attractions In Rotterdam
In the map below, you can see the location of all the tourist attractions in Rotterdam discussed below. If you click on the numbers, you will see more information and click through to the sites and attractions’ websites.
What To See in Rotterdam in One Day?
To explore Rotterdam thoroughly, you will need a few days. Unfortunately, many of the city’s visitors will have only one day available.
If you only have one day in Rotterdam, I recommend visiting the following highlights in Rotterdam’s center.
- Start your day by visiting “the destroyed city” statue of Zadkine near Leuvenhaven (10). This statue stands in the middle of the area destroyed by the German bombardment and is the heart of Rotterdam. You will immediately appreciate its traumatic history and why Rotterdam is a diverse mixture of modern vs. older architecture.
- Walk 100 meters to the south and admire the Erasmus bridge (2) while having a coffee at the quays.
- Walk 300 meters north to the Koopgoot (5), admire its award-winning architecture, and do your first shopping of the day.
- Walk 10 minutes to the Markthal (1), a large building that houses food shops, restaurants, and apartments under one roof.
- Admire the Cube Houses (7) on your way to the Old Harbor.
- Lunch at one of the many terraces overlooking the Old Harbor (8) and appreciate how Rotterdam used to be.
- Take a water taxi to the SS Rotterdam (9). Treat yourself to a guided tour of this magnificent ship and enjoy drinks and dinner on its many terraces. Here you will have the best view of the Rotterdam skyline.
- Alternatively, Visitors from the United States may be interested in taking a water taxi to Delfshaven from where the Pilgrims, the United States’ founding fathers, departed on their way to board the Mayflower in Southampton.
- An excellent alternative place to have dinner is at the top of the Euromast (3), the highest point of Rotterdam overlooking the entire city.
The 10 Best Rotterdam Attractions
What are the places to visit in Rotterdam and the things to do in Rotterdam?
Let’s start our Rotterdam sightseeing tour in the center of the city.
1. The Markthal
The Markthal (Market Hall) is a vast construction near the Grote Markt. This building’s unique aspect is that it combines food shops with restaurants and apartments, all in one building.
The Markthall offers a place for 220 apartments, 4600 m2 of shopping space, and 1600 m2 for restaurants. It also has a parking garage beneath the Markthal with parking spaces for more than 1000 cars. The Markthal was inaugurated in 2014 by The Dutch Queen Maxima.
I have visited the Markthal many times and find it an impressive building with unique, fascinating architecture. In addition, many food shops offer every possible food you may be interested in. The shops are beautifully decorated, and they all look pretty but are also expensive.
The Markthal in Rotterdam looks like the Bazar in Istanbul and is usually quite crowded. Therefore, if you would like to have dinner in one of the restaurants in the Markthal, it is advisable to make a reservation beforehand.
2. The Erasmus Bridge
The Erasmusbrug is located in Rotterdam’s center and connects Rotterdam’s center with the south bank of the river Maas. The Erasmus Bridge is relatively new and was built in 1996.
The Erasmus bridge has been named after the famous scientist and humanist “Erasmus” and is nicknamed “the swan” by the locals. Naturally, it requires some imagination, but you can imagine a swan’s neck in the bridge’s construction.
It is exquisite whether you see a swan in the construction. But, interestingly, this colossal bridge can still be opened for large ships, mainly cruise ships, to allow them to sail further upstream to dock in the more upstream parts of the harbor.
The Erasmus Bridge is crucial for daily traffic to and from the city center. For example, when Feyenoord plays a football game at De Kuip, the shortest way from Rotterdam Central Station to De Kuip is over the Erasmus bridge, so I have passed it many times….!
3. Euromast, Highlight Of Rotterdam
The Euromast is a tower in Rotterdam designed by Hugh Maaskant and constructed between 1958 and 1960. The Euromast is the highest building in Rotterdam at 195 meters. Their slogan is “Be on top,” an appropriate slogan for the city’s tallest building.
Some restaurants are located in the Euromast with breathtaking views of Rotterdam and the river Maas.
You can even rent a suite to sleep at 100 meters if you can still sleep with that thought in mind. Finally, for the daredevils among us, there are also possibilities for skydiving and abseilen from the top of the Euromast.
You can visit their website here for more information about The Euromast. The website offers all the information you need and is available in English.
4. The Stadium Of Feyenoord Rotterdam
The Kuip is a football stadium located in Rotterdam South. The stadium offers a place to forty-seven thousand and five hundred people. De Kuip is the stadium where the Rotterdam Football Club named ‘’ Feyenoord ‘’ plays their home games. It is an old stadium built in 1937 and renovated in 1993.
The stadium is unique because it is built from steel, making it shake when Feyenoord scores a goal. There are plans to create a new, more modern stadium on the river’s south bank, although the financing remains problematic. De Kuip is known for its unique football experience. According to the local fans of Feyenoord Rotterdam, the stadium breathes a football atmosphere.
5. Where To Shop in Rotterdam?
The Koopgoot is beautiful and has won many architectural prizes. The Koopgoot is located underground but is still really easily accessible, and I recommend visiting it when you’re in Rotterdam.
The Koopgoot, literally translated as the “buying valley“, is known for its many shops. De Koopgoot can easily be reached from Central Station with the metro because the metro station “Beurs” is in the middle of the Koopgoot.
Shops: There aren’t many shops that offer premium brands like Gucci or Prada. Although prices are not at outlets’ levels, many clothing brands are less known but attractive, affordable, and of good quality.
6. Diergaarde Blijdorp, The Local Zoo.
The Blijdorp Zoo is located in a residential neighborhood with the same name, Blijdorp, one of the popular neighborhoods for expats.
The Blijdorp Zoo opened in 1895 and is one of the oldest and largest zoos in The Netherlands. The zoo welcomes approximately 1,5 million visitors annually, making it the largest zoo in the country. Blijdorp is a charming zoo near the city center, ideal for an afternoon with the kids.
Blijdorp has different sections where the various animals are housed, like in any other zoo. However, I found the Oceanium the most impressive part of the zoo because it allows you to walk under aquariums and watch the tropical fishes from below, which is a spectacular sight.
Public Transport: Traveling to Blijdorp with the Randstad Rail ( a metro connecting Rotterdam to The Hague ) is easy. A few hundred meters from the zoo’s main entrance is a metro station.
7. The Cube Houses, Innovative Architecture
The Cubes Houses are a prime example of innovative modern architecture in the center of Rotterdam near The Oude Haven ( The Old Harbour). They were built between 1982 and 1984 and were designed by the architect Piet Blom.
When I first saw the Cube Houses, I found them weird but interesting. The Cube houses gave Rotterdam the reputation of a city that has embraced modern architecture to make the best of the center’s destruction during the war.
8. The Old Harbor
The Old Harbor is near the Cube House and has become popular, with plenty of terraces to sit and relax after a busy day of enjoying Rotterdam. In addition, there are quite a few restaurants and bars in the Old Harbor to sit down for a drink or something to eat.
The Old Harbor is where you can still appreciate how Rotterdam used to be. The famous White House, overlooking the old harbor, miraculously escaped the German bombs in 1940 and still stands majestically at the harbor entrance.
9. SS Rotterdam, A Cruise Ship In The Style Of The ’50s
The SS Rotterdam (steamship Rotterdam) is a former cruise ship of the Holland America line moored in the Maashaven (Maas harbor) on the south bank of the river Maas. The SS Rotterdam is unique because it has been completely renovated in the style of the ’50s when it still used to sail the oceans.
The SS Rotterdam can be visited. You can have dinner and drinks at the SS Rotterdam and even book a hotel room since it has also been rebuilt as a hotel.
The SS Rotterdam offers a unique experience and the best views of the skylines of Rotterdam.
It will be a delightful way to spend an afternoon, even if it happens to be an occasional rainy afternoon.
10. What You Should Know About Rotterdam
The picture below shows the area destroyed by the German bombardment in May 1940. Red lights on the ground mark the border of this area.
Even when you don’t notice the red lights on the ground, you will immediately recognize that the buildings inside and outside the “burning border (as it is called) are entirely different; hence, the atmosphere in those parts will be completely different.
The statue of Zadkine, called “the destroyed city” is also a vivid reminder of what has happened to Rotterdam. The sculpture resembles a man with his heart torn out like the heart was torn out of Rotterdam on that fateful day in May 1940.
It is a trauma that Rotterdam will probably never be able to forget. You can find this impressive statue at Plein 1940 at the end of Leuven Haven, in the middle of the destroyed area.
Where To Go Out In Rotterdam?
If you want a fun night out, the most exciting place is the Witte de Withstraat, packed with bars and restaurants. On warmer days, the terraces outside are loaded with (mostly) young people, and it has become one of the most vibrant areas of Rotterdam.
Alternatively, especially if you are more into theaters and movies, you may try out the area around the Stadhuisplein, which also has many restaurants for those looking to have dinner before or after a show or movie. Stadhuisplein is also next to the shopping area Lijnbaan which may offer a very tempting combination for some.
If you want a romantic evening in Rotterdam, I advise you to have dinner at the SS Rotterdam or The Euromast. If you have dinner on the SS Rotterdam terraces, you will have the best view of the Rotterdam skyline possible. The restaurant on top of the Euromast offers a magnificent view of the entire city and the river.
Is Rotterdam Better Than Amsterdam?
Rotterdam differs from most other cities in The Netherlands, the older charming historical cities with canals in the city centers. That is how Rotterdam used to be before the bombardment of its city center in 1940.
Still, the city has made the best of this traumatic experience and revised itself into a modern, vibrant city with a mixture of contemporary architecture built on historical roots. Therefore, Rotterdam deserves a visit if you want to experience the modern side of the Netherlands too.
Rotterdam is not better than Amsterdam, nor is Amsterdam better than Rotterdam. But what is true is that Rotterdam is different.