15 Best Things to Do in Rotterdam (The Netherlands)

Written by Veronique Raes
Updated on
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Rotterdam is located in the southern Netherlands and is the second largest city in the country after the capital Amsterdam with a population of approximately 630,000. Rotterdam has been a major city for many hundreds of years and has always served as a large port as it lies on the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt river delta.

Since the 1300’s the port of Rotterdam has developed and served as a major port of the Dutch East India Company. During WWII Rotterdam saw extensive bombing and its centre was almost completely destroyed, however after this the city was slowly rebuilt and once again stands as a modern port.

Aside from its fascinating port, Rotterdam also features some fantastic architecture like the modern cube buildings and the Euromast Tower, but also has a wonderful variety of museums, eateries and activities to enjoy.

1. Markthal Rotterdam

Markthal RotterdamSource: Boris Stroujko / shutterstock
Markthal Rotterdam

The Markthal is a stunning piece of architecture that was constructed in 2009 and serves as both an office building and a marketplace. The design of the structure is quite unique with a large semi-circular grey façade and a large windowed section facing out to the surrounding courtyard. The inside of the structure has some amazing artwork by Arno Coenen and shows various colourful fruits, plants, insects and flowers.

The market section of the Markthal contains a huge array of shops, stalls, restaurants and bars such as a Tea bar, a tapas bar, a “world of drinks” shop and over 70 other different businesses. It really is a cool and vibrant place to explore and sample some find food and drink.

Recommended tour: Markthal Tour, Meet & Taste, and Het Witte Huis

2. Rotterdam Zoo

Rotterdam ZooSource: Jolanda Aalbers / shutterstock
Rotterdam Zoo

Also known as the Diergaarde Blijdorp, the Rotterdam Zoo had stood for many years despite having to change locations during WWII to avoid bombing. The zoo is in great condition and features a Botanical garden and Oceanium and also operates breeding programs to help endangered species such as the Red Panda.

The zoo is split into several different themed areas including a Chinese garden, a Malayan Forest, Mongolian Steppes and a crocodile river. Animals include the Black Rhino, Greater Kudu, Sumatran Tiger, Asian Elephant and the Amur Leopard. This zoo really is a fantastic place for both children and adults alike and the wide variety of enclosures and interactive elements will provide hours of fun.

Book online: Rotterdam Zoo Skip-the-Line Ticket

3. Euromast Tower

Euromast TowerSource: Donaldb / shutterstock
Euromast Tower

The Euromast Tower is an observation station that was created in 1960 to provide panoramic views of the Rotterdam Cityscape. The towers stands at 606ft and with its antenna it is the tallest building in Rotterdam. The tower features a restaurant, a conference room for business meetings, a hotel suite and of course the observation deck.

This is the perfect way to see the sprawling expanse of Rotterdam and its ports and the entrance fee is quite modest for both adults and children. If you are looking for a little adrenaline action you can even zip-line or abseil from the tower.

Combo discount: River Cruise and Euromast Entrance Ticket

4. Erasmus Bridge

Erasmus BridgeSource: mihaiulia / shutterstock
Erasmus Bridge

This monumental bridge spans the Nieuwe Maas distributary of the Rhine and runs from the confluence of the Noord and Lek rivers. The length of this impressive bridge stretches to an immense 802m making it the second largest in the Netherlands. The bridge is nicknamed the Swan due to its large upright mast that resembles the neck of a swan.

In the centre of the bridge there is a bascule section that opens to allow larger ships passage through the waters. This feat of modern engineering creates an impressive backdrop to the port of Rotterdam and is a fine construction to admire and walk across.

5. Rotterdam Central Station

Rotterdam Central StationSource: Maykova Galina / shutterstock
Rotterdam Central Station

Rotterdam is a city that is full of modern and unique architecture and the central station is one such building. The new terminal was opened in 2014 and its architecture has become quite iconic. The building has a triangular shape that points towards the sky at a protruding angle.

The clock and the large letters that are set in the station entrance were transferred from the old station to retain some of its memory. The station connects to many other destinations in the Netherlands including Amsterdam, Den Haag, Groningen and Tilburg and sees 100,000+ passengers come through its doors on a daily basis.

6. Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk

Grote of Sint-LaurenskerkSource: Leonid Andronov / shutterstock
Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk

The Church of Saint Laurence is the only remaining piece of medieval architecture that survives in Rotterdam. The church was constructed in 1449 and was added too over the years.

The church was one of the first all-stone buildings to be created in Rotterdam and has served as a place for many important events. Located in the old town centre, near the Maritime Museum and the Erasmus Bridge, the church stands out against the relative modern skyline of Rotterdam.

The interior of the church is quite beautiful with many decorated arches, high vaulted ceilings and a variety of stone reliefs and rich religious decoration.

7. Europort

EuroportSource: Beketoff / shutterstock

The area labelled the Europort is an area of the ports in Rotterdam and is considered one of the busiest ports in the world and a major trade entry point into Europe.

The port is huge beyond belief and is a fascinating place to visit, to understand its importance and the role it plays in the cities and countries economy.

Boat tours are a great way to view the port and you will see many immense cargo ships, the large number of quays, storage facilities and boat yards and be blown away by the sheet scale and operation of this industrial marvel.

8. Maritime Museum

Rotterdam Maritime MuseumSource: Cristi Dangeorge / shutterstock
Rotterdam Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum is one of the largest of its type in the world with a huge collection of cartography, maritime memorabilia and art. The museum is located in central Rotterdam near the Markthal and the Cube houses.

Some of the interesting exhibitions include a controversial paiting of the Battle of Trafalgar, a collection of figureheads from various ships, different navy uniforms and flags from sea battles.

This really is a place full of interesting objects relating to the maritime world and the artefacts you can find here are world-class.

9. Fenix Food Factory

Fenix Food FactorySource: Iris van den Broek / shutterstock
Fenix Food Factory

This food factory provides a unique experience where you can delve into the food world and take part in workshops, tastings and open markets.

The factory promotes fresh local produce and you can find some delightful treats here and even freshly roasted coffee and home brewed beer.

Aside from the beer and coffee you can also indulge in tasty cheeses, a selection of butchers meats and bread and cakes from Jordy’s Bakery.

Food lovers will find this place to be delightful and if you let yourself you can really pig out on the things you can find here.

10. Rotterdam Boat Tour

Rotterdam Boat TourSource: EQRoy / shutterstock
Rotterdam Boat Tour

A boat tour is the perfect way to see the fantastic harbours and ports of Rotterdam.

As the port is so extensive and huge, it is silly to try and walk around it yourself – A boat tour will provide a comfortable means of transport and you will learn a great deal from the tour guides.

There are many companies that provide boat tours, but one particular tour is the Spido Harbor Tour which last approximately 75 minutes.

The boats are really modern with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating and fantastic wide windows for unobstructed viewing.

You can also enjoy food and drink and the commentary is both in Dutch and English.

For a relaxing ad informative tour, this really is a great way to see the magnificent ports of Rotterdam.

Book online: 90-Minute Harbor Cruise with Live Guide

11. Kinderdijk’s Windmills

Kinderdijk's WindmillsSource: Nick N A / shutterstock
Kinderdijk’s Windmills

Windmills are an iconic structure that has come to define the Netherlands and is one of the main things people associate with the country.

Around 20km to the east of central Rotterdam lies the small village of Kinderdjik which is a charming place to visit in its own right.

What makes this village an especially magical place however is the many windmills that line the canals here.

The 19 windmills stand proudly and have been restored to their original condition and are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This truly is a delightful place to visit and the surrounding countryside and network of canals is extremely impressive.

Recommended tour: UNESCO Kinderdijk, Euromast & Spido Day Trip

12. Depot Boijmans-van Beuningen

Depot Boijmans-van BeuningenSource: R. de Bruijn_Photography / shutterstock
Depot Boijmans-van Beuningen

This peaceful and charming museum is located in the Dijkzigt district of Rotterdam and is one of the country’s most important museums of art.

The museum contains a fine display of sculptures, paintings and decorative arts from many different artists and countries including works from Van Gough, Dali and Rembrandt.

Notable pieces include the “Tower of Babel” by Pieter Bruegel, and “Couple with their heads full of Clouds” by Dali.

Aside from the fantastic collection of art, the building and grounds of the museum are really impressive and a pleasant place to walk around.

13. SS Rotterdam

SS RotterdamSource: trabantos / shutterstock
SS Rotterdam

The SS Rotterdam is a large ocean liner that was originally known as the Grande Dame and constructed in the 1950’s.

The ship was one of the last lavishly decorated liners and was finally retired in the year 2000. Over the years the ship has had many names aside from the Grande Dame including the Rembrandt and now rests in Rotterdam as a combined hotel and museum.

Guided tours are available of the ships bridge and engine room which provide an interesting insight into how the ship operated during its glory days.

Book online: Steamship Rotterdam Audio Tour Entry Ticket

14. The Witte Huis

Witte HuisSource: MDart10 / shutterstock
Witte Huis

This wonderful building is one of the only buildings to survive the Blitzkrieg in WWII in central Rotterdam and stands proudly as a reminder of the cities heritage and history.

The striking Art Nouveau style of this building, make it easily recognisable and the white façade, ornate turrets and decorative roof give it great character.

The beautiful design of this building and its extensive history have made it a National Heritage Site and was the first high-rise building in Europe.

15. Cube House Rotterdam

Cube House RotterdamSource: cla78 / shutterstock
Cube House Rotterdam

The cube house is as you would expect – A set of houses that are cuboid fashion.

This bizarre and eccentric housing block was designed by Piet Blom and the cubes that it is formed from are tilted at a 45 degree angle.

The cubes are like no other type of house you will see and they really are an interesting concept; it makes you wonder how the people living here cope with the strange angles of the walls and windows.

From afar the structure looks like some old 2D computer game and one of the cubes is open to the public so you can see what the interior is like.

15 Best Things to Do in Rotterdam (The Netherlands):

  • Markthal Rotterdam
  • Rotterdam Zoo
  • Euromast Tower
  • Erasmus Bridge
  • Rotterdam Central Station
  • Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk
  • Europort
  • Maritime Museum
  • Fenix Food Factory
  • Rotterdam Boat Tour
  • Kinderdijk's Windmills
  • Depot Boijmans-van Beuningen
  • SS Rotterdam
  • The Witte Huis
  • Cube House Rotterdam