Planning a day in Rotterdam can be overwhelming. There is so much to do and see in this vibrant Dutch city! We wrote this itinerary to help you plan the best day in Rotterdam.
With a one day visit to Rotterdam, you can visit the most significant city highlights like;
- Rotterdam Central Station
- Town Hall
- City Center
- Witte de Withstraat
- Markt Hall
- Cubic Houses
- Old Port
- Erasmus bridge
- Harbor Tour
- Hotel New York
- SS Rotterdam
- Kunst Hal
Let’s find out the best way to structure your one day in Rotterdam, how to get around, and where to find these highlights. We also give you some extra cultural options, lovely places to eat, and recommendations for the best places to stay overnight in Rotterdam. Ready to dive in and plan? Let’s go!
One Day in Rotterdam – Itinerary
Honestly, we feel one day in Rotterdam is a bit short. There’s so much to see and do in this city. A two-day visit would be even better. But we understand when you’re short on time and want to visit more highlights in The Netherlands! Luckily it is straightforward to go around the country, but we will get back to that later.
We recommend starting your day early in the morning. This way, you have enough time to explore the most significant highlights of the city. Rotterdam is the second-largest city of The Netherlands, with an interesting and eventful history. Check out our article What is Rotterdam Famous For, to learn more about Rotterdam’s past.
You can easily catch a train from Amsterdam to Rotterdam in the morning, which will take you less than two hours. But if you don’t like to travel during the busy Dutch morning rush hour, we recommend you to book a hotel in Rotterdam a night before. This way, you can wake up slow, get some nice breakfast, and start your day in Rotterdam full of energy without the hustling of traveling first.
We will tell you about the best places to stay in Rotterdam later in this article.
First, let’s start with the fun and unique things to do in Rotterdam. When you’re staying for one day in Rotterdam, get ready for a full day of fun and cultural activities!
Rotterdam Central Station
Whether you arrive in the morning by train or the night before, a visit to Rotterdam Central Station must be on your itinerary. A few years ago, the largest train stations in The Netherlands were renovated. Rotterdam Central Station was one of the first to open after renovations. It turned out to be a unique building that fits right into the modern and sometimes challenging architecture in the city.
Rotterdam Central Station became a hub to reach the city by train from any part in The Netherlands. And travel further with the cities unique metro system. Fun fact; Rotterdam was the first Dutch city with a metro system, introduced in 1968.
Today there’s even a direct metro line between Rotterdam and The Hague, connecting the smaller countryside towns and villages in between these major cities.
The central station is not only great to catch your public transport or to explore the unique architecture. It also became a place where you find literally everything. There’s a shopping center with several fashion shops, food stands and of course many barista coffee shops, which is great for the busy travelers!
Explore Rotterdam’s History
Rotterdam used to be a vibrant city with a medieval city center. Today it is still a vibrant city, but there’s not much left of the unique history of the city. During the 2nd World War, the Germans bombed and destroyed a large part of the city. It was one of the heaviest bombings during that war. You can read more about it in our article What is Rotterdam Famous For?
Luckily a few buildings survived the bombings, some of them heavily damaged, but they were rebuilt and reconstructed after the war. The city got completely rebuilt after the war, and that’s the main reason why Rotterdam is famous for its unique and modern architecture.
Exploring Rotterdam’s history, we recommend starting with visiting some unique buildings.
The fastest way to learn about the history of Rotterdam is by visiting Museum Rotterdam. They offer the complete story of Rotterdam. With several exhibitions about the past, present-day, and also a look in the future. It is interesting to see how the city developed over time, how they dealt with the bombings, came back as an essential economic city after the rebuilding in the 1950s, and what they expect of the city’s future.
Their exhibition changes every few months. Check out the latest information on their website.
You’ll find Rotterdam’s Town Hall at Coolsingel. An important street within the city center. Connecting Hofplein with the Erasmus bridge and running through the oldest business center of the city. The town hall of Rotterdam is one of the buildings that survived the bombings. Built between 1914 and 1920, it is not just your typical town hall. Many artists contributed to the building with some unique works. Making the town hall a museum-like building where you can find works from renowned Dutch artists as Hettema, van Wijk, and Miedema. All of them didn’t get the world-famous recognition for their works like Rembrandt, van Gogh, and Vermeer. But they’re still widely respected within the art scene.
One of the few traces of Rotterdam’s Medieval history is the massive Laurenschurch, which dates back to the early 1400s. However, during the bombings in 1940, the church got heavily damaged, only the outside walls and construction survived. After the war, it took until 1952 before the reconstruction started. It took until 1968 until the reconstruction completely finished.
Today Laurenschurch is a popular church, where several events taking place throughout the year. Because the church has great acoustics, it is often used for classical music performances. A few days of the week, the church opens for guided tours and climbing the unique church towers. Opening days depend on the time of the year. So if you’re want to visit and climb the tower, make sure to check the latest information on the church website.
Going back in time, there’s still a unique fact we didn’t mention. At the time the church was being built, Rotterdam was also undergoing rapid growth. The city became more and more popular because of the harbor and many job opportunities. Building the church turned out to be very expensive. To lower the cost, the city council decided that everyone who opted for registered citizenship needed to bring at least 3000 stones that contribute to building the church.
We recommend that you spent some time walking around the unique city center district of Rotterdam. Street as Nieuwe Binnenweg, Oude Binnenweg, Eendrachtsplein are all great to explore some unique, local, and vintage shops. Especially Nieuwe and Oude Binnenweg are both known to have the best music, barber (great if you need a haircut), and vintage clothing shops in the city.
However, the biggest eye-catcher in Rotterdam’s city center is Koopgoot. The official name is Beurstraverse, but people refer to it as Koopgoot. The name derives because the street is a bit below ground, in between two other streets. When you look at it, it looks like a gutter, which means Goot in Dutch. Shopping translated to Dutch is Koop or Kopen, hence the name Koopgoot or in English Shoppinggutter. You’ll find some of the biggest fashion shops in the Koopgoot. The street also directs you to one of the main metro stations of the city.
After a busy morning, lunchtime arrives! And you deserve it, after all that walking and sightseeing you’ll probably be craving for some typical Dutch food. But did you know Rotterdam is the most multicultural city of The Netherlands? All these cultures are giving the city its unique vibe. And what I find most interesting is that Rotterdam is a safe city. Of course, some incidents happen, but that’s in every city, right? You can easily walk around the streets in Rotterdam, a cultural melting-pot, and everyone accepts one other. Like it always should be.
Anyway, back to lunch.
The best way to grab lunch, and explore the food of the different cultures of Rotterdam is to go to the Markt Hall. A fairly new building which you’ll find at Blaak, close to the Koopgoot.
Markt Hall is a multifunctional building, with offices and apartments on the top floors. And a large food market on the ground floor. Before you grab lunch at the first food stand you’ll see, we advise you to walk around a bit. There’s so much to find! You’ll find typical Dutch food with croquettes and cheese sandwiches, fresh fish, and meat. Spicy Surinam Chicken or egg sandwiches (The chicken curry is one of my favorites!), Freshly made CousCous, and much more!
And when the weather is nice, order your lunch to go. So you can eat it while outside. The old harbor is closeby, which is a great spot to enjoy your freshly made lunch.
Old Port (Oude Haven)
The old port is literally crossing the street from the Markt Hall, so easy to reach while you just bought your lunch. It is a unique place to walk around, you’ll see many historic ships in the old port. There are also many bars located here, so keep this place in mind if you like to have a drink later, however, there are many more unique places for drinks.
For this day, we recommend eating your lunch at the old port and enjoying the view with the historic ships. And when you’re out of luck and its raining (which if quite often in The Netherlands), eat your lunch in the market hall, skip the old port, and go straight to the cubic houses (Sounds like Monopoly!)
One of the most unique landmarks in Rotterdam are the Cube Houses. Designed by the renowned Dutch architect Piet Blom. The houses are designed to optimize the space inside. However, with 100 square meters, almost a quarter of the homes are not usable because of the design.
The unique design is interesting to see, and the houses in Rotterdam create something like an urban forest. When you look at it from the top, it seems like a forest. You can stay in the houses if you like, since 2009 it is run by the company StayOkay Hostels. However, they only offer dormitory rooms.
There’s also one designated apartment which they turned into a museum so that you can have a look inside the cube house.
Leaving to Cube Houses, it is around 25 minutes walk to the most famous bridge of Rotterdam. The Erasmus Bridge, which is an iconic bridge, which makes the skyline of Rotterdam complete. The bridge is almost 800 meters long, which makes it the second-largest bridge of The Netherlands. The Erasmus bridge connects the north and south part of the city. When you are walking over the bridge from north to south, you’ll end at the point, what locals call Kop van Zuid (Head of the South), which refers to the beginning of the southern part of the city. This part is the new business district, with many offices and a unique theater. But there’s also much history to find. This part of Rotterdam was the departure point of the historic Holland America Line. A cruise ship that sailes between Rotterdam and New York. The connection still exists today, but it leaves from a different point in Rotterdam.
Hotel New York
The old main office building of Holland America Line is still standing. Today it is a unique hotel/ restaurant with the name Hotel New York. It is a special building to visit, especially when you love history and architecture. Walking into the building is like walking back in time. There’s a slightly modern vibe, but with the atmosphere of the 1950s and the ’60s. A unique experience!
Kop van Zuid exists out of a few artificial islands. You might say jetties, but there are so big, it feels more like walking around on an island. Walking on a jetty, you can see the water on both sides, that’s not the case here.
On the island Katendrecht which is the island next to Hotel New York, you’ll find the unique SS Rotterdam. On of the former cruise ships of the Holland America Line. The ship is not sailing anymore, and they made a hotel and conference center in it. When you want to feel like how it was staying at a ship sailing to The Netherlands or United States, you might want to book a room here. Great place if you decide to stay overnight in Rotterdam.
Reaching the SS Rotterdam is most convenient to hop on the Water Taxi. The stop is next to Hotel New York. It saves you a lot of time walking to the other island.
Harbor Tour or Water Taxi
Most of the time, we recommend people to take a guided harbor tour with one of the speedo boats. It is a unique tour that goes to the old harbor, alongside de Maas river, into a part of the largest container port of Europe. Port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe until 2004 it was even the largest port of the world! This large port is also the reason why Rotterdam is so crucial to the Dutch economy. In our blog, What is Rotterdam Famous For? We tell much more about the unique and historical things of the city.
A guided harbor tour is a great thing to do. However, it takes up to almost 2 hours or longer. We feel that’s a big chunk of your limited time during your one day visit in Rotterdam. So we recommend to skip the harbor tour for this day, and instead use the Water Taxi a few times to go around the city quickly. You can easily hop on the water taxi’s using your OV-Chipcard (we assume you have one, but we’ll explain how this works in the part ‘how to get around).
It is not only faster to go around the city, but it’s also much cheaper to do instead of the harbor tour! And the great thing is, you can see Rotterdam from the water as well!
So when you’re finished with your visit to the cruise ship SS Rotterdam, jump on the water taxi in the direction of Heijplaat. You need to out the first stop, St. Jobshaven, which is at the peninsula/ quarter Delfshaven. Here we recommend both visiting this unique area and the Euromast.
We already told you about the massive bombings that destroyed a large part of the city during the second world war. Somehow Delfshaven escaped the bombings, making it the oldest part of Rotterdam today.
It is great to walk around Delfshaven and explore the old buildings. A totally different vibe than the rest of the city. Delfshaven feels much more like a small village within the city of Rotterdam.
After all that walking and exploring, you’re probably a bit thirsty and ready for some relaxing. The best place to go in Delfshaven is Pilgrims Brewery. Rotterdam’s city brewery, where you can enjoy some craft beers and typical Dutch snacks. Don’t drink too much though, there’s still some exploring to do!
The name Delfshaven lets you think of the close city Delft, and actually, the name derives from the city. In the early days, around 1380, Delft built a harbor at this place, which is around 6 miles from Delft’s city ports. The city of Delft is not directly at sea, and the river that floats through the city today wasn’t dug out yet. With the opening of Port of Delft, the city could avoid road taxes, and easily receive more seaworthy ships, which meant more trade and business opportunities for the city to grow. It took until 1886 before this part became an official part of Rotterdam.
Want to know more about Delft? Check out our article How Many Days Do You Need in Delft?
When you look at the skyline of Rotterdam, you’ll not only see some skyscrapers, the Erasmus Bridge, but also a needle-like building. Built for the celebration of the Floriade, a Dutch flower event which takes place in Rotterdam every 10 years. The Euromast is one of the highest buildings in Rotterdam, and it is great to go to the top and enjoy the amazing 360 views of the city. When it’s a clear day, you can look all the way to The Hague!
When you’re looking for adventure and visiting Rotterdam during the weekends between the months of May and September, it is possible to go Abseiling from the Euromast! With 100 meters it is even the highest abseil in Europe! You must make a reservation though, so when you a bit adventurous, check out their website!
The Euromast is not only great for a view of the city and its surroundings, or for the daredevils. It is also perfect for a romantic getaway. The same company that runs Hotel New York runs a small hotel in the Euromast. It is a bit expensive for one night, around 400 hundred Euros, but you can book a suite with a unique view of the city! And for that price, it also comes with breakfast!
As you might know, Rotterdam is known for its architecture and unique art exhibitions. One of the best places to explore both is to visit Kunst Hal Museum. You’ll find the best contemporary and modern art exhibitions in the museum. But it also the building that’s worth a visit. The unique design, developed by the world-famous architect Remco Koolhaas, won several international prizes and is renowned all over the world. Architecture students and lovers from all over the world come to visit the city, mainly to see one of these unique buildings.
One Night in Rotterdam
Your one day in Rotterdam has almost come to an end. After all that exploring, sightseeing, cultural visits, and maybe some abseiling adventures, it is time for some relaxing. Dinner and Drinks in the most fun and local places we know of the city.
Witte de Withstraat
When you ask people about Rotterdam and where to go for drinks and some nice food, they all will say Witte de Withstraat. For years this street is known as the best cultural street with bars and restaurants in Rotterdam. When we’re going to Rotterdam for some drinks, it is our favorite part as well.
It doesn’t really matter which bar you choose in this street, they are all good. Just watch out you don’t end up in a coffee shop unless you want to try some dutch cannabis, which these shops can sell legally in The Netherlands.
The most famous bar in Witte de Withstraat is De Witte Aap, a unique cafe/ restaurant with lots of choices for drinks and some excellent food. We would recommend going for some appetizers to Witte Aap. And walk around the street to find a restaurant you like for dinner, much to choose from!
On the other side of the city, you’ll find the area known as Hofplein. You can easily reach this using the metro from Witte de With street or walk for a few minutes, which is nice after dinner when it is not raining. It’s like 15 minutes walk through the city center, so that’s not too long.
Hofplein used to be the central hub for people traveling to Rotterdam from the countryside villages between The Hague and Rotterdam. However, they closed down Hofplein Station after the new Central Station opened. The metro line between Rotterdam and The Hague runs on this track now and goes directly to Rotterdam Central Station.
After the station was closed, Hofplein turned into a ghost town in the city of Rotterdam. Nothing was going on, and people didn’t reach this area, because they needed to go somewhere else to catch their train or metro.
However, since a few years, new bars, restaurants, shops, and clubs opening around the old station. Hofplein has transformed into a vibrant area, the place where you need to go for drinks, a party, and enjoy some live music in one of the biggest pop stages in town. The two places we recommend you to go to are Biergarten and Annabel.
It is the best way to finish your day in Rotterdam the local way!
Rotterdam Highlights Alternatives
Like we said, visiting Rotterdam in one day is a bit short. You don’t have enough time to explore everything in the city. However, you can have a great day, as we described above. There are some other interesting and cultural things to do that don’t fit in a one-day itinerary. We want to tell you about it, so you can decide for yourself if you want to visit something else or maybe stay longer in the city.
A museum dedicated to the history of maritime trade in The Netherlands and Rotterdam. It is an interesting museum to visit where you can learn more about the Dutch Eastern Company, which was the biggest maritime trade company in the world during the 17th century. And how the Port of Rotterdam developed into Europe’s biggest container port.
Wereldmuseum Rotterdam (Museum of The World)
With so many different cultures living together, Rotterdam is the best place to have a museum about the different cultures in the world. The exhibitions in this museum are unique. You’ll notice that we struggle with the same questions about life everywhere in the world, but that we deal with it differently, depending on our cultural background. The museum focusses on bringing people and cultures closer together, instead of describing only what separates one of the other.
De Kuip Rotterdam
When you into Football, the European kind. Soccer, I must say, De Kuip is a great stadium to visit. It is one of the oldest professional football stadiums in The Netherlands, and home to the folk club Feijenoord Rotterdam. Traditionally the third biggest club of The Netherlands. Visiting a game would be a great experience because the atmosphere in the stadium is really unique! (And that’s said by a fan of Ajax Amsterdam, which is the biggest football club in The Netherlands).
Kinderdijk (Unesco World Heritage)
The Netherlands is a country that is for the most significant part below sea level. Since centuries the battle against rising and floating water is a serious battle in the country. The Dutch are known as the best engineers in water management. A unique structure of water management is Kinderdijk, a historic windmill park used for pumping water away. The windmills are also used for grinding grain and producing all kinds of food.
Kinderdijk is close to Rotterdam, but not in the city center. So a visit is recommended if you’re able to spend more time in The Netherlands.
Do you want to know more about Rotterdam? Read our article What is Rotterdam Famous For? Where we explain more about the highlights and history of the city.
How to Get Around Rotterdam
The second-largest city of The Netherlands is, for most parts, perfect to get around on foot. We recommend you to walk in between many places to visit. This way, you can explore the best of the city, and you enjoy the city vibe much more.
Some places are more convenient to reach using public transport. In Rotterdam, we recommend using the metro system and water taxi. When you use public transport in The Netherlands, you need to have an OV-Chipcard. Which is a public transport card you can use in all public transport in the country. When you travel around The Netherlands with public transport, it is cheaper to buy an OV-Chipcard instead of using the designated city cards. When you’re staying only in one city, it might be cheaper to buy the city cards. It depends on which city you’re in.
Traveling in Rotterdam with public transport, you have a few options:
- One Day Ticket:
Buy this ticket if you stay for one day in Rotterdam, and not using any other public transport to go around in The Netherlands.
- OV Chipcard:
Buy a personal OV Chipcard at a train station when you’re traveling around The Netherlands using public transport. You can use this card throughout the country. It is more convenient using one card, instead of buying every time a new card. You must make sure that there’s enough money on the card to travel. It works like a pre-paid card. You can easily add money to the card at the different public transport stations or in the large grocery stores and shopping centers.
Best Places to Stay in Rotterdam
Staying overnight in Rotterdam is easier when you don’t have a lot of time to travel around. There are many hotels and accommodations to find in the city, within all kinds of price categories. We always use Booking.com when we book an apartment or hotel while traveling, so we selected some unique places to stay in Rotterdam via Booking.com.
When looking for a place to stay, we always check the latest reviews. If a hotel gets bad reviews, or if there aren’t any recent reviews, we don’t book it. We don’t like the hassle of booking a place that turns out the be lousy quality. At the time we selected these recommendations, the properties all get a review score of 9.0 or higher. However, make sure to check it for yourself, sometimes the quality changes over time. We do our best to keep up with it as well, but you just never know 😉
Some of the most unique places to stay in Rotterdam are;
- Euromast – Romantic Getaway, but a pricey one.
- Hotel New York – Sleep in the old office of the Hotel America Line
- SS Rotterdam – One of the old cruise ships of the Holland America Line
- Wikkelboats – A tiny house in the old harbor, a home made of cardboard! Fun and unique place to stay
- Cube Houses Hostel – You can sleep in one of the unique cube houses, it will be a budget choice because they only offer dormitory rooms.
- Cube House Apartment – Want to have a cube house for yourself for a few nights? You can book an apartment to stay overnight.
Read More About The Netherlands
We wrote many articles about The Netherlands to inspire you to go on a travel adventure in our country. We want to be as helpful as possible, and tell you all about the best things to do, the best time to visit, and the best ways to get around The Netherlands. Read more about The Netherlands in one of our articles;