Are you planning a trip to The Netherlands, and wonder if Rotterdam is a good place to visit? The city is different than most cities in The Netherlands, but that’s what makes it unique and worth a visit!
Rotterdam is a modern, liberal, and open-minded city with bold architecture, an interesting multicultural vibe, and unique things to do. It’s the 2nd largest city in The Netherlands, and easy to reach. With famous landmarks like The Euromast, Erasmusbridge, Market Hall, Historic Delfshaven, and trendy neighborhoods, it is a good place to visit.
In this article, I’ll tell you more about the history of the city, unique things to do, places to go, annual events. How to get around and unique local tips from friends who are living in Rotterdam. When you’re finished reading this article, you’ll know all the important things that you’ll need to know for a visit to Rotterdam. Let’s find out!
Why Rotterdam is Worth Visiting.
Rotterdam is the most modern city in The Netherlands. The people from Rotterdam are known for their entrepreneurial drift, and that’s best visible in the many craft shops, market places, and trendy neighborhoods.
The second-largest city of The Netherlands has it all. It’s where the largest container port of Europe Port of Rotterdam is located. For a long time, this container port was even the largest in the world! It makes of Rotterdam a critical economic city for The Netherlands and one of the most important trade hubs for Europe and surrounding countries.
For centuries, Port of Rotterdam (which wasn’t always named this) attracts people from all over the world. Overtime, Rotterdam grew to the most multicultural city in the country. It became a real melting-pot of cultures, which you can experience best by visiting the local markets, events, and, of course, Wereldmuseum Rotterdam. The Netherlands is known as a liberal and open-minded country, you can experience this in almost every city and village. However, Rotterdam is maybe the best example, with so many cultures, people from different nationalities, beliefs, sexual preferences, all living peacefully together. Like it should be everywhere in the world if you asked me.
The City, That’s The Ought One Out
One thing you can’t find in Rotterdam is a historical city center. However, there’s a historic neighborhood, Delfshaven, where you can still explore authentic pre-war buildings dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. It wasn’t always like that, Rotterdam was a beautiful historic city, some say it was even more authentic than Amsterdam, but I’m not quite sure if that’s true. One thing changed the course and history of Rotterdam forever, the devastating bombings during the 2nd World War.
On the 14th of May 1940, the German airforce bombed Rotterdam during their invasion of The Netherlands. They destroyed almost the entire city. Luckily most citizens could get away in time and find safe shelter. A few buildings were heavily damaged but were rebuilt after the war. And thankfully, Delsfhaven was not hit, making it the only pre-war neighborhood in Rotterdam today.
After the war, Rotterdam got rebuilt, and they chose to be a modern city with bold and unique architecture. A city that’s future proof, where everything is possible. Which makes Rotterdam the different city, it is the ought one out in The Netherlands, but definitely, a good place to visit.
Trendy Neighborhoods That Are Worth Visiting in Rotterdam
Before this article becomes a love letter to Rotterdam, let’s focus on the more practical things that make this city worth visiting. You might be noticed my enthusiasm for the city, but that’s because I’m a fan of the city. But actually, I’m a fan of the whole country!
It’s always a pleasure to be back in our home country when we’re not traveling. Both Kirsten and I studied for years in Rotterdam, so we spent a lot of time in the city. Even before we met each other!
In the last two years, we traveled around the world most of the time, so we didn’t spend much time visiting cities in The Netherlands. So I asked a few friends who are still living in Rotterdam for the most recent tips and new trendy neighborhoods in the city. They came up with the first two neighborhoods that are growing rapidly, and are known as the new hotspots in Rotterdam.
Rotterdam North (Hofbogen)
A large part of Rotterdam North, the area between Blijdorp Zoo and Central Station, became a neglected area in the last decade. The years before that, it was a thriving neighborhood. Hofplein, the central area in this part of the city, was an important transfer hub for people traveling between The Hague and Rotterdam.
The so-called, Hofplein line, is a major train connection that connects people who are living in the countryside villages between the major cities The Hague and Rotterdam and aren’t able to use the primary train connection via Delft. The end station of this connection was at Hofplein Station, the central point of Rotterdam North. Thousands of people are using this connection on a day to day basis, so when the city council decided to redirect the train to Rotterdam Central Station, you can imagine that the number of travelers suddenly declined.
It resulted in a neglected area, where nothing much was going on. But we already told you about the entrepreneurial mindset of the local people from Rotterdam, right?
The area with as a central point the old Hofplein Station is redeveloped in a creative hotspot with craft shops, bars, awarded restaurants, a rooftop park, clubs, record stores, coffee roasting factory, and much more innovative initiatives.
This creative area is now known as Hofbogen. Which refers to the arches of the old railway viaduct (Arches translated into Dutch is Bogen).
A few of the unique initiatives that you can find in Hofbogen are;
- FG Foodlabs; which is a Michelin-Star rewarded restaurant
- Man Met Bril; A unique coffee bar that roasts its own coffee
- Luchtpark: On top of the old railway viaduct, they created a new city park, Luchtpark, which opens every day, early morning until sunset.
There’s much more to explore at Hofbogen. In our article, Free Things To Do In Rotterdam, you can find more in-depth information about this new creative area!
When you read some information about Rotterdam before you probably know that the city is divided into two parts by the Maas River. Both parts of the city are easily connected by several tunnels and bridges, from which the most famous is the Erasmus bridge, but more about that later.
Katendrecht is one of the artificial peninsulae in the southern part of the city, next to the peninsula Kop van Zuid. This area is known as the food heaven of Rotterdam, the new creative hotspot. For a long time, the quays were a prominent place where large ships where unloaded. Many people didn’t want to settle at Katendrecht because of its rough character, and red-light district. The area quickly developed when many Chinese people started to settle at the peninsula, which created the first Chinatown in the city.
When around the 1960s, new city plans were developed, Katendrecht was also renovated. The peninsula lost its port function for container ships, and modern apartments were built. Which made it attractive for people to start living at Katendrecht. And then it snowballed, with new people choosing Katendrecht as their home, the rise of creative entrepreneurs, restaurants, shops also started.
Fast forward to the last decade, when good and healthy food and drinks became more and more important for the Millenials. Sharing your creative burgers or colorful latte on their Instagram, created even more attention towards the new food stores, and restaurants at Katendrecht. Luckily Katendrecht never lost its rough edge, many of the old factory buildings are still there, but used for other activities today.
When you’re at Katendrecht, make sure to check out Fenix Food Factory, a unique food concept with different food stalls. Deliplein is the central square where you can find many small restaurants, it shows the unique multicultural vibe of Rotterdam.
Meatlovers must-visit C.E.O. Baas van Het Vlees (The Boss of Meat), this restaurant has been awarded multiple times, as the best meat restaurant in The Netherlands.
Don’t forget to see the SS Rotterdam, a former cruise ship of the Holland America Line, which is now a hotel, restaurant, and club. There’s even an escape room built within this ship, are you up for that challenge?!
It’s easy to reach the southern part of Rotterdam, and Katendrecht using a bus or the metro. But the best way to arrive at this trendy area? Water Taxi! It is the fast ferry that connects the important places in the city.
Kop van Zuid
The first peninsula you reach when taking the Erasmusbridge is Kop van Zuid (The Head of South). When you’re coming from Katendrecht, you can quickly take the walking bridge Rijnhavenbrug to the other peninsula. And when you’re traveling with the metro, you need to get out at the stop Wilhelminaplein.
This area is also known for its many restaurants, bars, and event halls. Here you’ll find one of the biggest theaters of the country Nieuwe Luxor Theater. The Dutch Foto Museum, which shows exciting pictures of renowned Dutch photographers.
Bobbing Forest is an artwork where you can see small trees floating on water. An interesting artwork which is meant to let people think about the relationship between cities and nature.
Kop van Zuid is, of course, most famous for Hotel New York, the old main office of the Holland America Line, where people started their journey from The Netherlands to the United States, so they could start a new life in cities like New York. Hotel New York is now a famous restaurant and hotel, which luxury rooms and outstanding cuisine!
Both Katendrecht and Kop van Zuid have a stop for the water taxi. From there, you can easily hop on to the next stop, which can be Delfshaven. It is a unique form of transportation in Rotterdam and a perfect way to explore the city from the water.
Delfshaven is the only part of Rotterdam’s city center that wasn’t destroyed during the heavy bombings in the 2nd World War. It makes the area a unique, historical part of the city. You can still find the traces of pre-war Rotterdam, walking around the old streets, and explore buildings that date back to the 16th and 17th centuries, it feels like you arrived in a completely different city.
A Medieval City
The history of Delfshaven dates back for a long time. Where Rotterdam started to grow rapidly in the 17th century, when the Dutch Eastern Company opened one of the main offices in the Rotterdam Port, Delfshaven was already an important settlement for several hundred years.
It all started around 1389 when the city Delft got the permission of the count of Holland to dug out a canal, so Delft could create a direct connection with the Maas River. Delfshaven was built as a port of Delft. Large sea ships could dock and transfer their goods to the smaller ships which were going to Delft. With the new harbor and direct connection to the river, Delft could start their independent trade and became less dependent on the newer cities of that time; Schiedam and Rotterdam.
Delfshaven became an important settlement for the country. The Dutch Eastern Company had several large warehouses in Delfshaven, and one of the most famous captains, Piet Hein, was born in this area. Piet Hein is mostly known as a captain of the Dutch Eastern Company, who defeated the Spanish Silver Fleet. An event with an enormous impact, because the Spanish were the biggest rivals of the Dutch Eastern Company and country during the 17th century.
Delfshaven is also world-famous as the harbor from where the pilgrim-fathers left The Netherlands. They started their journey in 1620 to search for the new world, which we now know as America. They were the first settlers of Plymouth in New England.
Except for exploring the beautiful old buildings, you can also visit the city’s only brewery, Pilgrims Brewery, which is located in the old city hall of Delfshaven.
For a long time, Kralingen was an independent village close to Rotterdam. It merged with the city in 1895. Kralingen is historically known as the village where the high society of Rotterdam citizens lived. You could find many large houses, villas with huge gardens. Unfortunately, a large part of Kralingen was destroyed during the bombings as well.
Internationally this area of Rotterdam is best known for Kralingen Music Festival. The festival took place in 1970, and according to many people, Europe’s answer to Woodstock. The festival was unique, and internationally renowned artists like Pink Floyd and Santana performed during the festival.
Today, Kralingen is the best place in Rotterdam when you want to relax in a park. Kralingse Bos (Kralings Forest) is one of the largest city parks in The Netherlands. The park is awarded several times as the best urban park for recreation. It is a perfect place to enjoy a leisurely day, explore the countryside and a few historical windmills, or become active and go swimming or windsurfing in the lake.
Did you know the two historical windmills located in Kralingen are unique buildings? The area where the windmills are located was an important production area in the 17th century. During that time, there was an enormous windmill industry in The Netherlands, producing all kinds of goods, spices, and wood sawing for the shipbuilding industry. We wrote an article Where Is The Best Place To See The Windmills, where we tell you more about the history and location of these old ‘factories.’
The heart of Rotterdam’s city center is also worth visiting. When you love to go shopping, it is the perfect place to go to. You’ll find several shopping areas. Large department stores, but also local independent fashion stores. This combination and the unique architecture is what makes shopping in Rotterdam unique.
Rotterdams city center is an area between Rotterdam Central Station, Rotterdam Blaak, and Rotterdam Hofplein. Some parts can go seamlessly over into another neighborhood. But when you pay attention, the transition is quite clear. For example, from the city center part to Noord, Hoofbogen area (at Hofplein), you’ll need to cross a large wooden bridge, known as Luchtsingel. This bridge is like the border of the two neighborhoods.
The best shopping streets in Rotterdam’s city center are Koopgoot, a street that’s for a large part below street level, it leads you to one of the important metro stations of the city. The official name of the street is Beurstraverse, but because it is below street level, the street looks like a gutter. The locals came up with the nickname Koopgoot which means Shopping Gutter.
Coolsingel is the main street in the city center, which leads from Hofplein to the Erasmus bridge. Alongside this street, you’ll find many large fashion stores. Known for its local fashion stores and many unique restaurants is the street Meent. Great to walk around and when you want to enjoy a more local vibe. Walking from Meent, you can easily reach Blaak.
Blaak is the best place if you want to visit a local market, three times a week, on Tuesday and during the weekends you can visit this large market with all kinds of fresh products and other interesting goods. The market has over 400 stalls, which makes it one of the largest open-air markets in Europe.
When you’re visiting Rotterdam on a different day, you’ll still be able to attend a market. The large Market Hall, a unique building, with market stalls, offices, and apartments, that is also located at Blaak, opens every day with fresh products.
Rotterdam’s Architecture That’s Worth A Visit.
Are you still as excited about visiting Rotterdam as we are? There’s a lot to see and do, don’t you think? And we didn’t even talk about the most unique architecture in the city! So wait! There’s more to discover? Oh yes! When you’re interested in unique buildings, Rotterdam is a good place to visit! Let’s find out why Rotterdam is famous for its architecture.
For a long time, this ‘needle’ was the highest building in The Netherlands. Over time it became a famous landmark of Rotterdam. It makes the skyline of the city quite unique. The Euromast is a top-rated attraction to visit. On top, you’ll have an incredible 360 panoramic view of the city and its surroundings. When it is a clear day, you can even look all the way to the North Sea, which is around 30 kilometers away!
The Euromast, built-in 1960 to celebrate the Floriade. An international flower event that’s taking place once every ten years. The tower is 184 meters high, but the observation platform, where you’ll have the panoramic view, is located on 96 meters. Except for enjoying the beautiful view on the platform, it’s also possible to go abseiling or zip-lining from the Euromast, a unique activity when you’re looking for a thrill!
For a few years there are a luxury hotel rooms located inside the Euromast. Staying here for one night is a bit pricey, but you’ll have a great view all for yourself at night, and its probably one of the most unique places you can sleep in Rotterdam.
Another unique landmark of Rotterdam is the Erasmus bridge. The second-longest bridge in The Netherlands. It has a length of 802 meters, and the cable construction reaches a height of 139 meters. The bridge has an asymmetric design, and because of its white color, it got the nickname The Swan.
Many events in Rotterdam taking place around the Erasmus Bridge. The most famous is the new years’ celebration and national firework show.
When you talk about uniquely designed apartments, the cube houses are definitely one of them. These apartments are designed to create more functional space inside. Today you can rent one of the cube houses as an apartment, which is a unique way of staying in Rotterdam. In other cube houses, there’s a hostel located, which is a more affordable location to stay in Rotterdam.
There are many more unique buildings located in Rotterdam, you can even follow free walking routes that lead you along with the most unique architecture in the city. Read more about Rotterdams architecture and free things to do in our articles What Can You Do For Free In Rotterdam? or What is Rotterdam Famous For?
Annual Events in Rotterdam That Are Worth To Visit
Rotterdam is the city where you can enjoy some of the best events in the country. Many of these events are a good reflection of the multicultural vibe of Rotterdam.
A few events that are definitely worth a visit while in Rotterdam are;
Rotterdam Unlimited (Summer Carnival)
The event with a Carribean vibe, its held over almost a week during the summer. Most years at the end of July, but dates can vary per year. All over the city, you can enjoy festivities, dance, food markets, and live music. The highlights of this event are The National Drum Competition, where Carribean drum bands compete against each other for the best performance.
Biggest Salsa Dance, located on the square in front of Central Station, an annual record attempt to set the largest group of salsa dancers.
And of course, the Summer Carnival, a carnival parade inspired at the tropical carnival in Brazil, and Cape Verde. You probably can’t attend the full festival week. Still, when you’re in The Netherlands and looking for some Carribean vibes, we recommend to put on your dancing shoes and participate at the Summer Carnival Parade!
World Port Festival
Okay, this festival has not much to do with the variety of cultures in the city. It is a showcase of the Port of Rotterdam, and all its unique activities today and since the beginning. The Port of Rotterdam is the largest container port in Europe and known as ‘the smart port‘. New technology plays a vital role in the functionality of the port.
This event is a must-visit when you’re interested in the Maritime Industry. You can find the latest information about exact dates and program on the event’s website; wereldhavendagen.nl
Kingsday, the annual event on the 27th of April, where we celebrate the King’s birthday. It is a public holiday, and almost everyone in the country has a day off.
The whole country dresses up in orange, and everyone is going to an event to celebrate. It’s one big party for a day.
During Kingsday, you can find many different events in Rotterdam. The large events like Oranjebitter and Kralingse Bos Festival are perfect for visiting. Especially when you want to enjoy some of the country’s best musicians performing live.
Personally, I prefer to go the smaller local events, which you can find in Rotterdam at a lot of places, two examples for a more local vibe are Hofbogen area and at Witte de With street. Both great places when you want to hang out with some locals.
Celebrating Kingsday in The Netherlands is a unique thing to do when you have the change to visit the country on the 27th of April, go for it! In our article What is Kingsday in The Netherlands, we’ll explain much more about this event and how you can best prepare for it.
Related Articles Rotterdam
Rotterdam is a great place to visit while you’re in The Netherlands! We tried to provide you with all the important information about Rotterdam, so you can easily plan your visit. You might have some related questions, or looking for other practical tips that you can probably find in our other articles about the city.
When you want to read more about The Netherlands, make sure to visit the category page, where you can find a complete list of all the articles about the country. Extra information about Rotterdam you can find in one of these articles:
With all these unique things to do in Rotterdam, you probably wonder how to fit it all in one or two days? We’ve thought of that as well. In this article, you’ll find a complete one-day itinerary, perfect for when you plan a one day visit to Rotterdam. We added information on the best ways to get around. And, of course, we selected many different things, so you can choose the activities that fit you the most.
Did you know there are also many things to do for free in Rotterdam? So when you’re traveling on a budget, Rotterdam is still a good place to visit! You find a complete list of unique things to do for free in this article.
You might wonder what the similarities are between the two biggest cities of The Netherlands? Both cities are different and have their own identity, but there are also many similarities to find. It’s still the same small country. You can easily travel between the cities in less than two hours!
In this article, we tell you even more about the history of the city, unique landmarks, and architecture. Best places to go and where to stay while in Rotterdam.