Is Rotterdam Similar To Amsterdam?


While you’re preparing for your trip to The Netherlands, you probably wonder if the major cities Rotterdam and Amsterdam are similar? Let’s find out the similarities and differences between both cities. 

There aren’t many similarities between Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Both are major cities in The Netherlands, Amsterdam is the largest city in the country, and Rotterdam the second-largest city. Rotterdam is a modern city with the most diverse population in The Netherlands. Amsterdam is more popular among tourists and has a unique historical center.

Similarities Between Rotterdam and Amsterdam

As we said, there aren’t many similarities between the two cites. There’s more like a rivalry between people from Rotterdam and Amsterdam. That’s best shown when you look at the two major soccer clubs from the country. Ajax Amsterdam, and Feijenoord Rotterdam. When the two clubs play head-to-head, only supporters from the home playing team are allowed to prevent riots. That sounds a bit scary, I know, but luckily it is only when these clubs are playing. And the funny thing is, when the Dutch National team plays, fans from both teams are cheering and celebrating together. 

When you look at the similarities of both cities, there’s not much to find. The vibe within the two cities is entirely different, and architecture is different. Rotterdam and Amsterdam are both the two biggest cities in the country. 

And by Dutch standards, you can say the cities are an urban jungle. 

International Trade in Amsterdam and Rotterdam

Both cities have an essential international function for the Dutch economy. In Rotterdam, you’ll find the Port of Rotterdam, which is one of the largest container ports in the world and the largest in Europe. 

Amsterdam has Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, the largest international airport in The Netherlands, and an important transfer hub for tourists traveling through Europe. The airport is also essential for cargo flights, mainly for Dutch export. 

The Netherlands is one of the largest countries when it comes to the export of agriculture products. Tulip, and Flower Bulbs, and Dutch Cheese are just two examples from Dutch products that are exported all over the world, often via Port of Rotterdam or Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. 

Traditionally both areas are also a hub for transferring Europe’s import products. The ideal location of The Netherlands makes it easy to import products into The Netherlands via the Port of Rotterdam, and from there, transfer the products to other countries like Germany, Belgium, and France. 

These trade routes dating back for centuries and were established when the Dutch Eastern Company was on its heydays. You can read more about the important role of the Dutch Eastern Company in our article ‘What is The Netherlands Famous For?

Architecture 

Rotterdam has always been kind of the runner-up with Amsterdam. It was first the city of Amsterdam that grew rapidly during the 17th century. Rotterdam started to grow when the Dutch Eastern Company opened one of its main offices within the Port of Rotterdam. 

All these developments were within a few years, like in the first decades of the 17th century. So when you look at the architecture of both cities, for a long time, it was quite similar. The most significant difference was that you didn’t find a large canal belt in Rotterdam. 

Rotterdam is divided by the Maas River, and Amsterdam built on water, with an artificial canal belt connecting the city to the port and the sea. 

Modern vs. Historical

The architecture today is entirely different. Amsterdam is still a historic city, with some modern areas. However, the most popular part of Amsterdam is the historic city center with the unique canal belt, which is a Unesco World Heritage site. 

Rotterdam is a modern city, with lots of new buildings and, therefore, also a different vibe. Walking around Rotterdam, you don’t find as many small streets like in Amsterdam. When you’re walking around in certain parts of Amsterdam, it feels like you walking around in a village instead of the largest city of the country. That’s different in Rotterdam. 

The reason why both cities differ so much in architecture is that the historical city center of Rotterdam was destroyed during bombings in the Second World War. Only a few buildings survived the bombings. Rotterdam completely rebuilt the city after the war. Creating many new and modern buildings, but also restored the most famous landmarks of Rotterdam. 

Today Rotterdam is known for its challenging architecture like the Cube Houses, Erasmus bridge, Shopping Street ‘Koopgoot’, and Euromast. When you’re into modern architecture, it is great to spend a day in Rotterdam wandering around.

In our article What is Rotterdam Famous Foryou can find much more information about the unique architecture of the city. 

Museum Quarters in Rotterdam and Amsterdam

Both major cities have a museum quarter, but that’s all when you look at the similarities. The museum quarters in both cities represent the identity of the city in some way. 

Most museums in Amsterdam are focused on the history of the country and the important events that took place. In Rotterdam you can find much more modern museums, also focusing on modern art and architecture. 

Museums in Rotterdam

Some of the exciting museums to visit in Rotterdam are;

  • Museum Rotterdam
    A museum where you can learn the complete story of Rotterdam. Not only about the cities past, present day. But you also get a chance to look into the future. There are many plans regarding the cities development, and in this museum, you can jump forward in time and see how life might look like in this large city within 30 years. 
  • Kunst Hal 
    Remco Koolhaas is probably one of the most famous architects of The Netherlands. Visiting Kunst Hal, you’ll get to learn more about his works and the modern and unique architecture of Rotterdam. 
  • Museum of The World
    Rotterdam is the most multi-cultural city in The Netherlands. We tell you later more about the diversity in the population. However, with so many cultures living peacefully together, the Museum of The World is ideally located in the city. The museum focusses on the similarities within cultures and countries! 
  • Kinderdijk
    You might now that The Netherlands has always been at a struggle with water. Over 25% of the country is below sea level. Not only continually changing sea levels, but also large rivers can be a threat in terms of flooding. 

    For centuries the Dutch people invented water management systems that kept the people safe and dry. Kinderdijk, an extensive water management system close to Rotterdam, is one of the oldest still working water management systems in the country. Kinderdijk established in the 13th century, and because of the way the water management organizations are structured, the development of Kinderdijk was also a basis for the (Dutch) democracy as we know it now. 

Museum in Amsterdam

The museums in Amsterdam are renowned worldwide, some of the best historical artworks are on display in the Amsterdam museums. There are many popular museums in the city, but the most famous museums, that are definitely worth a visit are; 

  • Rijksmuseum
    Rijksmuseum is the National Museum of The Netherlands. Also known as the Dutch Art Museum. You’ll find an extensive collection of famous Dutch master painters like Rembrandt, van Gogh, Vermeer, and many more. Also, some modern and contemporary art is on display at Rijksmuseum. However, when you’re more into modern-art museums, it might be better visiting Kunst Hal in Rotterdam, or Kunstmuseum The Hague (find out more about The Hague in our article; Best Things to do in The Hague). 

    When you’re in Amsterdam, it is a must-visit going to Rijksmuseum. You can learn much more about Dutch history while looking at the unique paintings which date back to the 17th century. 

    The most famous painting that is on display at the Rijksmuseum is Nightwatch by Rembrandt. 
  • van Gogh Museum
    Vincent van Gogh is a renowned Dutch master painter. During his life, he never got recognition as that he gets today. He suffered from mental illness and depressions and eventually took his own life at the age of 37. However, van Gogh was a unique artist, and in the last years of his life, he produced over 200 paintings. At the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, you’ll find the most extensive collection of his paintings, but also an exhibition dedicated to the life of this unique personality. 
  • Anne Frank’s House
    Almost everyone knows the story of Anne Frank, the Dutch-Jewish girl that needed to hide during the 2nd World War to stay out of the hands of Nazi Germany. During this period, she kept a diary, which later has become a bestseller book sold all over the world. 

    Anne Frank’s House is the old house where she hides during the war. The house is now a museum, where you can experience the way Anne Frank and her family lived at that time. A fascinating visit while in Amsterdam. When you plan to visit Anne Frank’s House, make sure to buy your tickets in advance via the official website of the museum

Maritime Museum

A museum that you find in both cities is the Maritime Museum. Both museums are different from one other, but also a bit similar. You can learn more about the history of Dutch maritime trade in both museums. In Maritime Amsterdam, you can even go on an old ship of the Dutch Eastern Company! 

The Rotterdam Maritime Museum focuses more on the role of Port of Rotterdam. It’s an interactive museum where you can learn more about how things work in this large container port. A great visit when you’re traveling with toddlers or young kids!  

Cultural Similarities Rotterdam and Amsterdam

The population of both cities is a bit different. Both cities are known as a multi-cultural city. However, Amsterdam receives much more tourism and is, in many parts, more authentic. Rotterdam feels more like a melting-pot in cultures.

Traditionally The Netherlands is known as a progressive country, accepting people from different cultural backgrounds, sexual and political orientations. That’s the beauty of the country; we can all live together, no matter where you come from or who you love as long as you have respect for one other. 

I think you’ll find this acceptance in both cities. The thriving music and events scene is an excellent example of that. You’ll find many cultural events in both cities. And the LGBTQI community is also widely accepted in both cities, with the best example in Amsterdam with the Amsterdam Pride Festival. 

In recent years it became a trend in The Netherlands to go back to the roots. Being in the moment, aware of nature and your environment. Maybe more minimalistic as well and not constantly overproducing. Quite a conflict when you look at the country as one of the largest exporters of the world on one side, and the way people starting to live in the country on the other side. 

Anyway, you’ll need to start somewhere, and you’ll notice a shift in trendy shops in both cities. You’ll find more craftsman shops that are becoming popular today. 

In the end, Rotterdam and Amsterdam are much similar then one thinks. On the outside, the cities look entirely different, but when you dive into the cultures of the city, you’ll notice many similarities. 

Recommended Articles for Rotterdam and Amsterdam

When you want to learn more about the things to do in both cities, we recommend reading some of our other articles.  

What is Rotterdam Famous For

Where we tell you more about the history of the city and the famous landmarks that are interesting for a visit to Rotterdam.

What Can You Do in Rotterdam For One Day

This article is a full itinerary if you stay in Rotterdam just for one day. We cover all the important highlights of Rotterdam, and also added some other activities, so you can choose the things you like to do most. 

What is Amsterdam Best Known For? 

In this article, we’re diving into the history of Amsterdam. We tell you all the essential things about the capital of The Netherlands. 

How Many Days Do You Need in Amsterdam

Many people are wondering how many days they should spend while visiting Amsterdam. In this article, we recommend how long to stay, depending on your interests. We also cover several itineraries for shorter and longer stays with unique things to do in the city. 

Two other articles that are interesting to read when you’re planning a visit to The Netherlands are;

Is The Netherlands Worth Visiting? 

This article is a complete guide where we explain why you should visit The Netherlands! So if you still doubt to plan a trip, read this article, and I’m sure you’ll get convinced to book your next travel adventure to The Netherlands.

Fun Facts About The Netherlands

A great article when you want to learn more about Dutch culture, and the crazy things Dutch people do!

Léon Kopijn

Léon Kopijn works and lives as a Digital Nomad. He travels the world with the love of his life and writes about inspiring cultures and practical travel tips. Find out more about Léon on his about page!

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