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10 great things to do in Rotterdam, Netherlands

Are you off to Rotterdam any time soon? It’s located in the southern part of the Netherlands, just about an hour’s drive south of Amsterdam.

Rotterdam is one of the most important cities in the country for tourism. There is so much history here, art, and romance, and below are just 10 of the best things to do in Rotterdam.

You might also like this post on 9 things to do in Amsterdam at night >

Netherlands map
Netherlands map

1. Experience Kinderdijk’s Windmills

The Netherlands is known for many amazing and Instagram-worthy landmarks and monuments, and one of them is the windmills. Tourists from far and wide associate the country with windmills – iconic man-made structures that represent the ingenuity and uniqueness of the Dutch. 

The most popular and historic windmills in the country are found in the village of Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, just 20 km to the east of central Rotterdam. 

Kinderdijk is home to 19 gigantic windmills that were built in Medieval times along the canals. The site is impressive, magical and a definite must-see.

Windmills in Rotterdam
The famous windmills!

2. Marvel at Markthal Rotterdam

Built in 2009, the Markthal (or Market Hall) is a stunning piece of architecture that will definitely catch the interest of tourists, artists, and anyone who appreciates modern urban ingenuity. The unique structural design features a large semi-circular grey façade. Inside the arc is the vibrant “Horn of Plenty” mural created by Dutch artists Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam, which features colourful fruits, plants, insects, and flowers.

It is hard to miss this unique 40-metre tall, 120-metre long and 70-metre wide masterpiece. Around four to seven million people come to see the Markthal every year. Besides its beauty, visitors come to enjoy the shops, restaurants, and bars.

3. Visit Rotterdam Zoo

Rotterdam Zoo, also known as the Diergaarde Blijdorp, is one of Europe’s most beautiful zoos, popular for its diverse  attractions and wildlife. It has a Chinese garden, a Malayan Forest, Mongolian Steppes, Oceanium, and a crocodile river, among other things. The zoo is home to uncommon and fascinating animals such as the black rhino, Sumatran tiger, Asian elephant, Amur leopard, and the endangered Red Panda. 

People who have been to Rotterdam Zoo can’t stop talking about it. A recent visitor said on Tripadvisor, “Visited this zoo with my family. We all had a very good time, and we stayed all day long … most animals can be seen without a fence obstructing the view.”

4. Cross Erasmus Bridge

This monumental bridge is one of the most beautiful structures in the Netherlands, praised by architects and art lovers from all over the world. The impressive Erasmus bridge is the second-longest bridge in the country, stretching a total length of 802 metres and a height of 139 metres connecting the northern and southern parts of Rotterdam.

Nicknamed “the Swan” for its large upright mast that resembles the neck of a swan, Erasmus Bridge is even more spectacular at night. A special light accentuates the mast and the bundled cables rising high above the water. GPS My City said this famous bridge is “Worth seeing both during the day and after-dark due to a completely different look.”

Definitely a spot to put on your Rotterdam by night list.

5. Get awestricken at Sint Laurenskerk

The Netherlands is known for a number of historical homes, castles, and structures. In Rotterdam, however, the only surviving piece of medieval architecture is the Grote of Sint Laurenskerk or Great Church of Rotterdam, constructed in 1449.

As one of the first all-stone buildings completed in Rotterdam, a true representative of the bygone years, the church stands out against the surrounding modern city skyline. It is located in the old town centre, not far from the Erasmus Bridge,

The interior of the church attracts thousands of visitors. People come to see the high-vaulted ceilings, stone reliefs, the copper choir fence built in 1713, the carillon and four organs, and the bronze doors made by Italian designer Manzù in 1968, among other amazing features. 

Grote of Sint Laurenskerk or Great Church of Rotterdam. Pic Angelie Pacamalan

6. See the famous Cube Houses

Describing the Cube houses of Rotterdam (or even looking at photographs) could never equal seeing them for real. Atlas Obscura describes them this way: “Straddled above roads and intertwined amongst themselves, Rotterdam’s string of cube houses, each tilted at an abnormal angle of 55 degrees, have stunned every commuter to ever exit the adjacent Blaak Train Station.”

They truly are stunning and unique. Although the original intention was to address a zoning problem in the city, Piet Blom designed a truly bizarre and eccentric housing block that has caught the attention of local and international tourists. One of the cube homes is open to the public, so people could actually see what it is like living in one of them.

The famous Rotterdam Cube Houses. Pic Angelie Pacamalan

Museums in Rotterdam

7. Visit Maritime Museum

Located near the Markthal Rotterdam and the Cube Houses, Rotterdam’s Maritime Museum is one of the largest in the world, featuring a huge collection of artworks, cartography, and maritime memorabilia. The collection of figureheads from various ships, different navy uniforms and sea battle flags, and a controversial painting of “The Battle of Trafalgar” trigger intrigue

As one of the oldest and largest museum harbours of the country, Maritime Museum transports visitors to Rotterdam’s maritime past, as they wonder at historic vessels and cranes. According to Holland.com, this world-class museum has more than a million maritime objects and a wide variety of interactive experiences for families to explore.

8. Visit Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, an important art museum in Rotterdam is popular to art lovers, tourists, history enthusiasts, and everyone who appreciates beauty. Located at the Museumpark in the Dijkzigt district of Rotterdam, this peaceful and charming museum contains a fine display of sculptures, paintings, and decorative arts from different beloved masters of all time, including Van Gogh, Monet, Dali, and Rembrandt. There is a wide variety of collections ranging from Medieval to contemporary art, focusing somewhat on Dutch art. 

Some of the most popular displays are the “Couple with their heads full of Clouds” by Dali, “Titus at his Desk” by Rembrandt, “Belisarius receiving alms” by Mattia Preti, and “Tower of Babel” by Pieter Bruegel.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen preparing for Eurovision!

9. Enter the Witte Huis

Rotterdam’s own White House – The Witte Huis – is an Art Nouveau-style skyscraper built in 1898. It is hard to miss for its white façade, ornate turrets, and decorative roof. At that time of its construction, it was the tallest building in Europe with ten floors. It stands today representing the rich history and heritage of the Dutch, since it is the only building that survived the Blitzkrieg in WWII in central Rotterdam.

People come to the Witte Huis for a drink with a view of the little channel and old boat-houses around, grab a snack at one of the many cafés in the Old Harbour, or simply appreciate the building’s history. This iconic building is now a National Heritage Site.

The Witte Huis. Photo by Mike van den Bos on Unsplash

10. Take a Boat Tour

From the Maritime Museum or the Witte Huis, taking a Rotterdam boat tour is the best way to see the city harbours and ports. Boat rides offer a view of the city and its extensive port that can only be appreciated from afar. The ride is comfortable, scenic, and lovely.

There are several companies in the area that offer a 75-minute boat tour, giving passengers a glimpse into the city’s history. 

The most popular boat rides are those offered on Spido boats, as they move along the most fascinating parts of the River Maas and Port of Rotterdam. Spido boats take passengers to specific spots where they can perfectly admire the city’s modern skyline and renowned architecture.

These are just 10 of the best things to do in the lovely city of Rotterdam. More await you in this lovely and historic Dutch city that attracts millions of visitors every year. A recent international tourist described Rotterdam as a “bustling cultural melting pot that will inspire all your senses”.

Author Bio:

Ask The Dutch Guy is your go-to guide when it comes to The Netherlands. The goal of Ask The Dutch Guy is to showcase the beauty of The Netherlands and to inspire others to explore the country. Read more about Ask The Dutch Guy at https://askthedutchguy.com. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!

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