Planning a trip to the Netherlands and wondering how to spend 24 hours in Rotterdam? Well, hopefully my list of 10 fun things to do in Rotterdam will get you eagerly excited for your upcoming Holland trip!
This fairly recently revived city is vastly different (and far cheaper) from its well known, and forever popular big sister; Amsterdam. And thats because nearly all of Rotterdam was obliterated during the WWII bombing, meaning this crumbled city had to be almost entirely reborn from scratch. Today Rotterdam is home to the largest port in Europe and has become a city thats chockablock with strikingly modern architecture and a vibrant nightlife. We even sensed a bit of a New York vibe here (albeit on a much smaller scale) with the Rotterdam Tower lit up similar to the iconic Empire State building in Manhattan.
Rotterdam truly is one of a kind, so you wont find anywhere else quite like it in the Netherlands. Which is 100% why it deserves a little bit of your time.
With that said. Here’s my list of 10 things for you to explore whilst you’re in this hip, modern city.
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1. Gain epic views of the city from the Euromast
In my opinion – this is an absolute non-negotiable whilst in Rotterdam. Not only will you gain the most beautiful view over the city, but it’s also a really fun experience.
Ever since it opened its doors in 1960 (it does show its age in places) the Euromast has provided an excellent observation tower and a popular tourist attraction for people to enjoy all year round.
There are two ticket options when it comes to visiting the Euromast: Standard or Euroscoop. If you can afford to pay a little extra, then I urge you opt for the latter.
The slightly cheaper standard ticket only gives you access to the middle observation deck, which is situated 112 meters above ground. Although you’ll still have stunning vistas of Rotterdam from this height, you’ll be missing the best (aka most fun) part by a country mile! By paying a little more for the Euroscoop ticket, you’ll go to the very top whilst sitting inside a moving glass pod called the Euroscoop. It reminded me of the glass pod on Brighton’s i360, although this one is far smaller and it slowly rotates for epic 360 degree views! To add to the rush of adrenalin, the opaque floor tiles magically turn transparent too!
Top tip: To reach the Euroscoop, there is an external spiral staircase which does feel quite open and impressively blowy! If you don’t fancy tackling the open stairs, there is a small lift you can queue to use. Also, book online in advance to save some money on your entry tickets.
If the views alone weren’t enough, there is also the Euromast restaurant where you can stop for something tasty. Whats more, you can spend the night inside the Euromast! Yes you read that right. You can wake up in the clouds inside one of their two super luxurious hotel suites. Which come complete with free standing bath tubs and rainfall showers. Imagine that.
But for all you extreme daredevils out there who are seeking a heart-racing challenge. You can ignore the lift, and take on the highest abseil in Europe! You’ll need to plan your trip for a certain time of the year, as this is only available from May-September.
Purchase your Euromast ticket here.
2. Take a stroll around Het Park
Right near the base of the Euromast, you’ll find the beautifully landscaped Het Park. Designed to mimic a traditional english park full of winding paths, picturesque bridges and small serene lakes. It offers the perfect place to take a leisurely stroll amongst the century old trees with your family and friends. Or perhaps you could escape the bustle of the city for a while and pitch up with a delicious picnic on the tranquil green grass.
They also hold music events at this park, so if you time it right you may be able to join in with one of those!
Even during December when we visited, the park was well maintained and beautifully kept. I can picture how charming this would be during spring and summer when all the flowers are in bloom, and the ducks are paddling about on the ponds.
Het Park is easy to reach and navigate, we walked here from the centre of Rotterdam which took around 20 minutes. Just follow the Euromast and you can’t go far wrong!
3. Visit the iconic yellow cube houses
The yellow cube houses or ‘Kubuswoningen’ are so bizarre, and a definite must see whilst you’re in Rotterdam.
Bright yellow was chosen for its psychological powers on creating a feeling of happiness and optimism. Something that was needed in the rebuild of the mostly grey city.
Architect Piet Blom designed these unique cube houses. Who decided to tilt a conventional house 45 degrees, and perch it on a hexagon shaped pylon base. Each one was designed to characterise a tree (picture the cube being the greenery and the pylon being being the trunk) with all 38 houses together becoming a forest. Which explains why these homes have gained the nickname Blaak Forest.
Residents here are disturbed daily by curious visitors, so one owner has decided to turn his home into a museum! The cube museum is open daily from 11am-5pm, so if seeing them from the outside isn’t enough, you can pay a small fee and actually get up inside one. To trump that, you can even stay in one. As the two larger cubes have been converted into a hostel, which is run by the Dutch hostel chain, Stayokay.
Top Tip: People actually live in these cube houses, so remember to be respectful of their homes.
4. Find something tasty in the Markthal
Rotterdam strikes again with yet more interesting architecture – just look at this horseshoe building. The impressive cable net façade at either end is the largest of its kind in Europe!
The Markthal is situated right in the heart of Rotterdam, and has gained the nickname ‘The Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam’ thanks to the impressive art work inside. This colourful masterpiece is printed on 4000 perforated aluminium panels and consists mostly of fruit, vegetables, flowers and insects. Apparently the digital file was so colossal that it needed specialist servers and was rendered on software used by Pixar! If you’re wondering what all the windows are, thats because this is also home to 228 apartments. Each one has a triple glazed window looking down into the Markthal.
You’ll find heaps of tasty food options inside here, so it’s a great place to sample some local cuisine in the warm! The market hall is spread over 3 levels offering restaurants, take-away food stands and a supermarket.
5. Admire the quirky architecture
Because Rotterdam had to be rebuilt after WWII, it’s become a super modern looking city where architects have pushed themselves to the limits with unusual building designs. You’ll still find historic buildings dotted here and there, but the heart of this city is very modern and angular.
Have fun wandering around whilst admiring all the interesting mix of architecture and sculptures that Rotterdam has to offer. Don’t you think the Rotterdam Tower looks similar to the Empire State Building in New York?
6. Visit the Luchtsingel
We ran out of time to make it here, but this bright yellow wooden foot bridge was on our list of places to visit. The Luchtsingel bridge was the world’s first piece of public infrastructure to be achieved through crowdfunding! It came about North Rotterdam residents were finding it difficult to reach the centre of Rotterdam safely. Because all the new infrastructure of busy roads and railway lines meant they were becoming cut off from the hub of the city. Instead of getting frustrated and waiting forever for the government to rectify the issue, they went ahead and funded the 400 meter long bridge from donations.
The yellow bridge looks really cool, and every person who donated to the fund has their name engraved on a plank of wood that forms the structure.
7. Become part of the street art on Witte de Withstraat
Situated right in the heart of the art scene and known as the trendiest street in Rotterdam. Witte de Withstraat is full of independent stores, artisan ice-cream shops and artsy cafes. It’s also the happening place to go for food and drinks in the evening, as restaurants and bars line the street with loads of outdoor seating areas. Witte de Withstraat offers a lively party atmosphere and plenty of options for some fun nightlife if you’re wanting to dance the night away.
It’s also home to lots of colourful street art, including one thats interactive. So climb the wall and enjoy being part of the artwork.
8. Walk over the Erasmusbrug
You have to admit, the Erasmus Bridge is a rather beautiful bridge! Especially at night when it’s glowing with lights.
At 802 meters long, the Erasmus bridge makes crossing the River Nieuwe Maas a doddle. Whether that be on foot, bicycle or in a car. Asymmetrical and elegant in design. It’s gained itself a charming nickname of ‘The Swan’ and has become a beautiful landmark of Rotterdam.
This bridge was featured in a Jackie Chan film ‘Who Am I?’, and has had several planes fly under it as part of the Red Bull Air Race.
We crossed the bridge in the evening, and enjoyed looking back across at Rotterdams twinkling skyline.
9. Find the hilarious Santa statue
Probably the worst (and therefor the best) Santa statue ever created. This interesting, and rather amusing Santa statue has aptly gained the nickname ‘Buttplug Gnome’. Which doesn’t require much imagination to see why!
The bronze statue was created in 2001 by the American sculptor Paul McCarthy. When this monstrosity was revealed it quickly stirred up the biggest local art scandal in decades. Due to causing so much upset and offence, the Santa statue has been moved multiple times across Rotterdam. For now he’s staying put and sitting happy on Eendrachtsplein.
If you’re wondering what it is that Santa’s actually holding – It’s a pine tree! It’s also worth mentioning that this isn’t a seasonal statue, oh no. He’s here for your viewing all year round!
10. Take the waterbus to Kinderdijk
A short walk from the Erasmus Bridge and you’ll find the Rotterdam – Erasmus Waterbus stop. To get to Kinderdijk, Molenkade you’ll need to take waterbus number 21. You’ll find the boat timetable displayed in the floating waterbus shelter or on their website. We bought our return tickets online, but we saw others paying for them once onboard.
The journey from Rotterdam to Kinderdijk takes about 25 minutes, and thankfully it’s not too rocky. There is indoor and outdoor seating options on the boat, which are first come first served.
Top Tip: You can take your bicycle onto the boat free of charge.
Once you hop off the boat, you’ll see signs to Kinderdijk. But it’s pretty much opposite where you get dropped off. We planned to hire bikes, but sadly the hire place wasn’t open when we visited in December. In the summer it would be the perfect spot to hire a bike and cycle around the tracks at Kinderdijk.
We spent a couple hours here falling into a Dutch daydream, whilst walking around admiring the 19 historic windmills. Before we left, we stopped for a refuel at the Kinderdijk cafe. Where we had a chunky slice of delicious apple cake before catching the boat back to Rotterdam.
Day trip options from Rotterdam
Rotterdam has great public transport options, enabling you to easily venture out to other places for the day. Other then taking a trip over to Kinderdijk (which I’ve already mentioned above). You also have the option to head into Amsterdam.
How far is Amsterdam from Rotterdam
The quickest way to get from Rotterdam to Amsterdam is via train. Which takes around 40 minutes and costs roughly £17 each way. Or you can take a bus from Rotterdam Central Station which is slightly cheaper, but takes 1 hour 45 minutes.
One day in Amsterdam might not be enough to see everything you want to. But if time is against you, and you’re desperate to visit the capital. Then the two cities are close enough to make this happen.
Where to stay in Rotterdam
Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands, so you’re not short on hotel and accommodation options here. Like I mentioned before, you could book a special stay in the Euromast, or an unusual stay in the cube house hostel. But if you’re wanting something a little more normal. I suggest basing yourself somewhere near the centre for easy exploring, or somewhere closer to Witte de Withstraat if you’re wanting to party hard.
We loved our time in Rotterdam, so I hope this list helps you to organise your own Rotterdam trip. It’s a fun and friendly city with lots to see and do, and plenty of stroop waffles to eat too.
Rotterdam was really affordable (much cheaper than our next cruise stop at Bruges) which was a bonus, and it helped our spending money stretch a little further. Remember to watch out for cyclists when you’re crossing the roads and cycle lanes, as they are big on their bike usage here.
Have a great time!
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