rotterdam cube houses

11 of the Best Things to Do in Rotterdam

Before my trip to the Netherlands, Rotterdam was just a blip on my radar due to its quirky cube houses. Little did I know, it’s a hidden gem brimming with surprises. From the famous cube houses and market hall to the historic charm of Delfshaven, Rotterdam offers a modern twist to Dutch life. Don’t miss the thriving vintage shops, the picturesque Witte de Withstraat, and the foodie paradise of Fenix Food Factory. This guide covers all the top spots in Rotterdam, a must-visit destination for any traveler seeking a unique portrait of the Netherlands.
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Before spending extended time in the Netherlands, Rotterdam was a city on my radar for exactly one reason: the weird Rotterdam cube houses, and even then, claiming it was “on my radar” may be selling it a bit too strongly.

I knew there were some photogenic cube buildings in a place called Rotterdam because Daniel happened to visit in 2017 (without me) and I knew basically nothing else. So you can imagine my surprise when we went to plan a day trip to (in my eyes) see some cube houses, and I came to find out that there are actually tons of things to do in Rotterdam?? Who would have known! (Probably a lot of people, just not me.)

And so that’s the story of how we decided to take a day trip to Rotterdam from Amsterdam, and what will follow is a list of all the reasons I’m glad we did it! So keep reading to find out is Rotterdam worth visiting? And all the best things to do in Rotterdam.

As always, I’ll first go over some of the most common questions I get asked about Rotterdam, and then get straight into the list–so feel free to use the table of contents (below) to navigate ahead if you know where you want to skip to. Otherwise, get comfortable, get your Google Maps ready, and let’s get into it!

Also, if you want to check out my Rotterdam day trip itinerary, click here!

Map thanks to Wanderlog, a vacation planner app on iOS and Android

Delve into the Netherlands

11 of the Best Things to Do in Rotterdam

1. Explore perspective at the Cube Houses

things to do in rotterdam

Now, I couldn’t in good faith start this post with anything other than the famous Rotterdam cube houses, arguable the top option for things to do in Rotterdam. Built originally in 1977, the cube houses are conveniently located above a train station, Rotterdam Blaak, and while the majority of them are private residences—there are a few ways to peek inside these strange buildings.

The easiest and cheapest way is to visit the Cube House museum, which is a super quick experience (we were inside for probably no more than 10 minutes) and only costs €3 a person, just pay at the front.

Alternatively, if you want to chance to stay the night in a cube house, you can do just that at the Stayokay Hostel. It’s a pretty convenient location, and a unique experience, so it’s worth considering! I personally outgrew my hostel era several years ago, so I can’t speak to its quality, or how worth the price it is, but if anyone’s stayed there I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

P.S. When you book using my links, you help support Rachel IRL at no extra cost to you. It’s a win-win!

2. Have lunch at the Market Hall

things to do in rotterdam

The Market Hall is pretty unmissable if you’re visiting the Rotterdam Cube Houses, as they’re only about 2 minutes away from one another on foot. The space opened in 2014, and it’s become a bit of a staple in the city, especially since it’s such a sight to see. The Market Hall is an unbelievably tall, horseshoe shaped building encasing loads of food stalls, and surrounded by luxury apartments.

The interior is designed with a floral mural, and each side is floor to ceiling windows, so aside from being the ideal place for lunch, it’s a stunning view in and of itself. It does, however, get pretty busy, so go on the earlier side if you want to avoid massive crowds.

3. Explore the many museums at Museumpark (and beyond!)

things to do in rotterdam

Rotterdam has an incredibly large amount of museums, almost all of which were enticing to me. Unfortunately, we were only in Rotterdam for a day, so we only made it to one of these museums, but I’ve compiled all my top picks that I would have gone to, had we had the time.

The Depot Museum

The Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen is super unique. It’s the world’s first publicly accessible art storage facility. Located in the Museumpark, it showcases the museum’s entire collection to the public while offering a behind-the-scenes look at the museum’s operations. It’s not a museum—and there are basically no exhibitions—but you can visit it as a museum. It’s also housed in an incredibly cool building, with a lovely rooftop.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

This is the museum that the Depot acts as storage for. Established in 1849, Rotterdam’s largest art museum displays a remarkable array of modern artworks, including pieces by renowned artists such as Salvador Dalí, Claude Monet, and Vincent van Gogh.

Kunsthal

Rotterdam’s Kunsthal distinguishes itself from traditional museums by focusing solely on temporary exhibitions, prioritizing contemporary art and underappreciated works. With approximately 20 exhibitions annually, it stands out as one of the most vibrant and dynamic art museums globally.

Museum Rotterdam

This museum focuses on collecting and showcasing artifacts that embody Rotterdam’s rich history, preserving the city’s heritage and paying tribute to its diverse communities.

Nederlands Fotomuseum

Although this one isn’t quite located near Museumpark, it’s so good that it’s still worth a mention! Dedicated to the preservation of Dutch and international photography, this museum has over 5 million photographic objects. In addition to organizing temporary exhibitions, the museum has amassed significant artworks by renowned photographers.

4. Take a trip to the past in Delfshaven

things to do in rotterdam

As I’ve mentioned, most of Rotterdam was totally destroyed during WWII. Delfshaven, however, is the exception, so exploring its historic buildings and harbor are one of my favorite things to do in Rotterdam. In this south-west pocket of the city you can transport yourself back in time, away from the modernization of the center, back to the 1600s.

The best way to get to Delfshaven is either by tram or by metro. The entire area is nice to walk around, but the really picturesque portion is best viewed from Café de Oude Sluis—it’s the perfect spot to have an afternoon drink and chill with locals while pondering why on earth the rest of Rotterdam wasn’t rebuilt to look like this!

5. Take advantage of the thrift and vintage options

things to do in rotterdam

If you, like me, are a fan of thrifting and vintage shopping, I think you’ll enjoy Rotterdam. There are great thrift and vintage options in every neighborhood, and even more options available if you’re looking for home goods and furniture. I wasn’t able to hit up every single shop I wanted to, but here are the ones I liked the best that I managed to get to.

  • Sweet Rebels – high quality, super curated, high price tag.
  • Episode – massive, mid-range prices, chain.
  • Cheap Fashion – mildly overwhelming, on trend, good prices.
  • ReShare Store – spacious, loads of options, great prices.

6. Stroll Witte de Withstraat and see what the hype is about

things to do in rotterdam

The reviews of Witte de Withstraat seem to vary depending on who you ask. Some people still love it as they always have, while others believe it’s been overdone and oversaturated. Personally, I can see both sides, but overall I quite enjoyed it!

There are several vintage stores, loads of bars, some great restaurants, and cool street art. I cringe to use this word, but it’s kind of giving “hipster”, but commercialized. You know the vibes.

I think it’s best to explore the shops on this street, and grab a drink or a coffee here. Save your meals for other areas and restaurants!

7. Enjoy the local foodie paradise of Fenix Food Factory

The Fenix Food Factory space is a beautiful waterfront market with food stalls, a brewery and even a cheesemonger and a bookstore. It’s not the largest food hall in the city, but it’s big in character!

I honestly think I might prefer this space to the Market Hall. Located across the Nieuwe Maas River from Rotterdam’s city center, Fenix’s vendors feel more local, as does the neighborhood. And it’s a cute establishment decorated with vintage furniture and local artists’ work.

Make sure you bring cash, and consider planning to visit the Netherlands Fotomuseum in the same visit.

8. Walk along the Luchtsingel, Rotterdam’s crowdsourced bridge

In the center of the city you’ll find a rather striking yellow bridge that looks unlike any bridge I’ve personally seen before.

The Luchtsingel is an elevated pedestrian bridge that connects the Central Station and the north of the city.

However, it’s not just its appearance that’s unique, it also has an impressive backstory.

The bridge was community funded (you can see the donors’ names on all the planks that was used to build it). It’s a cool sight to see that shows a unique side to the city.

9. See the city from a new angle at the Euromast

things to do in rotterdam

The Euromast is Rotterdam’s highest tower, standing at 185 meters tall. As one of Rotterdam’s most popular and exciting attractiosn, it’s more or less crucial to book a ticket in advance to guarantee entry.

If you aren’t bothered by heights you can even add an optional Euroscoop ticket when purchasing. The Euroscoop is a glass-bottom rotating elevator up to the very top of the structure, offering excellent views of the city.

Alternatively, if adrenaline isn’t your thing, you can visit the observation deck and restaurant which are only 96 meters up, and still offer great views.

During the summer it’s also possible to zipline or rappel down to the bottom, if you’re the adventurous type!

10. Get out of town with a visit to Kinderdijk

things to do in rotterdam

Ironically, one of the most interesting things to do in Rotterdam technically involves leaving Rotterdam.

The Kinderdijk windmills are about 20 kilometers east of Rotterdam, and the village is super cute and quaint. There are 19 windmills surrounded by stunning and picturesque canals, and it’s a great way to see a totally different side to Dutch life and culture in the countryside.

The windmills are actually labeled as a UNESCO world heritage sight, and they’re very important to help prevent flooding of the area.

You can get to Kinderdijk via a 40-minute waterbus journey from Erasmusbrug ferry terminal in the center of Rotterdam, or a 60-minute bike ride.

I recommend booking your Kinderdijk tickets in advance, which will give you access to a free boat tour of the village.

11. Take a tour of the city and see it through the eyes of a local

things to do in rotterdam

One of the best things about Rotterdam is how proud locals are of their city. Not only has the city and its people been through a lot in the past 100 years, but I think something about the age-old rivalry with Amsterdam makes native Rotterdammers extremely passionate about showing off their city.

The good news for you is that this means Rotterdam has a higher concentration of local-led, perfectly curated, and extremely well-reviewed tours to choose from than almost anywhere I’ve ever visited! Plus, like everywhere else in the Netherlands, you’ll be spoiled for choice between walking tours, bike tours, and boat tours.

Here are just a few of my favorite things to do in Rotterdam to take in the city alongside its best local tour guides:

On foot

On wheels

  • Criss-cross the city to see some more off-the-beaten-track sites on this 2-hour bike tour of Rotterdam
  • Run by the same beloved company who do the walking food tour up above, this bike food tour covers 7 stops across the city where you’ll get to try everything from Dutch poffertjes to Surinamese chicken sandwiches and Moroccan tapas
  • If you want to cover more ground but aren’t a bike person, this 75-minute Segway tour of Rotterdam perfect for you

On the water

FAQs About Things to Do in Rotterdam

Is Rotterdam Netherlands worth visiting?

Absolutely—Rotterdam is definitely worth visiting if you’re looking at day trips from Amsterdam, or you’re just trying to see more of the Netherlands. Though it’s less visited than its more famous counterpart (Amsterdam), it’s actually the second biggest city in the Netherlands. There are a lot of things to do in Rotterdam, and I think you’ll be surprised by just how much is going on!

It’s a great way to see a totally different side to the Netherlands. While Amsterdam is picture perfect and quaint, with houses and buildings from the 1600s at every turn, Rotterdam was almost entirely bombed during the blitz. The result today is a significantly more modern city than you may expect. This can be seen in some of its most famous tourist attractions, such as the Rotterdam cube houses, and the new market hall.



How do you spend a day in Rotterdam?

Figuring out how to spend the day in Rotterdam is ultimately going to come down to your personal priorities, but to make things a bit easier, here are the things to do in Rotterdam that I wouldn’t want to miss:

1. The Cube Houses
2. The Market Hall
3. Delfshaven
4. The Depot Museum
5. Fenix Food Hall
6. Witte de Withstraat

Keep reading if you want to know all my thoughts on my top picks for Rotterdam, and if you want my take on the ideal one day Rotterdam day trip itinerary, check out my guide for that!

things to do in rotterdam



Is 1 day in Rotterdam enough?

If you’re planning a day trip from to Rotterdam from Amsterdam, you may be wondering if one day is enough to do everything you want to do. Personally, I think one day is totally doable if that’s all you have available to you, though you may have a nicer (less hectic) time if you stay for a night.

It isn’t a particularly small city, and there are loads of things to do in Rotterdam, so it’s not as easy as just exploring the center (not like other Amsterdam day trips, such as Delft, for example). There are several areas worth exploring, and lots of museums, shops and restaurants to enjoy in Rotterdam, so if you only have one day there you’ll still have a great time (we certainly did) but you’ll end up having to be strategic about what’s really the most important things to do in Rotterdam for you.

things to do in rotterdam

What is the most beautiful street in Rotterdam?

Now, when I went to answer this question I decided to first google it myself, to see what other people were saying, and I was shocked to see that I had a completely different take on the matter!

If you ask me, Witte de Withstraat is the most beautiful street in Rotterdam, not because it’s the most purely aesthetic street in the city, but because of the perfect blend of old and new, or quaint and modern, that defines Rotterdam as a whole. Not to mention that it has some of the best shops, bars, and restaurants in the city, which means visiting it is one of the best things to do in Rotterdam.

Now, if you’re curious what I think the most beautiful area is in Rotterdam, you’ll have to keep scrolling until you get to the section on Delfshaven.



Is Rotterdam nicer than Amsterdam?

Listen, I liked Rotterdam a lot, and I had a lovely time there, but I would be hard pressed to go so far as to say that it’s nicer than Amsterdam. Amsterdam is popular and evergreen for a reason! It’s one of my favorite destinations, and certainly my favorite place in the Netherlands.

I think Rotterdam is the perfect choice to visit if you’re really eager to take a day trip from Amsterdam, or if you’re traveling through the Netherlands. There are tons of things to do in Rotterdam! However, if you’re worried about making sure you have enough time in Amsterdam, my advice is not to stress about this—just stay in Amsterdam. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who regretted spending time in Amsterdam.



Is Rotterdam a walkable city?

Yes, Rotterdam is a fairly walkable city, though I personally find it to be less walkable than Amsterdam. This is partially because, in terms of area, Rotterdam is actually larger than Amsterdam (Amsterdam is larger by population), so there’s just a bit more ground to cover.

But it also feels a bit less walkable than Amsterdam because, as I mentioned, the city was essentially destroyed in WWII. When it was rebuilt in the 1950s it was built much like an American city: for cars. So unlike most of the Netherlands, which is built for bikes and pedestrians, you’ll find wide, multi-lane streets, difficult crossings with many tram lines, and not very pleasant sidewalks. It’s definitely still walkable, and indeed we walked for the majority of our day, but it’s not as inherently walkable as other Dutch cities.

That being said, there’s both a metro and a tram in Rotterdam (both of which take contactless payment options), so you can still easily get around to all the things to do in Rotterdam without a car.

things to do in rotterdam

P.S. When you book using my links, you help support Rachel IRL at no extra cost to you. It’s a win-win!

Are you ready to discover all the things to do in Rotterdam?

There’s really something for everyone in Rotterdam, which is such an interesting and unique hidden gem that not visitor to the Netherlands gets to know. I hope you’ll get a chance and that now you’re feeling ready to explore all of the best things to do in Rotterdam and find out for yourself why this city is so great!

As always, feel free to leave a comment if you think I missed something or have any questions! And you can always reach my via email or find me on Instagram. Happy traveling!

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things to do in rotterdam
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rotterdam from Amsterdam day trip itinerary / things to do in rotterdam

The Best Rotterdam from Amsterdam Day Trip Itinerary

If you're itching for an Amsterdam day trip that's out of the ordinary, I've got a gem for you! Rotterdam captivated me with its contemporary flair and cutting-edge architecture, setting it apart from the rest of the Netherlands. So, why not ditch the clichéd canal houses for a day and join me in planning the ultimate day trip to Rotterdam? Explore the iconic Cube Houses, indulge in vibrant markets, and dive into the richness of modern Dutch culture to make some memories in Rotterdam!

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