Rotterdam is a dynamic international city with one of the world’s biggest ports. Almost entirely destroyed in a German bombardment during WWII, Rotterdam has become a city with a skyline – and one that is always changing. Architecture, design, art, culture, food, and world events all await you in what the Lonely Planet named as the fifth Best in Travel city for 2016.
Top Travel Tips for Rotterdam
- To receive discounts of 25% and more at 50 attractions, museums, and restaurants plus unlimited travel on the city’s transport network, grab yourself a Rotterdam Welcome Card.
- Want to know which events and festivals are happening in the city? You’ll find all the details, and more, on the Rotterdam Festivals website.
- For a unique way to experience the city, try the amphibious bus. The Splashtours tour will show you the best places in Rotterdam, followed by a splash into the Maas River.
- Rotterdam makes good use of the water that flows through it. Try getting from point A to point B via one of the water taxis.
- Planning a longer stay in the city? Here are even more options for where to stay in Rotterdam.
Rotterdam’s city centre is an easily navigated, exciting to explore area. Within, you’ll find streets lined with international businesses, shopping streets, and plenty of places to eat, drink, and entertain your days and evenings away. If shopping is the activity you enjoy the most, then head to the Lijnbaankwartier. This is the real shopping heart of the city and includes the Lijnbaan – Europe’s first pedestrian-only shopping street, dating back to 1954. Also worth visiting is the Laurenskwartier. This area was once the entire city of Rotterdam and equally the very place where the city was born. You’ll find the famous Markthal and Laurenskerk here.
Known for its modern skyline, there is one place in the city you can visit to get a glimpse of old Rotterdam. Spared during the World War II bombings, Delfshaven is not only historical but also picturesque. Buildings and courtyards filled with boutiques, ateliers, and cafes line the multiple waterways and canals. Delfshaven (literally “harbour of Delft”) was once a colony of Delft. Nowadays it is most remembered for its association with the Pilgrim Fathers – the Puritans spent several years here before travelling to North America – and for the shipyards and warehouses of the Dutch East India Company (VOC).
Bonus: You don’t have to be an entrepreneur or an artist to visit the nearby Lloydkwartier of Rotterdam, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if you were one. Originally an old harbour area dating back to the 1900s, the Lloydkwartier has been going through a massive redesign. Nowadays the ships have been replaced by creative working spaces, restaurants, and cafes.
It might be argued that no great city is complete without its own museum quarter. Luckily Rotterdam delivers when it comes to that criteria. A compact and lively area means that the many galleries and museums are within easy walking distance of each other with a few fashion boutiques, design stores, and music shops thrown in for good measure. You can expect gems such as the Kunsthal, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, the Chabot Museum, and the Natural History Museum of Rotterdam – all ready for you to explore. And for extra adventure, Rotterdam’s blink and you’ll miss it sized China Town is a short walk away.
Noordereiland, Kop van Zuid, and Katendrecht
Noordereiland is an island linked to Rotterdam via the Willemsbrug and Koninginnebrug. You can also see the old train bridge, The Hef, where trains once left the city from. Initially, a bustling port area with dockworkers and emigrants heading out on big adventures, the Kop van Zuid eventually fell into disuse. A major redevelopment in the 1990s has turned it into a metropolitan centre. Katendrecht was once home to one of Europe’s biggest Chinese communities until the second World War. Later it was a low-rent housing area with a generous share of sailors’ bars, until the 1980s. Now it is a vibrant residential area with plenty of culinary surprises.
Oudehaven and Boompjes
Rotterdam is a port city and nowhere is this more evident than in the many inner-city harbours. You can walk around the historic cranes of the Maritime Museum and Havenmuseum; explore the Haringvliet, Wijnhaven, and Leuvehaven; or board a water taxi to another part of the city. Another harbour area to visit is the Oudehaven. This is the perfect place to relax at a sidewalk cafe wit views of historic ships, the Witte Huis (Europe’s first skyscraper), and the brightly coloured Cube Houses.
The Scheepvaartkwartier might not be the most talked about part of Rotterdam, but it should be. This protected cityscape with its tree-lined broad lanes was created in 1840 and has a rich maritime history best experienced at Veerhaven harbour. You’ll also find the World Museum, the 185 metres high Euromast, and Het Park – a spacious public park known for its regular outdoor events. The Scheepvaartkwartier is also known by some as the restaurant district of the city.