Rotterdam in The Netherlands is one of the country’s most important and largest cities, second only the capital city of Amsterdam. This city in northwestern Europe is also home to the largest port on the continent and one of the busiest ones in the world. With its skyscrapers and clearly futuristic architecture, the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands seems to be a symbol of vision & modernity. Read on for my complete Rotterdam travel guide.
Don’t let its ultra-modern structures deceive you into thinking it’s a new city. Its history’s been long & eventful and will take you back to the 13th century, at least. That was when a dam was built across the Rotte River, north of here. The year was 1270, to be precise. That paved the way to a city taking shape where the Rotte was dammed and soon there was Rotterdam. However, it was only in the 14th century that Rotterdam got its ‘city status.’
In the latter half of the 19th century, Rotterdam had some of its river-related issues taken care of and was able to have larger vessels come into its harbor, and it grew exponentially. Then, during World War II, the Germans bombed the city and Rotterdam was left with big losses in terms of property and people.
However, it got down to rebuilding itself and in due course, the city had a big & bustling port, in fact, the biggest of them all.
What to see and do
This leader in the port trade has quite a list of attractions for a visitor to check out! The ports of Rotterdam are places you must see. While the old port can be seen from the city itself, it’s recommended that you take a boat tour out on the Nieuwe Maas to the newer stretches of the port to see all of the hustle and bustle.
Also impossible to ignore are the iconic buildings of Rotterdam. Some of the must-see structures are the 600-odd feet tall observation tower called Euromast & the Market Hall, a modernistic glass and stone structure that is an innovative coming together of commercial & residential spaces and art.
Rotterdam’s Cube Houses are also some other residences that are quite out of the ordinary. If you get there before the end of business hours, you might even be able to see the inside one of the cubes!
Some of the buildings that still wear the look of old Rotterdam are The Witte House, the New York Hotel, The City Hall, a part of the Natural History Museum, St. Lawrence Church & De Hef.
Yet other landmarks to see in Rotterdam are the bridges of Erasmusbrug, Willemsbrug & Luchtsingel. Het Park, Museum Park & Historische Tuin Schoonoord are the places to go for some greenery. You could even check out the floating trees of Rotterdam’s Bobbing Forest.
To experience the art and culture of Rotterdam, you can visit its many museums and the musical performances taking place around the city. Another major part of the culture of Rotterdam is the food found in the markets in the city.
For more things to do than are included in this Rotterdam travel guide, check out my post: Top 10 Things to do in Rotterdam.
Markthal & Fenix Food Market are great places to pick up local specialties, especially local Dutch ones like the Stroopwafel and deep-fried food like Kibbeling (the local Fish n’ Chips), Bitterballen, Kroket & Fries in cones.
However, if you look at Rotterdam’s restaurants, you will see that the city has all kinds of food from French to American, Mediterranean, Caribbean & Indonesian to name a few.
For specific places to go out to eat that are not included in this Rotterdam travel guide, check out my post: Best Restaurants in Rotterdam.
Rotterdam has several shopping areas selling well-known brands, especially for clothing. Kruiskade, Lijnbaan, van Oldenbarneveltstraat & Coolsingel are some of the streets you can go to shop. You can also go to Meent & Witte de Withstraat.
As for souvenirs, you can look for the smaller stores that sell things — like apparel, bags & crafts — made in Rotterdam. The Rotterdam Tourist Information Center will also have some local gifts you can take back.
The land in these parts of the Netherlands is pretty flat and it’s the rivers & canals here that define the geography of the area. Rotterdam came about when the Rotte river was dammed following a series of floods. The city is built on either side of the Nieuwe Maas, a distributary of the Rhine that empties itself in the Het Scheur, the water of which ultimately flows into the North Sea.
The network of waterways that lead to Rotterdam allow the city to have a large inland port making it a historical Gateway to Europe.
Whether you are traveling on business, with family, or solo, Rotterdam has the perfect accommodation for you in its upscale & budget hotels. Many of them come with great views, some of them with that of the iconic structures of the city and yet others with views of the river. It also has rooms in unique places, too.
There’s the SS Rotterdam, a retired cruise ship that has now been turned into a hotel. Other interesting options in this city include staying in guest rooms set up in barges & boats, and the famous observation tower called the Euromast. There’s also the historical New York Hotel, which was once the office of the original travel agency that facilitated travel from this part of the world to the United States of America.
If you want to camp in the city, the place to do so is Stadscamping Rotterdam, a campground just north of Rotterdam Zoo and a less than 10-minutes’ drive from Centraal Station.
How to get around is an important part of this Rotterdam travel guide. Since we are talking about the place that’s home to one of the largest & busiest ports, the waterway is a popular way to get to Rotterdam. There are cruises & ferries that can get you into Rotterdam.
If you’re taking a flight to Rotterdam, the closest airport will be Rotterdam The Hague Airport or else, the busier Schiphol Airport further north. From the airport, you can take a bus or the metro to get to the center of the city.
You could also take the train to Rotterdam. If you’re going into the city from a city in France, Belgium or Brussels look for trains to Centraal Station.
To get around Rotterdam you can rent a bike, take the local buses or water buses.
Best time to visit
Rotterdam is blessed with pleasant weather throughout the year. It gets a bit of rain through much of the year, too.
Summer is when this port city in South Holland gets most visitors. July & August is peak time, when it’s warmest, with temperatures ranging in the 60s & 70s Fahrenheit.
If you want to avoid the crowds you could look at April & May or September. April & May are the months to choose if you’d like to go when Rotterdam is at its driest.
While you’re in Rotterdam, if you find that you have time for a short trip outside the city, you could go see the windmills of Kinderdijk or the pottery town of Delft.
Other destinations you might want to consider including with your visit to Rotterdam are Amsterdam, Hague & Utrecht. If you’re there in spring, you might want to check if the tulips are in bloom and if yes, make a day trip to Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse.