Ten Things To Do in Rotterdam | A Travel Diary
After spending the first night of our road trip through Europe in Hamburg, we would hit the road again on a Monday midday to drive to Rotterdam. The Dutch city with the largest port in Europe has recently come out of the shadows of Amsterdam with its charms in architecture, history, and great food. Overall, we spent two nights, three days in Rotterdam, and pretty much walked the entire city, including the docks in Kop van Zuid that are connected with the city center via the famous Erasmus Bridge. In this travel diary, I share with you ten things you need to do while in Rotterdam!
Rotterdam – A Travel Diary
Similar to the experience we had on our trip to Austria and the Czech Republic, it felt so good crossing the borders without anyone controlling documents, tests, or your tracking device (fellow Singaporeans will understand). God praise the European Union! 🙂
We arrived in Rotterdam in the late afternoon and first of all checked in our hotel, which we had again booked through the App HotelTonight. We usually just book it on the way and so did we this time, somewhere on the Autobahn on our way to Rotterdam.
– Tip: For spontaneous trips and last-minute deals, I love to recommend HotelTonight. Booking through my link and entering the code VZAUSCH at HotelTonight gives you 20% (up to 45 Euros) on your first booking in top-rated hotels.
Our hotel Savoy Hotel Rotterdam was located at the edge of the Centre of Rotterdam, with a convenient parking situation (essential on a road trip), and within walking distance to the Markthal, the Port of Rotterdam, and the main shopping area. We had actually considered booking the Room Mate Bruno which is actually, which is located on the hip Wilhelminapier, the first dockland area right after you cross the Erasmus bridge. The little peninsula also houses the Rotterdam Cruise Terminal, which reminds of times when people would take the Netherlands-American Line to emigrate to the US. Overall, this little area looks very much like Brooklyn or New York and houses a cool food hall and cute boutiques. Looking back, I wonder if staying here would have been the better option? Simply because we had the same issues that we had in Hamburg already in finding a restaurant for the night. Everything seemed to be closed (it was Monday after all) or fully booked and the Covid regulations that didn’t allow restaurants to run at full capacity didn’t help either. And the Food Hallen that are linked to the hotel Room Mate Bruno looked so tempting but were too far away for the evening of our arrival.
However, we ended up in the fun dinner 1NUL8 and from here planned the next day, where we would pretty much checkbox all the must-dos in Rotterdam. This is what we ended up doing and what I recommend in order to explore Rotterdam in 48 hours:
ONE: Have breakfast in one of the many Boutique-Style brunch Places
If you ask me, there is no better way to start a day full of exploring a city with a decent breakfast in a trendy area. Not only because it makes you get up quite early, but it also hits the exploring on the commute and while eating, especially if you choose a café that is located in an area that you plan to explore that day. During our visit to Rotterdam, we went to Baker & Morre and Served, two boutique-style brunch places that impressed us with their lavish interior designs, amazing coffee (always important to me!), and the heavenly baked goods.
TWO: Stroll through the vibrant streets of ‘Cool district’ Witte de Withstraat
After breakfast, we went on a stroll through the area around the Witte de Withstraat, Rotterdam’s “Cool District”, which is literally the centerpiece of cool in the city center. The street is home to funky cafes, small bars, and chic eats. What makes a stroll through this vibrant neighborhood even more pleasant is the colorful and alternative street art on every surface in sight. Strolling along here, sipping a latte, and you’ll feel like a hip Rotterdam local in no time.
THREE: Take a Picture of the Cube Houses
You haven’t been to Rotterdam if you haven’t taken a picture of the cube houses, they say. These striking homes are cubes tilted 45-degree on their side, optimized to make the most of the available space – an architectural masterpiece and standing for Rotterdam as probably nothing alike?
FOUR: Take a break at Place Erasmus
Whenever you reach the Waterfront, right before the Erasmus Bridge, Rotterdam’s most important landmark, that spans over the Nieuwe Maas and connects the north and south parts of the city, I can recommend taking a break. The Waterfront is a great way to indulge the stunning views and watch the bridge open and close. I can recommend the Bar-Restaurant PRACHTIG that offers great views on the Nieuwe Maas and the southern part of Rotterdam and also serves great Aperol Spritz and Dutch beers on a rustic, but cute outdoor patio, right at the water.
FIVE: Walk – or Cycle! – across the Erasmus Bridge
After the break, walking (or, better: cycling!) over the 802-meter-long (2,631 ft) Erasmus Bridge is a must for everyone visiting Rotterdam. Named after Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus, AKA Erasmus of Rotterdam, the Erasmusbrug is a combined cable-stayed & bascule bridge, as the bridge is constructed to open for ships that cannot pass under the bridge with an 89-meter-long (292 ft) bascule bridge part. This bascule bridge is the largest and heaviest in Western Europe and has the largest panel of its type in the world. Walking across the Erasmusbrug gives you a chance to take some great photos of the bridge and the Wilhelminapier skyline.
SIX: Explore the Southbank “Kop van Zuid”, with the hotel America and its Gateway to Europe
After crossing the Erasmus Bridge, you will reach the city’s Southbank, the Kop van Zuid, which literally translates to “The Head of the South”. The district was only recently developed and designed by leading architects and includes the Wilhelmina Pier and the Katendrecht.
The Kop van Zuid is built on old, abandoned port areas around the Binnenhaven, Entrepothaven, Spoorweghaven, Rijnhaven and the Wilhelmina Pier. Here, the Holland America Line was founded. Today, the Landverhuizers Plein (Emigrants square) reminds of the times when people would emigrate from here to the US. It is now a park with some very striking art such as the steamship chimneys and the impressive Lost Luggage Depot. The former office building that was used as temporary accommodation for European emigres in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is today a hotel, called “Hotel New York”, with a panoramic restaurant overlooking the port and the sea.
Generally speaking, the Wilhelminapier reminds a lot of New York, or, more precisely, the hip district, Brooklyn. Hotels, Restaurants, and boutiques are in older buildings with red and brown brick, while other buildings such as the De Rotterdam building, the Renzo Piano KPN Tower, and the residential New Orleans tower, dominate the view with its striking sky-scraper hights and the modern, architectural look.
SEVEN: Indulge in the Foodhallen Rotterdam
On Wilhelminapier and right next to the Room Mate Bruno, you will find a food hall, that again reminds you of those in New York, but also Scandinavia. The foodhallen are a great place for a lunch break, as you will find here a wide range of high-quality international street-food and drinks.
EIGHT: Visit The Old Harbor and Maritime Museum
Back in the Northern part of Rotterdam, you can’t miss the Old Harbor and the Maritime Museum. The museum is in one of the oldest and largest museum harbors of the Netherlands, where you can visit historic vessels and cranes and experience the enormous effect that shipping has on our daily lives, with a few fun attractions for the youngest to join, including a small cruise on one of the boats.
NINE: Stroll through the impressive Market Hall
One of the most striking buildings in Rotterdam is the central market hall, a hybrid between housing and office spaces with an actual market hall underneath. A fairly new concept, and the first building of its kind. The inside is adorned with an 11.000 m2 artwork that shows strongly enlarged fruits, vegetables, seeds, fish, flowers, and insects. Look up!
TEN: Eat Poffertjes on the grass in front of the market hall and watch the buzz of the city
Poffertjes are the dutch version of pancakes, although there are. not really made in a pan, are way smaller, if not to say mini, and consist more of a puff structure. I always make sure to eat Poffertjes whenever I am in the Netherlands and this time was no exception. We bought the Poffertjes at Poffertjessalon Seth and ordered them to go, to enjoy them sitting on the grass in front of the market hall and watching the buzzing Rotterdam.
SPECIAL: Eat at L’Héroine
Last but not least, do yourself a favor and make a reservation at the tantalizing Héroine restaurant. The experience was hands on one of the best I ever had. I was blown away by the quality, the concept, the ‘sophisticated retro and designer vibes’ interior design, and the exceptional service that came with the five-course dinner menu that we booked. Plus, the restaurant is in the south wing of Het Industriegebouw, a historical landmark in the heart of Rotterdam, which makes you feel like you’re just flowing with the city’s vibe!