A couple of weeks ago, I spent the weekend in the Netherlands, first trip of the year! Then I asked my Instagram followers to help me decide where to go, Amsterdam vs Rotterdam, and they picked Rotterdam! So, I went ahead to spontaneously spend a day in Rotterdam and I had an AMAZING time. I just had to share a guide on how you too spend a great day in Rotterdam if you’re short on time or touring the Netherlands!
Most people think of the red lights of Amsterdam when they think about the Netherlands. Fair enough, as it’s the capital, right? However, Rotterdam gets overlooked, even by me before I visited but it’s a gem of a city! Rotterdam is pretty unique, if only for the fact that the majority of the city was bombed and destroyed during WWII. As a result of that, majority of the city looks quite new because everything had to be rebuilt post war.
Getting around Rotterdam
Rotterdam is a fairly walkable city in my opinion, but public transport around the city is also excellent. There are bus, train and metro services available.
If you don’t want to do a lot of walking, I’d recommend getting a RET 1 day travel pass. You can get it from the tourist information desk in Centraal station for €8. You get unlimited travel on the bus, tram and metro for 24 hours after you activate it.
If you are planning to include some paid attractions on your Rotterdam day trip, it’s more cost-effective to get a Rotterdam Welcome Card for €12. It includes 25% discounts in attractions, museums and cafes and resta1urants, as well as a one-day travel pass.
You can also get around using the waterbus or water taxi. The waterbus costs €1 and it follows a timetable, you can check here. The water taxi is like a normal taxi service that you have to call from the pick-up points. Unfortunately, neither the waterbus nor the water taxi is included in the RET 1 day travel pass or the Welcome card. However, it looked like a lot of fun seeing the city from the water!
Start your day in Rotterdam at Centraal Station!
I arrived in Rotterdam at the Centraal Station, the main railway station and you’ll probably be the same. It’s such a beautiful building, looks a bit like tin foil lol but in the best way! And it gives you an idea of what to expect from Rotterdam’s architecture. The new station building was opened in 2014 and I imagine would look beautiful with blue sky backdrop in summer!
In the main hall of Centraal station, there is a Tourist Information booth where you can get maps and other information about the city before you start to spend your day in Rotterdam. You could also buy the Rotterdam Welcome Card here if you want one. to get 25% and more at 50 attractions, museums, restaurants and more!
There are a couple of options, one with just discounts for €5 and one with travel included for €12.50. If you get one, I’d recommend getting the €5 because you can pretty much walk to most places in Rotterdam. If you don’t want to walk, then get the €12.50.
Live in the UK and wondering how Brexit could affect your ability to visit European cities like Rotterdam, Check out my post on How Brexit could affect travel!
As this was a spontaneous trip for me I, unfortunately, missed this which I regret! But, you don’t have to because you have this guide right? So, the Luchtsingel bridge is a 390-meter wooden pedestrian bridge for connecting the Centre to the North of Rotterdam. The North of the city was once a happening spot in Rotterdam, however, it suffered from neglection. and became dominated by abandoned spaces.
To revitalise the area, this bridge was proposed to connect to Centraal station and help jumpstart the economic growth of the area. The people of the city contributed to the building of this bridge and to say thank you, their names are engraved on the bridge. I think that’s just amazing!
If you enjoy the story, photography and architecture, this bridge should definitely be part of your day in Rotterdam!
I love visiting the local markets at any new destination and that’s just what I did in Rotterdam. Your next stop, Markthal, is like no other food market you’ve visited and like most things in Rotterdam, it’s sustainable, innovative and quirky!
It combines a market hall, 228 luxury apartments surrounding it, working space and parking all in one place and this honestly blew my mind! Once your awe calms down, and you’ve fully taken in the horseshoe exterior? Let’s go inside!!
As you walk in the full glass windows at the entrance/exit, you’ll be stopped in your tracks by the ‘world’s largest painting’ surrounding the building. It’s referred to as the Dutch version of the Sistine Chapel and it’s very easy to see why! The artwork is called the “Horn of Plenty”, it’s rendered by Pixar and it feels a bit like lying down on the grass on a summer’s day.
Now you’ve fully taken in this AMAZING building, you must’ve worked up an appetite, I definitely did! Let’s get to the food! There are over 100 food stalls in this market from traditional dutch food to Asian cuisine to ice cream and other amazing options from all over the world.
TIP – If you’ve got time and want to know more about the history of the city, there is a FREE exhibition of archaeological items in the underground car park that were found on-site during the market’s construction.
Free Walking tour Rotterdam
One of my favourite ways to get to know a city is through Free walking tours hosted by locals. You learn a lot more about the city, it’s history, the significance of certain buildings, unusual facts and it just makes you love Rotterdam more! It’s especially perfect if you’re planning to spend a day in Rotterdam and you’re short on time.
I booked this Rotterdam free walking tour and I would highly recommend it! Our guide, Bram, had a deep love for this city that was contagious, I left thinking Amsterdam who?? He was also extremely knowledgeable.
The starting point is right in front of the Markthal conveniently so once you’re done inside just head out to join the group! The tours are on every day at 1:30 pm and Sat & Sun also at 10:30 am and it’s 2 hrs long. It covers Erasmus, the WW2 bombardment, the port, the “Red light district”, Butt plug Santa and so much more!
Cube Houses (Kijk-Kubus)
If you spend a day in Rotterdam, it wouldn’t be complete without a visit to this super quirky, super fun place. This was the final stop on the walking tour which was perfect! The first thing that came to mind when I saw them was people couldn’t possibly live in these houses right? Because my mind was trying to understand how this works!! Absolutely crazy!
The designer of these Cube Houses, Piet Blom, designed them with a forest in mind. He said each cube house is a “tree”, and since they are all interconnected, these trees together form a “forest”. And if you look up at them together, it does look like a cluster of trees in a forest.
The buildings are a very striking yellow with odd geometric shapes you wouldn’t expect of houses. To get a better idea of what it’s like inside one of these houses, you should visit The Kijk-Kubus. It’s a sort of museum that lets you appreciate the quirks of living in a place like this. It’s open every day from 11am to 5pm and it costs only €3.
One of the Cube Houses is actually a hostel, so you could stay in one of them overnight if you’d like a one of a kind accommodation experience.
Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug)
The Erasmus Bridge links the north and south of Rotterdam. It’s 800-meters longs and 139 meters high, it is immense! As an engineer what I found most interesting was that it’s BOTH a cable-stay bridge AND a draw bridge.
It has become an icon of the city, so it is a must on your list of what to see in Rotterdam in one day. Cross it on foot to get the full scale of it and you will also get some great angles for your photos. I went across the bridge when I was going to get some African food from Mama Essi! It’s immense!
Mama Essi Afrikaans Restaurant
My friend that I stayed within the Netherlands wanted some African food so I googled and stumbled on Mama Essi’s restaurant. When you walk in, you’re hit with the smell of home and Mama Essi’s big welcome!
The prices are reasonable and service is quick with African tunes blasting in the background. It’s a family run business and what I love is that you can see how the food is being prepared because the kitchen isn’t covered.
After you spend a day in Rotterdam discovering the unique vibe and character it brings to the Netherlands, you’ll find yourself gaining a whole new love for Rotterdam.
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Oh Roterdam looks so amazing! We´ve done a short road trip to the Netherlands last year but sadly had to leave out Roterdam cause we only had 4 days. Definitely on the list for my next visit, thanks for sharing this informative post 🙂
Awwww that’s too bad! But it will always be there and it will only get better hopefully so next time make sure you make a little time for good old Rotterdam!
Rotterdam looks beautiful. It’s so cool that you found an African restaurant there!
It is so pretty and modern! Right!! I was so excited to get some African food somewhere outside the UK!
Such a great post and it looks like you had a blast in Rotterdam. I’ve been to Amsterdam now a couple of times so I feel like I’m ready to explore more of The Netherlands and Rotterdam is top of my list!
I did! I was literally on my way to Amsterdam when I decided to stay on the train and keep going to Rotterdam and it was the best decision! Definitely, when next you go to the Netherlands, you’ll love Rotterdam!
Thanks for this! My husband and I are thinking about going to Rotterdam this year (just as a day trip from Amsterdam), so this is perfect timing and really helpful. I can’t wait to see those yellow cube houses 😀
You will both love it!!! Do it! Lol and the cube houses are really special!
I’ve never actually read a blog post on Rotterdam – Amsterdam gets all the fame – but you have really brought the city to life. That painting in Markthal looks amazing and worth the visit alone. Thanks for sharing.
Oh really?? That’s crazy! Amsterdam gets a lot of the love tbh ut Rotterdam definitely deserves a lot too! Thank you so much! and that painting is mind blowing, trust me, amazing!!