Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands after Amsterdam. It’s located in the Rhine-Meuse delta, in the province of South Holland. Rotterdam is known for being home to Europe’s largest seaport as well as its modern architecture and skyline. Rotterdam makes a great place for a daytrip.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to the best sights and attractions. We’ve put together a full itinerary for you to explore the best sights of Rotterdam in one day.
Things to Do in Rotterdam in One Day (Itinerary)
Only have one day in Rotterdam and want to see the highlights? No problem! The sights and activities below are arranged in order of location from the central station so you can follow along on foot to all the attractions in just one day.
1. Central Station
Our itinerary for your day in Rotterdam starts at the central station. Of course, that’s perfect if you get here by train. If you drive, you can park your car in one of the nearby car parks (more on this below).
Rotterdam’s central station will give you a great first impression of the city’s modern architecture. Every day more than 100,000 people pass through the impressive building. Many of them commute from or to work, as Rotterdam is known to be an economic hub in the Netherlands. There are also several international train connections going to Rotterdam.
The historic station building was fully rebuilt and modernized in 2007. What’s good to know is that the original lettering “Centraal Station” (now with LED lighting) and the clock on the front gable have been preserved. The central station is a true eye-catcher and the perfect place to begin exploring the city!
2. Old Town Hall (Stadhuis)
From the central station, you’ll walk towards town hall (stadhuis), which takes about 10 minutes.
The city hall (Rotterdam stadhuis) is located in the heart of the city center. Rotterdam was heavily destroyed during World War II which didn’t spare the old town hall. The current town hall was reconstructed after the war on the exact same site where the previous one was located.
The town hall is an important building for the city. Not only is it beautiful on the outside, but it also holds a special meaning for Rotterdam. The city hall represents Rotterdam’s resilience and innovative architectural style. The modern design features a striking glass facade and a unique twisted shape. Rotterdam’s municipal offices and city archives are located here; it’s the outside of the building that is worth seeing for visitors.
3. Market Hall (Markthal)
From the city hall, your walk will lead you to Rotterdam’s famous market hall. The walk takes about 10 minutes and takes you through the vibrant city center.
Market hall (markthal) is impressive both from the outside and the inside. In the semicircular glass building there are more than 100 fresh food stands, a supermarket and several cafés and restaurants. Don’t forget to look up when strolling along the stands, where you’ll see the artwork “Horn of Plenty“, the largest work of art in the Netherlands. This market isn’t called the “Sistine Chapel” for nothing.
Our tip: If you’re hungry, have a snack at one of the many stands in the market hall. If the weather is good, you can sit on the grass fields or benches outside the market hall.
4. Laurens Church (Sint-Laurenskerk)
Only about 100 meters across the large forecourt of the market hall, is the Laurens Church (Sint-Laurenskerk). This imposing late Gothic building was built in the second half of the 15th century and is the last of its kind in Rotterdam. The destruction from the Second World War has been carefully restored and stands in memory of the fallen.
From the church tower, you’ll have a beautiful view of the surrounding city center. The church tower is only open to visitors during summer (from April to October), usually on Wednesdays and Saturdays at specific time slots. The visit lasts about one hour. If you have just one day in Rotterdam, we recommend that you only visit the church from the outside and skip the church tower. Don’t worry, we’ll have another viewpoint for you in this itinerary. If you spend two or more days in Rotterdam, climbing the church tower is a worthwhile experience.
5. Cube Houses (Kijk-Kubus)
Just across the market hall are the famous cube houses of Rotterdam (Kijk-Kubus). The unique cube houses were designed by an architect who envisioned a separate village in the middle of the city. The whole complex looks like a forest, with the hexagon shaped cube houses representing trees. Be sure to enter the inner court to be able to see the forest-like design.
Most of the cube houses are apartments. One of them is a museum that is open to visitors. It’s certainly worth a stop to experience the unique architecture from the inside.
6. Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug)
The Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug) is undoubtedly the symbol of Rotterdam! From the cube houses, your walk will lead you away from the city center, towards the Meuse river. Once you reach the tall red bridge, Willems Bridge (Willemsbrug), you turn right. There are some beautiful hidden gems on your way from the center to the bridge, so have a little look to your left and right.
Follow the river banks of the beautiful Meuse river (Maas) until you reach the Erasmus Bridge. The walk between the Willems Bridge and the Erasmus Bridge takes about 20 minutes. It’s a bit longer than crossing the city center, but it’s much nicer. You’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view of the skyline of Rotterdam, the Meuse and the iconic bridges.
The Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug) is the large white bridge that you’ll see after you turn right at Willemsbrug. It connects the north with the south of the city and is 800 meters in length. It rises on 140 meter high steel pylons, resembling a swan and therefore bears the nickname De Zwaan (the swan).
Cross Erasmus bridge to the south and enjoy the view of the Meuse river with its many cargo ships and boats. If you’re lucky, a gigantic cruise ship will be docked at the Cruise Terminal on the opposite bank.
7. Hotel New York
On the foot of Erasmus bridge, you’ll turn right. Your next stop is Hotel New York, a national heritage site of the Netherlands. It’s located in the former Holland America Lijn building which was built between 1901 and 1917. The original purpose of the building was to temporarily host European emigres in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. When flying became the norm, the building became derelict.
In the early 1990’s, the building was converted into the luxury Hotel New York. It retains the two ancient towers and the original inscription, “Holland America Lijn“, making it a Rotterdam historical symbol. In addition to 72 rooms and conference rooms, the hotel also houses a restaurant that provides an upscale dining experience.
A special feature of Rotterdam is the river Meuse (Maas). It runs through the city and has several small inland waterways. The waterways provide a unique form of public transport, the watertaxi.
The watertaxi works similar to a bus; there are several stops across the city (you can’t just hop on and off at any point). One of those stops is located at Hotel New York. Luckily, prices are also comparable to a bus ride and not a taxi ride (crossing the river by watertaxi is about €2 per person). Hop on the watertaxi at Hotel New York and get dropped off on the other side of the river, at Euromast.
The crossing by watertaxi is a time-saver and a unique experience. You’ll get beautiful views of Erasmus Bridge and Rotterdam’s stunning skyline.
9. Euromast Tower
The Euromast is the tall round tower west of downtown (resembling a television tower). It might already catch your eye all the way from the Erasmus Bridge and Hotel New York. Euromast provides one of the best views you can get of Rotterdam. On a clear day, you can enjoy a unique 360° view of Rotterdam and the port facilities on the outskirts of the city.
An elevator takes you up to the first viewing platform at 100 meters (328 ft) in just 30 seconds. Here you will find a brasserie and a viewing platform. You can also continue all the way to the top, to the Euroscoop, an observation desk at 185 meters (606 ft). In our opinion, the first viewing platform is good enough to get an impressive view of the city.
Looking for a unique accommodation in Rotterdam? Euromast has several luxurious suites from where you can wake up with a stunning view of the city.
10. Splash Bus
If you’re looking for a unique experience on your day in Rotterdam, you should take a ride with the Splash Bus. The tour starts at Parkhaven, just down the road from Euromast, next to the floating restaurant. You can perfectly combine it with your visit to Euromast.
The first part of the experience is a traditional bus tour. The good thing about it is that you’ll see a different side of Rotterdam which you won’t see during your walking tour. The bus will first cross Erasmus bridge. You’ll see some parts of the district Kop van Zuid, where many of the tall buildings are located.
However, the highlight of Splash Bus awaits you on the second half of the tour. The bus will splash into the Meuse river and continue as a boat. You’ll get another view of the impressive Erasmus Bridge and the skyline. The real highlight is when the bus drives into the river!
So, is Splash Bus worth it? Considering the ticket price (currently €28.50 per person) it’s a rather expensive activity. You’ll already get a good view from the water when taking the watertaxi for a fraction of the price, so you don’t really have to take the Splash Bus for that. Many people will join the tour for the experience of splashing into the water, which is definitely a unique and fun experience.
The Splash Bus will drop you off at Euromast so you can continue your tour from where you left off.
11. Park (Het Park)
Adjacent to the Euromast, in the direction of the city center, is a large park (het park). This park is certainly one of the most beautiful parks in Rotterdam. It’s a carefully maintained green area with some lakes where locals like to relax on warm days. In the spring, the park is home to a few colorful tulip fields. With the Euromast in the background, this makes for a beautiful photo.
Cross the park from the Euromast to walk back towards the city center.
12. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
After leaving the park, you’ll cross the main street, Westzeedijk. Walk a few hundred meters towards the city center, passing the famous hospital Erasmus MC. Just behind the hospital is another municipal park, the Museum Park, which you can cross on your way to the museum. At the northeast end of the park is the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.
Boijmans Van Beuningen is the most famous museum in Rotterdam. Fancy some art and culture? Then visit the museum of the Dutch artist Boijman. In 1849 he gave his works of art to the city of Rotterdam. Later the museum was expanded and now includes paintings by famous artists as well as sculptures, prints and drawings. European works of art in this museum are from the early Middle Ages up to the 21st century.
After your visit to the museum, your walk leads you back to the heart of the city center.
13. Witte de With Street
Depending on the time you spend on each sight on this list, you’ll be back at the city center in the late afternoon or early evening hours.
Rotterdam is not only known for its sightseeing. It’s a great place to go out and has many wonderful restaurants and pubs. One of the places we recommend you to visit is Witte de With Street, which is about 5 minutes walk from the museum, near the metro station Eendrachtsplein.
From the early evening hours the Witte de With Straat becomes a real hotspot of Rotterdam’s nightlife. There are countless cafés, bars and small restaurants on this busy street which are well frequented by locals. This is the ideal place to end your day trip in Rotterdam with some Dutch food!
If you want to try a local dish, head over to Jaffa Shoarma and try their famous kapsalon. It consists of french fries with meat (shoarma), topped with cheese and lettuce. Although this might not sound very Dutch to you, the dish kapsalon was actually invented in Rotterdam!
How to Get to Rotterdam
A convenient way to travel to Rotterdam is by train. There are direct train connections from many Dutch cities to Rotterdam, such as from Amsterdam Airport, Amsterdam central station (city center), Utrecht, Den Haag or Eindhoven. Many of those trains are Intercity trains (less stops than local trains). The train from Eindhoven to Rotterdam takes about one hour which is even less than if you went by car.
Rotterdam also has international train connections such as Thalys (Paris-Rotterdam).
Driving is a good option if you come from a village or city with poor train connections to Rotterdam, or simply would like to stay flexible in your schedule. Rotterdam has highways on all sides (the Rotterdam ring) so you can easily get here from anywhere in the country. Note that major highways (especially the ones between Rotterdam-Amsterdam and Rotterdam-Utrecht) can get crowded during rush hours. That’s also true for the main streets in Rotterdam. Avoid driving during rush hours if possible. We recommend that you explore Rotterdam by foot. Park your car at a car park (see below) and explore the city walking. We don’t recommend driving from one sight to another.
The most convenient and cheapest option for parking in Rotterdam city center are the car parks. You’ll find plenty of them in the city center.
On street parking is often significantly more expensive than car parks, as the city wants to keep those parking lots for their residents. Residents can apply for a parking permit (parkeervergunning) through the municipality which allows them to park their car in a specific zone near their home.
Free parking in Rotterdam? While the city center of Rotterdam only has paid parking, there is plenty of free parking on the outskirts. You could park your car in Capelle aan den Ijssel (large free car park at Capelsebrug metro station) or in Schiedam (e.g. near Parkweg or Troelstralaan metro station) and take the metro to the city (takes around 15 minutes). If you travel alone or as a couple, the metro ticket will be cheaper than full-day parking in a car park in Rotterdam.
Be sure to check out our full article on parking in Rotterdam for more tips and addresses.
If you decide to spend more than one day in Rotterdam, you’ll find plenty of hotels across the city. Rotterdam is very popular with travelers from around the world. It has anything from bed & breakfast, mid-range hotels to luxurious suites. Below are some hotels in Rotterdam that we can recommend (based on our experience and personal opinion):
- Postillion Hotel WTC Rotterdam: This hotel is located in the heart of the city center, very close to the market hall and the cube houses. It’s a great place to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere and nightlife (there are many good restaurants in this area). The rooms are very spacious and chic (we loved the interior here). From many rooms, you’ll have a great view of the surrounding city center. Dogs are allowed (€20 surcharge per night). The hotel doesn’t have their own parking garage (but there is a good parking garage next door).
- Novotel Rotterdam Brainpark: This is one of our recent discoveries in Rotterdam. Novotel is located a little off the center, between the district Kralingen and the neighboring town, Capelle aan den Ijssel. It’s a great place to stay if you don’t want to be in the city center. The hotel has a car park (you can leave your car here while you visit Rotterdam). Metro station “Kralingse Zoom” which connects the hotel with the city center is about a 10-minute walk. The hotel was recently renovated and now comes with even more modern rooms. Dogs are allowed (€20 surcharge per night).
- Ibis: Ibis hotels are our go-to option whenever we travel somewhere and need an affordable and clean place to spend the night, without any extras. There are currently two ibis hotels in Rotterdam. The first one, ibis Rotterdam center is within walking distance of the cube houses (but the location is quiet and nice, not too busy). The second one, ibis budget Rotterdam The Hague Airport, located at the airport and near Blijdorp Zoo, a few kilometers from the city center. The one in the center is a little more modern and spacious than the one at the airport. At the time of our booking, the one in the center was slightly more expensive than the one at the airport.
There are many hotels and hostels for all budgets. See our full review and recommendations for hotels in Rotterdam here.
In the Area
Rotterdam is located in the so-called randstad, an area in the Netherlands which is known for its numerous big cities. But it’s not all about cosmopolitan cities. There are also some cute towns and nature areas across the province of South Holland. Here are some places to visit in the greater area of Rotterdam:
- Kralingse Zoom: A large nature area on the outskirts of Rotterdam. It’s a popular place with locals to go for a walk around the lake (takes about one hour).
- Blijdorp Zoo: Rotterdam Zoo Blijdorp is one of the Netherlands’ most extensive and most visited zoos. It makes a great destination for a daytrip.
- Kinderdijk: South of Rotterdam is Kinderdijk, a huge site famous for its windmills. It’s a wonderful place to visit to see windmills and go for a stroll.
- Delfshaven: A district between Rotterdam city center and Schiedam (the next town). Delfshaven has a historical vibe which makes it very different from most other parts of Rotterdam. Delfshaven is a great place to go out in the evening (there are many pubs and restaurants here).
- Schiedam: A neighboring city to Rotterdam, this medium-sized city has a beautiful historical city center, comparable to what you can see in Delfshaven.
- Delft: Known for its pottery (Delft blue) and its university (TU Delft), Delft is a wonderful place for a daytrip from Rotterdam. The city center is the perfect blend of vibrant and cozy. It’s a very scenic place to visit in the area.
- The Hague (Den Haag): Certainly less worthwhile than Rotterdam, The Hague is another well known place for a city trip. The city has some popular museums and is located on the North Sea. Scheveningen is one of the most popular beaches in The Hague region which is a good option if you travel from Rotterdam by train.
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