Rotterdam, the Netherlands’ second-largest city, and Europe’s biggest port. The city is known for its modern architecture which you can find throughout. It is also home to many festivals, offers a great nightlife, and has a lot of shops which are open 7 days a week!
The city, in the past, was often skipped by tourists, only visiting Amsterdam and maybe Kinderdijk. It is now the fastest-growing touristic city of Holland. And not without reason. Rotterdam is located only an hour’s drive from the main capital and is therefore perfect to visit for one day!
If you’re looking for a short but sweet destination, then Rotterdam is the place to go! One of Holland’s three largest cities, Rotterdam offers a great mix of historic sites and modern attractions. The city has been constantly developing since its founding in 1631, and it shows! One day is not enough time to explore all that this bustling port city has to offer.
If you have only one day to see Rotterdam, make the most of it by carefully planning your visit. This itinerary contains ideas for seeing interesting places, doing exciting things, and optimizing your time.
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ONE DAY IN ROTTERDAM | WHAT TO SEE AND DO?
Underneath you can find just some of the things that you can see and do when you are in Rotterdam for the day. I have not made this post into an itinerary, as there are so many amazing this to see. This way you can pick and choose what tickles your fancy.
The main train station in Rotterdam is the Centraal Station, which you will most likely reach via the Port of Rotterdam.
It is a state-of-the-art facility that was originally built in 1957 and recently completely remodeled into an ultra contemporary style that will give you an indication of what to anticipate from one of Europe’s most unique cities. In 2014, the new station building was formally opened.
Centraal Station is the only Dutch railway station that does not bear the name of its city. It was thought that it didn’t need a name because you know you’re in Rotterdam when you’re there.
There is a modest Tourist Information station in the main hall of Centraal Station, so this is an excellent location to pick up maps or other city information before you go.
The Visit Rotterdam Card is also available for purchase. .
ROTTERDAM WELCOME CARD
There is a small Tourist Information Booth in the main hall of Rotterdam’s Centraal Station. Whilst you are there, you can pick up some maps or other city information before you start exploring. You can also buy a Rotterdam Welcome Card at this booth. This card will give you discounts to attractions, museums, as well as cafes, bars and restaurants. And it also includes a travel pass for unlimited travel. A one day Welcome Card is €12,50. If you are planning to use public transport and heading to 1 or 2 museums, then I highly recommend getting his card.
This small part of Rotterdam takes you some hundred years back in history. There is an impressive windmill from the 18th century. There are some adorable small restaurants and a wonderful antique shop full of maritime treasures. My suggestion would be to get there in the morning, have a walk and then stop in one of the restaurants for lunch.
My sister used to live next to this neighbourhood and I loved nothing more than wandering around the small streets and soaking up with The Netherlands used to look like. It truly is a lovely and quaint neighbourhood and it takes you back into time.
Is another lovely and charming neighbourhood with the waterfront and some nice residential buildings looking over the water. “Veerhaven” (literally Ferry Harbour), a small harbour, now used for yachting, and lined with noble buildings. It offers great views also of the river New Maas and the Erasmus Bridge. This neighbourhood is located about a 25-minute walk from Delfshaven.
If you want to see both, then walk over to Veerhaven via The ‘Euromast Tower’ and ‘Het Park’
Euromast Tower is an imposing 185 metres high observation tower offering 360-degree views of the city. It has a very nice bar and restaurant at the top of the tower. The restaurant’s outdoor viewing platform is higher up and the observation deck is at the very top. This rotates and there’s a short handy commentary.
On one side of the tower, you have the city, with ‘Het Park’ directly below the Euromast and the Erasmusbrug in the distance. You can also see and the port on the opposite side, which has some amazing architectural features. You can also see SS Rotterdam in the distance if the weather allows it.
I do suggest only doing this when the weather is nice, as it will definitely affect your views when the weather is not cooperating.
The Euromast is open from 9.30 am (summer) / 10 am (winter) to 10 pm. The entry is €10,25 for an adult when pre-booking online.
WESTERKADE AND THE ERASMUCH BRIDGE
After you have checked out the Euromast Tower and the adjacent park, wander towards the river Maas. This area of the city is called Westerkade. Most tourists do not normally come to this area of Rotterdam, although the location is pretty much in the heart of the city. It’s a great shame as the walk along this side of the river is really nice. It is filled with tree-lined avenues, old boats and eventually a small marina – it is all so pretty and relaxing!
It also offers some stunning views of the Erasmus Bridge. This bridge, lovingly nicknamed The Swan’, has become an icon of the city, so it is a must on your list of what to see in Rotterdam in one day.
The Erasmus Bridge links the Northern and Southern parts of the city. It’s an 800-metre long suspension bridge with a pylon that is 139 metres high and it’s secured by 40 cables.
If you have some time to spare while in Rotterdam, stop by the Erasmus statue. Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (1466-1536) is one of Rotterdam’s most famous sons. He was a Dutch philosopher and considered to be one of the greatest scholars his time. His books have been translated into many different languages and studied across the globe. But if he were still alive today, there would be no need for all this studying–he’d just send them an email!
So in honor of Erasmus’ contributions to philosophy as well as education systems all over the world, Rotterdam named its university after him!
KOP VAN ZUID AND WILHELMINAPIER
If you want to see more if this river view then I suggest checking out the Wilhelminapier as well. This pier is located on the other side of Westerkade. It is a small peninsula and is know to be the icon of modern Rotterdam! One skyscraper after another has been build here for many years, making it an impressive spot.
You will find many striking buildings at Wilhelminapier and it’s certainly worth a visit if you have time. One of the eye-catchers is the beautiful Hotel New York. This hotel used to be the headquarters of the Holland America Line, but now you can relax here at their outdoor terrace and enjoy the incredible views at the river Maas.
Another great piece of innovative architecture in the city of Rotterdam. This Markthal was built in 2014 to replace the original open-air market. Not only is it a piece of striking architecture, but it is also innovative! It combines the use of a market with some luxury apartments.
This horseshoe shape building acts as a cover for a large indoor market and it is also home to 200+ apartments. The ceiling is covered with the world largest artwork, making one of its nicknames The Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam. The artwork is truly spectatorial, so make sure to look up!
The indoor market offers lots of amazing food, including some Dutch must-tries. In total there are more than 100 food stalls, offer such things like Cheese, sweets and so much more.
Below I have listed some of the must-try food when in Rotterdam. Many of these can be found in the Market Hallen.
LOCAL DUTCH TREATS YOU SHOULD TRY
If you are in the Netherlands for the first time, then the one thing you HAVE to try is a Stroopwafel (See picture above) A stroopwafel is a waffle made from two thin layers of baked dough with a caramel syrup filling in the middle (YUM). Just a warning: Once you have one, you will always be wanting more! They are that good.
Secondly, Poffertjes are a must-try! Poffertjes are very small Dutch puffy pancakes about 5 cm (2 inches) wide that are mostly flat but are puffed up a little bit. They are made from white wheat flour, butter, milk, eggs, yeast and salt and then typically covered in soft sugar and butter… (my Aussie friends who have tried these say “they are the best”!)
Also incredibly delish are Kroketten. The common English translation of Kroket is croquette. A typical Dutch croquette is made of meat ragout (or salpicon) covered in breadcrumbs and deep-fried until golden and crispy. Amazing when they are just out of the frying pan.
A Pudding Broodje is a supreme dessert that will satisfy your sweet tooth. The vanilla cream pudding filling is sprinkled with powdered sugar and can be enjoyed by the slice or as a whole roll.
As a Dutch immigrant, I have always been drawn to the foods of my home country. One dish that is especially dear to me is the Dutch pancake. Much larger than your average American pancake, these pancakes come in sweet and savory varieties with nearly endless topping options like whipped cream and strawberries or diced ham and red peppers.
Dutch cheese is an old tradition that has stood the test of time for centuries. In fact, it’s one of my favorite parts about visiting Holland because there are so many different tastes to choose from! Our most famous types include Gouda Cheese or Edam, which taste delightful on just about anything. However, don’t be fooled into thinking these are all we have to offer in terms of deliciousness – I recommend trying some Boerenkaas as well!
CUBE HOUSES | KUBUSWONING
The Cube Houses (Dutch: Kubuswoningen) are a set of innovative houses designed by the famous architect Piet Blom. He designed 39 identical Cube Houses in the late 1970s. They are a unique and interesting structure and definitely worth checking out.
They are located within walking distance from the Market Hallen, making it the perfect next stop.
These houses were designed with a forest in mind. The idea is that the cubes resemble the top of a tree, the canopy, which are propped up on concrete poles which make up the tree trunks. When you look at the whole complex, you are supposed to see a forest. (A bit far fetched for me, but modern architecture is not my thing)
Inside this complex, you can find a tiny museum called ‘Kijk-Kubus’ (English: Watch Cube), so you can actually tour one of the houses to see what they look like on the inside. Space is a premium so there are several objects built into the walls and narrow staircases. If you go to the courtyard you will find shops filling the ground floor with the cube house residences upstairs. The Kijk-Kubus is open seven days a week from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Additionally, one of the Cube Houses is a hostel, so you could stay in one of them overnight if you are planning to stay in Rotterdam for a couple of nights.
DIERGAARDE BLIJDORP (ZOO)
Diergaarde Blijdorp is one of the oldest zoos in the Netherlands and is an absolutely amazing zoo to visit. There are lots of different animals to check out and they appear to be well looked after. The animals have large enclosures and all are kept in the environment close to their natural habitat.
The zoo is very large so make sure u have comfortable shoes to wear. In 5 hours I could only see 2/3 of it.
The underwater world at this zoo is one of the most stunning ones I have ever seen! If you don’t want to spend too much time at this zoo then I suggest you head over their first.
Probably the most famous soccer stadium in The Netherlands. If you are a soccer fanatic then checking out this stadium is a must. It is filled with great history and has a beautiful pitch.
You can visit the stadium by visiting a football match or book a stadium tour.
WHERE TO SHOP IN ROTTERDAM?
Rotterdam has many different places where you can spend some coin. Underneath are some of the best locations.
Van Oldenbarneveltstraat is one of those locations. Always wanted to shop in Paris? Well, now you can, sort of. On the van Oldenbarneveltstraat, you can find many exclusive fashion boutiques, luxurious shoe shops, and charming cafés. You’ll find lots of Danish, Swedish and French brands, but Rotterdam designers like Monique van Heist and Susan Bijl are also well represented. Everything in this street is the epitome of good taste.
Lijnbaan & Beurstraverse/Beursplein & Binnenwegplein are the vibrant commercial heart of the city and is bustling with activity seven days a week. On the Lijnbaan (the first pedestrian shopping area in Europe) and in the Beurstraverse – or ‘Koopgoot’ (‘Shopping Gutter’) as the locals call it – you can find all the leading retail chain stores in one place.
On either side of the Coolsingel, the best-known street in Rotterdam, you’ll find all kinds of shops. From large department stores to major fashion brands.
Plaza & Kruiskade are just a stone’s throw from Central Station. You’ll find the High-End Fashion District where international fashion brands and luxury stores are situated. Well-known designers such as Hugo Boss, Antony Morato, Tommy Hilfiger, and Michael Kors have opened their stores here.
Lastly, Nieuwe Binnenweg is one of the most acclaimed (shopping) streets of Rotterdam is the Nieuwe Binnenweg. A long string of small fashion and design shops, artisan bakeries, old-fashioned barbers, tasty delicatessens and fancy coffee bars leads you away from the city centre.
Day trips from Rotterdam
If you’re staying in (or near) Rotterdam for longer than one day, there are some great opportunities to go for fun day trips. Here are some of my all-time favourites:
KINDERDIJK (Historic Windmills)
There is a village in Holland that has iconic windmills. They are famous for being one of the only places to see such landmarks from a boat, and you can do it all from Rotterdam.
In 1740, the Dutch began to build windmills on the Alblasserwaard polder in order to create more land. These 19 beautiful structures have been a World Heritage Site since 1997 and are now shared with all of us who want to learn about Holland’s history and enjoy some gorgeous windmills.
It costs from € 17,50 for adults and children from € 12,50. This is probably better to do when you have a bit more time on your hands. If you are only one day in Rotterdam, then I would suggest missing out on this tour.
BASIC INFORMATION ON ROTTERDAM
|LANGUAGE||Dutch, though English is spoken pretty much city-wide|
|TIME ZONE||GMT/UTC +1|
|ELECTRICITY||Type C two-prong plug. Electrical power in the Netherlands and in most of Western Europe runs on a cycle of 50hz, and a voltage of 230 Volt, alternating current.|
|TIPPING||Like in most of Europe, tipping isn’t generally expected. However, it’s polite to leave extra change or round up.|
|NICKNAME||Manhattan on the Maas|
The Netherlands uses the Euro (€) as it is part of the EU. In pretty much all places will accept credit card. Some stalls at the markets do not though, so I do advise to carry some Euro’s with you just in case. There might also be a couple of smaller stores that do not have an EFTPOS machine.
As stated above, tipping is not expected, though it’s customary to round up your restaurant bill to the nearest euro. At more expensive restaurants, it’s normal to leave a 5-10% tip.
Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands. However, most people are at least conversational in English, especially in Amsterdam. If you are planning to venture out, then keep in mind that none-touristy areas, people’s English might not be fluent.
DUTCH PHRASES & USEFUL TRAVEL PHRASES
Underneath you can find some handy Dutch phrases as well as some handy travel phrases that might come in handy during your time in the country.
|Hello||Hallo / Hoi||Ha-low / Hoy|
|Good morning||Goede morgen||khoo-duh-mor-khen|
|Good afternoon||Goede avond||Khoo-duh-mid-dakh|
|How are you?||Hoe gaat het met je?||hoo khaat het met yuh|
|Good, thanks||Goed, dank je||Khoot, dank yuh|
|Thank you||Dank je||Dank yuh|
|I’m sorry||Het spijt me||Hey spayt meh|
|I do not understand||Ik begrijp het niet||ik be-graphy het neat|
|Do you speak English?||Spreek je Engels?||Sprayk yuh eng-els|
BEST TIME TO VISIT ROTTERDAM
In the Netherlands, you need to keep an eye on the weather report, as Mother Nature can be finicky in Holland. Even in summer, there is a possibility that you might need a jacket.
The best time to visit Rotterdam is in my opinion April to October. You have the best chance of pleasant weather during this time.
THE BEST WAY OF GETTING AROUND IN ROTTERDAM?
Rotterdam is a compact city and walking is often the best way to get around the city, but if you travel further, Rotterdam offers excellent public transport service. The metro in Rotterdam is the most efficient way to travel in Rotterdam because there’s a metro station nearby in most of the cases.
BEST PLACES TO EAT IN ROTTERDAM?
Underneath are a couple of amazing restaurants in Rotterdam. Recommended by my sister who lived in the city for many years.
One of her favourites is Bazar, a colourful Moroccan restaurant. You will not leave this place hungry. Advised is to book in advance, as they do fill up pretty quickly, especially on the weekends.
A great place to eat and sleep is Hotel New York Rotterdam. It is located in a stunning historic Holland Amerika Lijn building on the south bank of the Nieuwe Maas river.
BEST HOTELS IN ROTTERDAM
If one day in Rotterdam is not enough for you and you would like to book some accommodation, then I have some cool options listed for you below.
The SS Rotterdam is probably one of the coolest places you can stay in the city. It is a 4-star hotel in a former Holland-America line ship. It will not be the cheapest place to stay, but it is definitely a cool place with its art deco vibe.
Another cool place to stay is in the Cube houses. The perfect way to see the inside of one of the buildings as well as having a perfect and central location to stay at.
Lastly, STROOM Rotterdam is set inside a former electricity plant in picturesque Delfshaven. This pretty boutique hotel offers several accommodation options that are ideal for urban getaways.
Souvenirs to buy in Rotterdam
Underneath a couple of cool souvenir ideas on what to get in Rotterdam:
- Some Dutch Cheese from the Markethallen
- Dutch Sweet
- Custom Clogs
- Small windmill
GETTING TO ROTTERDAM
The optimal mode of transport between Amsterdam and Rotterdam is public transport. Depending on where you are staying in Amsterdam you can take a bus to Amsterdam central and then a Dutch Railways (NS) train to Rotterdam.
Find the latest bus schedule on the Dutch travel advice site 9292. From Amsterdam Central Station, there are direct trains to Rotterdam Central Station.
Of course, you can also drive from Amsterdam to Rotterdam. It will take you less than 1 hour, depending on traffic. Do keep in mind that Amsterdam and Rotterdam are the two largest cities in the Netherlands, and there will be a lot of traffic. If you are not a confident driver, then I suggest not riving in this area in the Netherlands.
The Intercity train (Direction: Rotterdam Centraal) takes 1 hour, 10 minutes to reach Rotterdam Central. For the latest train schedules and fare information, see the Dutch Railways (NS) website. I would say that if you are only travelling to Rotterdam for the day, public transport might be your best mode of transport. This way you don’t have to worry about finding parking, not paying crazy parking fees, and the roads between Amsterdam and Rotterdam and some of the busiest in the country. By taking public transport you will have the convenience of arriving in the city centre, which is near to most of the main attractions. The train service between the cities is very regular so that you don’t have to worry about getting back.
If you are planning to travel to the Netherlands then I hope you will also look into checking out Rotterdam. It is such a multi-cultural city, hope to many unique and beautiful buildings. That it is truly worth a day visit.
WHERE TO GO AFTER YOUR ONE DAY TRIP TO ROTTERDAM?
Because of cities great location, there are many other amazing cities that you can check out as well. Underneath are just a couple of cool options for you:
- Brussels, Belgium | Although it’s possible to do a day trip from Amsterdam to Brussels, you’ll want at least 48 hours in Brussels to see the highlights. This city is ridiculously stunning and a must-see in my opinion.
- London, UK | Spend 4 days in London exploring this stunning and imposing city.
- Paris, France | The city of lights is a bucket list city on many travellers! Home to the famous Eifel Tower, amazing food and incredible historic buildings. This city has to be seen! Here is a handy 1 day Paris Itinerary, so you know all the must-see highlights.
Additional Netherlands Resources
- 2 days in Amsterdam
- First-timers guide to Amsterdam
- The best day trips out of Amsterdam
- Giethoorn | A unique village in the Netherlands
- The ultimate travel guide to the Netherlands
Thank you for reading my guide on one day in Rotterdam. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment below.
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