City breaks in Rotterdam

Rotterdam is a truly modern, culturally diverse city, with around 186 different nationalities making up its population. As Europe’s largest port and the second biggest city in the Netherlands after Amsterdam, Rotterdam is an energetic and fast moving city that prides itself on the ability of its population to embrace change.

Though the city dates back to 1270, it was practically obliterated in World War II and, today, the skyline has more in common with New York than with a traditional Dutch city. Soaring skyscrapers and award-winning modern architecture sit, side by side, with the quaint traditional Dutch houses that remain of the original city.

This vibrant university town, with its buzzing nightlife and great shopping, is just under four hours from London by train, so perfect for a holiday or city break with friends.

Whether you’re a hard-core clubber, a jazz-lover, a shopaholic or an architecture buff, there’s plenty to do and see in Rotterdam.

 

 

Top 5 things to do and see in Rotterdam

    • De Markthal

      This monumental modern building houses Rotterdam’s most spectacular food market. You’ll find everything here, cheese, cake, Genever gin, meat, fish – stall after stall of deliciousness. And, if looking at all that food makes you hungry, there are restaurants where you can sit and eat as you watch the frenzy of consumerism going on around you.

    • Euromast tower

      For fabulous 360 degree views across Rotterdam, head to the top of the Euromast tower. The first level is the main viewing platform with a restaurant where you can sit and admire the views over breakfast, lunch or dinner, or even stay the night in one of the two luxury hotel suites.

    • Rotterdam Zoo

      If you’re a sucker for baby animals, this is the time to visit Rotterdam zoo to see the baby rhino, born on Valentine’s day 2017. You can visit her in the nursery, and even keep up with what she’s up to after you’ve gone home, via the zoo webcam.

    • Kunsthal

      There is no shortage of museums and galleries to visit in Rotterdam, in fact there’s an entire district called Museumkwartier, so you can even try pack them all into one day.

      The Kunsthal is worth a visit for the building alone, designed by Rem Koolhaas in the late 1980s, it’s an iconic example of modern Dutch architecture. At first view it is a very simple, apparently transparent, square box but, as you explore the space, the complexity of the design becomes more obvious.

    • Delfshaven

      Most of the old city of Rotterdam was destroyed during the war, the little that’s left is around the old harbour of Delftshaven. Full of quirky old buildings, houseboats, windmills and all things Dutch, Delftshaven is an oasis of calm in the high octane, ultra-modernity of Rotterdam.

Eat like a local

The Dutch like their food deep fried and they like it to go, making street food popular and easily available. It’s warming, cheap and filling, in other words – perfect food to line your stomach before a night on the town!

 

Local dishes to try in Rotterdam

 

  • KROKETTEN – these are deep fried croquettes filled with meat, vegetables and spices, all coated in rich meat gravy. Crispy on the outside, soft and tasty on the inside, served with mustard on the side, you can find these pretty much everywhere, even in vending machines.

 

  • STROOPWAFEL – these delicious biscuits are basically a sandwich made from thin layers of waffle with a layer of thick caramel syrup as the filling. They are delicious with coffee, and even better if you sit one on top of your coffee cup for a minute so the heat softens the caramel and it becomes warm, gooey and chewy.

 

  • KAPSALON – This dish originated in Rotterdam, so you’ll find it pretty much everywhere. Chips are layered with kebab meat, then covered in grated Gouda and grilled until the cheese melts. Don’t worry, it’s not a completely vitamin-free zone, the dish is served topped with lettuce, cucumber and tomato and dressed with garlic sauce.

    Top tip: Jaffa, on Witte de Withkwartier, is a popular place to eat Kapsalon, especially during a night out.

 

  • PATATJE OORLOG – More chip-based goodness for hungry pedestrians. This is the street food in Rotterdam and takes chips and mayo to a whole new level. The name translates as ‘war chips’, possibly in reference to the battle between your appetite and your waistline. Paper cones or trays of golden chips are served slathered in mayo, raw onions and spicy satay sauce. It won’t do much for your breath, but it’s naughty and delicious.

    Top Tip: Try the Patatje oorlog from Bram Ladage outlets, there’s one on Binnenwegplein, handy for the hungry shopper.

 

  • OLIEBOLLEN – These deep fried doughballs are traditionally found around New Year, though some places serve them all year round. They come either plain or in dried fruit or apple versions, and are sometimes filled with cream or jam like a doughnut.

    Top tip: If you’re in Rotterdam between November and early January, try Oliebollen from Richard Visser's stand on the corner of Heemraadssingel and the Vierambachtsstraat. These are regularly voted the best in the Netherlands.

 

  • DUDOK'S APPLE PIE – This café-brasserie is famous for its apple pie, the restaurant is good, but most people go there specifically for the pie. Afternoon coffee and apple pie at Dudok is practically an institution in Rotterdam, and the place is buzzy and popular with locals.

Rotterdam nightlife

    • Witte de Withkwartier

      Witte de Withkwartier should be visited at night when it really comes alive. During the day you can browse the numerous art galleries or visit the Maritime Museum but, if you want to get a taste of Rotterdam nightlife, head here after dark.

    • Stadhuisplein

      The area around the town hall is where you’ll find the more upmarket bars and restaurants in Rotterdam. This is close to the main shopping area so is busy during the day as well as at night.

      In the evenings the restaurants on the main square attract a well-dressed clientele so, if you’re going out in this area, put on your glad rags.

    • Oude Haven

      Bars and clubs around the old harbour are popular with students, especially in summer, when the terraces along the waterfront are heaving.

      One of the main venues around here is Café Plan C, which recently reopened after five years. This is a great budget place to eat during the day, but in the evening it transforms into a club, with DJs or live music most weekends.

    • Meent

      Meent is a slightly alternative place to shop during the day, with smaller more exclusive boutiques rather than high-street chains.

      In the evening this area is increasingly becoming a place to go out for a slightly older crowd. So, if your hard-core clubbing days are in the past, this could the place for you.

    • Hofplein

      The Hofplein is home to Bird, one of the best known jazz clubs in Rotterdam. This restaurant and club is under the arches of the old Hofbogen railway bridge, and has a wide programme of jazz and related music. The area around the Hofbogen viaduct is being regenerated and there are quite a few bars and restaurants popping up under the arches.

Shopping in Rotterdam

Local designers

Rotterdam has no shortage of shopping areas to visit where you’ll find all the usual high street brands. However, if you’re looking for something a bit different that you can’t easily find at home, head to van Oldenbarneveltstraat.

Hutspot Rotterdam is a concept store that stocks local designers as well as international brands. Try SHPPR for fashion and accessories by young Dutch designers, and Susan Bijl for bags.

High street brands

Rotterdam’s main shopping area covers Lijnbaan, Beurstraverse and Binnenwegplein and is where you’ll find all the familiar high street shops, as well as a few Dutch ones. If you don’t know the Dutch chain, HEMA, it’s great for inexpensive gadgets and food that make perfect presents. The Sting is another local chain for fashion at reasonable prices.

While you’re in the area, pop into De Bijenkorf, the Netherlands' top department store. It’s just a few streets away, on Coolsingel. The building is a modernist masterpiece, designed by Marcel Breuer.

Splashing the cash

For high-end designers stores, Kruiskade and the Central Plaza mall are where you’ll find all the big International names. There’s a casino in the same complex, should you get bored of shopping and your money is burning a hole in your pocket.

Hipster hangouts

Nieuwe Binnenweg links the central shopping district with hipper, historic Delfshaven. The street is full of small artisan food shops, trendy coffee bars and old-style barber shops and record stores. Try Buiten for a healthy organic lunch, Ruby Lee for vintage clothes and, ultra-hip concept store, Plek for things you never knew you needed. You can also pick up a new pair of Birkenstocks if your old ones have seen better days, there’s a whole store of them here.

Street markets

These are very popular in Rotterdam and there is usually at least one going on somewhere in the city on every day of the week. The biggest market, with around 400 stands, is in the centre near Blaak metro station and the Markthal. You’ll find food, drink, clothes, flowers, plants and lots more.

For art and lifestyle goods, the Swan Market is worth a visit. It takes place several weekends a year in different locations. It’s a bit of an event, with music and food and drink as well as stands selling jewellery, crafts and fashion.


Getting around

Rotterdam has a great public transport system, The RET. You can choose from bus, tram, metro and waterbus and a selection of travel cards that cover travel on all of them.

For budget sightseeing, take a trip on Historic Tram line 10, it will take you past many of the city’s main attractions and you can get off and on wherever you like. The tram is available in July and August and costs around €7.

This being Holland, it’s no surprise that the city is very bike-friendly with a large network of bike paths. You can rent bikes for around €6.50 a day from various places around the city or take a guided bike tour.

If you fancy venturing further afield to the Hook of Holland or inland to Dordrecht, you could consider a water taxi for something a bit different. You’ll need to check prices as these are dependent on distance and number of people travelling.



What's on in Rotterdam

January - February

International film festival

March

Museum night – all the museums stay open late so you can do a museum crawl

April

Rotterdam marathon; Kingsday - annual celebration of the monarchy that takes place across the Netherlands with different local events taking place throughout April

May

Bevrijdingsfestival - Independence day celebration with a festival in the Euromastpark

June

Hidden garden weekend - more than 90 private gardens open to the public for two days only

Architecture day - some iconic buildings are free to visit

July

North Sea Jazz Festival – this is massive and attracts thousands of people from all over the world

Rotterdam Unlimited – Street parade and celebration of cultural diversity

September

World Port Days – event in and around the port, finishing with a spectacular fireworks display

World of Witte de With - street art festival with live music and late-night gallery openings

October

International Comedy Festival Rotterdam

Festival Jazz International Rotterdam

November

Buma Rotterdam Beats Festival – hiphop/urban music festival that takes place in multiple venues across the city