Wondering if one day in Rotterdam is worth it on your Euro-trip or while in Amsterdam? With lots to see and do and easy access from major cities nearby, a day trip to Rotterdam is absolutely worth it, if only for the stroopwafel alone. Even if you only have 24 hours in Rotterdam, here’s what you can’t miss about the city, how to get there, what to be sure to eat and where to stay if you are going to stay overnight.
Everything mentioned can be done on your own, or if you prefer to book tickets in advance or book guides, there are links to do that too (for example, this tour will give you a view of the Dutch coast by plane)!
And if Rotterdam isn’t your only stop in the Netherlands, check out the one day in Amsterdam guide here.
To make things easy for you, everywhere mentioned in this post is ALREADY PINNED in the embedded Google Map below!
One day in Rotterdam – an overview of the city
Rotterdam is sometimes overlooked as a tourist destination, but it’s a city of historical and contemporary significance and has quite a bit to offer visitors. The second largest city in the Netherlands, Rotterdam is part of the Randstad, an important metropolitan region which includes the country’s four largest cities.
The Port of Rotterdam has been the largest seaport in Europe for over 50 years. Rotterdam’s center was bombed heavily during WWII, so much of the city had to be rebuilt. Therefore, it’s home to some of most modern architecture in the country. It looks and feels quite different from the more popular Dutch cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht. And even though we adore traditional Dutch aesthetics, there’s something appealing about Rotterdam and its outlier status.
Rotterdam is also a young and diverse city with about half of its residents being foreign-born. It just has a really cool vibe… there’s even a “Cool District”!
Getting to Rotterdam
Rotterdam is about an hour by train from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. The Netherlands has an extremely well-connected and easy to use public transportation system. You can use the same card on all trains, buses, trams, and metros throughout the country. If you’re planning to spend more than just one day in the Netherlands (which you clearly should!), it makes sense to purchase an OV Chipkaart vs single-use tickets. You can do so at Schiphol or any major train station. Rotterdam is also about an hour and a half from Brussels Airport.
What to do in Rotterdam in a day
Rotterdam is a great city to see in one day. We’re excited to give you recommendations for what to see and do and eat, but first, you should pick your mode of transport.
Rotterdam is easy to get around by foot, bike, tram or metro. Of course, biking is the preferred method of transportation in the Netherlands. While doing so in Amsterdam is not for the faint of heart, biking in Rotterdam is much easier for a newbie. All of the bike paths are well-paved and set back from traffic. Either along the Nieuwe Maas River, around the center, or in a park, we’ve found biking in Rotterdam to be a pleasant and not at all terrifying experience.
Now that you’ve chosen how you’re getting around, here are some must-sees for your day in Rotterdam. You can hit these all on your own using the map as a guide, or if you prefer a guide, this Rotterdam walking tour offers most of the sights below.
To make things easy for you, everywhere mentioned in this post is ALREADY PINNED in Google Map below!
Rotterdam Centraal and the Sculpture Walk
If you arrive into the main train station, Rotterdam Centraal, and want to start your day off with a nice walk (or cycle!), head down Westersingel. But first, turn around and actually look at the train station. It’s awesome! And its modern design will give you a good idea of what you’ll see in this city. You’ll soon hit a canal with cute bridges and outdoor sculptures.
Or, if you want to skip that, you can take the train directly to the Rotterdam Blaak station, where you’ll be closer to the next few sights.
We think the Markthal is the best food market in the world (and we’ve been to a lot of them). The building itself is something to see. It’s a massive arch-shaped structure with tons of windows (because people actually live there). Brightly colored murals cover the inner walls. There are many stalls selling all sorts of specialties from Holland and beyond. Best of all, most of them offer free samples.
The Cube Houses are honestly a bit weird, but we’re pretty sure you’ve never seen anything like them. Situated right across from the Markthal is this complex of bright yellow houses shaped like cubes. They are at all different angles and it looks as if people are living on the ceiling. It’s a great place for pictures as you may have seen on Instagram. If you’re really intrigued, you can take a tour or even spend the night in one (see below on how to save $40 on your booking with Airbnb).
The Cube Houses look out over Oude Haven, one of the small harbors in Rotterdam. It’s a very pretty place to visit. In addition to all the cute boats, you can see the famous, Art Nouveau-style Witte Huis (White House). Built in 1898, it was Europe’s first skyscraper and luckily survived the WWII blitz. Oude Haven is also a popular nightlife spot as its home to numerous bustling bars and restaurants.
The Erasmus Bridge is a large white bridge that looks kind of like a guitar. It crosses the Nieuwe Maas river. You can (and should) walk or bike over it to get great views of the city in both directions.
Hotel New York
Once across the bridge, if you head to the tip of the small peninsula you’re now on, you’ll reach the Hotel New York. This famous building was once the office of Holland America cruise line. It’s another really cool looking Art Nouveau building. And now, it’s set against a backdrop of huge modern skyscrapers, so it especially stands out. You can grab a beer at the cafe or just chill out in the lounge chairs on the lawn.
Parks in Rotterdam
If it’s a beautiful day and you’re craving some green space, there are two really lovely parks in Rotterdam. They’re both quite large, so we’d recommend visiting them by bike. Kralingse Bos is massive. There are many walking and bike paths through the forest or around the lake. There’s a beach, a swimming area, a couple windmills, and three (!) pancake restaurants. Het Park is closer to the center. It’s green and wooded with a few streams. You can also see or get a view of Rotterdam from the top of the Euromast observation tower.
What to eat in Rotterdam in a day
We recently wrote about ten things we love about the Netherlands and three of them are food! You can taste all of them in Rotterdam!
There are a bunch of great options listed here (and pinned to the map). If you prefer to have a guide take you through the food options, you can book a Rotterdam walking food tour.
We’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like these tasty caramel waffle cookies. You can get huge fresh ones hot off the griddle at specialty stands or a package of smaller cookies from any shop or supermarket.
In other parts of the world, Dutch cheese is synonymous with Gouda. We haven’t actually had cheese from Gouda here, but we have had a lot of delicious cheese. You buy it according to age. We prefer the oldest cheese (“oude kaas”) which will be sweet and rich and a bit crystallized. There are a few places to try cheese in the Markthal, but our favorite shop is De Kaashoeve. If you’re flying out, any shop should be able to vacuum pack it for you.
We’re not sure why these haven’t taken America by storm. They’re deep-fried balls of some sort of meaty roux. Okay, maybe the fact that we can’t usually identify what’s in them is why. They’re served piping hot (seriously, be careful!) with a side of mustard. You can get them at any Dutch restaurant or pub, but there’s a small spot that specializes in bitterballen and fries called Tante Nel. Bitterballen go especially well with Dutch beer.
More food options in Rotterdam
Since Rotterdam is so big and diverse, it has something for everyone. There are plenty of cafes, restaurants, and bars on Witte de Withstraat. It’s a cool street and an easy place to spend a night out. You can also find great Asian cuisine in Rotterdam. We recommend Pho Hanoi for reasonably priced, delicious Vietnamese food. If you’re craving sushi and a lot of it, Sumo is an all-you-can-eat spot in the Markthal. And we were recently impressed with the ramen at Hinouki: they import their noodles from Sapporo and their broths were authentic.
Beer in Rotterdam
We think Dutch beer is pretty fantastic! And Rotterdam has a great beer scene. Here are two places to try:
This bar/restaurant is located in a leafy square near Blaak. They have a great selection of Dutch beer in bottles and on tap. If the weather is nice, try to find a seat outside, although the whole terrace will likely be full. The food’s pretty good too, but it’s right across from the aforementioned Tante Nel!
De Kaapse Brouwers
Across from the Hotel New York is a small food market called Fenix Food Factory. The star attraction there is De Kaapse Brouwers, which we think is the best of Rotterdam’s local craft breweries. They have an enormous selection of beers on tap (which you can taste before you buy) and a top-notch bottle shop.
Where to stay in Rotterdam
The Citizen M is well-located and reasonably priced. It’s across from the Rotterdam Blaak station which provides access to the tram, metro, and regional trains. It looks out over Oude Haven and is just a few minutes to the Markthal and the Cube Houses. The rooms are (very) small, but it’s got great design and you get free movies! It’s perfect for one night.
King Kong Hostel
Other accommodation in Rotterdam
- AirBnb: Rotterdam has a ton of AirBnb options, from apartments to rooms in the Cube Houses! Save $40 on your first booking with this link.
- Booking: There are literally thousands of options on Booking; save $20 on your first booking with this link.
Rotterdam day tours
If you prefer to do any of the above with guides, or book in advance, here are some great options.
- Viator offers Rotterdam tours starting at about $15, and also have a range of options, including Cube House entrance.
- GetYourGuide lets you book anything in Amsterdam from canal tours and skip the line tickets to full day guided tour.
City Walking Tour of Rotterdam
Highlights & Hidden Gems Tour on Electric Steps
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