Modern architecture, historical monuments and typical Dutch windmills, you find it all in the bustling city of Rotterdam! It is easy to enjoy yourself here for a couple of days in this city, but if you only have one day in Rotterdam, I will tell you where to go to make it an incredible day!
Nanet and I first met in Rotterdam and lived there together for 3 years before we started our trip around the world. Although we aren’t real city people, we absolutely enjoyed living here!
So, as real locals, we will tell you what to see and what to do when you have one day in Rotterdam. Everything from visiting the cube houses and the market hall, to also enjoying a view from the Euromast Tower or take a tour by boat!
How to get to Rotterdam
If you come from Amsterdam, you can simply take a train. The journey will only take 40 minutes! Rail tickets are fairly cheap and easy to purchase on the train stations.
When you arrive in Rotterdam directly from another country you have a couple of options! First of all, you can arrive by train in Rotterdam from neighboring countries, like Belgium and Germany, but train connections with the UK and France are also excellent! Check train tickets on Eurail.
You can also fly into Rotterdam, as the Hague International Airport is only 5 kilometers away from Rotterdam. If you fly in from outside Europe, the chance is high you’ll arrive at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, which is also not too far from Rotterdam with 47 km.
Getting around in the city
There is a really good public transport network in Rotterdam. The Metro, tram and bus are all safe and easy to use. The one-day Metro pass is good value for the money – especially as it can be used on the tram and bus too. The Metro pass is easy to use and is not activated until you make your first journey. The only thing to remember is to check-in and out each time you use it – we have seen many tourists get in a pickle with this!
For more information about traveling with public transport, check out our post “How to get around in the Netherlands“
Another great way to get around in Rotterdam is with the city boat. Other travel options include hopping on a water bus or water taxi. Neither are included in the one day pass, but are really worth doing as they speedily skim across the water and give you another view on the city!
Obviously, you can also do what all Dutchies do: Get around on a bike! You can rent a bike at most of the bike shops, which you see everywhere around, but the easiest way to go might be to rent a bike at the train station.
Things to do and see in Rotterdam
There is plenty to see and do in Rotterdam, but below I will discuss the highlights that you should be able to combine into one day! Don’t get disappointed if you miss one or another spot, as it will only give you another reason to come back another time! 🙂
Rotterdam central train station
When you arrive at Rotterdam Central train station, don’t forget to walk outside and check out the incredible architecture of this building before you start exploring the rest of the city.
In the Main Hall you’ll find a tourist office which is ideal for picking up maps and literature on all the main sights that you plan to see on your day trip to Rotterdam. The office also sells the Rotterdam Welcome Card which is a great purchase as it costs €8.00 and gives you 25% discount on 50 attractions including museums, cafés, bars and restaurants – plus unlimited travel for the day, so we definitely encourage you to buy one!
Take in the fascinating Cube Houses!
The Cube Houses (in Dutch: Kubuswoningen) are one of the city’s most famous sights. No wonder, as the houses are built in cubes, which have then been turned 45º. This seemingly impossible structure makes everyone wonder how people are able to live in there or, how do owners get the furniture to fit with so many strange angles.
To answer all your questions you can enter one of the cube houses which is open for the public from 11.00 am to 5.00 pm daily. Entrance costs €3 for adults and €1.50 for kids. Another one of the Cube Houses is turned into a hostel of Stayokay! Imagine sleeping in one of these incredible houses!
If you prefer to take the public transport, the nearest metro station is station Blaak, this is also a train station.
Enjoy great tastes at the Markthal of Rotterdam
Very close to the Cube Houses is De Markthal, the famous food market! This is an amazing place to visit if you love to try some good street food, or if you love architecture! This huge building has the market area on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floors.
Its striking architecture includes an amazing arched ceiling which is covered by a mural that is one of the largest paintings in the world. It is well worth stopping by to admire and to wonder how they managed to paint it! Downstairs in the underground car park, there is an archaeological exhibition of the artifacts found when building De Markthal.
The market itself is dazzling with more than 100 fresh food stands, delicatessens, restaurants, and a supermarket. The food stands are serving a myriad of tasty traditional Dutch dishes as well as many international food options. It is well worth remembering that the market stays open during the evening too.
Whilst you are enjoying your time in Rotterdam, the essential foods to try are some good Dutch cheeses, such as Old Amsterdam, Edammer and Goudse. These are all available at the cheese stand in De Markthal.
If you are more a sweet-tooth, you should try the stroopwafel! This is a local syrup waffle, which tastes delicious, especially with a cup of freshly made coffee. The Kroket is another typical Dutch snack and when it is the right season, try ‘haring happen’, which can be described as eating raw herring with raw onions. I know… I know… Duch people have weird habits!
Discover the history of Rotterdam
Very sadly, Rotterdam was badly damaged during the Second World War and only a few historic buildings remain. If you decide to explore Oudhaven – the Old Port – you will see the impressive Witte Huis (the White House). This building was built in the Art Nouveau style in 1898. With ten floors, the Witte Huis was Europe’s first skyscraper and surprisingly, not damaged during the Second World War.
Another great historical piece to see during a day trip in Rotterdam is the Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk. This is a medieval church with stunning architecture that was first constructed in 1449. You’ll find it close to the Markthal and it is the only piece of Gothic architecture that survived the war.
If you are interested in architecture, it is worth visiting Delfshaven as its buildings will give you an idea of what Rotterdam must have looked like in the pre-war years. Delfshaven is also interesting as it was originally part of Delft, but because it is actually closer in proximity to Rotterdam, it became part of that city.
Get a great view from the Euromast!
The Euromast Tower is a popular building on the city skyline as it is the tallest observation tower in the Netherlands. Standing 185 meters high, the tower has an observation deck that gives visitors a great 360º view of the city which includes the Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge) and the S.S. Rotterdam. The Euromast also has a good bistro, if you fancy lunch or dinner with a view, but be aware that you have to pay a high price for it!
The Euromast is open from 09:30 am to 10:00 pm during the summer and from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm during the winter months. Entrance costs €10.25 for adults and €6.75 for children (4-11 years). If you prefer to take public transportation, you can go to the metro station Coolhaven.
Admire colourful bridges & street art
If you fancy taking a stroll, one of the pedestrian bridges that is worth visiting is the Luchtsingel Bridge. It is only a short distance away from Rotterdam Central Station. This wooden bridge is 400 meters in length and was built as a cooperative project to link the northern part of the city with the other districts. The view of the walkway is beautiful with all yellow wooden planks
A nice fact about this incredible and colorful bridge is that local residents were able to buy a plank of yellow wood for €25 and these were used to build the bridge. Each plank is marked with the buyer’s name which is fascinating to read! The construction of the bridge definitely helped to rejuvenate the northern part of the city and there are good shops, restaurants and shopping malls on both sides of the bridge!
If you enjoy street art, you will see plenty in the Luchtsingel district in North Rotterdam. A walk along Witte de Withstraat – one of the main streets – will also reveal a number of colourful walls. The closest metro station to this street is Eendrachtsplein.
Street art is so popular in Rotterdam that there is an annual festival called Pow Wow that takes place each September. During this time of the year, all kinds of buildings are covered with multicolor paintings, which is incredible to see.
Stroll across the Willems bridge and Erasmus Bridge…
From Oudehaven you already have the Willems Bridge (in Dutch: Willembrug) in sight. Cross it by foot to enjoy a view on the river and walk via Noordereiland to the Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug). This is the iconic bridge of Rotterdam, also called ‘the Swan’.
The maritime district lies on one side of the Erasmus Bridge and Kop van Zuid, the redeveloped docklands area, on the other. This elegant suspension bridge is 800 metres in length, spanning the river Meuse (in Dutch: rivier de Maas). Its pylons soar 139 meters and are held in place by 40 steel cables. This is a good spot to pause for a photo and it’s a fun walk to cross the bridge.
Rotterdam’s Maritime Heritage
Rotterdam is one of the biggest harbors in Europe and they are proud of it! Every year around 62,000 huge sea ships with massive lengths enter the harbor to load and unload their freights. You can discover the maritime world in the Maritime Museum Rotterdam where you can learn more about the effect of shipping and go on a maritime adventure! An entrance ticket for adults costs €15 and for kids up to 15 years of age €10.
Another way to explore Rotterdam’s maritime life is by taking a boat tour. You have a couple of options. First of all, you can do a Rotterdam Harbour Tour, which will lead you through the harbour by boat. You can also do a river cruise, to get another view on the city. And last, but not least, if you like a little bit of adventure, take the sightseeing splash tour with an amphibious bus that drives through the city and cruises on the Maas River!
Visit the large cruise ship SS Rotterdam
The SS Rotterdam is moored close to the Erasmus Bridge, so keep your camera ready! This magnificent cruise ship was the largest ship ever built in Rotterdam Port and she was launched in 1959. No longer in service, the ship, which is nicknamed ‘the grand dame’ has been completely renovated and converted into an attractive floating hotel and museum. The ship also has an ‘Escape Room’ where the aim is to try and escape from cold storage to claim a prize.
Where to eat in Rotterdam
There are many cafes, eateries, coffee shops, pubs, and restaurants everywhere in the city. But there are a couple of locations we will highlight:
- Do you like a fun relaxed lunch or diner then the Food Hallen in Wilhelminakade could be perfect. Opened in 2018, the Food Hallen has a large communal area, surrounded by stalls selling all types of street food. It is lively and a great place for a speedy meal with friends.
- In the area of De Markthal? The market is open in the evenings too for tasty street food as dinner.
- If you are seeking a vegetarian or vegan option, why not opt for a stylish setting? Op Het Dak is a lovely rooftop café with a great atmosphere.
By now, the day will be coming to an end and if you can, try to get back to the Euromast Tower, or find another place in the city to watch the sun set behind the skyline.
Interactive walking map for one day in Rotterdam
Below you’ll find a route through Rotterdam which lets you pass all the highlights I discussed in this article. Easily give it a star to open it in your Google Maps app at any time and start walking when you arrive in the bustling city of Rotterdam!
We love to hear from you
Hopefully, this article gives you plenty of inspiration to have one incredible day in Rotterdam. We really love this city and we hope you do too! Let us know if you have plans to go, if you’ve been there or if you have a question by leaving a comment below.