If you google the Netherlands then probably in the search results you will see images of cute Dutch houses and canals. Rotterdam is nothing like that. This city will blow your mind.
After the bombing during WW2, the heart of the city was almost destroyed. It had to be rebuilt. Instead of renovating everything, the Dutch decided to dare to try new styles of buildings that led to the city it is today.
(Updated for August 2020)
Full list of fun things to do in Rotterdam:
- Enjoy the astonishing architecture
- Have a Dutch snack & the best selfie
- Fly with a water taxi
- Cycle to the windmills
- See the biggest harbor in Europe
- Enjoy the life by the lake
- Be on top of Rotterdam
- Discover street art with an App
- Festivals, festivals, festivals!
- King’s Day
- Don’t walk, crawl
- Extraordinary cocktail experience
- Secret City Trails – great fun with friends!
- Float in a Hot Tug
- Sleep and eat on the boat
- Surf in the middle of the city
- Local goods in an old warehouse
- How many pancakes can you eat?
- Have a drink at a skyscraper
- Gin time!
- With the bus into the water
- Taste the local craft beer
- Hotel New York
- Adventurous breakfast
- Feel like climbing?
- Mini Rotterdam
- Sharks in Rotterdam
- Yoga in the theatre square
Rotterdam is not only a paradise for architecture students, a livable city for locals but also a vibrant destination for travelers. There are so many cool things to do that probably you will visit the city once again in the future.
Check out and enjoy this list of things to do in Rotterdam.
1. Enjoy the astonishing architecture
Have a walk through the Cube Houses – one of the most popular architectural masterpieces in the city. The architect Piet Blom with this project intended to create a feeling of an urban forest. See if you can get this sensation.
The Kijk-Kubus Museum-House is a fully decorated cube house where visitors can get a good impression of how one can live in such a slanted house with odd shapes. If you are planning on living in one of these cube houses, forget about buying your furniture at IKEA. Everything has to be especially design and custom-built.
The entry ticket for the museum costs 3 euros. You can get it online here or get them at the doors.
Note: The walk through the cube house forest is free of charge.
Address: Overblaak 73011 MH, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
2. Have a Dutch snack & the best selfie
Right next to the Cube Houses is another spectacular piece of architecture – De Markthal. It is an indoor market combined with luxury apartments. You can find here some typical Dutch snacks like raw herring, cheese, and stroopwafels.
It is also the best selfie spot in the town thanks to the massive artwork sprawling across the ceiling.
The several stalls in De Markthal offer not only local food but also delicacies from other countries. Most of the stalls also have a seating area so you can order your food and have it straight away.
If you’re planning to cook dinner for someone, go to De Markthal and get all the ingredients there. You can find anything – fresh fruits, meat, cheese, vegetables, Chinese noodles, and spices for any occasion.
If you are interested more in the architecture than food, you can book a tour with them and find out some shocking facts about this building. For the booking, you can go here.
De Markthal is open every day
Monday till Thursday & Saturday 10:00 – 20:00
Friday 10:00 – 21:00
Sunday 12:00 – 18:00
Address: Ds. Jan Scharpstraat 298, 3011 GZ ROTTERDAM
3. Fly with a water taxi!
The most fun way how to cross the river Maas in Rotterdam? Water taxi!
It works just like a regular taxi, just it’s on the water. It definitely will be a memory that won’t disappear. Those small, yellow boats are ridiculously fast. If you choose to sit outside, don’t put on a hat. Otherwise, you will leave it in the waters of Rotterdam.
This unique water transport network connects various locations in Rotterdam and can bring you from one spot to another in only a few seconds. Find out more here.
Note: Tickets start at 4.50 euros.
Address: Watertaxi Rotterdam BV, Koninginnenhoofd 7, 3072 AD Rotterdam
4. Cycle to the windmills
If the weather is good and you want to have a small break from the city, rent a bike and go to see some windmills at Kinderdijk. This complex of windmills has UNESCO World Heritage status since 1997. It’s located only 14 km away from the city.
There is also a museum where you can find out more about windmills and their history. Tickets start at 9 euros.
If you don’t have enough energy to cycle back – take a waterbus! You can also bring your bike on the boat with no extra charge. Thanks to the winding river, you have the chance to enjoy the changing skyline of Rotterdam when returning to the city.
Address: Nederwaard 1b, 2961 AS Kinderdijk, The Netherlands
5. See the biggest harbor in Europe
Rotterdam has one of the biggest ports in the world. It stretches over a distance of 40 km. You can rent a bike, cycle along with it and have a peak or book a boat tour and see way more.
The boat will take you through the port and during this journey, you will have the chance to see harbor shipyards, docs, and thousands of containers.
The audio guide will reveal you also some surprising facts. Keep your eyes and ears open while enjoying the journey.
Note: Tickets start from 14 euros.
Address: Royal Spido B.V., Willemsplein 85, 3016 DR Rotterdam
6. Enjoy the life by the lake
Feel like doing something active and adventurous? Only a few minutes away from the center is a spacious park called Kralingse Bos. The park is perfect for jogging, cycling, skating, or having a peaceful walk.
In the midst of the park, you will find a lake that is ideal for water activities like supping, kayaking, or canoeing. If you’re looking for something more adventurous, try the climbing forest at the park.
If you get hungry after all the activities in the fresh air, don’t worry – there are a few cafes around the lake where you can grab some food or a refreshing drink.
See some of the activities and their pricing here.
Address: Langepad 71, 3062 CJ, Rotterdam
7. Be on top of Rotterdam
If you are curious about how the city looks like from the height of 185 meters, you must go to the Euromast Tower.
Originally it was built to mark the occasion of the very first flower and garden exhibition in 1960 but now it’s one of the most popular attractions not only among tourists but also locals.
The tower doesn’t only serve as a watchtower, there is also a hotel, restaurant, and activities for adrenaline rush lovers.
The hotel rooms are located at a hundred meters above the ground which means waking up with your head in the clouds. The price per night for 2 persons is 395 euros excl. the city tax 6.5%. If you have something remarkable to celebrate, might be worth spending a bit more on your accommodation.
To the Euromast restaurant you can head for any meal, ether it’s brunch, lunch, dinner or cocktails. They will take good care of you no matter what you crave.
If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, try the zip line or abseiling over there. The zip line is spectacular and very fast. You go down on your own and you float from 100 meters to the ground within approximately 15 seconds. Experience is not needed, just the guts.
The price is 57.50 euros per person including the ticket to Euromast. The zipline is available from May till September every last Sunday of the month. Reserve your tickets here.
Abseiling is available every weekend from May till September. The descent takes about 15 minutes per person, two people descend at the same time, there is 1 instructor in the middle for guidance. The price is 57.50 euros per person including the ticket to Euromast.
If you are not in the city between May and September, you can visit the Euromast and enjoy the panoramic view from it.
Address: Parkhaven 20, 3016 GM Rotterdam, The Netherlands
8. Discover street art with an App
Get lost in the streets of Rotterdam and discover impressive street art. Many of the art pieces are made by various local artists. The city encourages artists to participate in various projects all over the city.
You can wander around yourself or simply download the Rewriters app. It is an app that works almost like your personal guide. The route will take you through the city and you will see countless artworks. The app provides background information per artwork in text and audio versions.
Download the map and use it easily with no WiFi. Remember to have your GPS on and go explore!
Note: You can get the app for a small fee.
9. Festivals, Festivals, Festivals!
When you say on holiday, I say the festival!
Once Rotterdam was nominated the world’s best festival city. For a reason. And because of that, this is one of the best fun things to do in Rotterdam. Festivals happen in Rotterdam all year round! Probably more in summer than winter but still.
For big movie fans, January is the best time when to come for a visit because of the International Film Festival that is recognized worldwide – IFFR. The festival’s focus is on recent work by talented new filmmakers but there is always a space for retrospectives and themed programs.
In the summertime, festivals take place not only in the parks but also in locations like warehouses, rooftops, or abandoned buildings. For example, the Rotterdam Rooftop Festival (Rotterdamse Dakendagen) gives the opportunity to visit various rooftops in Rotterdam that normally would not be possible. Fun guaranteed!
One of the most popular summer festivals is the North Sea Jazz Festival that every year brings together thousands of people and many amazing artists. During this festival, Rotterdam gets really crowded.
Many of the festivals are free of charge. Check here what’s on the menu when you’re in the city and don’t forget to bring your dancing shoes!
10. King’s Day
You are lucky if you are visiting Rotterdam (and the Netherlands in general) at the end of April. This is when you will see 90% of the population dressed up in orange.
King’s day probably is the best party in the Netherlands. On the 27th of April, the Dutch celebrate the birthday of their King Willem Alexander. During the day there are many festivities like music events, flea markets, and street parties. On the night before is Kings Night that is celebrated with music shows in various cities.
This is something that you can experience only in the Netherlands. Dress up orange, mingle around locals, and have the best time ever.
11. Don’t walk, crawl.
When it’s almost weekend but not yet, join the Rotterdam Bar Crawl that is happening every Thursday.
This is a great way how to meet other travelers and locals. Share a few drinks, explore the nightlife of Rotterdam, get discounts on snacks, and never regret anything!
The guides will bring you to various local places so it’s also almost like a walking tour.
Note: The price is 15 euros. Sign up before you go as the spots are limited.
12. Extraordinary cocktail experience
Big fan of cocktails? Then you should go to see a Doctor.
Dr. Rotterdam is a cocktail bar that offers you a whole new experience – starting from making “an appointment”, finding the location and finishing with healing your “disease”.
It’s the perfect spot where to have an intimate evening with your loved one or a group of friends. I won’t tell you more because the less you know, the better experience you will have.
13. Secret City Trails – great fun with friends!
Explore the city in a new way. How? By playing a game!
Secret City Trails is a self-guided city discovery game that can be accessed on your phone through an app. In this game, you solve a trail of riddles and unlock the city’s authentic stories. Best hidden and local spots guaranteed!
Adventures are created by locals that love to share their knowledge.
Note: The price is 29 euros per team.
14. Float in a Hot Tug
Do you like hot tubs? But what about floating in a hot tug around Rotterdam?
HotTug is the world’s first wood-fired hot tub that you can sail and bath in at the same time. It is a unique experience to have in Rotterdam. You will definitely get some attention from people while floating in the HutTug around Rotterdam and enjoying the drinks with your friends or family.
15. Sleep and eat on the boat
As you may have heard, Rotterdam has the largest port in Europe. So it comes to no surprise that many of the venues and attractions are located on boats or ships.
The SS Rotterdam is a passenger ship that was built in 1959 and sailed for the Holland – America Line (HAL). The ship has been moored in Rotterdam since 4 August 2008 and hasn’t been moved ever since. Nowadays, the ship serves as a hotel, restaurant, and a unique venue for various events.
The SS Rotterdam is considered to be one of the best hotels in Rotterdam where you can experience a unique setting. Where the cabins of ss Rotterdam used to be, now you can find 254 4-star hotel rooms.
If you don’t feel like spending a night on a ship, you can also go there for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. In their restaurant menu, you will find something for everyone’s taste. It’s a perfect spot where to enjoy a casual atmosphere and a magnificent view of Rotterdam’s skyline.
Note: It might be a smart idea to make a reservation beforehand. You can also simply just pop over to admire the ship and have a cup of coffee on the deck. There are no entrance fees for that.
16. Surf in the middle of the city
Why not try the Dutch stroopwafels from the market and then go for a surf nearby?
Rif010 is a unique and spectacular water attraction that at the moment is in the construction phase but is planned to be open for the first surfers in 2020. Here you can go rafting, surfing, canoeing, swimming and even scuba diving on an artificial wave at a canal in the very city center.
The Rif010 are 5 feet high at intervals of 7.5 seconds, created by a special installation. It all sounds too good to be true at the moment. Come to explore the city around their opening times and go for a surf in Rotterdam.
17. Local goods in an old warehouse
Fenix Food Factory in the last few years has become the top place to be – among tourists and also locals. First of all, because of the food and beverage, you can get there. Second of all, thanks to the location.
In this old warehouse, you can find many local entrepreneurs selling their products – cheese, meet, stroopwafels, beer, fries, bread, and pizzas. It is a perfect place where to come and grab some food or drinks with your friends and family. The local beer brewery Kaapse Brouwers will make your head spin. Not necessarily because of the amount of beer you might have but mainly of their offered selection of beer.
Too many good choices!
Definitely bring your camera with you as this spot has breathtaking sunsets. Have a seat outside by the water, enjoy the water taxis rushing you by and the city turned from a day mode into a night mode.
Either you come back to the center with a water taxi or have a walk across the famous Erasmus bridge, in the evening you will be amazed by how beautiful the city gets when the sun goes down. Most of the things are lit up – the bridge, the skyscrapers, the boats. Breathe in, breathe out, and enjoy this beautiful moment.
For your notice, the Fenix Food Factory will close down in December 2019 as there is a plan to built a museum. See if you can still make it this year. Definitely worth it.
Address: Fenix Food Factory, Veerlaan 19D, 3072AN Rotterdam
18. How many pancakes can you eat in 75 minutes?
Your dream just came true!
Yes, it is possible to sail on the boat and eat an unlimited amount of pancakes. De Pannenkoekenboot offers many different cruises on the Maas river in the middle of Rotterdam.
The most popular one is the 75-minute cruise. See Rotterdam from the water and have unlimited access to a pancake buffet. Have freshly baked pancakes with various flavors like apple, bacon, and natural. You can also choose from all sorts of dishes to garnish your pancakes like cheese, ham, fruits, jams, and eggs.
If you are going on the pancake cruise with your kids, don’t worry they won’t get bored. There is a big playroom available filled with balls. As well they have coloring pictures and color pencils.
19. Have a drink at a skyscraper
One of the tallest skyscrapers in the city is De Rotterdam. It was finished in 2013. Now it figures in many pictures of the city as it proudly stands behind the famous Erasmus bridge.
De Rotterdam is designed for residency, leisure, and labor. In one of the three towers, you can find the Nhow Rotterdam Hotel. It is definitely a great place where to sleep if you are looking for a magnificent view.
Apart from 278 rooms they also have a great BAR. In 2014 it was voted Best hotel Bar of Rotterdam. It has a good ambiance where to go and enjoy a drink or two with your friends while admiring the view over the skyline.
This is the perfect spot for cocktail lovers. The bartenders love to be challenged to surprise you with the best cocktails. On the weekends you will also find DJ’s playing here. A good spot to visit when in Rotterdam!
20. Gin time!
Did you know that gin evolved from the Netherlands?
Gin and tonic here is a good drink for any occasion. Don’t feel surprised if some of the locals encourage you to try Jenever. It is the national and traditional liquor of the Netherlands and Belgium, from which gin evolved. Dutch is really proud of their gin.
Located a bit out of the center of Rotterdam, the history Nolet distillery goes back more than 325 years. This is the perfect place where to go and find out more about the history of Dutch gin and also the distillation processes.
Note: The visit is free of charge, just be sure to sign up through their website.
Address: Hoofdstraat 14, 3114 GG Schiedam, The Netherlands
21. With the bus into the water
Have you ever been on the bus that suddenly drives into the water on purpose? No?! You must book the Splash tour bus.
Splashtours is a city tour of Rotterdam in a unique amphibian bus. The bus will take you to the most exceptional and beautiful places in Rotterdam that will follow by a “splash” – a dive into the Maas river. The Tour lasts around 60 minutes.
Note: There are guides on the bus that will tell you all about the city.
23. Taste the local craft beer
Kaapse Brouwers is a brewery in Rotterdam. They say that they introduced the craft beer to Rotterdam, and Rotterdam to the world. Their brewpub is located in one of the coolest spots in town – the Fenix Food Factory.
If you are interested in testing various beers and finding out more about them, book one of the tastings they offer.
This is a perfect activity for a group of 5 or more people. You can choose from various tasting options and make your reservation through their website.
Note: I have to warn you – those beers are dangerously good!
Address: Mauritsweg 52, 3012 JW Rotterdam, Netherlands
23. Hotel New York
Hotel New York is one of the rare buildings around the city center that has remained after the WW2 bombing. It is situated in the former office of the Holland America Line. From here, thousands of emigrants left to North America hoping for a better future.
Nowadays, you can go there to sleep, eat, drink, and celebrate. Also, sunbathe in the summer. This also is a great spot if you are a cocktail lover.
NY Basement restaurant & cocktail bar offers exciting cocktails in an atmosphere of a pre-war Manhattan. Hip and historic interior at the same time.
24. Adventurous breakfast
How many times in your life did you get a chance to have breakfast on a rooftop?
If not that many, then treat yourself and head to Op Het Dak. It is a unique restaurant and a coffee bar located right next to the central station of Rotterdam. It is also the first Hollands rooftop farm and urban garden. This garden grows organic vegetables, herbs, edible flowers, and is home to a bee farm.
Note: They are open every Tuesday till Sunday from 9:00 till 17:00.
Address: Schiekade 189, 3013 BR Rotterdam
25. Feel like climbing?
This is definitely another fun thing to do in the city plus it will keep you in shape. Monk Bouldering Hall is located in a former envelope factory in the North of the city.
If you have never done bouldering before, no worries. They have specific times when beginners can go there and a trainer will explain all the tips and tricks about bouldering.
Note: The price for a one time visit is 11 euros. You can either bring your own climbing shoes or rent them at the spot for 4 euros.
Address: Ceintuurbaan 183, 3051 KC Rotterdam
26. Mini Rotterdam
Spend a nice afternoon with the whole family at Mini Rotterdam. Mini World Rotterdam is a miniature world of 535 m2 where almost the half depicts Rotterdam and the rest – Dutch landscapes.
Here the day consists of 24 minutes. You have the chance to see Mini World Rotterdam in daylight and in the night light as well. Just in one visit!
You will find here all the famous architectural pieces of the city such as Erasmus bridge, Hotel New York, the new Central Station, and many others. Visitors also have the chance to see how the details are made in open workshops.
If you want to feel like a giant, go see Mini World Rotterdam. Also, a cool activity if it’s raining outside.
Address: Weena 745, 3013 AL Rotterdam
27. Sharks in Rotterdam
Rotterdam has one of the most beautiful zoos in Europe – Diergaarde Blijdorp. You can easily spend a whole day here. The zoo is divided into several geographic regions and it boasts well over 180 species.
One of the most popular zoos regions is the Oceanium. Here you can experience life in the sea. Meet many marine inhabitants, including sharks.
Note: A regular adult ticket costs 24.50 euros.
Child tickets (3 – 12 years old) costs 20 euros.
Tip: If you get your tickets online, you might save a few euros.
Address: Blijdorplaan 8, 3041 JG Rotterdam
28. Yoga in the theatre square
Start your Sunday morning with an open-air yoga. In the very city center of Rotterdam every Sunday from May till September everyone is welcome to join various yoga classes – from the classical Hatha to power yoga and from yin yoga to yoga flow.
The yoga lessons are free of charge. Bring your own mat or rent there one for 3 euros. The classes are mainly taught in English. In case of rain, the class is canceled.
Rotterdam at Night: Areas to party
It is quite common for cities that a big part of its nightlife is located in the very heart of the city – the Old town. Rotterdam doesn’t have one.
The areas were to go out are spread throughout the city:
1. Witte de Withstraat
This street is always really lively and bustling. Full with cafes, bars, and art galleries it is often the choice number among locals as well as tourists. In the evening many of the bars have their own DJs playing some great tunes.
- De Zondebok & Zwarte Schaap has a great selection of beers and a big terrace. If the sun is shining, you might get a tan while enjoying your drink. In the evening you better put on your dancing shoes!
- De Witte Aap is another great bar where to go if you are looking for some dancing. Also great for afternoon drinks. Once this bar was nominated as the best bar in the world by Lonely Planet.
- NRC is another place where to be on this street. Located in the former office of the national newspaper, it is a great place for any time of the day. On the weekends the DJs will make the crowd go wild.
- Cafe de Schouw is the perfect place if you are looking for something different. Get a drink and socialize with the locals in a very laid back atmosphere.
2. Close to the Central Station
This is a good area where to head after having a drink on Witte de Withstraat. Here hides the local club scene.
- Annabel – one of the largest music venues in Rotterdam. Go there for a party, a concert or a festival!
- Perron is one of the most loved clubs among locals.
- Toffler is a club situated in an old underpass below a street and is the place to go to enjoy electronic music.
- Biergarten as you probably guess is a beer garden. It has everything you need before you go clubbing – yummy food, cold beer, and a good atmosphere.
3. Nieuwe Binnenweg
This is another great street in Rotterdam. Full with bars/ cafes at the beginning and some vintage stores, in the end, it can entertain one for the whole day!
- Cafe Stalles – great pizzas, great music selection, great whiskey and beer, great pool table. Just a great place to be.
- Rotown is not only a bar where to grab a drink but also music and a party venue. Check what’s on their agenda on their webpage.
- BAR 3 is located just next to the Rotown. They have a foosball table and DJs playing on the weekends.
4. Across the river
- Maassilo is an impressive music venue and a party location located in an old factory. It’s the place where to go for a night out till the sunrise. All sorts of various dance and music events take place here.
5. Around the shopping streets
- Paddy Murphy’s is an Irish bar with daily live music (free entrance on weekdays) and cozy atmosphere. They also show sports games and play bingo on Monday evenings (soooooo much fun!).
- THOMS is a restaurant and an underground bar. Head there if you’re looking for a casual drink or some dancing on the weekend.
Other fun things to do in Rotterdam at night
The nights are not only for party. Well, at least, when you get older… So here you have some other ideas for tings to do in Rotterdam at night that does not include alcoholic drinks:
What to do on a Wednesday night? Go skating!
The Johnny Doodle Wednesday Night Skate is a fun happening that gathers together thousands of passionate skaters. Anyone can participate and there is no fee.
Put your skates on and join on a 12.5 km long route along with Rotterdam with some lights and music!
Watch a movie in the park
Every summer in Rotterdam the Museumpark turns into an outdoor cinema – Pleinbioscoop.
Bring your own chair or rent one for 1 euro. Find out what movies will be shown on their website.
Where to stay in Rotterdam?
Rotterdam is a top destination for architecture lovers, backpackers and swanky couples. We did our research and found the best hostels in the city to stay at:
- Ani&Haakien – great for solo travellers (5 Star Hostel!)
- King Kong Hostel – top tick for backpackers
- Hostel Room – best for female solo travellers
Read 3 best hostels in Rotterdam to get all the full details for each accommodation.
We recommend using Booking.com or Hostelworld for your reservations.
Hostelworld is the most popular website when it comes to hostel bookings.
Read: step-by-step guide on how to book with Hostelworld
On both platforms your credit card is 100% protected and the booking 100% confirmed.
Summary fun things to do in Rotterdam
As you can see, Rotterdam has many things to offer. You are packing your backpack? I knew it!
Here you have the map with all the mentioned places marked, best hostels included!
This way, it will be easier to move around the city to discover all the fun things Rotterdam has for you.
You wanna more info about the Netherlands? Here you have some useful articles:
- 3 best hostels in Rotterdam
- Ani&Haakien, the 5 Star hostel in the city
- Fun things to do in Amsterdam
- 3 best hostels in Amsterdam
- 2 spies in Rotterdam? A fun hostel story
Also, if you are traveling around Europe, you can check:
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Hostel Packing List
It is time to see what you should pack in your backpack or suitcase. Make sure you always pick a quality hostel, it totally reduces the things you need to pack. Here is our ultimate hostel packing list. It features 23 items you should really throw in your backpack.The most important things to pack are:
- eye mask
- key chain flashlight
- the right backpack, the Nomatic (our review of Nomatic here) or Lowe Alpine Lightflite 45 Pack
- packing cubes
- generic padlock (fitting all locker types)
- quick-dry travel towel
- universal power adapter
- travel-sized toiletries