by Janis / 12 comments - Orginally published:22nd March 2019

A perfect blend of the past and the contemporary

So, you’re considering heading to Rotterdam? Well, I think you’re making a fantastic decision. I feel Rotterdam is so often overlooked with a preference for Amsterdam, and I say that because we did that exact thing.

Don’t get me wrong; I loved our time in Amsterdam.

However, if you’re looking for a similar Dutch experience that’s slightly calmer, has plenty of charm, and perhaps not so many canals, then Rotterdam is for you.

We headed to Rotterdam for the Traverse18 conference and decided it was a perfect opportunity to explore the city in more depth, so we decided to add a couple of days to the trip.

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Erasmus in front of Laurenkerk , explore rotterham, hidden gems in rotterham, places to see in netherlands, visit rotterham, what to see in rotterham
Erasmus in front of Laurenkerk
My advice is, if you love quirky and eclectic architecture, enjoy a city with a relaxed and welcoming vibe and, of course, a harbour or two, then you’ll want to visit Rotterdam.

What to see in Rotterdam

We'll be discovering the following;
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To those of us who don’t speak Dutch (me included), this is the historic Old Harbour and White House. This is a charming area to stroll around and a great place to share time with friends.
Dutch barges moored up in the old harbour of Rotterdam in front of the White House
The Old Harbour
The old harbour has historical sailing ships moored within its docks, a lovely reflection on times gone by. Some of the boats are still working and lived upon.
A large dutch barge moored up in front of the historic white building in the old harbour of rotterdam in the netherlands
A large mobile home

Here you can head along the canals that branch off the harbour.

However, one of Rotterdam’s few surviving buildings from the Second World War bombing campaign is the White House.

The historic ten-storey, art deco witte huis on the edge of the old harbour of rotterdam in the netherlands
The Witte Huis
This beautiful building was constructed in Art Nouveau style in 1898 and, although only ten storeys high, was one of Europe’s tallest buildings at the time.

Where is Rotterdam?

How to get to Rotterdam

- By Train
You can catch a train to Rotterdam Central.  Direct services from London takes as little as 3hr 16min.

- By Air
Rotterdam is served by the 'Rotterdam The Hague Airport' (RTM) which is around 5 miles/ 7.5 km from the centre of Rotterdam.

- By Car
Like many European cities, Rotterdam has emission restrictions; for more information, check out the 'Urban Access Regulations in Europe' site.  Our experience of driving in Rotterdam is easy enough, but we would recommend the Waze App to ensure you have the latest updates and traffic restrictions for your journey.

Overlooking Oude Haven is the eye-catching Cube Houses designed by architect Piet Blom. These are really quite bizarre; the 39 houses have been built at a 45-degree angle, and they almost appear to be staring down at you rather than you gazing up at them.
The iconic bright yellow cube houses overlooking patrons filling the harbourside cafes, bars and restaurants in Rotterdam, Holland
Cubes in the harbour
The show cube, Kijk-Kubus is open seven days a week and is furnished to give you an idea of what it is like to live in one. Not too sure that I could though.
The iconic bright yellow cube houses are set against a blue sky with fluffy clouds in Rotterdam, Holland
Cube houses against Blue skies

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"The Swan" as it's nicknamed, is quite a focal point in the city, and you can see why. It spans 802 metres (2,631 ft) across the New Meuse and is pretty impressive. Take a stroll across the bridge and capture the views from either side, it's certainly worth it.
The Erasmusbrug or Erasmus Bridge over the Nieuwe Maas waterway in central rotterdam

If you're thinking of heading of to the land of tulips and cheese, then grab this DK Eyewitness guide to help with your planning.

I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.

You may have seen this building before as it’s pretty distinctive, but you have to take a look inside; the ceiling is so striking, it’s like a fruit and vegetable basket has been thrown in the air.
A cyclist riding in front of the modernist Markethall in Rotterdam
Cycling in front of the Market Hall
The Market Hall is home to offices and apartments above, but all through the bottom is food and drinks galore, and who doesn’t like cheese?
The curved shape of rotterdam's market hall set against a blue sky
The edge of the Market
The colourful interior mural on the curved market hall ceiling in rotterdam
The Market Ceiling

Where to stay in Rotterdam

Bilderberg Park Hotel
A very central location on the edge of the Cool District and ideal if, like us, you need an onsite car park.

Obviously, Rottterdam has a range of different types of accommodation to suit all tastes, styles and budgets. Why not look at the latest offers from, our preferred hotel booking website?
If maritime history floats your boat, then you’re definitely heading to the right place, as Rotterdam is full of it; I was in my element.
The bright red lighthouse and dock crane at rotterdam's maritime museum
Lighthouse at the Harbour Museum

Wander to the Maritime Museum Harbour and take a stroll around the exhibits outside.

You’ll feel like you’ve walked into an old working port.

The striking red cast iron lighthouse once stood at the Hook of Holland.

The bright red lighthouse against rotterdam's skyline at the harbourside maritime museum
Maritime Museum
The museum doesn’t have to be open for you to enjoy it around here; we wandered through early evening.

A Dutch Road Trip

Discover more of Holland; you'll be amazed at how easy it is to tour around by car. Like us, you can create your own road trip and visit Keukenhof, Haarlem, Alkmaar, Utrecht and Gouda.

We also squeezed in a tour of Four Dutch Harbour Towns and visited the 19 traditional windmills at the UNESCO site of Kinderdijk.

Please take a peek at the offers at Rental Cars; they cover all budgets and allow you to pick up and drop off at different destinations.

Possibly the most visible structure in Rotterdam is the Euromast observation tower.
The Euromast observation tower set in rotterdam's leafy city park

It now stands 185 metres tall, after the Space Tower was added in 1970.

If heights are your thing, catch the lift that takes just 30 seconds to transport you up to the observation deck, at around 100 metres above ground level.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Rotterdam has some stunning architecture. Old structures mix seamlessly with the modern, it looks so retro but works so well.
A colourful three-storey 1960s apartment block next to a canal in central rotterdam in the netherlands
Rotterdam - Canal Side
Keep your eyes peeled as some quirkier ones blend into the background. This is one of the reasons we loved Rotterdam.
A 60s skyscraper that appears to be partially on stilts in central rotterdam
Impressive style
A stylish red-framed, glass office block in rotterdam's harbour area
Rotterdam Architecture
If you are hungry or thirsty, this is the street to head to; you’ll be spoilt for choice. With some enjoyable restaurants and lively bars, tempting you with culinary delights from all over the globe.
A view down the Witte de Withstraat street in the cool district of rotterdam in the netherlands
Witte de Withstraat
Great for a bit of al fresco dining in the Dutch sunshine.

Rotterdam Tourist Information

If you want to know more about this vibrant Dutch city, why not check out the official Rotterdam Tourist Information site for practical help planning your trip?
Museum Rotterdam has changed its path over the years, concentrating initially on antiquities and then moving into the Golden Age, through reconstructing a city that witnessed such devastation in WWII.
The museum rotterdam in the centre of the city
Museum Rotterdam
In the present day, it uses the ethos “a city with a young heart and an old soul”, which I like.
Well, that’s a name to try and live up to the “Cool District”. I’ll let you make your own judgement, but it’s certainly an area to head to.
The entrance to a bar in the cool district of rotterdam in the netherlands
A Cool bar in the Cool district
The art deco frontage to a shop in the cool district of rotterdam in the netherlands
Shopping in the Cool District
Parts of this small district are pedestrianised with quirky shops and quirky sculptures.
A larger than life brass Santa statue in Rotterdam holding an object that could represent a Christmas tree, but in reality, it's a sex toy.
Santa with a surprise
Please keep a look out for Father Christmas with his unusual Christmas present.

Mmmmm, apple pie and cream.
We sort of came across Dudok café in Het Park by accident.

We wanted a coffee break and noticed “Dudok’s” renowned apple pie.

A slice of dudok's original apple pie, served with an ample helping of whipped cream on a china plate in rotterdam
Dudoks original apple pie

We thought it would be rude not to give it a try, obviously for research purposes, you understand.

It was very nice; I wouldn’t mind a slice now.

Like many people, I like street art, and Rotterdam has some fantastic examples.
A psychedelic mural with the head of a chimpanzee taking centre spot on a street in central Rotterdam.
Monkey Street Art
A stencil of a human ladder climbing the outside of a multi-storey building in rotterdam in the netherlands
Climbing the Wall
A bronze statue of sir hippolot, an elegantly dressed hippopotamus, seated, smoking a cigar and wearing a fez
Sir Hippolot
Whether they’re scaling the heights of a building, small pieces hidden in doorways are tactile public sculptures. They are all incredible in their own way.

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  1. I love the look of Rotterdam, your photos are so inspiring. We have a day to kill before our ferry from Hook of Holland to the UK so hopefully this is where we will head to. I’ll definitely be referring back to this post nearer the time. #farawayfiles

    1. Thanks Annabel, you’ll easily be able to fill a day in Rotterdam. There’s so much to see particularly around the old harbour and the city centre.Glad to be of help.

  2. I absolutely adore Rotterdam, it’s a unique city in The Netherlands! Can you believe that up until 10 years ago the city was pretty grimy? It’s so much better now!#FarawayFiles

  3. Rotterdam is an absolute must for architecture lovers – I went there for work and we took an architectural tour which was fabulous. Love those cube houses! Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

    1. That sounds like it would have interesting, some of the buildings are rather quirky, it would have been good to know a little bit of history behind them.

  4. I’d really like to visit Rotterdam. It looks so different from Amsterdam and I love the arty vibe that you’ve captured in your photos. Thanks for sharing with #farawayfiles

    1. Rotterdam has a different feel to Amsterdam, it doesn’t have as many canals & historic buildings, but it also doesn’t get as busy as Amsterdam, which is pleasant.

  5. We missed Rotterdam as we had limited time in the area, but I have regretted it ever since, and seeing your photos makes it all the more clear that we need to get back and spend time there too. I love all the reflections shots, and as I’m married to an architect, the photos of all the unique architecture as well. #farawayfiles

    1. To be perfectly honest Rotterdam wasn’t really at the top of our list, and we were so surprised how fantastic it was. Your husband will love it, if he is an architect, this is what really stood out for us.

  6. It was my birthplace. I was recently there and had a meal in Hotel New York which is the old Holland America building situated at the waterside.

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