Many people are familiar with the expressive, artistic and beautiful city of Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, but another Dutch gem that often goes overlooked is Rotterdam.
Rotterdam doesn’t usually ring a bell when thinking about the Netherlands, but it’s another fascinating city that Holland offers to locals and tourists alike. Rotterdam is a unique city in the country, simply due to the fact that the entire city was destroyed during WWII. The city can be difficult to describe, but at its core, Rotterdam is futuristic, innovative, raw and charming.
Surrounded by water, Rotterdam was the world’s busiest port between 1962 and 2004 and is still the largest port in Europe. From its modern skyline to the country’s first indoor food market called Markthal, the city is constantly booming with interesting approaches to design and community.
To help you get started with your trek through this modern city, here’s an itinerary for what to do when you only have 24 hours in Rotterdam.
Arriving in Rotterdam will usually begin with landing in Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, which is about 25 minutes from the city’s central station by train. Accessible and easy to locate, you will find yourself on the platforms below the airport and before you know it, in the heart of Rotterdam.
Urban Espressobar, also known as UEB, has some of the best coffee in town. The café is simple and cute, with a community vibe that will make you want to sit and enjoy the atmosphere. UEB serves up delicious cakes, breakfasts and espresso drinks, and you’ll likely want to return before the end of your trip.
Built in 1960, Euromast is Rotterdam’s famous observation tower. Assuming it’s a sunny, clear day in Rotterdam, visitors are able to enjoy up to 20 miles of visibility on the top of the tower. With views of the Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug) and the city’s skyline, you will be able to take photos of the gorgeous view from 315 feet above the ground. A known landmark of the city, it’s definitely worth a visit.
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Located on a corner of the cool Witte de Withstraat street, Hotel Bazar has a colorful and beautiful restaurant that serves North African and Middle Eastern dishes. Unique in its interior design and vibrant ambiance, it’s a great way to enjoy lunch in a multicultural city. From Moroccan and Algerian dishes to Turkish spices, there’s something here for just about everyone.
After lunch head to Witte de Withstraat, a trendy street where you’ll find a wide variety of international restaurants (I had an amazing Indonesian burger here during the Witte de Withstraat street festival) and local bars. This would be a great time to grab a drink and roam the street (yes, you can take your drink outside). You could easily spend hours exploring the shops and cool art galleries, and this is the place to go for people watching.
Make your way to the Erasmus Bridge, either by bike or foot (I suggest bike) to enjoy more epic views of Rotterdam. Around 5:00 PM you will see many people making their way home or heading out to dinner but the bridge manages to stay calm, free from large groups of tourists overcrowding it. The beloved landmark connects the North and South part of the city and is famous for its design, which has helped to define Rotterdam’s innovative style.
For both Dutch dishes and a variety of steaks, seafood and pastas, the restaurant at Hotel New York Rotterdam is a great place to sit back and relax for dinner. With reasonable prices, you can have a classy dinner for less than 20 euros. One of the best hotels in the city, it’s surrounded by a massive port, making it a great location for a sunset view of the city.
After a day of exploring Rotterdam and discovering the unique characteristics it brings to the Netherlands, you’ll find yourself gaining a whole new perspective on Dutch culture.
Tip: Rotterdam is centrally located for travel to nearby Dutch cities (The Hague, Utrecht) and neighboring international cities such as Brussels, London, and Paris. It’s extremely simple to make your way to another beautiful European city via car, ferry or train. Safe travels!