View of Oudehaven Harbor Rotterdam

The Coolest Things to Do in Rotterdam (Locally Picked Travel Experiences)

by Britt de Koning - updated January 31, 2020

Also referred to as “the only (real) city of the Netherlands”, Rotterdam is a large city surrounded by a lot of water. It has many different areas and neighborhoods to be seen, you can visit this city and have a completely different experience every time you go as long as you know how to get to your places of interest.

Rotterdam is an easy city to get around in, there are metros and trams going into every direction and you will be able to get off the public transport very close to your destination, wherever that is!

1. Relax and Enjoy Delicious meals at Fenix Food Factory

Relax and Enjoy Delicious meals in Fenix Food Factory
Relax and enjoy the sun on the quay of Kattendrecht, in front of Fenix Food Factory in Rotterdam.

The Fenix Food Factory is legendary for its offer in food and beverages.

On a sunny day, in any season, this is the place you should go to.

Located next to the legendary building of the “Holland-Amerika Lijn” this is not only a historically relevant place, it has now also been taken over by artsy people.

One of Rotterdam’s famous breweries has a spot in the Factory, together with a well-known cheese maker and pizza chef.

The Food Factory is a sought-after location for events and weddings, there is always something going on!

The tip every single person you ask is going to give you: get yourself a nice beer (there are over 20 options on draft), get yourself a charcuterie board and a cheese platter and find a nice spot anywhere on the property and enjoy the weather or the entertainment of that day.

For the people on a different diet: there are vegetarian options available and there is also a team working on the spot making (vegetarian)dishes.

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2. Explore Rotterdam’s most underrated museums

Relaxing view at Museum Park Rotterdam
Walk around the park with a giant block of ice and an array of different syrups.

Museum Boijmans van Beuningen was named after two important art collectors: Frans Boijmans and Daniël George van Beuningen, who added many different masterpieces to the collection of the museum.

Boijmans van Beuningen is a very interesting museum where you can see masterpieces from the middle ages to modern impressionistic art and “the old masters”.

After walking around in the immense offer of arts in the museum, you could go to Museumpark on a sunny day.

You will see there are many people laying around and picnicking and if you are lucky you will see a “schaafijs” or snow cone stand.

There will be people walking around in the park with a giant block of ice and an array of different syrups or cordials to pick from to put on the ice that has been sliced into a cup.

It is a Suriname delicacy and I 100% recommend you to try this, it is amazing and very refreshing!

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3. Explore the streets of Nieuwe Binnenweg

View of Nieuwe Binnenweg Street
Start off your day with a cup of coffee and walk to the Nieuwe Binnenweg to start your shopping spree.

The Nieuwe Binnenweg is one of the best streets for tourists in Rotterdam, it is the most visited street or area of many hip and alternative people in Rotterdam.

If you like pancakes, vintage clothing shops, espresso bars, music and LP stores (second hand) and antique shops, this is the street for you.

Start off your day with a cuppa from Coffee Company Eendrachtsplein, they are living legends and way better than other coffee chains.

When you have your coffee, walk to the Nieuwe Binnenweg and start your shopping spree.

You will pass one of the most well-known concert venues in Rotterdam; Rotown.

Make sure to check their planning because you might discover one of your favourite artists performing here at night.

Then, you can stop for a craft beer at Kraft Bar Rotterdam or Cafe Boudewijn and when you are done, you can continue to the vintage and second hand stores in this street, you will certainly pass them and identify them immediately.

At the end of the street you can decide if you feel like eating pancakes or not and have lunch or a late afternoon snack at Lillith breakfast restaurant, where they also serve killer coffees by Giraffe Coffee Roasters.

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4. Take a tour to Fire Boundary

Take a tour to Fire Boundary
Learn about the history of the artwork around the Brandgrens or Fire Boundary.

A devastating event with great historical relevance for Rotterdam was the bombing of the city centre in May of 1940 by German forces.

In less than 15 minutes, the whole city centre was destroyed and the city was left burning for days.

Many people still have memories of the destroyed city that they helped get back on its feet again; this is also why people from Rotterdam are so proud of being Rotterdams.

Rotterdam is now also considered one of the few “real” cities of the Netherlands because it is very modern, spacious and it has skyscrapers.

During this tour you will discuss the artwork around the Brandgrens or Fire Boundary, indicating the edges of the destruction from the bombing.

There are small lights dotted around the city that can light up brightly, it is an eerie image to see which parts of the city are inside this circle and which ones are not.

You would have to see for yourself and take a moment to process it all.

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5. Explore the history of Rotterdam

Unique way to explore the city of Rotterdam
Discover the history of Rotterdam as a seaport and shipbuilding centre.

The Maritime Museum is located in the oldest and largest museum harbour in the Netherlands, where the port of Rotterdam once began. It was founded in 1873 by Prince Hendrik the Sailor. 

The Museum has an interesting display on the history of Rotterdam as a seaport and shipbuilding centre plus an entertaining section on the life of seamen in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The outside area has been spruced up’s for the museum’s prime exhibit, the Buffel, an immaculately restored mid-nineteenth-century ironclad ship, complete with communal sinks shaped to match the angle of the bows and string of luxurious officers’ cabins.

The backdrop of impressive historic ships makes the Oude Haven (Old Port, part of the Maritime District) a popular place for locals to meet, eat, drink and dance.

On summer days, the terraces of the bars and restaurants here like Noah (voted best cocktail bar in the Netherlands) are full until the wee hours.

Right behind ‘The White House’, Europe’s first skyscraper, you will find café Het Witte Huis, open late for drinks and dining. Other hotspots here are Stockholm, Mooii and Popocatepetl.

The Oude Haven is part of the Maritime District and can be reached by metro or train (stop Blaak) or water taxi.

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6. Unique way to explore the city of Rotterdam

Unique way to explore the city of Rotterdam
Grab the opportunity to see the different parts of the mini city both during daytime and at night.

One day lasts 24 minutes in Miniworld Rotterdam, giving you many opportunities to see the different parts of the mini city both during daytime and at night.

You can watch all the small people go about their day: on their way to work, traveling by train and doing leisure activities, just like us!

There are even story lines and famous people (Pipi Longstocking for example) featured in this attraction.

Now that you are a giant you will see a totally different perspective of the world as you know it, everything is moving and all the small people are “working together”, making this miniature world an experience you will not get enough off.

Even though everything is small, you will feel like you did not see it all when you leave.

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7. Recall your Childhood Memories or Create new Ones while playing Pinball

Recall your Childhood Memories or Create Wew Ones while playing Pinball
Visit the Pinball museum and play with the vintage machines

The Dutch Pinball Museum owns over 100 pinball machines from all generations to both play and admire (some to only admire).

Located in Rotterdams’ Delfshaven, it is easy to find and accessible.

You can fit this activity into a small portion of your day and from there move on to other activities in the city center or decide to spend your whole late morning and afternoon here to play every single machine in the museum.

The Pinball Museum is currently moving to the new location, therefore the opening times and entrance fees are unknown.

If you wish to visit the Museum during your next visit, please keep an eye on their website.

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8. Seeing Rotterdam in a unique way

Seeing Rotterdam in a unique way
Enjoy the Colored tram and pedestrians in the center of Rotterdam

The Snerttram is an amazing concept, initiated by an idea of Anna Paerel; who doesn’t do daily duties for the tram anymore but her Snerttram still rides every weekend.

The organization is arranged in a summer and winter variation of the tram.

In the months May to September, the ice cream tram takes over from the classic Snerttram.

The Snerttram looks very curious, like it drove through a pot of “erwtensoep” a Dutch and famous winter delicacy.

The inside, however, is dressed up warm and cosy with lights and small curtains and you will be served erwtensoep in a basket with bread and a spoon while driving past all different kinds of monumental Dutch buildings.

There is also a restaurant tram riding around in the city of Rotterdam.

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9. Enjoy a grand view while you eat & drink

Euromast Tower in Rotterdam
Enjoy a grand view while you eat & drink, meet & party, discover & experience and stay with us for sunset & sunrise, in the Euromast in Rotterdam!

The Euromast is one of the most iconic buildings in the Netherlands, everybody knows it and where it stands.

The name has been picked in a very interesting way, Euro was chosen because Rotterdam lies in the European Union’s Economic Area and mast was chosen because this is a term that is similar in many different languages.

This makes the building easy to remember and also to recognize.

There is loads of stuff to do on this site and also all around it.

After climbing the Euromast and having a sandwich or high tea in the restaurant of the Euromast you could go lasergaming on a boat near the Mast or you could opt to go on a boat-restaurant, Asian (Chinaboot) or a more affordable and simple dinner at the Berenboot.

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10. Explore the popular nightlife street in Rotterdam

Explore the famous street Witte de Wit Rotterdam
Explore Lively Witte de Wit street during evening hours in Rotterdam.

The Witte de With quarter in Rotterdam has been a hotspot for many years now.

It used to be a bad neighborhood where some people took the plunge and started cafes and shops hoping to make this a better place.

Shortly thereafter, the Witte de With Straat became a famous street, where one of Rotterdam’s famous poets Jules Deelder could frequently be seen strolling around at night.

Jules had a very prominent role in shaping the Rotterdam culture and was often seen performing with and interviewing other artists such as Herman Brood and Bas van Lier.

Amongst other things this is was earned him the nickname “night mayor of Rotterdam”, sadly he passed away in December of 2019.

De Witte de With Straat now has many cafes, large tattoo parlours, both large and small eating places (price winning burgers at Ter Marsch & Co) with food from all across the world, coffeeshops, shops varying from vintage to art to ice cream and fries and also interior design places and art galleries.

Needless to say, there is something to do, eat and see for everyone!

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Rotterdam is a student city and has loads of young people, with that also many hip coffee bars and clothing stores, you will never leave this city empty handed!

What are your thoughts about Rotterdam? Do you have any questions or anything cool still to add on? We love to discuss travel so go ahead and fire away, there are no wrong comments!

Also, please let us know how your trip went and what was the most exciting part about it.

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12 thoughts on “The Coolest Things to Do in Rotterdam (Locally Picked Travel Experiences)

  1. I love those icon blocks – it makes this post easily understandable (and pretty, of course!) Just a thought: can we do this right now? I am curious about how Europe re-opened and was wondering if the Netherlands totally re-opened. Would love to hear your insights and tips! It’s really hard to see especially if I am not in Europe and have limited access re COVID there. Thanks a lot!

    1. I’m glad you like icons, they allow us to offer more details.

      The Netherlands is open for travel from most European countries. They are not re-opened yet, however they seem to be doing relatively good with the number of infections.

  2. I like guides written by locals. Because they always suggest interesting, little-known places, which is excellent. I would love to explore Lively Witte de Wit street during evening hours in Rotterdam because I love photographing cities at night. Eating & drinking at the top of Euromast, I add to my list too.

    1. It is always best to get tips from locals right? Is there anywhere we can see your night photos. I’d love to be able to take a look at some of your creations.

  3. These are some great options! I always love hearing from locals, I think it shows you a different side of the destination. Miniworld Rotterdam sounds like it would be very fascinating to see. I would want to visit the pinball museum as well, I remember playing all those games a young child. I will keep these in mind if I am ever able to visit the area.

    1. I agree it is a fun place to remember all the cool times we had fun with that classic games and all the different kinds of machines.

  4. Rotterdam eluded me on my last trip to Netherlands. But to be honest, I was super enamored with Amsterdam to even try and free time for Rotterdam. Now I realize that I should have given the things to do here. I would love to spend the day by the water and exploring the Maritime museum as well as the mini city. Pinball also, sounds fun

  5. I can’t wait to visit Rotterdam one day, your post saved me a ton of time planning an itinerary. The pinball museum would be my first stop. I hadn’t realized that Rotterdam was destroyed during WW2. Love a good food hall especially one that has a brewery! Definitely will have to keep an eye for schaafijis.

  6. I was really hoping to visit the Netherlands this year, but of course, the pandemic happened… But I guess it all worked out because now I have your fantastic recommendations to take with me! The Maritime Museum is totally up my alley and love the idea of dining with a view at the Euromast. Seems like nightlife is a huge scene there and you can grab drinks almost everywhere!

  7. I have been to the Netherlands only once and I spent most of my time in Amsterdam. I wish I had visited Rotterdam as it does look amazing and there are so many things to do there. The next time I visit I will definitely visit Rotterdam.

  8. I have heard so much about Rotterdam that I would surely include it during my Netherlands visit. I would surely visit the Nieuwe Binnenweg as you said, it is one of the best streets for tourists in Rotterdam. I love pancakes, vintage clothing shops, espresso bars, music and antique shops, so I am saving the name of this street.

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