Rotterdam: The Eccentric Hidden Gem of Netherlands


Rotterdam is the modern city cousin of Amsterdam. With eccentric architectural marvels such as the Cube Houses, Markthal, Witte Huis, and Euromast, Rotterdam is every architect’s dream. Beyond the innovative buildings and skyscrapers, Rotterdam’s calendar is full of festivals and cultural events.

Fun Things to Explore Rotterdam

1) Indulge in Surinamese-Indonesian fusion food on Witte de Withstraat

Like other parts of Holland, Indonesian and Surinamese food are the hot items in Rotterdam. Located on Witte de Withstraat is a cool street filled with bars, galleries, and restaurants. Smack in the middle of the Witte de Withstraat district is Switie, a Surinamese and Indonesian restaurant.

With no English menu, Switie is famous among locals who crave some Indonesian loempia (spring rolls) and Surinamese telo bakkeljauw (fried cassava with salted cod). Ask for the spicy sauce, made from yellow jalapeno peppers, to dip your spring rolls in. The heat from the chilli will linger on your tongue long after you finish your meal. The Indonesian spring rolls do not come with the typical crispy skin. Instead, you will find a breaded thin pancake skin filled with bean sprouts and shredded chicken.

Address: Witte De Withstraat 43, 3012BM Rotterdam (between Hartmansstraat and Boomgardsstraat)

Operating hours: Daily, 4 pm – 9:30 pm

How to get there: Eendrachtsplein and Beurs are the nearest stations

2) Learn about Rotterdam’s shipping industry at the Maritime Museum

Housing the largest port in Europe, Rotterdam is proud of their maritime development. Get hands-on experience with the shipping industry at the Maritime Museum. You also have a chance to step onto the houseboats parked along the port, learn about the cranes and essential sailors’ knots, and experience a simulation to manoeuvre and land a helicopter. It’s an excellent place for your little ones as they will enjoy wearing the yellow hats and vests while exploring the museum exhibit.

The rows of boats docked at the port are fully-functioning historic vessels whose 20th-century interior and ambience have been well maintained. The interactive experience will give you an insight into the importance of maritime for Rotterdam.

Address: Maritime Museum, Leuvehaven 1, 3011 EA

How to get there: Rotterdam Central and Rotterdam Blaak stations are the nearest train stations.

Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm | Sunday and Public Holidays, 11 am – 5 pm

Admission fees:

Adults – € 12,50

Children aged 4 to 15 – € 9,00

Museumkaart – Free

Children under 4 – Free

3) Walk across the iconic Erasmus Bridge

No visit to Rotterdam is complete without visiting Erasmus bridge, also known as Erasmusbrug. This bridge gives you a glimpse of iconic sites of Rotterdam such as the famous Euromast Tower, World Trade Centre, Rotterdam port, and, of course, all the ships on the Niew Maas River. Erasmus bridge is an advanced engineering wonder that defines Rotterdam’s modern urban landscape. This is also a great place to take lots of pictures so do not forget to bring your camera!

Since its opening in 1996, Erasmus Bridge has become the iconic and most photographed landmark in Rotterdam. The 800-metre long bridge earns the nickname “The Swan” because of the protruding base and pale blue pylon mimics the body and neck of a swan.

Address: Erasmusbrug 1, 3072

How to get there: Walk, bike, or take tram 8, 20, 23 or 25 to go across the bridge. (Recommendation: Walk across the bridge so you can take your time enjoying the view!)

4) Get lost wandering around the Cube Houses

Photo Credit: Bonaventura Kevin Satria

Piet Bloom designed these bright architectural structures with the intention to resemble a forest, with the roof being the treetop. Have you ever imagined living in a cube, tilted at 45-degrees? You can now visit the Show Cube Museum (Kijk-Kubus) and take a tour around a fully-furnished cube house. Disclaimer: Life is definitely not easy in a cube house! If you want to get the full experience, spend 1 or 2 nights at Stayokay Hostel. Watch your head as you walk inside the house!

Photo Credit: Bonaventura Kevin Satria

Location: Overblaak 70, 3011 MH Rotterdam

Admission fees:

Standard – €3,00

Seniors and Groups – €2,00

Children – €1,50

Operating hours: Daily, 10 am – 6 pm

How to get there: Blaak Station is the nearest train station.

5) Sample foods from around the world at Markthal

Markthal is a special indoor market with gorgeous architecture. From the exterior, you can see that Markthal is located beneath the horseshoe arch of a residential building. There are more than 100 stalls, selling mostly fresh produce from countries around the world. Some restaurants and food stands are spread across the market as well — try bitterballen, poffertjes, or fresh kibbeling from the stalls and wash it all down with a fresh juice.

Photo Credit: Bonaventura Kevin Satria

As you walk around, stop and look up to marvel at the colourful mural of flowers, fruits, seafood and vegetables. And you will also spot the windows of the residential units — I often wonder what it would be like to live in one of the units there.

Address: Ds. Jan Scharpstraat 298, 3011 GZ Rotterdam

Operating hours: Monday – Thursday & Saturday, 10 am – 10 pm | Friday, 10 am – 9 pm | Sunday, 12 pm to 6 pm

How to get there: Blaak Station is the nearest train station.

6) Appreciate artworks at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

One of the oldest museums in Holland, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen displays an extensive collection of European artworks, like Van Bosch, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh to name a few. But it’s not all about old paintings! You can discover contemporary art exhibitions such as the well-known infinity mirror room installation by the Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama.

Location: Museumpark 18, 3015 CX Rotterdam

Operating hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 11 am – 5 pm

Admission fees:

Adults – €17,50

Students – €8,75

Children below 18 years old – free

How to get there: Take metro or tram 7 or 20 and alight at Eendrachtsplein stop

Recommended Hotels in Rotterdam

Citizen M Rotterdam

Strategically located near the Cube Houses and Markthal, this funky modern hotel is close to Blaak station, making it easy for you to get around Rotterdam.

NHow Rotterdam Hotel

Just across the Meuse River (or Maas River), this hotel is touted to have the best view of Rotterdam. Head to the bar to get the stunning view of the city skyline, including the Erasmusbrug.

Rotterdam is often skipped over when planning an itinerary for Holland, but don’t make that mistake! The efficient public transport in the country makes travelling around the Netherlands so easy. You can traverse Amsterdam, The Hague, Delft, Utrecht, and Rotterdam over a few days.

How to get to Rotterdam

The stunning modern Dutch city, Rotterdam, is a 30-minute train ride from Amsterdam Schipol Airport. The train stations are conveniently located within the airport just after the baggage claim and customs. You can buy train tickets online or on the spot at the ticket counter. Ask the staff for more information on the next train to Rotterdam Central.

Best time to visit Rotterdam

April-September has warmer and more predictable weather as well as the most number of festivals. It’s best to avoid the winter period of January to March – it’s never fun having to pack different sets of clothing for rain, snow, hail, and strong winds for one single trip.

Feature image: Bonaventura Kevin Satria

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