In all the years that I’ve been travelling, I never quite lose that thrill when something on a page becomes real. I’ve wanted to explore more of the Netherlands than just Amsterdam, but, I must say this list of what to do in Rotterdam is heavily edited for my own interests of cats and architecture. Consider yourself warned.
When I studied architecture all the way back as a teenager in New Zealand, Rotterdam always fascinated me – the combination of old and new architecture always firing up my curiosity and wanderlust.
So, when I heard that a US friend of mine was visiting her Dad in Amsterdam, you bet I hopped straight on the internet to book a long weekend trip. Tipped off by a good friend of mine, I booked the Eurostar London > Rotterdam, and flew home The Hague > London. (When I booked, you could get the train directly from London > Rotterdam, flashing through France and Belgium, but the trip back meant hopping off in Lille for a passport check which added a good hour or two to the journey.)
Rotterdam Central Station
Skipping off the train a few countries later always makes me grin from ear to ear – especially after spending the journey sipping cocktails whilst reading my book. Such an indulgence, especially on a weekday afternoon. (A highlight was flashing through heavy rain in Brussels and hearing the lady in the hospitality car singing ‘working in the car wash… yeah!’).
Cross the Erasmus Bridge (above)
Known for it’s modern architecture, Rotterdam is an intriguing mix of new and old. This monumental bridge spans the Nieuwe Maas distributary of the Rhine and runs from the confluence of the Noord and Lek rivers. The length of this impressive bridge stretches to an immense 802m making it the second largest in the Netherlands. The bridge is nicknamed the Swan due to its large upright mast that resembles the neck of a swan.
Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk
The Church of Saint Laurence is the only remaining piece of medieval architecture that survives in Rotterdam – it was constructed in 1449. The interior of the church is quite beautiful with many decorated arches, high vaulted ceilings and a variety of stone reliefs and rich religious decoration.
Museum Boymans-van Beuningen
This peaceful and charming museum is located in the Dijkzigt district of Rotterdam and I’m told, it’s one of the country’s most important museums of art. The museum contains a fine display of sculptures, paintings and decorative arts from many different artists and countries including works from Van Gough, Dali and Rembrandt.
The Cube House
The Cube houses are a set of innovative houses built in Rotterdam and Helmond in the Netherlands, designed by architect Piet Blom and based on the concept of “living as an urban roof”: high density housing with sufficient space on the ground level, since its main purpose is to optimise the space inside.
Visit & eat in the Markthall
The Markthal is a stunning piece of architecture that was constructed in 2009 and serves as both an office building and a marketplace. The market section of the Markthal contains a huge array of shops, stalls, restaurants and bars such as a Tea bar, a tapas bar, a “world of drinks” shop and over 70 other different businesses. It really is a cool and vibrant place to explore and sample some find food and drink.
Ode Aan Toonder – Monument
Rotterdam has a fantastic range of sculptures dotted around the city – from controversial Santas to Henry Moore’s and Rodins – but the one that tickled my fancy was this steampunk-esque monument, known simply as ‘Ode to Marten Toonder’. It stands in the shadow of the impressive Markthal (to the left of the front entrance) not far from the Blaack staion. Marten Toonder was a Rotterdam-born comic-book author and this monument shows four fantastic characters from his comics.
Visit Peebles Kitty Cat Cafe
Dutch cats do much the same as their international counterparts; snooze, eat, complain, wear clogs, lurk in sunshine…
Catch the ferry to the UNESCO Kinderdijk Windmills
It isn’t often that you visit an incredibly popular tourist attraction and find an afternoon of peace. The Kinderdijk Windmills were designated a UNESCO world heritage site and I was visiting for the heritage – but what I hadn’t counted on was glorious sunshine and a quiet fishermans nook to spend an afternoon in.
Day Trip to The Hague
Well, you could do a day trip to the Hague – it’s only 28 minutes by train with 200+ trains each day – but I was lucky enough to spend a couple of nights with a good friend who lives there.
Where to stay in Rotterdam: The James Hotel
A 5-minute walk from the station, I checked straight into the lovely James Hotel (full review here). Every time that I investigated where to stay in Rotterdam the newly opened luxury hotel, The James, kept popping up at the top of all of my searches – and I’m so glad it did.
What an intriuiging city – it’s a shame many people just visit for work meetings. There is so much more to it than boardrooms and highways.
Have you explored much of the Netherlands (the country formerly, incorrectly known as Holland)?
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