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Over the past few years, Rotterdam has grown in popularity when it comes to city break tourism. Whether planning to spend just one day in Rotterdam or a long weekend, the city once made famous by ‘that’ Beautiful South song, has now become an ever-present contender for those visiting The Netherlands.
Rotterdam is the effortlessly cool younger sister of the more obvious city choices, the type that if you saw on a dating app, you would most definitely swipe right for. The urban city, which is also Europe’s largest port city, is very much a social one, from rooftop cocktail bars and cafes to an incredibly strong food scene, Rotterdam is all about readily entertaining.
How to see the best of Rotterdam in one day
Is one day in Rotterdam enough?
This will depend on what you are visiting for, personally, I love Rotterdam and think it is a great location for a long spring/summer weekend. However, if you are combining a Rotterdam day trip with another city such as Eindhoven or Utrecht then it is definitely possible to see the tourist hotspots in one day.
A map for your one day Rotterdam tour
How to get to Rotterdam
Catch a flight from one of the eighteen UK Airports which provide daily KLM flights from the UK to Amsterdam Schiphol. KLM is currently (2019) celebrating their 100th birthday, making them the world’s longest-running airline.
Over the past 100 years, KLM has been connecting the UK with The Netherlands and with reliable train transportation throughout the whole country there has never been a better time to discover the Netherlands.
Train travel across Holland is reliable, affordable and tickets can easily be purchased in advance from eurail.com. A direct train journey from Amsterdam Schipol to Rotterdam will take just 35 minutes and is priced at €13.00
How to get around Rotterdam for the day
Rotterdam is well connected by public transport and if you are only in the city for one day, I advise making the most of this to ensure you see as much as possible. The Metro is easy to navigate and extremely safe, for the best value purchase a one day Rotterdam Metro ticket at any station for €7.50. These tickets can be used on the Metro, Tram and Bus.
Another popular and convenient way to get around Rotterdam is by the water taxi. I will also say it is the most fun as it goes wonderfully fast through the waters of Rotterdam. The taxi needs to be booked in advance, either through the website or by calling the phone number provided on the signs of each station. Water taxi Rotterdam uses a fixed transport fee, this rate depends on the number of passengers and the distance covered. A short boat trip for two costs about €12 and an additional €2,50 per passenger on top.
Top tip: Ensure you are early / on time for your water taxi as it will not wait and you will not get a refund if you miss it.
If you are keen to use the Water Taxi as well as seeing the major sights then I would recommend booking onto the Cube Houses, Watertaxi and Markthal tour. This 2.5 hours guided tour includes a panoramic view from one of the top floors of De Rotterdam, a water taxi ride under the Erasmus Bridge, a guided walk in the Old Harbour, entry into the cube houses as well as a meet and taste tour in the Markthal. The tour is priced at £27.99 per person meaning you will save money and receive a lot more information about the city.
Things to do on your one day in Rotterdam
Seeing as you only have one day in Rotterdam I will first point out the main highlights and later point out a few lesser-known things to do but are still definitely worth a visit.
Visit the Cube Houses
Arguably Rotterdam’s most famous Icon, The Cube Houses designed by architect Piet Blom are based on the concept of “living as an urban roof”. Blom tilted the cube of a conventional house by 45 degrees and rested it upon a pylon. His design represents a village within a city, where each house represents a tree, and all the houses together, a forest.
Aside from the initial quirky idea, the Cube homes are actually practical as they were created to fully optimise all available space. One of the homes has been preserved as a museum in order to allow tourists to explore these homes of the future. The nearest Metro stop for the Cube Houses is
Located close to the Cube Houses is the Markthal. The Markthal is a unique horseshoe-shaped building which holds around 100 fresh food stands, nearly 15 food shops, various restaurants and a supermarket. It is a fantastic place to visit for a quick street food style lunch or to pick up traditional Dutch food souvenirs. Be sure to look up to take in the beautiful mural across the ceiling, the ‘Horn of Plenty’ by Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam.
View the city from the Euromast
For one of the best views of the city then book a ticket for the Euromast. The Euromast one of Rotterdam’s icons, Aat 185 metres high, it’s the highest watchtower in the Netherlands and an essential part of the skyline of the city. After taking in the views you can treat yourself to either lunch or dinner at the top of the tower. Nearest Metro Station for the Euromast: Coolhaven.
Hop on Board the SS Rotterdam
The fifth SS Rotterdam, also known as “The Grande Dame”, is a former ocean liner and cruise ship, and has been a hotel ship in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, since 2010. Aside from being a hotel visitors can also board the boat for tours, Afternoon Tea and an Escape Room.
I booked onto the Escape Room on my last visit and loved the nautical themed challenge room. Guests are invited to the bottom of the SS Rotterdam to escape from the cold storage and win the treasure from the ship’s former captain. As a regular at escape rooms across Europe, I highly enjoyed this challenging room which is available in both Dutch and English. If you have a spare hour during your day in Rotterdam I would highly recommend booking on to this. Nearest metro station: Rijnhaven
Walk the Luchtsingel Bridge
The Luchtsingel Bridge is a 400-metre long yellow bridge which was crowd-funded for by the people and businesses of Rotterdam. For €25 locals were able to purchase a yellow plank of wood with their name on it which would later become part of the bridge. The bridge was designed to reconnect the three districts of Rotterdam and in turn, a three-dimensional cityscape has risen. Nearest metro station: Rotterdam Centraal
See the city by bike
When in Rotterdam for the day, do as the Dutch do and hop on a bike. There are so many bike tours available across Rotterdam and rightly so, it is a fantastic way to see the city in a limited time. On my first visit to Rotterdam, I took the Bite and Bike Tour, which you can read a full review of here.
The best bike tours in Rotterdam:
No day trip to Rotterdam would be completely without a bit of retro fun, so make sure you visit the Dutch Pinball Museum. The museum is home to over 100 pinball machines, of which 80 are playable. Making it a great place for anyone who wants to play the machines, wants to get lost in an atmospheric ambience or wants to enjoy the nice view alongside a nice cup of coffee. The pinball museum closes at 6 pm (5 pm on Wednesdays) therefore make sure you visit during the day time. Nearest metro station: Wilhelminaplein
Take in the street art of Witte de Withstraat
There is so much street art in Rotterdam, so much so they hold a street art festival called Pow Wow each September. Throughout the rest of the year, bright mural walls can mainly be found in the bar area of Witte De Withstraat. If you are a fan of a coloured wall then the Street Art Cities map is always helpful for finding the best locations. Nearest Metro station: Eendrachtsplein
Where to eat in Rotterdam
There are some fantastic places to eat in Rotterdam, therefore I suggest planning in advance when curating your 1 day Rotterdam itinerary to ensure you don’t miss out on some real gems. I have previously listed my favourite places to eat in Rotterdam alongside these further recommendations below.
Newly opened 2018, Food Hallen describes itself as a celebration of flavours. Similar to the Markthal, Food Hallen serves worldwide street food style cuisine that can be shared in a communal area. It is a great place to go with a group of friends, as everyone can choose their own cuisine and I would recommend it for a quick but tasty lunch in Rotterdam. If you are looking for evening drinks in Rotterdam they also have a fantastic gin bar which I highly recommend.
The Aloha Bar was once a kid’s waterpark overlooking the water, it is now a cool restaurant with laid back vibes and beautiful views. They have a great selection of vegetarian and vegan options, inventive options as well not just last-minute thoughts. I would recommend here for lunch or dinner in Rotterdam.
As previously mentioned the Markthal is great for street food-style options and grabbing a quick bite to eat or a coffee. If you are looking for things to do in Rotterdam with kids then be sure to check out the Dragon’s Breath stall.
I will start by saying I adore Op Het Dak and I will continue to visit on all future visits to Rotterdam. Op Het Dak is a rooftop cafe and gardens which serve homegrown or locally sourced dishes. Op Het Dak is a real hidden gem, somewhere to have a tranquil escape from the businesses of the city below. It does get really busy, with locals and tourists, so I would recommend visiting earlier in the day than later. Op Het Dark is great for vegetarian and vegan food in Rotterdam.
Another hidden gem and not a place that is frequented often by tourists. On my visit, on a Tuesday night, the place was heaving with locals and after eating there I can understand why. Visit here for luxury dining complemented by a wine paired for each dish served. De Matroos en het Meisje is somewhere you can instantly tell how much work has gone into each and every dish, somewhere you can tell the chefs have a real passion for their art. The Delft Blue print interior also makes for a fun backdrop for dinner as well.
No day in Rotterdam would be complete without drinks with a view and views do not come better than the one from the NHow Bar. Finish your day with a cocktail overlooking the Maas River and the glowing Erasmus Bridge.
Where to stay in Rotterdam
Mainport Design Hotel
For absolute luxury, the best hotel to stay in Rotterdam is the Mainport Design Hotel. Located in the city centre, the 5-star hotel offers stunning room views across the port and even has inbuilt saunas in the rooms.
The hotel has a waterfront terrace and ajetty which is accessible for taxi and party boats. The at Mainport Design Hotel is individually decorated in a luxury setting. All rooms are equipped with an XXL 4-layer signature bed, a whirlpool bath and walk-in shower. This hotel is incredible and the perfect place to relax after a busy day in Rotterdam.
Alternatively, if you are looking for a unique hotel in Rotterdam then you will want to book into the StayOkay. Situated in the city centre of , Stayokay Hostel Rotterdam is housed in one of the , . The StayOkay is a hostel but they do offer both dormitories and private rooms.
Disclaimer: This post was created as part of a campaign with Visit Holland and KLM, however, all opinions are my own.