A weekend in Rotterdam: travel guide, things to do, food and drink

Everything you need to know for a city break in ‘Manhattan on the Maas’

Erasmus Bridge links the northern and southern parts of Rotterdam
Erasmus Bridge links the northern and southern parts of Rotterdam
(Image credit: mihaiulia/Shutterstock )

Why you should visit Rotterdam

Often overshadowed by its “bigger sibling” Amsterdam, Rotterdam has suffered from the “PR problem” known as “second city syndrome”, said Lilit Marcus in Vogue. Amsterdam lite? Hardly. Each city has “distinctly positive attributes”, not to mention “a totally different vibe”. Heavily bombed during the Second World War, Rotterdam has had an opportunity to rebuild as a “strikingly modern” city full of “cutting-edge design”. Simply put, Rotterdam is a European “capital of cool”.

It’s long been Europe’s biggest industrial port, but these days Rotterdam is a hub of “avant-garde architecture”, said Seth Sherwood in The New York Times. Filled with excellent art institutions, it has become an “essential European cultural stop” and after a few days here you’ll agree that what it lacks in historical buildings, it “more than makes up for with contemporary urban cool”.

Rotterdam is “not for nostalgia seekers”, said Mike MacEacheran in The Times. The “prime reward” for visitors is “eye-popping” design, including cube houses, a “vertical city of Tetris towers”, and industrial monuments. What “strikes you most” is how Rotterdam “goes out of its way to be different to Amsterdam”.

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Rotterdam’s iconic cube houses

Rotterdam’s iconic cube houses
(Image credit: Hit1912/Shutterstock)

Top attractions and things to do


To get your bearings, go up the Euromast, a 185m-tall tower that has superb 360-degree views of the city and harbour. Attractions include the Euroscoop panorama elevator with glass floor and a stylish restaurant. The park “down below” at the base of the Euromast, said Foder’s, is where “many Rotterdammers spend time when the weather is good”.

Cube houses

Constructed by architect Piet Blom in the 1980s, Rotterdam’s cube houses are a “curious and magnificent architectural wonder”, said All That’s Interesting. Part of the city’s design heritage, said Uniq Hotels, the unique structure on Overblaak Street was built above the Blaak metro station and a pedestrian bridge. The “innovative” cube buildings are angled at 45-degrees, “giving them the iconic looks that made them so famous”.

Erasmus Bridge

Nicknamed “The Swan”, the 800m-long Erasmus Bridge resembles a harp and “towers over Europe’s largest harbour”, said Nomadic Matt. From the bridge, you can spot the iconic cube houses as well as the Art Nouveau-style Witte Huis. Walk “a little further” and you can explore the “charming” Delfshaven neighbourhood. Linking the northern and southern parts of Rotterdam, the Erasmus Bridge was named by USA Today as one of the world’s “most spectacular new bridges”.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and The Depot

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and The Depot
(Image credit: 365 Focus Photography/Shutterstock)

Museums and galleries

Rotterdam’s chief “starchitect” is Rem Koolhaas, and it was the Kunsthal that made his name. Part of a culture-fringed green space called Museumpark, this terrific gallery slowly spirals upwards via a series of long ramps. Its ever-changing exhibitions are as likely to focus on hyperrealist body sculpture as primitive cave art.

Discovering “awesome” cultural experiences in Rotterdam is “rarely difficult”, said Tom Coggins on Culture Trip. Highlights include Kijk-Kubus, known as the “show cube”, and Nederlands Fotomuseum, which is dedicated to the “preservation of every aspect of Dutch and international photography”. The modern Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, a “monstrous” art gallery, is being “completely reinvented for 2026”, said MacEacheran in The Times. “In the meantime”, there’s The Depot next door, the world’s first public art storage facility and a “plant pot-shaped vault” home to the museum’s 151,000 works.

Oude Haven and Maritime District

Rotterdam’s Old Harbor (Oude Haven) is part of the city’s “revitalised” Maritime District, said Bryan Dearsley on PlanetWare. The boat basin is filled with “restored historic boats”, including houseboats lived in by locals. Nearby attractions include the Maritime Museum.

A Watertaxi going under the Erasmus Bridge

A Watertaxi going under the Erasmus Bridge
(Image credit: Hung Chung Chih/Shutterstock)

Take a Watertaxi

Order a Watertaxi – they work like Ubers – to see Rotterdam’s floating farms and harp-like bridges while bouncing across the Maas River.

Shopping and markets

Pannekoekstraat is a small street filled with “cute boutiques, nice little restaurants and unique shops”, said Inside Rotterdam. Shopping hotspots in “Rotterdam’s SoHo” include “lovely little boutique” Louen, which sells a collection that’s “a bit Danish and also a bit Dutch”, and Pantoufle, which sells items that are “made with care to last”.

Located in historic Laurenskwartier in the heart of the city, the multicoloured horseshoe-shaped Markthal opened in 2014. It is the largest covered market in Europe and home to a permanent market, around 100 fresh food stalls, 15 food shops, a variety of restaurants and 228 apartments. When entering this “magnificent” building, said Travel and Home, you understand why everyone advises you to go there. “It is a jaw-dropping moment.” Other markets in Rotterdam worth checking out include Market Binnenrotte, Market Afrikaanderplein, Biological Market and Rotterdamse Oogstmarkt.

Markthal opened in 2014

Markthal opened in 2014
(Image credit: Nattee Chalermtiragool/Shutterstock)

Eating and drinking: best restaurants and bars

The city is “awash” with experimental restaurants, said Sherwood in The New York Times, including Fermin, which “gets clever with fermented, pickled and wood-fired dishes”, and In de Keuken van Floris, where you feel as though you’re dining in an “enchanted forest”.

In the Michelin Guide, three restaurants in Rotterdam have been awarded two stars, 15 have one star, 17 have a Bib Gourmand, and two have a green star. Situated in arches below a disused railway line, Francois Geurds’s FG Restaurant boasts two Michelin stars and next door’s one-star FG Food Labs is the chef’s experimental kitchen.

Though the pulsating Witte de Withstraat is Rotterdam’s nightlife nexus, treasures await further afield. If the sun’s out, head south to the hipster haunt Fenix Food Factory and gaze across the Maas from salvaged-wood deckchairs.

You can even stay the night in the Euromast tower

You can even stay the night in the Euromast tower
(Image credit: GLF Media/Shutterstock)

Places to stay: best hotels and accommodation

Dubbed “the Manhattan on the Maas”, there are plenty of places to stay in “ultra-modern” Rotterdam, said The Telegraph, and two hotels – Room Mate Bruno and nhow Rotterdam – get a 9/10 rating by the paper’s experts. With its “edgy” design and “explosive” use of colour, the second Room Mate outpost “makes a bold statement” as does the nhow with its “striking architecture, minimalist rooms and a sense of fun”.

A city landmark and one of Rotterdam’s “grand dames”, the Hotel New York occupies a historic building in a “peerless, riverfront location”, said The Hotel Guru. For “canal-side cool”, head to the boutique Suite Hotel Pincoffs, a “laid back spot right on Rotterdam’s trendy left bank”.

You can even stay overnight in the Euromast tower in one of two special suites, “Heaven” and “Stars”. But “be warned”, said Foder’s, the prices are “as high as the experience”. An overnight stay for two people, including breakfast and a bottle of champagne starts from €395 (excluding 6.5% city tax).

Transport: how to get to Rotterdam

Rotterdam The Hague Airport has direct UK flights from London City (British Airways) and Edinburgh (Transavia). If you prefer to travel by sea, you can take a daily ferry to Rotterdam from Hull in East Yorkshire. The journey with P&O Ferries takes around 11 hours.

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