Destinations Europe

Visiting Rotterdam For First Timers

We have visited Amsterdam many times but like many, we have never ventured out of the city centre and not just because we couldn’t get past the Dutch cyclists’ ring of steel. So when the opportunity to visit Rotterdam came up, we grabbed our clogs and our bag of other common stereotypes and booked our flights.

Although Rotterdam does have its own airport, there is a larger choice of airlines who fly into Amsterdam Schiphol airport. It is really easy to get the intercity direct train from Schiphol to Rotterdam and the journey time is only 25-minutes but make sure you get the ‘direct’ service.

10 Facts About Rotterdam
Rotterdam Central Station

Centraal Station

Before we go on further here are 10 random facts about Rotterdam.

1. Rotterdam is Europe’s largest port.
2. In 1940 Rotterdam city centre was almost completely destroyed by the Luftwaffe.
3. One of Rotterdam’s neighbourhoods is actually called ‘Cool’.
4. 90% of Rotterdam is below sea level.
5. The Witte Huis was the tallest office building in Europe when it was built in 1898.
6. Rotterdam is also known as the ‘City of Architecture’
7. Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands.
8. The Dutch fast food ‘Kapsalon’ was invented here in 2003 (approx 1800 kcal per serving).
9. Rotterdam is the birthplace of gin.
10. Beurstraverse, the shopping area is better known as ‘de Koopgoot’ which means shopping gutter.

Sightseeing In Rotterdam

We find that one of the best ways to initially get to know a city is to take a walking tour. It helps you understand the layout of the city, you can get a taste of the culture and if you have a good guide, it can be very entertaining.

Rotterdam is perfect for walking and like the rest of the Netherlands, it’s not really renowned for the hills.

Sculptures

Rotterdam has quite a collection of public art and sculptures from classic styles to the slightly more unusual. We stumbled across this piece by David Bade on Eendrachtsplein, officially named Anita it’s also known as ‘Horny Anita’ and the ‘crashed ice cream car’.

Rotterdam Sculpture

One of the more unusual Rotterdam sculptures

One of the funniest designs is also on Eendrachtsplein, it’s the Santa Claus holding a ‘Christmas tree’ by Paul McCarthy. No way is that a Christmas tree and we’ll leave it up to you to guess its nickname.

Santa Claus

It’s not what you think. This is meant to be Santa Claus holding a ‘Christmas tree’

Maritime District

The Leuvehaven inner harbour is the home of Rotterdam’s maritime museum. As well as the displays you can also step aboard some of the historic ships.

Maritime Museum Rotterdam

The maritime museum in Rotterdam

Another part of the Maritime District is the Oude Haven, one of the oldest harbours of Rotterdam. Many of the restored historic boats which line the harbour are now houseboats but don’t think you can stroll onboard like at the museum. These are peoples homes and they will not be too impressed by your uninvited presence.

During the warm summer evenings, the bars and terraces around the harbour are very popular with locals and tourists.

Maritime District

The maritime district of Rotterdam

If you are visiting in the summer and want the bizarre experience of drifting down the canal, sipping beer in a wood-fired floating hot tub boat, then this is the place to come.

Hot Tub Boat

The Hot Tug, one of Rotterdam’s hot tub boats

Architecture

Rotterdam is a bit of an architects playground. The bombing of the city essentially meant a clean slate for architects to work with although even before the war there were some notable and contemporary designs. The Witte Huis which was built in 1898 was Europe’s first skyscraper and one of the few buildings to survive the German bombing.

White House Rotterdam

A view of the Witte Huis (White House) from the cube houses

One of the most recent buildings, opened in 2014 is the Market Hall (Markthal). Offices, apartments and a food hall with restaurants are all housed in this iconic building. Many of the food stalls have little terraces above them where you can sit and eat.

Markthal

Markthal, the market hall in Rotterdam

We were both pleasantly surprised how much we enjoyed Rotterdam and would definitely return. Although it is a strikingly contemporary city and very different from the stereotypical quaint Dutch image it is very ‘people friendly’ with a focus on the quality of life.

See more of where we stayed – Rotterdam Marriott Hotel.

We did the sightseeing walk with Hassan and Ferah from Rotterdam Pages.

Have you visited a place which has pleasantly surprised you? Please give us your recommendations below.

Rotterdam, The Netherlands for First Time Visitors

Visiting Rotterdam For First Timers – Pin For Later

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  • Jenn and Ed Coleman
    August 4, 2018 at 5:55 pm

    I love the architecture in Rotterdam. You are right about flying into Schipol. A few years back I went to Den Hauge, which is just down the coast from Rotterdam. I flew into Schipol and took the train along the coast. It was really easy and straightforward. Great advice.

    • Mr and Mrs W
      August 7, 2018 at 9:24 am

      Yes, the train service from Schiphol is really good and it is very easy to get around.

  • Carol Colborn
    August 4, 2018 at 9:19 pm

    It has earned the title City of Architecture. I just love those bright yellow cube houses and the Markhtal, too. I bet I would get lost in a city totally remade after being destroyed by war.

    • Mr and Mrs W
      August 7, 2018 at 9:26 am

      What we liked was that despite the new buildings it is still very people friendly with lots of open areas and public transport.

  • danik
    August 5, 2018 at 11:40 am

    Reading this post broguht back a lot of memories, however I wasn’t that impressed with Rotterdam when I left. Still cant put my finger on it. But for a day trip I loved the nearby Kinderdijk. However my favourite part of Rotterdam has to be the cube houses. I went inside one and found it to be very crazy going up the staircases.

    • Mr and Mrs W
      August 7, 2018 at 9:27 am

      If you want the cute Dutch houses than Rotterdam isn’t really the place but it’s good to see modern designs in Rotterdam which actually work.

  • sherianne
    August 6, 2018 at 12:59 am

    I’m a huge fan of public art and sculptures so you had my interest right away; Santa Claus holding a ‘Christmas tree cracked me up. I’m positive its like the animated movies that have hidden meanings for the parents who have to watch the same show over and over with their child.

    • Mr and Mrs W
      August 7, 2018 at 9:28 am

      I can’t believe he got away with the Santa Claus statue.

  • Janine Thomas
    August 6, 2018 at 9:49 am

    I was in Rotterdam ages ago and seeing your pics makes me think that I should plan another visit. It has changed so much! I enjoyed the random facts and certainly didn’t know that’s where gin originated. I also enjoy walking tours as a great way to see a city. You always get to see the highlights that way. You can then go back later and explore further if anything has taken your fancy.

    • Mr and Mrs W
      August 13, 2018 at 11:42 am

      Yes, a walking tour is great to take on your first day to get to know a place.

  • Dorene Wharton
    August 6, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    What a great walking tour guide! So animated! Beautiful city, agree with you some bizarre Statues. Who knew that this city was mostly below sea level! Wow!

  • Linda
    August 6, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    We have never visited Rotterdam. Glad to know we can easily get the train there from Amsterdam. I did not know that Rotterdam was Europe’s largest port. There are certainly an interesting variety of statues. It would be fun to try floating on a hot tub boat. I could pack a great picnic with wine! Some place to visit next time we head that way.

  • Wendy Elliott
    August 7, 2018 at 9:13 am

    I never realized Rotterdam is Europe’s largest port. I know Rotterdam is industrial. It seems that the Dutch have many places below sea level so it doesn’t surprise that Rotterdam is. Looks like a city with great architecture and outdoor sculpture! And those floating hot tubs are quite unique.

  • Veronika Tomanova
    August 7, 2018 at 8:09 pm

    Rotterdam is so amazing! Literally lots more fun than Amsterdam, really! Plus I love the architecture such as the cubic houses or their train station.

  • Jennifer
    August 7, 2018 at 9:21 pm

    We visited Rotterdam back in (I think) 2013? It was just sort of becoming a cool city at that point and it was so different from most other places we’d been in Europe. We did a really nice boat cruise that talked about the various architecture and the port. Those floating hot tubs look interesting. I don’t know about doing that in summer, though. I’d think it would be too hot!