It all started with a conversation I overheard between two ladies as I walked down a street in Amsterdam. One of them had just spent a weekend in Rotterdam and she remarked how “gezellig” (a typical Dutch word basically meaning cosy) the city had become, the many things to do in Rotterdam and what a lovely time she had. I almost stopped in my tracks when I heard that! Coming from an Amsterdammer, and considering that Amsterdam and Rotterdam are fierce rivals, this verged on blasphemy! Haha! It triggered my curiosity and I made a mental note to spend a weekend in Rotterdam soon. A week later, I found myself in this port city and I couldn’t agree more with that lady!
My weekend in Rotterdam
Rotterdam is a bit of an anomaly in the Netherlands. The city proudly holds the title of being one of the largest ports in the world and it’s arguably the only city in the country that oozes a modern flair coupled with an impressive skyline. I never thought much of Rotterdam to be honest; this can be partially attributed to being an Amsterdam snob myself! 😉 Large swathes of the city were destroyed during World War II. The reconstruction that followed was, in my view, more functional than aesthetically-pleasing, resulting in a rather nondescript cityscape – a sharp contrast to Amsterdam, with its charming canals and historic buildings. However, Rotterdam started to experience somewhat of a renaissance from around the turn of the century. New urban projects spearheaded by various world-renowned architects brought new life and a shiny, new skyline to the city.
I chose the Mainport Hotel, a five-star waterfront hotel in the city centre as my weekend base. The hotel is perfectly situated between the harbour and the Coolsingel, the city’s main thoroughfare, and a stone’s throw from the city’s main attractions and the lively Witte de With quarter.
I booked a harbourview room with a spa – some rooms come equipped with both a Finnish spa and a jacuzzi with a view of the harbour! My room had a gorgeous view of the Leuvenhaven and the city’s iconic Erasmus bridge.
Things to do in Rotterdam on a weekend trip
As I only had a weekend, I decided to concentrate on the new architecture in Rotterdam as I set out to explore the city. Follow me as I spent the weekend exploring this vibrant city:
The rain didn’t cease so I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the Markthal and eating at the different stalls. Not a bad thing to do on a rainy afternoon! 🙂
Other things to do in Rotterdam
I only scraped the surface of Rotterdam on this 36-hour visit. This vibrant city has much more to offer visitors.
Here’s a list of things to do in Rotterdam that I’ve done on other visits and truly enjoyed:
- visit the fascinating Museum Booijmans van Beuningen (contemporary art), KunstHal (contemporary art) and the Maritime Museum
- see the reflection of the Rotterdam skyline at the new Depot building adjacent to the Museum Booijmans van Beuningen
- go on a harbour cruise from the Spido terminal or join a harbour tour
- visit the beautiful Van Nelle factory, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Van Nelle factory was once described as “the most beautiful spectacle of the modern age” by the famous architect Le Corbusier
- visit the historic and modern landmarks in the ‘Kop van Zuid’ district just across the Erasmus bridge. My favourite is De Rotterdam, a striking 3-in-1 tower designed by world-renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. You can also opt for a two-hour architecture walking tour.
- stroll along the Westersingel Sculpture route, with its intriguing sculptures
- experience the atmosphere of the quaint Delfshaven, a historic corner of Rotterdam most famous as being the departure point of the Pilgrim Fathers to New England in the 18th century
- go up the Euromast for panoramic views of the city and port
- embark on a three-hour river cruise to another UNESCO World Heritage site: Kinderdijk. This site, with its 19 18th-century windmills, is famous the world over.
- visit nearby Delft, the home of Delft Blue ceramics and Vermeer! Delft is a short train ride away and has a beautiful historic centre with charming canals. Read more about things to see in Delft.
Visit Rotterdam Info for more information and tips for things to do and see in Rotterdam. If you’re staying a bit longer, I can also recommend three nearby cities to visit: Delft, Gouda and Dordrecht.
Read more about other places to visit in the Netherlands
- Charming Amersfoort
- A drive around the tulip fields
- Holland at its best
- Exploring the historic towns north of Amsterdam
- A drive along the Markermeer loop
- Day trips from Amsterdam