Rotterdam is the second biggest city in the Netherlands, shaped around the river Maas. We accommodate more than 165 nationalities and have the largest port of Europe.
Our “historical” heart was destroyed in the second world war and ever since we’ve been rebuilding Rotterdam. That gives the city energy and makes you work to keep up. We have everything here! Lots of cool things to see and do, but they are easy to be miss – so knowing where to go is key!
We are a proud crowd, appreciating the old and new. We’re not a rich city in terms of money, but we have a culture of making things happen. I am truly excited being a ‘Rotterdammert’ in a city that always changes, as it makes me feel involved. My passion is art and everything that’s new in the city.
Don’t expect one city center where everything happens, but be prepared to move around to experience what makes Rotterdam great. I recommend you get yourself a good city map, rental bike and/or day pass for the public transport.
Day 1: 09:00 – 14:00
First pick up the free Fire Boundary Rotterdam walking map at the Rotterdam Tourist Information at Coolsingel 114 (or get a free city map, also available online). Route A – West guides you from Central Station to Willemskade – along parts of the International Sculpture Collection and makes you aware of the city history.
We start the day at Central Station, the new grand entrance to the city flanked by modern architecture as Delftsepoort and ‘Groothandelsgebouw’, a great example of postwar architecture by architect Maaskant.
Cross Kruisplein and head to China Town for a traditional Chinese breakfast with a twist by Nixy & Lexy at West Kruiskade 34-b. Explore the West Kruiskade with shops (like Wah Nam Hong) and restaurants from around the world reflecting the richness of the many different cultures in Rotterdam.
There’s a very good gallery called Cinnnamon in Gouvernestraat 83c. Enter via Gouvernedwarsstraat the small district park ‘Oude Westen’, a calm place to escape the busy traffic and meet ‘The Giant of Rotterdam’.
The Lijnbaan Quarter is the city’s shopping heart, with the Lijnbaan (mainly international brands), premium department store Bijenkorf, and Koopgoot connecting with Hoogstraat where you’ll find the recently opened Hudson’s Bay and Dutch pride HEMA warehouse.
The area of Aert van Nesstraat, Oldenbarneveldstraat and Oude Binnenweg is better for shopping if you look for a mixture of Rotterdam no-nonsense shops and exclusive fashion boutiques like Wendela van Dijk (Oldenbarneveldstraat 115). If open check Zerp Gallery (Oldenbarneveldstraat 120a), the Susan Bijl store for THE stylish Rotterdam bag (Mauritsweg 45) and Cokkie Snoei gallery (Mauritsweg 55).
The last two shops will lead you to Eendrachtsplein with Paul McCarthy’s sculpture Santa Claus aka Gnome Butt Plug, my favourite ice cream shop Venezia and cozy coffee place Heilige Boontjes in the old police station..
In the middle of West Blaak open air Skatepark 2.0 worth stopping to mingle and see the elevated sculpture The Guard. It will lead you back to the Fire Boundary route.
The Witte de Withstraat is very vibrant day and night. For shopping check Margreet Oltshoorn and Collectiv Rotterdam. For art check the world’s smallest art gallery De Aanschouw, Showroom Mama, TENT and Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art. You can also find street Art by local artist as Daan Botlek or Bier and Brood.
Check the new ArtIndexRotterdam website for an up-to-date agenda to see what’s on in the numerous galleries and art spaces around Witte de Withstraat, but also outside the city center that are worth to visit.
From here I suggest a D-tour through Museum Park. Around here you’ll find Museum Boijmans van Beuningen (you can visit the Mirror Room by Yayoi Kusama for free), The New Institute (architecture, design and digital culture and great terrace overseeing the pont) the Kunsthal (designed by Rem Koolhaas) for a widely range of art exhibitions. I also recommend you check the construction site of the Collection building and the Natural History Museum.
If you want more art at this point go to the Nieuwe Binnenweg for the Rijnhoutplein area, where you’ll find a cluster of some young galleries like a very good conceptual art gallery Joey Ramone, Frank Taal, Galerie Herenplaats, Printroom, Rianne Groen and Leeszaal West for free books.
If you keep following the Nieuwe Binnenweg (ignore the road constructions) you’ll pass very nice shops like Buiten, Voorlopig, Gallery Zigt and STEK. If you would continue, you’ll end up in the historical area of Delfshaven with the oldest city brewery De Pelgrim (Aelbrechtskolk 12).
Further out West is the Van Nelle Factory, a Unesco listed building, now home to new media companies and events. In weekends you can take a tour here.
The Innovation District of Stadshavens Rotterdam is developing as an area where progressive institutions and businesses are clustered and align themselves with start-ups, business incubators and accelerators. The rooftop park Dakpark borders this area from Delfshaven. Check out the unique city farm ‘Uit je eigen stad’. It’s a raw area and if you plan to head out here, do go see world famous Joep van Lieshouts courtyard with obscure sculptures at Keileweg 18 and have a drink at Keilecafé.
Day 1: 14:00 – 19:00
Go through the Museum Park, cross Westzeedijk and walk into The Park. Here is Parqiet, a lovely romantic park café.
Now if you keep the river Maas on your right hand, you’ll pass the entrance of Maastunnel (for bikes and pedestrians to cross the river Maas to Charlois). Keep following the Maas, enjoy the skyline of Rotterdam and Piet Oudolfs garden on the quay, continue in the direction of Leuvehoofd and pass De Ballentent (or go in for meatballs!).
The Veerhaven is a very nice harbor, home to beautiful historical ships. Have a peek at Café Loos, the first grand café in Rotterdam. If you like to return to this area later, at Scheepstimmermanslaan 3b is small café Piek and all her neighbors are good for food and drinks. As is Z&M at Veerhaven 12-14 and Zinc at Calandstraat 12a – both famous amongst Rotterdammerts.
Continue heading in the direction of the World Museum and Erasmusbridge to find the official start of the Fire Boundary walk at Willemskade. If you really want to go on a 1.5 hrs boat trip to see the harbor, take a Spido ride.
We go to Kop van Zuid – the Valhalla of modern architecture , by taking the Watertaxi from Veerhaven to Hotel New York. Enjoy a great view on the skyline from nHOW hotel bar at the 7th floor in De Rotterdam. Not many people know but there is even a short cut through De Rotterdam that brings you to the quay where Cruiseships ancker.
Now take the Rijnhavenbrug aka Love Lock Bridge to Katendrecht, a pier that used to be in the middle of the harbor area with a large Chinese community and until the 80ties ‘De Kaap’ was known for prostitution. Now young families love to settle here. Parts of the pier are still not yet developed or in use by the harbor.
Especially in weekends it’s fun to explore and see social housing alternate modern architecture and beautiful facades of houses and buildings that were brought back in its original beautiful state. If you like ships, do visit the SS Rotterdam and have a drink on the deck.
TIP: On weekdays between 8:00 – 10:00 and 15:30 – 18:30 there is a small ferry ‘Veerpont Zuid’ for people (with bikes) from SS Rotterdam to Charloisse Hoofd, which brings you to the entrance of the Maas tunnel – great to cross the river on foot or bike to the North bank.
The pier has a rich history. ‘Verhalenhuis Belvérdere’ located in a building from 1894, collects those stories, makes interesting exhibitions and connects people and communities in the city. A lovely and interesting place to stop, open till 18:00 from Fri – Sun.
In one of the warehouses you’ll find Fenix Food Factory, a true hotspot. Great for finger food and BBQ at the quay, good coffee, CiderCider and beer from the local brewery Kaapse Brouwers. Just explore and you’ll find the Circus school, the Pinball museum, Theater Walhalle, Fenix House and Posse.
Day 1: 19:00 – ?
Around Deliplein you’ll find more good restaurants and cozy bars. My favorite is Ouwe Hoer. For diner I suggest my favorite restaurant here, Matroos en het Meisje (you need to make a reservation).
Good food at Schiedamsevest, Restaurant Dertien (30), new is The Walk’in Fish (14) or go Italian at Gusto (40). Bazaar at de Witte de Withstraat 16 is cheap and mainly fun. The best Japanese Restaurant is Yama, make sure to make a reservation! You can find the best cocktails at The Stirr and. Talking about cockatils…. if you need a doctor 😉, do make an appointment at Dr. Rotterdam!
Day 2: 9:00 – 14:00
The newest hotspot in Rotterdam is HIG – ‘Het Industrie Gebouw’, also by architect Maaskant. This postwar building is recently renovated and now home to many small cool companies, restaurants with a shared courtyard to sit out and shops. GROOS 2.0 is where you get inspired and can buy true Rotterdam Design, Products and Art. Their interior is designed by their neighbor, architect firm MVRDV, who also designed Markthal. Walk around the building for more Rotterdam design – handmade shoes by Dutch VIKO.
Have breakfast By Jarmusch (Goudsesingel 64), a cool all-day breakfast diner. Sit at their bar and go for a filter coffee and get a free refill. Alternatives close to HIG is Spirit (Mariniersweg 9) for a vegetarian buffet-style breakfast or Picknick (Mariniersweg 259).
The second stretch of Hoogstraat, Botersloot and Pannekoekstraat is a really nice shopping area with many small shops. My favourite bar at Hoogstraat is Verward (69A) and I love Round and Round’s roll cake and Mache Latte (55a). At Meent you’ll find high end boutiques. A lovely shop, just around the corner of Meent is Keet (Oppert 2a).
Try to visit Garage Rotterdam in Goudsewagenstraat 27, their exhibitions and events are held around a theme reflecting recent developments in contemporary visual arts.
Around station Blaak we visit food valhalla Markthal by MVRDV. You’ll be overwhelmed by the ceiling art piece ‘Horn of Plenty’ by artist Arno Coenen & Iris Roskam. When you go here early, it’s not so busy. Explore the market floor, visit Museum ‘De Tijdtrap’, showcasing historical artefacts found on the construction site during the building of the garage.
You’ll get a great view over the Binnenrotte, Markthal and Laurenschurch from the Stadsterras, on the 1st floor in the central library – a great public building. There’s a huge weekly outdoor market at Binnenrotte on Tuesday and Saturday.
Check Laurens church (1525) and Grote Kerkplein, the Erasmus monument – great for inspirational quote-spotting, funky sculpture Ode to writer Maren Toonder by the Artonisten, the Pencil & Cube houses by architect Piet Blom, the old harbor with ship yard and National Heritage the White House, which in 1898 was the highest office building in Europe.
We go South again using the Willemsbridge over the river Maas, taking the stairs down and cross the Noorder Island via the Maaskade and Takstraat and leave the Island via the Konninginneburg and head to Entrepothaven, passing the Hefbridge, Unilever HQ built over the peanut butter factory and the community Hefpark. Around this harbor – bounded by the Peperclip building, the first part of Kop van Zuid was developed in 1995 with housing by Verheijden architects and Cepezed architects.
National Heritage Entrepotbuilding 5 Werelddelen, is an old warehouse transformed into lofts, shops and restaurants. The National newspaper AD gave restaurant O’Kay the price for best terrace in 2017. It’s a perfect spot to oversee the modern architecture, National Heritage Poortgebouw and Pincoff hotel as well as the harbor with luxurious yachts.
In 1993 – 2002 houses were built on the second pier Landtong and Stadstuinen with 2 monuments to commemorate the Jewish people that were deported in the second world war.
The Veemstraat gives acces to the garden designed by Piet Oudolf squeezed between the Cité building – 2010 by Tangram at Laan op Zuid and Inholland school complex – 2000 Erik van Egeraat at Postumuslaan 90 and brings you to Rijnhaven where you see the floating forest project.
Head for the Erasmus bridge to cross the river Maas as I suggest to go back into town for a lunch at a unique spot. A rooftop restaurant & garden on Schieblock ‘Op het Dak’, Schiekade 189.
The Schieblock area is great to see street art and turns into the place to be in the evening, especially on Thursday-, Friday- and Saturday-night. This is where we go for an afterwork drink at Biergarten, Annabel and Bar terrace and for DJ’s and concerts at Annabel & Transportbedrijf and Bar.
Day 2: 14:00 – 16:00
After lunch you take the Luchtsingel, a yellow wooden bridge over the busy Schiekade and railway track, what brings you to Hofplein Station and Hofbogen or Pompenburg.
If you follow Pompenburg, you get to Haagseveer and can see the City-Hall garden (Coolsingel) or Timmerhuis – 2015 by OMA – Rem Koolhaas (Haagseveer/Rodezand, a building that looks like a cloud of steel and glass voxels. You can walk through this building using the Halvemaanpassage. On the ground floor at Rode Zand is Museum Rotterdam located, at the Meent good shops and bar-restaurants and at Haagseveer Hay for Scandinavian design.
Anyway, we head North, to an old part of Rotterdam and very popular area where people like to live.
Take the steps down and visit De Hofbogen an out of use 1.9 km elevated railwaytrack build in 1902, that runs through the Agniese-area in the North. This piece of National Heritage will be developed over time into a park like the highline in New York (we hope!).
The first part, bordered by Heer Bokelweg is renovated and a true hotspot. The roof of Station Hofplein is often open for events. On ground level in the arches are shops, restaurants, bars, lunchrooms, studios and workshops.
Bird (Raamspoortstraat 26) is very popular for concerts, drinks and food. New is Bird Garden – a temporary outdoor restaurant opposite Hofplein station on a stretch of green. You may like checking Clone Records(12), Denoism (32), Northsea Design (32). Good coffee at Lokaal (34b). Or just check this link with all entrepeneurs and choose for yourself.
Just follow the coffee exploring the second stretch of Hofbogen, Coppi Coffee and Cycling (Bergweg 316), Hoofdkantoor – breakfast/lunch & coffee roasters Man met Bril (Vijverhofstraat 70 with great urban art on their facade) , or stay close and go for art and beer at my favorite Eurotrash United bar and brewery (Vijverhofstraat 10), a great initiative by the artists that created Horn of Plenty in Markthal. They are open daily at 15:00 – often small concerts here.
Opposite the Hofbogen at Vijverhofstraat 45, Marché 010 opened recently, an initiative for and with the people from this area. If you go through Marché 010 taking the back exit, you’ll find Scrap, a shop and workspace at Schoterbosstraat 6C. Worth checking out, if you’re interested in the re-use of industrial scrap and production left-overs that they sell. Scrap also organizes workshops.
Around the corner of Scrap, at Anthoniestraat 2 is Gare du Nord, a vegan restaurant for lunch and dinner in an old railway carriage, with a nice terrace that borders a neighborhood garden with vegetables.
Along the luminous Noordsingel with beautiful villa’s, at number 115 stands an impressive building. A jail (1867) and Palace of Justice (1899) by architect Metzelaar. Until 1996 this gem of National Heritage was home to The palace of Justice that moved to Kop van Zuid and in 2012 the jail moved. In the coming years they are going to develop houses, a hotel, restaurants and hugh garden for the people in Rotterdam North. If you visit it now and return in 2020, you’ll understand my excitement about a city that always changes.
The area around Noordplein also known as the Zwaanshalsarea is nice for exploring. If you fancy a snack or cake, the best place is at Lof der Zoetheid, Noordplein . They also serve delicious breakfast and lunch but close early.
You’ll be amazed when you visit Kookpunt at Noordplein 27, the largest Dutch cookery shop. You will find specialized shops at Zwaanshals Wiskybase (number 530) , Ja Wol! (number 283a) and Superbra (number 274). Around number 280 there is a shortcut – though the courtyard with a terrace of the Rotterdam microbrewery Noordt – to the otherside of the block: Zaagmolenkade. The river Rotte runs along the Zaagmolenkade, and I like the shops Olga Korstanje (40), Contemporary Showroom (41-42) and Jouw Marktkraam (117) for cheap vintage finds.
In Rotterdam we like our parks. Visit Vroesenpark for the Vroesen pavilion where they serve the best classical Flammkuche. And check Kralingse Plas, as this will give you a great view on the Skyline.
Cycle through the old part of Kralingen and see beautiful villa’s in the Wagnerhof and around the Hofvijver.
Go back to the river Maas and have a drink at the Aloha bar and restaurant terrace, as you’ll get a spectacular view on the river and Willembrug. This abandoned tropical swimming paradise is now known as Bluecity with small innovative ecological businesses.
You now know your way around town by now….
Day 2: 19:00 – ???
I suggest dinner at De Jonge, beer at Eurotrash United or Biergarten/Annabel/Bar, a cocktail and great view at the Suicideclub bar and restaurant on roof of Groothandelsgebouw (check dresscode and become a member prior to your visit) or Drink & DJ at Altijd in je Buurt (Groothandelsgebouw – Weena 209) . Live Music at Bird, Annabel , Rotown and on the Southbank Raaf or Maassilo. End your night at bar Ammehoela (Mauritsweg 33) or the Witte de Withstraat.
I’d love to hear about your Rotterdam experience!