“In the centre of Rotterdam, I often see tourists holding a map. They stop at an invisible line and look around them. That’s where their map ends. No attractions are marked beyond this point, so they turn around, assuming nothing of interest. But some of the best spots are hidden, tucked away, and sometimes just around the corner. You just need to know what you’re looking for to discover them.” – Michael Afanasyev
Experiencing Rotterdam like a local is important because it allows you to truly immerse yourself in the culture and daily life of the city. By interacting with residents and visiting local spots, you gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the city’s history, customs, and traditions. It also allows you to discover hidden gems and unique experiences, create a more authentic and meaningful travel experience, and foster a greater connection to the community.
Directly from our local Spotters, here are some tips and spots and places you should visit in Rotterdam for a truly local experience:
Art and Culture
Rotterdam is a city rich in art and culture, with a thriving arts scene that showcases both emerging and established talent. The city also has a strong architectural heritage, including the Erasmus Bridge, which offer a glimpse into the city’s innovative design and engineering. Rotterdam’s cultural scene is also diverse, with a calendar of events that includes festivals, concerts, and performances that cater to a wide range of interests and tastes.
Historical Delfshaven – A walk through history
“Historic Delfshaven is an area in Rotterdam filled with history and stories. This area is part of the old city of Rotterdam, as it is one of the few places that survived the 1940 bombing. Walking here feels like a jump back through time; you can feel the richness of the history embedded in the street, the houses, and the marina.
This area is also known to be the birthplace of the admiral Piet Hein, who was a Dutch admiral in the eighty-year war. In Historic Dlelfshaven, you can see the monument of Piet Hein.”- Nour Nassar
De Distilleerketel – The Delfshaven windmill
“This windmill is considered one of the Netherlands’ largest windmills. It is quite a beautiful sight and makes for an absolutely photogenic scene. Situated in the historic area of Delfshaven, it is also surrounded by beautiful architecture, history, art, culture, and many shops and restaurants.
This mill was built in 1986, however, it is currently not functioning as a flour mill, just a beautiful structure with a lot of history.”- – Nour Nassar
Bibliotheek Rotterdam – An oasis to be yourself
“This is one of the first spaces that I reclaimed on my own in the city. The first time I wondered through the six floors of books and spaces to relax, I was astonished by the expanding idea of the library: not the classic silent box with forgotten books, but a living space with areas for learning and discovering the word.
The library in Dutch, or at least in Rotterdammer, means that place that you can go to study with friends, read the press, and play with your toddlers. All of this inside an amazing building with many lamps and windows that makes it unique.
There is a coffee, a kids-toddler corner, and, of course, a “silent” level where you can go and work without any noise or interruption. As with the rest of the building, be prepared to feel as comfortable as in the study hall of a friend.”- Cinthya Uribe
Maashaven to Rijnhaven Metro – Street art galore
“One of the many wonderful things about Rotterdam is there is amazing street art to be found. You can turn a random corner and be surprised by an artist’s vision on the subject of choice. The metro D De Akkers and metro line E to Slinge go above ground after the metro stop Wilhelminaplein.
Apart from the views of one of the most photographed skylines in the Netherlands, it is worth getting out at metro stop Maashaven and walking back to either metro stop Rijnhaven or Wilhelminaplein. The pillars holding up the metro rails have been craftily decorated by Rotterdam street artists.”- Silvia Graham
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Rotterdam is a food lover’s paradise, with a diverse culinary scene that offers a wide range of dining options. The city also has a vibrant street food scene, with food trucks and street vendors offering everything from traditional Dutch stroopwafels to exotic global cuisine. Rotterdam also has a large immigrant population, which is reflected in the city’s diverse food options, like Surinamese, Turkish, Chinese, and Moroccan restaurants. Vegetarian and vegan options also widely available in the city.
Bazar Restaurant – Middle Eastern Cuisine
“Nestled in the famous Witte de Withstraat in Rotterdam, you’ll find Bazar restaurant – part of Bazar Hotel. As soon as you step inside, you’ll be mesmerized by the number of decorative lights all over the place, but without losing a sense of serenity and calmness to it, which washes over you. If you appreciate art and culture, you’ll definitely see the beauty of this place and the culture it represents.
Now, on to the most important aspect of this place: THE FOOD! And oh my, the food… if you fancy Middle Eastern cuisine, then this place is a must-visit place in Rotterdam.”- Nour Nassar
30ml Rotterdam Centrum
“On the Nieuwe Binnenweg, 30ML lures you in with the scent of freshly roasted coffee, a small terrace when the sun is out and the smell of delicious cooking. The atmosphere is laid back, relaxed and creates a little oasis in the middle of this busy part of Rotterdam. Their drink menu is extensive with a great variety of teas, specials such as seasonal lattes and homemade lemonades and of course coffees.
The coffee, ah the coffee is everything lovers of this dark coloured life elixir want: the black coffees are dark, fragrant, steamy, hot and hit your veins with the caffeine hit of choice. The white coffees, I have been told, are equally delicious.”- Silvia Graham
Old Dutch – First Michelin star in town
“Old Dutch is hidden in the middle of the city, very close to a beautiful wall filled with colourful graffiti, so by looking for it you will discover an area of Rotterdam unknown to most newcomers. All you have to do is reach Rochussenstraat from Nieuwe Binnenweg.
You can order sophisticated dishes, like lobster à la thermidor, if you are in a royal mood, but there’s always the option to try out the famous Old Dutch kroket which has earned the reputation to be the biggest in town.
All in all, you will be surrounded by a refined interior and extremely polite personnel – not arrogant, just enough to make you feel at home.”- Irina Bulat
Mr Salad – Healthy never tasted so good
“In the city centre, near the beautiful Hofplein, you will find Mr. Salad. Don’t be misled by the name, there is so much more than salad on offer here. Open since April 2017, Mr. Salad was one of the front runners in aiming and succeeding in providing healthy food and snacks on the go. Alternatively, stay, take a load off and enjoy all the tasty nutrients.
The interior is uplifting, and all the food is freshly made. All allergies can be catered for, just tell the staff and you’ll enjoy some of the tastiest food around.”- Silvia Graham
Parqiet – Coffee, Brunch, in the Park
“Walking through Het Park is already a delightful and relaxing experience. Still, it is even better when you enjoy the scenery of the park while sipping a cup of coffee and having a plate of delicious carrot cake. From one of the best coffees served in Rotterdam to a super tasty breakfast, a healthy lunch, or go all out and get a cheese platter with a well-needed glass of wine, all of this you can find at Parqiet.
What makes it even better is the seating arrangement. you can either sit in the nicely decorated and calm area inside or choose one of the comfy park chairs or a nice table under the trees outside. Sitting in this place gives an absolutely calming and full of serenity and peace vibe that is hard to find right in the middle of the city.”- Nour Nassar
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Rotterdam may be known for its modern architecture and bustling port, but it also offers plenty of opportunities to experience nature within the city. The city is also home to several parks and gardens where you can enjoy the tranquility of lush greenery and diverse plant life. The nature in the city can also be enjoyed by taking a bike ride or hike along the many bike paths that follow the river and the port.
Brienenoord Island – Nature escape
“I stumbled upon Brienenoord island by mistake while looking for relaxing spots in Rotterdam. I thought, maybe I’ll give it a visit and check it out. There wasn’t really a lot of information about it, so I went there with zero expectations.
But boy, was I surprised! This little island, right on the Maas, is so beautiful! It has walking paths, however, it is mostly a natural paradise. The birds seem to agree, as they flock to this island and made it a home for themselves. Moreover, this island is a protected area, as it is also home to wild cows.
However, this island was not always there. It was actually man-built to build the bridge right next to it, Van Brienenoordbrug, which was built in 1965. Over the years, nature did its thing and completely consumed this new land.”- Nour Nassar
Kralingse Plas & Bos – Skyline seen by nature
“There are wooden jetties to be walked on in the water all the while looking at the most beautiful skyline in the Netherlands, ample paths all with different names and distances and secret hiding places from the world. The Kralingse Plas and surrounding woodland is the largest recreational area in Rotterdam. There is something to do for everyone: a golf club, a horse-riding school, children’s playgrounds and water sports facilities.
The changing landscape of the forest with each path giving a different perspective. Some straight from a fairy tale without fearing big bad wolves.”- Silvia Graham
Secret Garden – Central city hideaway
“One of the most attractive things in Rotterdam is the endless energy this city gives you. As much as I enjoy the constant energy, sometimes you want to have a little moment just for you or with the person of your choosing, if only for a minute or two.
In the middle of the city centre, hidden away from the hustle and bustle at just a stone’s throw from the Meent, there is a small piece of green tranquillity waiting to be discovered, the Secret Garden. Behind the Rotterdam City Hall which was designed by Henri Evers and one of the beautiful historic buildings (completed around 1920) to survive the bombings in WWII, there is a small garden just off a columned passageway. It is manicured with a statue or two and a few benches.” –Silvia Graham
Dak Park – A rooftop haven
“Being a nature lover, I always want to explore the different parks in and around Rotterdam. And while searching for places to go, I was intrigued by the concept of this particular park, Dak Park.
There is a story behind this one, and it is a good one! Apparently, in 1998, a land rail next to the port of Rotterdam became vacant. Of course, that led to a fight for the land; the land owner and the port authority wanted to build shops and stores to attract more people and fix the area. However, the residents who live around this land wanted a park.
How did they fix this problem? They did both!
Everybody’s wishes were granted. A lot of shops were built, and that made the business people happy. After that, the rooftop of these shops was converted into a large park. It took me 30 minutes to walk from one side to reach the other side – the rooftop was huge! And it is absolutely green and beautiful.”- Nour Nassar
Click here to discover more locally spotted Parks and relaxings activites in Rotterdam
Want to see more? Check out the entire list of our locally spotted places in Rotterdam!