Rotterdam is an excellent destination for a day trip from Amsterdam or Brussels, conveniently connected to other major cities in the Netherlands and Belgium. 

What to see in Rotterdam in one day? Lots. 

Rotterdam is the second-largest city in Holland and has the largest port in Europe. World War II bombing left the entire city completely destroyed, and it had to be reconstructed from the ground. As a result, funky, eye-catching architecture adorns the skyline of Rotterdam today; a futuristic and modern town was born looking nothing like any other city in the Netherlands.

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Fun Things to Do in Rotterdam in a day (Amsterdam Day Trip Destination) | #Rotterdam #Netherlands #traveleurope

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How to Get to Rotterdam

The Netherlands is a great country to travel by train. Most cities can be reached within three hours. I highly recommend downloading the NS app [iOSGooglePlay]. You can purchase tickets and get disruption notifications, which happens more often than you expect. By getting a digital pass through the app, you can also save on additional charges for paper tickets (€1 per ticket).

As the Dutch does, of course, you can also ride bicycles on the country’s well-established cycling routes.

Rotterdam from Amsterdam

By Train: Take an intercity train from Amsterdam Centraal to Rotterdam Centraal (€16.50). It takes about 1.25 hours.

By Bicycle: Pedal 75km, which takes about 4 hours.

By Private Car: Hire a private transfer.

Rotterdam from Utrecht 

By Train: Take an intercity train from Utrecht Centraal to Rotterdam Centraal (€11.30). It takes about 40 minutes.

By Bicycle: 60-65km, which takes about 3-3.5 hours.

Rotterdam from The Hague 

By Train: Take IC Intercity or SPR Sprinter from the Den Haag Centraal station to Rotterdam Centraal. The journey takes about 25-28 minutes.

By Bicycle: About 25km, which takes 1.5 hours.

By Private Car: Get a private airport transfer if you are traveling from The Hague Airport (RTM).

Rotterdam from Brussels

Major cities in the Netherlands conveniently connect to major cities from Belgium and France on the Thalys system.

By Train: From Brussels-South railway station, take a Thalys train towards Schiphol Airport. Get off at Rotterdam Centraal (€71). It should take about 1 hour and 10 minutes only.

>> From Amsterdam, this day tour package (small group only or private) is favored to explore the highlights of Rotterdam, Delft, and The Hague in a day. Or, take this private day tour from Amsterdam to Rotterdam and Kinderdijk.

How to Get Around Rotterdam

While Rotterdam is a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly city, I recommend taking the Rotterdam Metro (RET). An e-pay card called OV Chipkaart is only available for Dutch residents. Travelers have an option to purchase a one-time OV Chipkaart valid for two hours (€4.50) or Tourist Day Pass (€11) for the unlimited tram, bus, and waterbus rides in Rotterdam and The Hague.

>> For convenience, Rotterdam Welcome Card offers an unlimited travel pass for 1/2/3 day(s) covering metro, tram, and bus on RET. 

What to See in Rotterdam in One Day

If you want to see Rotterdam in a day, I suggest exploring the Centrum/Blaak area. Blaak is a cool part of the town filled with stunning architecture, restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops. It is an excellent area to stroll to feel the city.

>> In a rush? Take this Rotterdam Highlight Tour to visit the Cube Houses (#1 below), Markthal (#2), and the rooftop of Witte Huis (#3). Also, a spectacular water taxi ride takes you under the Erasmus Bridge.

What to see in Rotterdam in a day: Cube Houses | #Rotterdam #Netherlands #traveleurope #Carnival #festivals #architecture

#1. Cube Houses

​Cube Houses are Rotterdam’s iconic architecture you should not miss! It is designed by Piet Blom and constructed in 1982-1984. Blom created an individual cube as an abstract tree and the entire 38-cube complex as an urban forest. Despite its unique geometrical forms, it is fully furnished and lived in by residents. The part of it is also rented as a StayOkay hostel [Book here]. There is even a museum (admission: €3) to share its story if you are curious.

Hours: 10 am – 6 pm

Location: [Open Google Map]

>> Are you fascinated by Cube Houses and other daring examples of modern architecture in Rotterdam? Enjoy this 2-hour walking tour led by an architect (or this private tour for more serious architecture admirers) to understand the history and see more notable post-war projects around the city. To appreciate the skyline from the harbor, join this 3-hour walking + cruise tour. 

What to see in Rotterdam in a day: Markthal (Market Hall) | #Rotterdam #Netherland #traveleurope

#2. Markthal (Market Hall)

The Markthal is a residential and office building with a large market hall. This mixed-use structure houses food courts, bars, shops, and 228 apartments and offices.

What makes this place unique is its artsy architecture resembling a giant horseshoe. The structure has a massive hole in the middle wrapped in colorful graphics, which becomes an impressive backdrop of the lively market hall.

Grab a quick bite, sample cheese, sip a coffee and drink beer. And don’t forget to admire its artsy yet functional structure while at it.

Hours: 10 am – 9 pm

Location: [Open Google Map]

>> Enough about the architecture? You will appreciate it more if your stomach is happy? This walking food tour takes you to the city’s hottest spots – including Markthal – for food tastings. And for your guilt-free pleasure, you might want to take this bike food tour to burn calories as you gobble up.

What to see in Rotterdam in a day: Witte Huis| #Rotterdam #Netherlands #traveleurope

#3. Witte Huis

The Witte Huis (or White House) is the first high-rise building in Europe constructed in 1898. Art Nouveau architecture was one of the few buildings to survive the World War II bombing and is designated as a National Heritage Site.

This 10-story building can be seen over the water near the Cube Houses (#1). Don’t you think the scenery is beautiful enough for a postcard?

Location: [Open Google Map]

What to see in Rotterdam in a day: Erasmus University Campus | #Rotterdam #Netherlands #traveleurope

#4. Erasmus University College

Erasmus University College in Rotterdam is a small public college known for its highly ranked liberal arts and science programs. It also is a beautiful and serene campus with gorgeous buildings.

Stroll around the Erasmus University campus. And you will definitely enjoy the college vibes and livelihood.

If you are hungry by any chance, stop by Little V Rotterdam [Open Google Map]. It is a cozy, college-budget restaurant with tasty pho and vermicelli.

Location: [Open Google Map]

#5. Grote Of Sint-Laurenskerk

A visit to any European town cannot be complete without stopping by a church. Whether obligatory or not, Grothe of Sint-Laurenskerk (the Church of St. Lawrence) is a historically meaningful Gothic church worth your time.

It is the only remaining medieval structure in Rotterdam that has survived the 1940s bombings. After being severely damaged, not all decorations have been restored. But the space still feels magnificent.

From mid-March to October (Wednesday and Saturday only), the Laurenskerk Tower is open to visitors to climb with an accompanying guide. The tour showcases the history of the Laurenstoren and the view of Rotterdam. No reservations for this tour.

Admission: €3, Tower Climb (€6 or free with the Rotterdam Pass), Children up to age 12: Free [Purchase your admission and optional tower climb ticket here]

Hours: November to March: 11 am – 5 pm | April to October: 10 am – 5 pm | Closed Sunday & Monday.

Location: [Open Google Map]

What to see in Rotterdam in a day: Witte d Withstraat Bars | #Rotterdam #Netherlands #traveleurope

#6. Witte de Withstraat

Witte de Withstraat is a hip district with boutiques, art galleries, and bars. Many cafes and bars have terraces stretched out to the street. It is an excellent area to hang out and people watch.

Pick a place you like to chill at. I had a delicious kebab at Jaffa Shoarma [Open Google Map]. Cafe De Witte Aap [Open Google Map] is a popular bar, which was named the best bar in the world by the Lonely Planet in 2010.

What to Eat in Rotterdam, Netherlands | Fjord Eat & Drink: Seafood tower | #Rotterdam #Netherlands #Dutchfood #TravelEurope

On my way to Witte de Withstraat, I wandered around the Martiem District by the water. I stumbled upon Fjord Eat & Drink [Open Google Map]. I enjoyed their seafood platter and beer very much. This restaurant is an appropriate dining option for lunch or dinner.

What to see in Rotterdam in a day: Santa Claus Statue by Paul McCarthy | #Rotterdam #Netherlands #traveleurope

#7. Santa Claus Statue by Paul McCarthy

In 2001, the city of Rotterdam commissioned American sculptor Paul McCarthy to create a piece of art to display in the city’s orchestra building. The result is this giant Santa Claus holding (supposedly) a pine tree. Nicknamed “the Butt Plug Gnome,” it stirred controversy. It never made it to the Schouwburgplein square as the city initially planned. After moving around a few times, the Santa Claus finally found a permanent home in the Museum Park.

I wouldn’t say this is a must-visit spot. But why not swing by if you are in the area?

Location: [Open Google Map]

What to see in Rotterdam in a day: Sip a Selficcino | #Rotterdam #Netherlands #traveleurope

Our amazing breakfast with selfieccino!

#8. Selfieccino (Selfie on Cappuccino)

Amanda Coffee is a cute cafe in Rotterdam’s Blaak neighborhood. This is a perfect place for brunch with friends. Indeed, it serves an excellent brunch menu from breakfast eggs to salad to panini to smoothies. But it is perhaps most famous for its “Selfieccino,” your selfie printed on a cappuccino.

I once was obsessed with 3D Latte Art, which features foam-created animals on top of the latte. So when I heard about selfieccino, I had to have it. But had its cappuccino not been good, I would not have recommended it. Fun or gimmicky? You decide.

Location: [Open Google Map]

What to see in Rotterdam in a day: Schouwburgplein (Museum District) | #Rotterdam #Netherlands #traveleurope

#9. Schouwburgplein (Theatre Square)

Schouwburgplein (Theatre Square) is a park in the heart of Rotterdam featuring the municipal theater, concert hall, restaurant, and cafes. It is easily recognized by a red crane surrounded by fabulous architecture and green space. This kid-friendly area is an excellent place to take a walk and relax.

Location: [Open Google Map]

#10. Rotterdam Central Station

Rotterdam Centraal Station is the central transport hub in the city. If you are traveling on public transportation such as a train, bus, tram, and metro, this is most likely your first or last stop in Rotterdam. It functions as a meeting point, good-size mall, and restaurant.

Like many new constructions in the city, the terminal is one of the most iconic architecture in Rotterdam. The recent makeover features the angled roof with solar panels while saving the original clock in the facade. Before you rush in and out, take a moment to appreciate its open, modern architecture.

Location: [Open Google Map]

What to see in Rotterdam in a day: Rotterdam Summer Carnival | #Rotterdam #Netherlands #traveleurope #Carnival #festivals

#11. Rotterdam Summer Carnival

The Rotterdam Summer Carnival (Zomercarnival) is an annual multicultural festival celebrating cultural diversity. For five consecutive days, the city’s streets are filled with lively music, art, dance, and some exotic food. And the event is open to the public for free!

The festival’s highlight is the Zomercarnival Street Parade with decorated floats and dancers in colorful carnival costumes on Saturday.

If you happen to visit Rotterdam in summer, you may be lucky to join the all-day street parties. I caught the street parade totally by luck. But if you want to plan for it, the event is held on the last weekend in July. In 2022, the dates are July 26 – 30.

>> Hey, if you are heading to Rotterdam in spring, consider taking a day trip to Lisse and Keukenhof Garden to see tulips. After returning to Rotterdam, you can hop on a Harbor Cruise and visit Euromast (#12).

#12. Euromast Tower

Euromast is an observation tower built in the late 1950s. Being the highest building in the Netherlands, the tower serves as an observation deck/restaurant overlooking the Rotterdam skyline from 315 ft (96m) above the ground. I missed this place, but you should consider going if you are interested in admiring the city’s famous architecture at once.

Admission: €10.50, (65+: €9.50, Children age 4-11: €7) [Purchase your ticket here]

Location: [Open Google Map]

Traveling around the Netherlands? Consider buying a city pass to save money and time. Here is a thorough comparison of 5 most popular Dutch tourist saving cards >>  

Where to Stay in Rotterdam

Do you feel like one day in Rotterdam not enough? Or, do you want to stay overnight in Rotterdam to head over to another city the next day? Good news. Rotterdam is a much more affordable city than Amsterdam. Check out my recommendations for the best Rotterdam hotels for your consideration.

Luxury: Hotel New York

Hotel New York [Book hereis a luxury waterfront hotel in the historic Holland America Lijn building. If you want to stay off the busy street, this chic hotel sitting on the south bank of the Nieuwe Maas River is a perfect choice. Be sure to check out its hip restaurant.

Affordable Luxury: The James Hotel Rotterdam

The James Hotel Rotterdam [Book here] is a 3-star boutique hotel near Schouwburgplein. Its comfortable luxury design makes guests feel at home in the middle of vibrant streets.

Where to Stay in Rotterdam: Mid-range hotel | #Rotterdam #Netherlands #traveleurope

Mid-Range: Hampshire Savoy Rotterdam

Hampshire Savoy Rotterdam [Book hereis a 4-star hotel near Rotterdam Blaak Station. I stayed in this hotel and highly recommend it for its convenient location and comfort. For the value, it is surprisingly affordable.

Mid-Range: citizenM Rotterdam Hotel

CitizenM Rotterdam Hotel [Book hereis another 4-star hotel across Rotterdam Blaak Station. Like other citizenM hotels, this hotel by the water in the Oude Haven features stylish contemporary rooms.

Mid-Range: Hotel ibis Rotterdam City Centre

Hotel Ibis Rotterdam City Centre [Book hereis a casual stay slightly off Blaak Street. The hotel is still close to Rotterdam Blaak Station and features a terrace overlooking Wijnhaven port.

Hostel: Stayokay Hostel

Curious what it’s like to live in the Rotterdam’s iconic Cube Houses? StayOkay Hostel [Book hereis your chance. This funky hostel offers dormitory rooms, a complimentary breakfast buffet, and a game room. And you get to say, you stayed at one of the famous Cube Houses.

Budget: CityHub Rotterdam

CityHub Rotterdam [Book hereis the hippest budget hotel I’ve ever seen. This futuristic capsule hotel is operated on a self-service basis, enabled with a concierge app. It is housed in the hip Witte de Withstraat; you know that means bars and restaurants are a stone’s throw away.

Where to Go Next in the Netherlands

>> Amsterdam Itinerary for the First-time Visitors: Explore the charming, liberal Dutch capital in just 4 days

>> 5 Best Amsterdam Museums

>> Delft: Imbibe in artisan Delftware and Vermeer’s masterpieces like The Girl with a Pearl Earring

>> Utrecht: Visit Europe’s Most Beautiful Canal City with a 2,000-year history

>> De Haar Castle: The largest castle in the Netherlands with rich history, lavish decor and well-groomed gardens

>> Gouda: The most famous Dutch cheese city, but more than just a cheese market

Bon Voyage!

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Fun Things to Do in Rotterdam in a day (Amsterdam Day Trip Destination) | #Rotterdam #Netherlands #traveleurope