Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands. The historical heart of the city was destroyed in the second world war and since then the city has been in full rebuild modus. Rotterdam is alive, modern and always changing. Many travelers go there for a day and quickly realize that they need to come back for more. Last winter I spend a weekend in the city that mostly involved Christmas shopping, so I was very excited to learn more about the history and architecture. I liked the Christmas spirit in the city, but the buzzing summer is what really made me fall in love with Rotterdam. Here are my tips for a fabulous weekend in ‘Manhattan at the Maas’.
Walk over the Luchtsingel
Our first stop of the day was the ‘Luchtsingel’, a 390 meters yellow, pedestrian bridge that connects the city center with the northern part of Rotterdam. The bridge was built via crowdfunding. The names of the people that contributed with the building were engraved in the wooden slats. Besides the social importance, the bridge is also a nice example of Rotterdam’s urban character. Oh and if you want a cool, urban Instagram shot, this is where you need to be 😉
Pass by the Sint-Laurenskerk
The Sint-Laurenskerk is one of the only standing medieval buildings in the city. The church is incredible to wander around in. With its bronze doors, beautiful interiors and stained glass, it’s one of the best things to do in Rotterdam for history buffs.
Visit the Market Hall
The Market Hall is a must to if you like food and iconic buildings. And for once it wasn’t just the food that impressed me. The design of the market is pretty special too. The Market hall has the shape of a giant airplane hangar with a gigantic work of art on the inside. Also the fact that you can actually live in the Market Hall is pretty special. (The windows that you see in the artwork are actually apartment windows). About the food, there are over 100 food stands that offer fresh cheese, fruit, vegetables and other specialties that will make your taste buds jump for joy! For sure a cool place for lunch.
Lunch at Lot & Daan
If you don’t want to lunch at the Market Hall and you love all day breakfasts, healthy and freshly prepared lunches, Lot & Daan is the perfect spot for you! The Instagrammable interior at Lot & Daan is very bright, with lots of pink, hanging chairs, plants and wall art.
Visit the Cube Houses
The most famous buildings in the city are the Cube Houses. Tourists come from all over the world to catch a glimpse of the unique design. The Cube Houses were designed by Dutch architect Piet Blom, who tilted a traditional, cube-shaped house 45 degrees and lifted it on a hexagon-shaped pylon. If you like to know what it’s like to live in a Cube House you can visit the so-called ‘kijkkubus’. I was really surprised, because the houses turned out much larger than I expected.
Hang out in the Old Harbor
Rotterdam’s Old Harbor dates back to the 14th century. Inside of the harbor you will see a few old ships that are nowadays part of the Harbor Museum and a shipyard where ships are being renovated. The view of the historic fleet gives the Old Harbor a very charming and picturesque outlook. The mixture between the historical and modern day buildings is what makes the Old Harbor so special. The ‘White House (and no, don’t confuse it with the one in Washington D.C.) was once the highest building in Europe. All around the harbor there are bars and restaurants, so during summer it’s very nice to enjoy a drink on one of the many terraces and take in the sights.
Shop at Coolsingel & Hoogstraat
Rotterdam is also a paradise for shopaholics! We didn’t do a lot of shopping, but when in The Netherlands I always pop in at Beijenkorf! They simply have everything a girl’s heart desires and the window decorations are always so pretty too! Another fun store in that part of town is Sostrene Grene, a Danish brand that offers all sorts of cute little things for your home in Scandinavians designs at very good prices! Other popular shopping streets around here are Koopgoot, Lijnbaan, Beursplein and Beurstraverse.
Dinner at Ballroom in Witte de Withstraat
The one street that you can’t miss in Rotterdam is the Witte de Withstraat! The street has a hipster vibe and lots of cool little cafes, bars and a few night spots too. With its many galleries and walls embellished with street art, it is the cultural heart of the city. We spotted many hip restaurants in this street, so it was really hard to choose at first. Finally we decided to have dinner at Ballroom. The concept is food sharing, so on the menu you will find several bar bites, meat, fish and veggie dishes. If you like gin & tonics, this is the place to be for you (and me 😉), because with over 162 different gins in stock, they have the largest gin selection in Europe.
Stay at PREMIER SUITES PLUS Rotterdam
PREMIER SUITES PLUS hotels always bring home a little closer and that was the case in Rotterdam as well. After a warm welcome we were allocated a one bedroom apartment with a spectacular view over the Central Station and the Groot Handelsgebouw, which made for two happy kiddos! PREMIER SUITES PLUS Rotterdam mainly focuses upon long stays, so the apartments are spacious and super cozy, with a fully equipped kitchen, lounge and dining area. I’m sure they meet all the needs for the modern, business traveler, but honestly the tourist in me, really liked the spacious room too! That view for one and don’t even get me started on those comfortable beds! I slept like a baby.
Brunch at King Kong in Witte de Withstraat
For an amazing start of the day head to the café of King Kong Hostel. Both locals and travelers can enjoy the breakfast buffet between 8 and 11 AM. You can also order à la carte. On the menu you will find smoothie bowls, avocado sandwiches and much more yummy and healthy dishes. I loved the unique and funky interior of King Kong Hostel, especially the cool seating right by the big windows that look out onto the street.
As Delfshaven is a little bit outside of the city center, we rented bikes at the hotel. Delfshaven is a small inner-city harbor with many historical buildings. Unlike most of Rotterdam, this part of the city was spared during the second World War. So if you want to get an impression of what Rotterdam looked like before the war, you should go there.
Pass by the Euromast & The Park
At that point it was about time to cross the Erasmus Bridge and get to the ‘Kop van Zuid’ part of Rotterdam. We drove through ‘The Park’, one of Rotterdam’s loveliest public parks with in the backdrop the Euromast, Rotterdam’s observation tower. From the ‘Parkkade’ you also have an amazing view upon the Erasmus Bridge, Hotel New York and the Rotterdam skyscrapers, so make sure to get your camera’s ready!
Visit Hotel New York
This iconic Hotel New York is situated in the former head office of the Holland Amerika Line. From here, thousands of emigrants left for North America, hoping for a better life… And although it’s nowadays a place where people can come to enjoy a good night’s sleep or delicious food and drinks, the feeling of nostalgia remains in the grand interior of the hotel.
Drinks at BY AMI Urban Bistro
After our visit to Hotel New York, we further explored the ‘Kop van Zuid’ area. The place is filled with lots of cool bars and restaurants, but the one that really stands out is BY AMI Urban Bistro and that because of its modern and colorful interior. Think lots of fun art, pink and blue all around the restaurant. Super instaproof if you ask me! The menu consists mostly out of international fusion dishes. BY AMI Urban Bistro prides themselves in the fact that they are always working with fresh and seasonal products.
Dinner at Bazaar in Witte de Withstraat
They say that you either love or hate the Witte de Withstraat. My friend B. and I obviously loved it, as we went back for the third time and had dinner at Bazar. This restaurant serves mouthwatering dishes inspired by the Maghreb and Middle Eastern cuisine. The interior is very colorful with Middle Eastern, African and South American influences. Bazar is one of the most popular places in de Witte de Withstraat, and that’s perfectly normal as the food is absolutely delicious and reasonably priced. The staff is also very friendly and helpful.
- Rotterdam is closer than you think. By car it will take you about 1h45 from Ghent, which is shorter than by the train (2h30 from Ghent). Carparks can get pretty expensive though! They are two public carparks upon walking distance of the hotel. The cheapest is ‘Stadsgarage Schouwburgplein 2’ GPS coordinated: Weenatunnel 50, Rotterdam, where you pay € 20 per 24 hours.