Though often overshadowed by Amsterdam, Rotterdam is worth a visit. Rotterdam prides itself on its unique architecture, port area, modern art, great food, and modern city center. The city itself is very multicultural and displays an array of festivals and concerts which are free. Take advantage of visiting in the summer months, as most festivals and concerts occur from mid-June through late August. I really enjoyed Rotterdam – it was good modern contrast to the canal-laced streets of Amsterdam.
Hostel prices – Dorm rooms cost around $22-27 USD a night, depending on the time of year. That includes breakfast buffet at most hostels. A double private room will cost around $80-90 USD.
Budget hotel prices – Most cheap hotels begin at around $75 USD per night for a double private room with a bathroom.
Average cost of food – Falafel and shwarma shops are your best bet for cheap food. Meals here will cost around $8 USD. Buying your food from the supermarket will cost about $45-55 USD for the week.
Transportation – Renting a bike will cost about $15 per day. The easiest place to rent bikes is at the rental offices by Central Station. You can also take the RET, which is the bus, tram and train system. You can get a welcome card that offers transportation for three days for $22 USD.
Money Saving Tips
Rent a bicycle – The easiest and cheapest way to get around the city (besides walking) is to rent a bike. You can get one for around $15 USD per day.
Eat cheap – Rotterdam has a lot of cheap snack and gyro shops that cost around $6. Buying food at the weekend market is a great way to stock up on groceries for the week.
Get the Welcome Card – If you plan to do a lot of sightseeing, get the city tourist card which offers discounts on most attractions as well as three days worth of travel on the train and bus system. It’s quite the bargain if you are going to stay in the city for awhile.
Top Things to See and Do
Walk to the Erasmus Bridge – This bridge is a popular sightseeing attraction. Somewhat resembling a harp, it towers over the largest harbor in Europe. It’s a good point to get photos of the city and boats from.
Ascend the Euromast Tower – The Tower has a rotating elevator that takes you 185 meters in the air and you can take a tour of the tower for $12 USD. There’s also a restaurant at the top but it’s a bit expensive. I found the views amazing but since I don’t like heights I came down quick. You can also abseil down too.
Walk around Delfshaven – Near the Euromast (about a ten-minute walk) is the historical suburb of Delfshaven. You’ll find museums and the original mill from the Mayflower.
Walk in the park – Also near the Euromast, there’s a gigantic park that makes for some great walking, relaxing, picnics, and sports. Don’t tell the people in Amsterdam, but I found it even better than Amsterdam’s famed Vondalpark. I highly recommend spending some time relaxing here.
Walk along the harbor – Rotterdam has the largest and busiest harbor in all of Europe. Explore all the boats coming and going, and check out people’s yachts. I enjoyed eating lunch and watching everything go by.
Attend a festival – If you can, make it out to the Rotterdam Summer Festival, which shows up the last weekend of July and is composed of dancing, parties and colorful processions. Also visit the De Parade, which is a circus tour that entertains with performances, music and circus-related activities.
Stop at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen – The museum, founded in 1849, houses a rich, broad collection that is grouped into four wings with masterpieces such as Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s The “little” Tower of Babel (1563) and an important collection of surrealism, prominently featuring Salvador Dalí and René Magritte.
Visit the Rotterdam Zoo – The Rotterdam Zoo was established in 1857 and is one of the most popular day trips in the Netherlands. An interesting feature of Rotterdam Zoo is the Oceanarium, which has a large collection of fish from around the world.
Stop by Rotterdam City Hall – Built in 1914, the city hall has a very monumental appeal to it. There are several statues to see, a grand main hall to walk through, and nice courtyard to check out. The architecture is really interesting overall—you’ll be snapping photos left and right.
Peek in the Oude Kerk – This is one of the few areas that survived wartime bombings and destruction—which makes it a great place for architectural sightseeing. The Old Church is one of the most major draws here, as it is said to be the site where the Pilgrims last prayed prior to leaving for the Americas.
Walk the Rotterdam Walk of Fame – This walkway, similar to that in Hollywood, CA, is home to handprints of various stars and starlets from around the world. Some you’ve probably heard of and many you probably haven’t. If you are in the area, it is fun to stop by and see which hands fit yours.
Do a harbor tour – The harbor in Rotterdam is one of the largest and busiest in the entire world. Hopping on a Rotterdam harbor boat tour is a great way to view some of the action, and to see the city from a different vantage point. Tours cost $14 USD, and last an hour and a half.
Visit the cube houses – Rotterdam is known for modern, cutting-edge architecture. A great example of this is the Cube Houses – a row of 38 small cube-shaped houses, all containing three floors. One of the houses is open for public visitors.