Often overshadowed by Amsterdam (they have an intense rivalry), Rotterdam is a funky little port town that prides itself on its unique architecture, port area, art, food, and modern city center. The city is one of the most multicultural in the country and has an array of free festivals and concerts throughout the year. I really enjoyed Rotterdam – it was good modern contrast to the canal-laced historic streets of Amsterdam. Plus, the parks and markets here are stunning. Take advantage of the summer months, as most festivals and concerts occur from mid-June through late August.
Hostel prices – You can find centrally-located 6-bed dorms for around 23 EUR per night. Most hostels include free linens, WiFi, and breakfast buffet at most hostels. A double private room will cost around 50-70 EUR. The YHA hostel here is pretty cool (and in a funky cubist building too). I’d recommend staying there.
Budget hotel prices – Centrally-located 2-star hotels begin at 55 EUR per night for a double private room with a private bathroom and free WiFi. On Airbnb, you can find shared rooms between 17-32 EUR and entire homes around 40-55 EUR per night.
Average cost of food – Falafel and shawarma shops are your best bet for cheap food. Meals here will cost around 5-10 EUR. Cheap meals at fast food joints or places like Maoz or Walk to Wok cost around 10 EUR. Restaurant meals average around 15-25 EUR for a main dish with a drink. Fast food like Febo, cheap Dutch food, is around 5-10 EUR. If you cook your meals, expect to pay 50 EUR per week for groceries that will include pasta, vegetables, chicken, and other basic foodstuffs.
Transportation – Rotterdam is super bike-friendly. Renting a bike will cost about 15 EUR 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. A single ride costs about 3 EUR. You can get a day pass that offers transportation for 1-3 days at prices for 7.50-16.50 EUR. Taxis cost a minimum of 5 EUR and fares are 2.10 EUR per km. If you’re traveling between The Hague and Rotterdam, consider the tourist day ticket (see money saving tips).
Suggested daily budget – 50 EUR / $52 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)
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 EUR per day.
- Eat cheap – Rotterdam has a lot of cheap snack and gyro shops that cost around 5 EUR. 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.
- Use Couchsurfing — It’s a service that lets travelers stay with locals for free. Since a lot of travelers use this service, make your requests for hosts early.
- Take a free walking tour – If you want an overview of the city, take a free walking tour through AiroTour. This way you’ll get to learn about the city without spending money. This tour leaves daily from Rotterdam Centraal, the main train station of the city.
- Cook – Dutch food isn’t going to win any awards. Try a few places but cook often (or at least make lots of sandwiches). Eating out in the city isn’t cheap and if you’re paying a lot for your accommodation, your daily costs can shoot through the roof. Head to the supermarket and get some food to cook! You’re not missing out on anything.
- Get the Museumkaart (Museum Card) – Good for one month for non-residents, this card gets you into museums in the Netherlands for only 60 EUR. With the Museum Card, you get access to more than 400 throughout the Netherlands. It’s also good for repeat visits as well! I highly recommend it if you’re visiting multiple cities in the country.
Top Things to See and Do in Rotterdam
- Walk to the Erasmus Bridge – This bridge, a popular sightseeing attraction, resembles a harp, and towers over the largest harbor in Europe. It’s a good place to get photos of the city and boats in the harbor. 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 ship.
- 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 free after paying the 9.50 EUR entrance fee. There’s also a restaurant at the top but it’s a bit expensive. Thanks to the flat land, the views go on forever and it makes for glorious pictures. You can also abseil down too.
- Walk in the park – Also near the Euromast, there’s a gigantic park that makes for some fun walking, picnics, and sports. There’s plenty of space to lay out, read a book, and relax. (Don’t tell the people in Amsterdam, but I found it even better than Amsterdam’s famed Vondalpark.) I highly recommend spending some time here.
- Walk along the harbor – Rotterdam has the largest and busiest harbor in all of Europe. Explore all the boats coming and going, or check out people’s yachts. I enjoyed eating lunch at the cafes and watching the world go by wondering “where is that ship going?”
- 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. Admission is 15 EUR and it’s open daily (except Mondays) from 11am-5pm.
- Visit the Rotterdam Zoo – The Rotterdam Zoo was established in 1857 and is one of the most popular day trips in the Netherlands (the country is small so anywhere is a “day trip”). The Oceanarium, which has a large collection of fish from around the world, is probably the highlight of the space. Admission is 22 EUR and it’s open daily (except Mondays) from 9am-5pm. You can save 2 EUR by booking online.
- Stop by Rotterdam City Hall – Built in 1914, this building is one of the few to survive WWII. There are several large statues to see, a grand main hall to walk through, and nice courtyard to check out.
- Peek in the Oude Kerk – This is another one of the few areas that survived wartime bombings and destruction. 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.
- See 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. 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 12 EUR 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.