The Best Things to Do in Rotterdam, Netherlands

The 15 Best Things to do in Rotterdam, Netherlands

One of the Netherlands’ most exciting, vibrant, and innovative cities, Rotterdam was completely rebuilt following WWII, giving it a much more modern vibe than other places in the country. From picture-perfect scenery and engrossing art galleries that guard centuries-old treasures to spectacular architecture you’ll struggle to believe is real and a thrilling events calendar that offers something all year-round, you’ll never get bored in Rotterdam!

Visit during the chilly winter months, and you can spend your time exploring cozy museums, shopping at vintage boutiques, and ice skating on frozen lakes. Or travel to the city in summer for the chance to enjoy romantic boat trips along the river, dig into local eats al fresco, and take leisurely walks through some of the most beautiful parts of the Netherlands.

With so many cool things to see and do, you may not know where to begin. So I’ve put together a list of the absolute best things to do in Rotterdam. Add these fun activities and attractions to your Rotterdam bucket list, and you’re sure to have a fantastic time exploring the Gateway to Europe!

The Top 15 Things to Do In Rotterdam

1. Visit The Windmills Of Kinderdijk

Unique Things to do in Rotterdam, Netherlands: Kinderdijk

Hidden away on the outskirts of the city, you’ll find some of the best sights in Rotterdam – Kinderdijk’s windmills. Dating back to the 18th century, these gorgeous feats of engineering have been declared an official UNESCO World Heritage Site and are definitely worth the 30-minute drive.

The collection of 19 windmills dates back as early as 1722 and is currently the biggest accumulation of windmills in the Netherlands. The first thing that will strike you about them is their size – they’re absolutely huge! Each windmill sail is a staggering 92 feet (28 meters) long.

The area that surrounds the windmills is full of bike trails, footpaths, and waterways, giving you plenty of options for exploring. You’ll also find museums hidden inside some of the windmills which go into detail about how important they are to Rotterdam and the Netherlands.

If you’re planning to visit Rotterdam between April and October, you’re in luck. At this time of year, the sails are set in motion, giving you the chance to admire the windmills in all their glory.

2. Admire Artwork At Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Must do things in Rotterdam, Netherlands: Boijmans Van Beuningen

For one of the most unique things to do in Rotterdam, snap up tickets for Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s exclusive “Depot” experience. Every now and then, the museum hosts this one-of-a-kind event, allowing you to explore the secret storage areas. 

Here you can go behind the scenes to discover how the museum works. You’ll also get a chance to see some remarkable pieces of art that are rarely displayed in the main museum.

Don’t worry if the experience isn’t running during your visit. The art gallery is still worth visiting. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is one of the most important galleries in Europe and is brimming with superb collections of sculptures, paintings, and decorative art from all over the continent.

The majority of the exhibits are dedicated to painters from the 14th to 16th centuries. If you know your stuff, you’ll spot pieces by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Hieronymus Bosch, and Jan van Eyck. There’s also a generous number of 17th-century works, mostly represented by Rubens and Rembrandt. 

Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Monet dominate the later centuries, while modern art displays are filled with the works of Chagall, Matisse, and Picasso.

3. Take A Walk Through Trendy Coolsingel

Best Things to do in Rotterdam, Netherlands: Coolsingel

If you really want to get a feel for the city, one of the best things to do in Rotterdam is to explore Coolsingel. Known as the city’s trendy district, this neighborhood is jam-packed with fascinating things to see.

In the center of the city, you’ll find the eye-catching town hall. Known as Stadhuis in Dutch, this centerpiece was built between 1914 and 1920 and is known for its beautiful Dutch Renaissance style. The building was lucky enough to escape the devastating bombing the city experienced in WWII and today invites visitors to explore its grandiose interior as part of a guided tour. 

Other Coolsingel highlights include the Stadhuisplein – a war memorial created by designer Mari Andriessen, the dazzling Beurs-World Trade Center, and the captivating Bijenkort department store. 

Coolsingel is also where you’ll find the hugely popular shopping streets of Koopgoot and Linjnbaan. Here you can spend hours window-shopping, trying on glamorous new outfits, and pausing for coffee at streetside cafes. 

4. See Treasures From All Over The World At Wereldmuseum

Best Things to do in Rotterdam, Netherlands: Wereldmuseum

Wereldmuseum is one of the very best Rotterdam attractions. The name translates into “World Museum” in English, and that’s exactly what this place is. Founded in 1883, Wereldmuseum boasts more than 1,800 unique artifacts collected from all corners of the globe.

You’ll find fascinating pieces from all modern and ancient cultures here, giving you a deep insight into how the world has changed over the years. You’ll find everything from clothing, cooking utensils, and children’s toys to priceless artwork, authentic weapons, and musical instruments.

The museum is set inside an elegant 19th-century building on the banks of the River Maas and provides a window into the world of international culture and history. When the museum first opened, it was one of the few ways locals could discover what had gone on in the world around them. 

Although we’re much more connected today, the museum continues to be loaded with fascinating facts and information.

5. Order Kibbeling For Lunch

Fun Things to do in Rotterdam, Netherlands: Kibbeling

When you need a break from all the Rotterdam sightseeing, stop by a local restaurant and order yourself a plate of kibbeling. This dish is massively popular throughout the city because it’s cheap, simple, and tastes amazing.

Kibbeling is made from delicate pieces of white fish, which are covered in a thick batter flavored with spices and deep-fried until golden brown and crispy. To cut through the richness of the dish, kibbeling is always served with a cool tartare sauce or garlicky aioli. 

Kibbeling is loved so much that you’ll find it available from practically every restaurant, fishmonger, and street vendor in Rotterdam. For the very best kibbeling, head to Blaak Markt. This farmers’ market is open every Tuesday and Saturday in front of the Markthal and is home to a fish stall that serves amazing kibbeling.

If you’re traveling to Kinderdijk to see the gorgeous windmills, you can also pick up some fantastic kibbeling from the food truck at the entrance.  

6. Explore Rotterdam’s Last-Standing Medieval Building 

Best Things to do in Rotterdam, Netherlands: Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk

You’ll find some of the most impressive things to see in Rotterdam at the Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk. This spectacular church is all that’s left of the city’s medieval buildings, almost all of which were completely destroyed in WWII. 

The church was designed in a Gothic style and dates back to the 15th century. While it was partially damaged during the bombings, it was fully restored after the war was over and looks truly stunning. 

Step inside the church, and you’ll be awe-struck by the beauty of the light and airy interior. When the sun is shining, the colorful stained glass windows create a stunning effect that really lights up the whole church.

The building is best known for its three Danish organs, the largest of which is perched on a marble base on the inside tower wall. The bronze doors at the main entrance of the church are also worth a look. They depict the theme of war and peace and were designed by Italian artist Giacomo Manzu.

7. Party For Days At Zomercarnaval

Cool Things to do in Rotterdam, Netherlands: Zomercarnaval

One of the coolest things to do in Rotterdam is to check out the annual carnival that takes place each July. Known locally as Zomercarnaval, this dramatic street party lasts for several days, during which the city comes to life with Latin American flair and excitement. 

During the carnival, the streets of the city are filled with spectacular parades made up of more than 2,000 dancers, brass bands, and colorful floats designed to get you into the Latin spirit. Several parades wind down the streets throughout the two-day event, while more than 60 amazing musicians perform at various outdoor stages set up throughout the city. 

Best Things to do in Rotterdam, Netherlands: Zomercarnaval

The spectacular costumes and vibrant atmosphere are so incredible that you could easily forget you’re in Rotterdam and think you’re actually in Rio de Janeiro. So you never have to leave the fun behind, you’ll find tons of trucks throughout the streets selling all kinds of local and exotic food and drinks. 

8. Explore Beautiful Buildings During Rotterdam Architecture Month

If you’re planning your trip for June, you’re just in time for Rotterdam Architecture Month. One of the best things to do in Rotterdam, this artsy event gives you the chance to explore buildings most often closed to visitors and admire their spectacular design.

Rotterdam is famous throughout the world for its remarkable architecture, and this annual event invites you to discover the best ways to appreciate it. The program of events changes every year, but some previous activities include rooftop walking tours, art displays created by local artists, guided tours of places of worship, food and drink tastings, future-predicting exhibits, and visits to secret gardens.

Check the website to find out exactly what’s going on and when so you can plan your trip. If you’re not going to be in Rotterdam in June, there are still plenty of ways you can check out the local architecture. The groups that organize Rotterdam Architecture Month put on a range of tours and cultural experiences throughout the year, which you’ll also find on the website.

9. Check Out The Quirky Cube Houses

Unique Things to do in Rotterdam, Netherlands: Kubuswoningen

For one of the most fun things to do in Rotterdam, take a walk alongside the Kubuswoningen. Known as the “Cube Houses” in English, these quirky examples of modern architecture look like they belong in an art gallery – not in the street!

Designed by Dutch architect Piet Blom, this one-of-a-kind block of houses is instantly recognizable thanks to their unique cube-shaped upper stories painted in a cheery yellow. One of the best places to see them is from the walk along the Old Harbour. Their special tilt and shape provide the optimum living space with the minimal room available. 

If you find yourself really intrigued by the buildings, you can visit the Show Cube Museum, which is open to visitors. Inside you’ll find all sorts of information, plans, and blueprints of the buildings. The museum also highlights the everyday challenges people who live in these homes face, such as buying furniture and hanging artwork without straight walls.

10. Test Your Taste Buds With Herring, Sour Cream & Onions

Must do things in Rotterdam, Netherlands: Herring

If you’re feeling adventurous, one of the top things to do in Rotterdam is to try herring. A classic local dish that works equally well as a snack or a meal, you’ll find herring available from all the same places as kibbeling, as well as street food carts that exclusively specialize in the delicacy.

In Rotterdam, herring is traditionally served with thick sour cream and thin slices of raw onion. The combination of the slightly sweet pickled fish, the cooling sour cream, and the strong raw onion work perfectly together and satisfy all appetites, whatever it is you’re craving.

The very best place for fresh and delicious herring is the Blaak Markt which is open on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The food stalls here serve the classic dish plain, but the sour cream and onions make it extra special! 

11. See Baby Animals At the Rotterdam Zoo

Cool Things to do in Rotterdam, Netherlands: Rotterdam Zoo

One of the oldest zoos in the Netherlands, Rotterdam Zoo is an excellent place to spend a day. One of the top Rotterdam activities, the family-friendly attraction (known as Diergaarde Blijdorp in Dutch) first opened in 1857 and is well-known for its incredibly successful breeding programs.

Rotterdam Zoo has welcomed into the world a number of adorable baby elephants, flamingoes, red pandas, gorillas, komodo dragons, and vicuñas. The breeding program is ongoing and continues throughout the year, so there’s a great chance you’ll get to spot cute babies during your visit, whichever time of year you travel!

As well as the outstanding breeding program, the zoo is also proud of its large enclosures. They’re filled with things to provide the animals with extra enrichment and are designed to closely resemble their natural habitats. 

In the Asian section of the zoo, you’ll discover a huge swamp with spacious aviaries for exotic birds, a deep dark bat cave, a Chinese garden, and a Mongolian grassland filled with indigenous creatures.

12. Feast On Dishes From All Over The World At The Market Hall

Fun Things to do in Rotterdam, Netherlands: The Market Hall

When you’re feeling ravenous, one of the best things to do in Rotterdam is to head straight for the Market Hall. Nicknamed “Koopboog” (Horseshoe) by locals due to its iconic shape, this gorgeous complex is home to every type of food you could ever imagine.

A hugely important part of the community since 2014, this food hall is filled with everything from gourmet restaurants dishing up fancy Dutch classics to laid-back food stalls specializing in Spanish tapas.

The largest indoor market in the Netherlands is also one of the best places in Rotterdam to pick up fresh ingredients to whip up your own Dutch dishes at home. Take a look around, and you’ll find amazing deals on everything from seasonal produce, local dairy products, and charcuterie to top-quality meat, homemade baked goods, and beautiful flowers. 

The towering ceiling means the market never feels cramped, no matter how busy it is. And the floor-to-ceiling food murals give the place an artsy, gallery-like vibe.

13. Check Out The Latest Exhibit At Rotterdam Kunsthal

Rotterdam, Netherlands Things to do: Kunsthal

If you’ve always wanted to get into art but you haven’t quite found what you’re looking for yet, spend some time at Rotterdam Kunsthal. This cool and trendy art gallery opened its doors in 1992 and has been wowing people from all over the world with thought-provoking artwork ever since.

Boasting a spectacular rotation of ever-changing artwork, Rotterdam Kunsthal is guaranteed to have something that clicks with your inner art critic. Instead of hosting permanent exhibits, this art gallery features five distinctly different exhibitions that change every few months. This gives you a great excuse to come back time and time again!

As well as the captivating artwork, Rotterdam Kunsthal also organizes a number of events throughout the year. From music concerts and weekend parties to children’s activities and theatrical performances, there’s always something fun going on here. Check the website to find out exactly what’s happening during your visit. 

14. See The Best Views From The Euromast Tower

Cool Things to do in Rotterdam, Netherlands: Euromast Tower

If you want to get a good view of the city, one of the best things to do in Rotterdam is to climb to the top of the Euromast Tower. From up here, you can enjoy dramatic views that sweep all across every inch of the city.

The Euromast Tower stands 607 feet (185 meters) tall, making it the highest building in the city. Because this attraction is so popular, there’s often a long line to get to the top. To avoid wasting time waiting, we suggest you buy tickets in advance and skip the queue.

When you’re done admiring the view, you’ll find a handful of things to do at the top of the tower. There’s an excellent restaurant where you can enjoy lunch with a view, as well as two luxurious suites if you want to spend the night. If you’re feeling brave, you can even zipline from the top of the tower!

15. Buy Frikandel From A Vending Machine

Rotterdam, Netherlands Bucket List: Frikandel

If you’re hungry, but you’re in a bit of a rush, grab a frikandel from one of Rotterdam’s many vending machines. Vending machines in the Netherlands aren’t limited to chips and candy bars. In Rotterdam, you’ll find vending machines selling all kinds of delicious hot foods – from burgers to croquettes!

One of the best things to buy from a vending machine for a quick yet filling snack is a frikandel. This classic local eat is similar to an American hog dog, but without the skin and deep-fried. 

Snackbarcorner near the Beurs Metro Station is a great place to buy some cheap frikandel. The vending machines here are connected to a kitchen that makes fresh and tasty treats throughout the day – so you don’t have to worry about them sitting in the machines for hours.

When they’re freshly made, frikandel are deliciously crisp on the outside and beautifully tender on the inside.

There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Rotterdam. What’s your favorite?



  • Nicola Quinn

    Nicola is a freelance writer with an insatiable hunger for travel. She swapped her home in the UK for the sunny Canary Islands when she was just 11 and she has been based there ever since.

    From crawling on her hands and knees inside pyramids in Egypt to swimming with baby sharks in Bali and searching (fruitlessly!) for the Northern Lights in Iceland, Nicola takes every chance she gets to explore new places.

    The incredible experiences she has around the world fuels her writing and inspires her to plan even more adventures for the future.

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