What comes to your mind when you think about The Netherlands? Perhaps narrow and inclined houses, one next to the other next to a nice canal full of boats. Probably 95% of the towns and cities in this country are like this, but… there’s always an exception and, in this case, Rotterdam is the city that doesn’t look like a Dutch city.
It’s the country’s second largest city, but it’s a bit different because in 1940 the city was bombed and took over by the German army. So the authorities decided to rebuild it in a more modern and innovative way. Now you can see many different kinds of buildings in many strange shapes and colours.
There are many people that leave the city with disappointment and a feeling of indifference, and the fact that it’s always raining doesn’t help to enjoy the city as it deserves. Actually, I spent four months trying to get used to this city. But finally I found it and I can assure you that Rotterdam has much more to offer than you would think.
So today I’ll take you on a route around the city that you can do with a bike. You’ll see all the famous places and some others that are quite special, so you will leave Rotterdam with a good feeling.
ADVISE: I designed this route to do it in one day with a bicycle because it’s an 18km route, but you can also do it by foot. And, of course, it could be done in more than one day, it’s all up to you.
RENT A BICYCLE
Other companies to rent a bike:
This is the map with the bicycle-route:
1. TRAIN CENTRAL STATION
The route starts at the Central Station of Rotterdam because all the trains and buses stop there and probably you’ll arrive there the first time you go to Rotterdam, so I think it’s a good starting point.
The Train Station has recently been rebuilt (2014) because it was so small and unpractical and there were more and more people travelling, so now the connections with the rest of the country and with the countries around are much better.
When you see the station you may think that it looks like a futuristic building, this is because they had to rebuild it and it was decided to make the Central Station in line with the rest of the city. Although, there are still some old elements in there, like the clock that is above the main gate or the big words “CENTRAAL STATION”. I think this is a really amazing building, both from the inside and outside.
2. CITY HALL
The next stop in the route is the City Hall. After walking along Lijnbaan, that is one of the commercial places where you can find all kind of shops, you’ll see a huge building. The City Hall is one of the few buildings that are stay still standing after the bombing in 1940, an event that destroyed most of the city.
Right on the square that you can see in front of the City Hall there is a monument to commemorate those who died during the war.
RECOMENTATION: I recommend you going through the building, but don’t worry, you don’t have break down the wall. There is a small street that leads through the big building and halfway there is the entrance to the City Hall and a beautiful garden.
If you go towards the Street behind the City Hall and you cycle along the canal to the south, you’ll find the main church of Rotterdam, Grote or Sint – Laurenskerk. This is the only building in the city that is still preserved from the Middle Ages.
There is a 65-meter-high tower and you can go to the top all Saturdays from April to September. The price is 5€ for adults and you can check other prices here. Apart from that, the church has four organs, and one of them is the largest organ in The Netherlands. You can visit the church from the inside for 2€ (adults).
The church is open from April to October from Tuesday to Saturday from 11:00 to 17:00 and from November to March you can visit it on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 to 17:00.
Behind the church there is a big avenue where you can find a market called Binnenrotte Markt, every Tuesday and Saturday from 8:00 to 17:30. You will find everything you want, food, clothes, jewerly, perfumes, flowers, etc.
In the same avenue, on the right side of the metro station “Rotterdam Blaak”, you’ll see the Markthal. This nice building is an indoor market full of shops, restaurants and even a supermarket. The interesting thing about this place is that there are 228 appartments in the structure around it, some of them with an inside view. A very beautiful and characteristic thing you can find in this huge market is the colourful mural in the inside. It’s made of 4,000 aluminium pieces and measures 11,000 square meters.
One of the things that I like about the Markthal is that you can taste lot of products before you buy them (or even if you don’t buy them). So I recommend you to take advantage and try all kind of food. It’s also a good idea to make a short stop on your way to fill the stomach.
5. LIBRARY AND PENCIL BUILDING
Opposite the Markthal you’ll see two strange buildings. On the left there is a white, blue and yellow building that, in my opinion, is far from looking like a library. On the right, there’s the pencil building.
The library was designed by the Dutch architect Jakob Bered. It has six floors where you can find different areas. One to relax and read, another one to find information about the city, another where sometimes there is live music, another with, of course, all kind of books, there’s even a bar with a terrace. The entrance is free and you’ll find it opened from Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 to 20:00, Saturday from 10:00 to 17:00, Sunday from 13:00 to 17:00 and Monday from 13:00 to 20:00.
The pencil building is just an apartment block, nothing important, but I found it interesting because of its pencil shape.
6. CUBE HOUSES
The next stop in our route are the Cube Houses, a very strange building designed by the architect Piet Blom. There are 32 cube-shape yellow houses which represent a kind of forest, where every house is a tree.
There are people living in all the houses so you can’t visit them from the inside. But since some years ago, one of the houses become a museum and you can see how the people live in a cube hose. The schedule is from Monday to Sunday from 10:00 to 17:00 and the ticket price is 3€ (1€ for students).
RECOMMENDATION: On the other side, there’s an area with a few bars with terraces where you can sit and relax.
After de modern cube houses you’ll go to a more traditional place, Hertekade Street. This is one of my favourite places because it’s one of the few where you can see the typical Dutch houses. There is also a canal just full of boats in front of the small houses, and that makes a very interesting contrast between the old and the modern buildings you can see in the background.
In this group of houses there’s Het Witte Huis, a white building that was the first skyscraper in Europe. The white house was another one of the places that survived the bombing in 1940.
If you keep cycling on the path that goes along the canal you’ll see the most important place in Rotterdam, or at least, the place that everybody knows, the Erasmusbrug.
This huge bridge is over 800 meters long, it was finished in 1996 and it links the northern with the southern part of Rotterdam.
The views from the other side of the canal are really nice and at the end of the path there’s a small area with a garden and a monument called de Boeg. This sculpture is 46 meters high and it’s a reminder of the people from Rotterdam who died in the World War II.
9. HOTEL NEW YORK
It’s time to cross the bridge! If you want to go to this nice place you’ll have to cross the Erasmusbrug, and once you’ve crossed, turn to the right. At the end of the street you’ll find Hotel New York, which used to be the headquarters of the Holland Amerika line, but nowadays it’s a hotel and a restaurant.
I personally like this place, because there’s a small area with grass where you can sit down and enjoy the views from the other side of the canal. You can also see the Euromast from there.
10. FENIX FOOD FACTORY
The next spot is a perfect place to stop to drink, eat something and rest. This is the Fenix Food Factory, an old storehouse that has been rebuilt and now it’s a kind of market where you can eat, drink and buy stuff like clothes, books, etc. The first time you go inside could be a bit strange because it looks like there is chaos everywhere, but it’s a very nice place and it’s always full of people.
In the inside there is a bar where you can find all kind of artisanal beers. You can also find a cheese shop, a place that sells Moroccan food and a bakery.
11. SS ROTTERDAM
Not far from the Fenix Food Factory you can find the SS Rotterdam, an old transatlantic that used to make the America-Netherlands route and it has become a hotel.
You can visit the cruise from the inside for free and I think it’s an interesting place to see. Furthermore, there’s the possibility to do a guided tour around the boat for 16€ for adults, and 9.5€ for children between 4 and 12 years.
If the weather is good, it’s very nice to go to the deck and drink something, there’s also a swimming pool.
Opposite of the SS Rotterdam there’s the Euromast. There’s no beauty in this building, but it’s possible to climb to the top, where the restaurant is, and see all of Rotterdam from there.
The ticket price is 9.5 € for adults and 6.14 € for children between 4 and 11 years and there are free tours. It’s open at 9:30 from April to September and at 10:00 from October to March. The closing time is:
– Platforms: Until 22:00
– Euroscoop: until 21:45
– Brasserie: until 23:00
– Kitchen: until 22:15
RECOMMENDATION: Go there at sunset, the views are spectacular.
There are two ways to reach the highest viewpoint in the Netherlands:
- Go south. This is not a nice way because it’s full of factories, there’s nothing to see and, currently (2016) the road is under construction, so it could be a bit difficult to find the way to the Euromast. The good thing is that you have to go to the opposite side of the canal by going through the oldest tunnel in The Netherlands. The interesting thing about this tunnel is that it’s only for bicycles. You can check all about the old tunnel in this website.
- Go back. That means that you have to cross the Erasmusbrug in the opposite direction and then turn to the left to reach the Euromast. It won’t take less time than going the other way, but here you’ll go along the canal and the views are much better.
Rotterdam is not only a city with modern and strange buildings, but it also has its typical Dutch area. Behind the Euromast there’s a neighbourhood called Delfshaven that was the only area that survived the German attack in 1940. So this area is quite different from the rest of the city, it’s so nice and you’ll see the small houses and typical Dutch canals. Here there’s also one of the mills you can find around the city.
14. WITTE DE WITHSTRAAT
It’s time to go back to the city center to make our last stop. Witte de Withstraat is the best place you can go for dinner, drink and party and it’s always full of people.
The restaurant/bar/hotel Bazar is one of the most recommended in the city. It’s a Turkish restaurant located at the beginning of Witte de Withstraat and you should go early if you want to eat there because it’s usually full of people. In my opinion, the food is really good and it’s an interesting place to see because it’s decorated in a Turkish style.
There are lots of things to do in Rotterdam and this route is a good option to see the interesting things in only one or two days. But, if you’re going to stay there for a few days, I recommend you to visit some museum. There are thousands of them.
Have you ever been to Rotterdam? Feel free to leave a comment with your experience!!