Last Updated on January 7, 2024 by Lauren Allen
One day in Rotterdam is nowhere near enough time to truly appreciate this vibrant city. However, it’s a great way to get to know the area if you’re yet to visit.
If you’re heading to Rotterdam for the first time, you may be stuck on how to spend your day. Should you visit museums, admire the impressive architecture or check out the local food scene? What about all of the above?
Having spent a day in Rotterdam on one of my recent trips to the Netherlands, I was blown away by what this unique destination has to offer. From the striking views of the Cube Houses to the hip street of Witte de Withstraat, this city has it all.
By the end of this post, you’ll be fully clued up on how to spend your Rotterdam day trip. You’ll discover the top attractions, delve into the local food scene and learn more about this well-loved Dutch city. Let’s jump right in…
One day itinerary in Rotterdam
Start your day at Rotterdam Central Station
Heading to Rotterdam from a neighbouring country or elsewhere in the Netherlands? Then you’ll likely arrive at Central Station. In addition to being a main transport hub in the city, Rotterdam Station is worth checking out for its modern architecture.
Although the train station has stood in this spot since 1957, it received a complete overhaul in 2014. As you exit the station, take some time to appreciate its striking structure and snap a few photos. After all, it’s one of the coolest buildings in the city.
Check out St. Lawrence Church
Start your day at St. Lawrence Church to admire the beauty of medieval architecture in Rotterdam. Although much of the city was destroyed by a bomb in 1940, this religious retreat was restored.
As well as admiring the gorgeous interiors, travellers exploring Rotterdam from March onwards will have the opportunity to climb the church towers.
A local and knowledgeable tour guide will help you to the top while sharing unique facts about this vibrant Dutch city. As you reach the top, you’ll be treated to aerial views of Rotterdam.
What makes this place truly stand out is the stark contrast between modern buildings located a stone’s throw away. Surrounded by De Markthal and the world-renowned cube houses, its location highlights the beauty of medieval structures. I was truly obsessed with the contrast!
Admire the Cube Houses
If you’re wondering what to see in Rotterdam in one day, then the Cube Houses should be at the top of your agenda! Designed by Dutch architect Piet Blom, construction started on these unique homes in 1982.
Nowadays, they’re one of the main reasons to visit the city, drawing in travellers from across the globe. In fact, checking them out was number one on my list of things to do in Rotterdam.
As I stood beneath the distinct buildings, I was left in awe of their quirky features. Not only do they make a fab backdrop for Instagram photos, but there are several attractions within the neighbourhood.
Take in the beauty of the Witte Huis
The Netherlands is bursting with beautiful buildings and Rotterdam is no different. Located a short walk away from the cube houses, the Witte Huis is a historical landmark. Built in the 1890s, it’s one of the few buildings that survived the extensive World War Two bombing.
Designed by Dutch architect Willem Molenbroek, the Witte Huis was one of Europe’s first skyscrapers, showcasing an early example of high-rise architecture. At the time of its construction, it was the tallest office building in Europe.
Nowadays, the beautiful art nouveau architecture stands out among the modern vibes of the cube houses. As an architecture enthusiast myself, I was in awe of this unique structure. I’d go as far as to say it’s my favourite building in Rotterdam!
Stroll around Oude Haven
Oude Haven (or old harbour in English) is a place you can’t miss during your time in Rotterdam. Surrounded by impressive buildings, it’s a fab place to grab a drink or a bite to eat. With lots of eateries in the area, you can dine al fresco as you take in some of the city’s best views.
Alternatively, spend some time checking out the historical ships located along the water then head to the nearby Maritime Museum to learn more about the history of this area. The choice is yours!
Grab lunch at De Markthal
Another great place to grab a bite to eat is De Markthal. Situated in the heart of Rotterdam, it’s a must-see for foodies. Located under one roof, you’ll find cheese stalls, tea shops, restaurants and food stands. In fact, it’s the perfect spot to grab lunch if you’re travelling with a group thanks to the vast amount of options on offer.
Despite the amazing food scene, the best thing about De Markthal is the stunning mural on the ceiling. Often referred to as the Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam, this impressive design stands out from the crowd. As an artist and designer myself, I couldn’t stop snapping photos as I sipped my glass of wine…
See the Erasmus Bridge
As you explore the city, you’ll likely catch a view of the Erasmus Bridge at some point. Be that from the top of the Euromast (which I’ll talk about later) or on your way to another attraction.
Running over the Nieuwe Maas River in the centre of Rotterdam, it’s known for its iconic design. Make sure you snap a few photos as you pass by.
Hit up some museums at Museum Park
Museum buffs will be in their element in Rotterdam. With museums focused on art, design and much more, there’s something for everyone in this bold city.
If you’re hoping to hit up a museum or two on your fun-filled day trip, Museum Park is the place to be. Depending on your interests, you may want to visit:
- Het Nieuwe Instituut: A must for architecture lovers or design buffs. Visit on a Thursday evening for free entry.
- The Chabot Museum: A museum dedicated to the work of Hendrik Chabot.
- Huis Sonneveld: A stunning 1930s home to admire in all its glory.
Some museums offer free entry on specified days. Before you pay for a ticket, check online as you may get lucky. For example, I was visiting Rotterdam on a Thursday which meant I explored Het Nieuwe Instituut free of charge.
Enjoy the vibes at Witte de Withstraat
Just up the road, Witte de Withstraat is one of the best places to go if you’re looking for funky street art, galleries, tasty food or a vibrant nightlife. The bustling vibes of the area make it a fab spot to grab some food after an afternoon visiting museums.
I stopped by to grab some fries from Frietboutique and loved the vibrant atmosphere. If I had longer in Rotterdam, I’d have spent a whole afternoon here visiting art galleries, shopping for vintage treasures and trying out some cocktail bars.
If you’re looking for a cool spot to spend some time in Rotterdam, this is your place!
See panoramic views from the Euromast
No matter where I go in Europe, I always seek out the best viewpoints. If you’re looking for some of the best views in Rotterdam, make your way to the Euromast. From there, you’ll see aerial views of the city including the Erasmus Bridge in the distance.
In addition to checking out the views, you can enjoy a delicious dinner. Their restaurant serves a variety of dishes for brunch, lunch and dinner. Or, if you’d prefer, you can also book afternoon tea or tasty “high wines” as you take in views of the city.
Open from 10am until 10pm daily (except for Mondays), you can easily squeeze it into your itinerary once the top museums are closed for the day. Just make sure you consider the time of year as during winter, it goes dark early in the Netherlands.
Top tip: Make sure you check the weather in advance and try to visit when it’s a clear day. That way, you’ll enjoy better views.
Grab dinner and drinks in Delftshaven
If you decided against eating at the Euromast, don’t fret! The historic (and very beautiful) neighbourhood of Delfshaven is home to many great bars and restaurants such as ‘t Ouwe Bruggetje, Café Soif and Het Wapen Van Delfshaven.
After dinner, go for a wander and spend some time taking in your surroundings. Delfshaven was one of the few places in Rotterdam that survived World War Two bombings. This gives you an amazing insight into what Rotterdam looked like back in the day.
Delfshaven was the last stop on my day trip to Rotterdam and I didn’t want to leave. The charming architecture, laid-back vibes and waterside restaurants drew me in unlike anywhere else in the city. One thing is for sure, I’ll be spending a lot more time here on my next trip to the city!
If you can, aim to spend a few hours in the area. This gives you the chance to take it all in, eat some tasty food and enjoy a cocktail or two before heading back to your Dutch base.
If you have more than 1 day in Rotterdam
A day in Rotterdam is nowhere near enough time. It would be impossible to do it all. If you decide to stay longer, put these things at the top of your to-do list:
Join a jam-packed Rotterdam walking tour
Walking tours are one of the best ways to get to know a city. If you’re visiting Rotterdam for the first time, this should be at the top of your agenda. However, I wouldn’t recommend them for day trips.
Although you’d see a lot, joining a two-hour tour means you may miss out on something else you really want to do. Plus, you may feel rushed on a guided tour. By exploring Rotterdam at your own pace, you can spend as long as you wish at each spot on your chosen itinerary.
For example, I spent longer than most people would checking out the cube houses. As a photography enthusiast, I wanted to snap photos from all angles. I also visited the Show Cube and the Art Cube. Walking tours would likely skip these attractions altogether.
If you decide to spend two days or more in Rotterdam, consider booking a walking tour for your first activity. That way, you can come back to spots that you loved the most later on in your visit.
Visit the Dutch Pinball Museum
Fancy learning more about the history of the pinball machine? Then head to the Dutch Pinball Museum. Home to tons of pinball machines that date back to the 1970s, it’s a fun place to spend an hour or two.
In fact, it’s one of the most entertaining and interactive museums in the whole country (and that’s saying something).
Luchtsingel Bridge is a striking pedestrian bridge in the heart of Rotterdam. Constructed in 2015, it connects three districts in the city. Not only is it a great way to get around, but this architectural gem makes for great photos.
Indulge at Fenix Food Factory
If you enjoy delicious food as much as I do, you won’t want to miss Fenix Food Factory. Just like De Markethal, it’s a food market with multiple stands that serve everything from local cheeses to baked goods.
Furthermore, it’s a cultural hub that runs events and get-togethers such as book clubs. Talking of books, the on-site Bosch&deJong shop is a fab place to buy your next read.
Take a day trip
If you’re in Rotterdam for more than a day or two, you can easily go on a day trip. The hard part is deciding where to go. With so many places worth visiting in the Netherlands, it can be hard to narrow it down. Some places to consider include:
- Delft and The Hague
- Keukenhof and Lisse (if you’re visiting in spring)
- Efteling Theme Park
Fancy visiting another country altogether? Then head to Antwerp or Brussels for a quick Belgian escape. There you can indulge in Belgian waffles, admire world-renowned architecture and try some highly-rated local beers.
Tips for visiting Rotterdam
Despite my limited time in Rotterdam, I managed to see most things on my list. Here are my top tips for making the most of your fun-filled day trip:
Plan your time in advance
With so many things to see in Rotterdam in a day, planning your time is crucial. The best way to do this is to make a list of all the spots you’d like to visit and then pull up Google Maps. From there, you can pinpoint where everything is and create a well-thought-out itinerary based on where each attraction is located.
For example, many spots on this day-long itinerary are situated close by. It would be a waste of time to go from the cube houses to the museum park and then back to the Witte Huis. By checking this out in advance, you can make the most of your time.
You may also realise that some attractions are far away and decide to visit them on another trip instead. That’s where planning becomes helpful!
Consider buying a city card
If you plan to visit lots of museums or attractions throughout your visit, it may be worth buying a city card. Similar to the Iamsterdam city card, the Rotterdam Welcome Card offers discounts at participating museums, attractions and restaurants. You also receive unlimited access to public transportation in the local area.
Wear comfortable shoes
When I spent a day in Rotterdam, I walked approximately 27,000 steps. Thankfully, I was wearing my super comfortable UIN travel shoes, but imagine if I came unprepared? If I was wearing uncomfortable shoes, my feet would have been so sore by the end of the day. You’ve been warned!
Getting around in Rotterdam
Getting around in Rotterdam is super easy. If you’re visiting on a day trip, you’ll likely do a lot of walking. Mostly because the top tourist sites are within walking distance of each other.
In fact, when I spent a day in Rotterdam, I only took public transport once within the city and that was so I didn’t miss my train.
While it’s easy (and fast) to get around on foot, Rotterdam boasts a well-connected public transport network. You can also get from A to B pretty fast via bus, tram or metro. All you need to do is tap your contactless card.
If you’ll be using public transport a lot, you may want to purchase a Rotterdam Welcome Card for free access to public transport.
Water taxis are another way to travel around Rotterdam. They’ll take you to the likes of Maassluis, Rozenburg or Rotterdam Beach which is fab if you want to discover new destinations in the Netherlands.
Is Rotterdam a good day trip from Amsterdam?
Taking a day trip to Rotterdam from Amsterdam is a fab way to tick another city off your bucket list. Not only that, but Rotterdam offers a whole host of attractions, activities and experiences worth checking out.
Although you can easily visit Rotterdam in its own right, visiting the city on a day trip is worth doing if you’re short on time.
With a day in this modern destination, you can admire impressive buildings, explore well-loved museums and treat your tastebuds to some amazing food. What more would you want?
How much time do you need in Rotterdam?
Ideally, you would spend three days in Rotterdam at the very least. However, if you want to explore the city at a more relaxed pace, plan for five days.
Staying even longer? Lucky you! This means you can take a day trip or two to delve deeper into Dutch culture and what it has to offer.
FAQs about visiting Rotterdam in one day
If your time in the city is limited, spending a day in Rotterdam is still worth doing. It gives you enough time to see the main highlights such as the cube houses and De Markthal, while having a few hours spare to hit up some museums.
For the most part, getting around Rotterdam on foot is super easy. A lot of the main attractions are within walking distance of each other. However, the public transport links are great if you’re in a hurry.
Rotterdam is known for its striking architecture, vibrant nightlife and varied art scene. In fact, it’s one of the best places to visit in the Netherlands if you’re a creative soul (like me).
Although one day in Rotterdam isn’t enough, you can still get a real feel for the city and explore the main attractions. Ultimately, a day allows you to admire the striking architecture, wander through historical neighbourhoods and visit a whole host of museums.
The fact it’s less crowded compared to the Dutch capital means Rotterdam offers a completely different vibe. Despite receiving many visitors, the city feels more laid back. If you’re looking for a relaxed day-long getaway, you should strongly consider this popular Dutch city!
Would you consider a day trip to Rotterdam or have you already been?