There are plenty of free things to do in Rotterdam. So if you’re visiting this Dutch city on a budget, you won’t have to worry that you’ll spend too much cash at all.
Rotterdam has so much to offer that doesn’t have to cost you a thing. There are a lot of sightseeing options that are free. From beautiful architecture, historical areas and street art to lush nature parks. Enough to explore!
So, looking for some fun activities in our city, but are you on a budget? Look no further; in this article we list 21 free things to do in Rotterdam.
Want to discover even more of this city? Then also read our article with the best things to do in Rotterdam.
21 Free Things to do in Rotterdam
1. Visit the famous Erasmus bridge
It’s completely free to look right? If you’re an architecture lover, Rotterdam is an excellent place for you. One thing you can’t miss is the iconic Erasmus bridge.
The Erasmus bridge connects the Kop van Zuid with the center of the city. This beautiful bridge, nicknamed the Swan due to its large mast that resembles the neck of a swan, is ever so photogenic. So be sure to take lots of photos!
Another great idea is to have a walk over the bridge to the Kop van Zuid and explore this popular area. Here’ll you’ll find other interesting sightseeing spots such as the Bobbing Forest and the Recycled park. More on those later in this article!
2. Admire the Cube Houses
You just can’t skip the iconic Cube Houses during a visit to Rotterdam! These famous houses, designed by architect Piet Blom, are all built at 45 degrees.
It’s possible to go inside the Cube houses, as there’s a museum called the Kijk-Kubus, which is basically a show room of one of the houses. But it’s already quite impressive to look at the Cube houses from the outside and then there’s no need to spend a dime.
To really have the full experience of living in a Cube house and stay in Rotterdam on a budget, you can decide to stay at Stayokay Rotterdam Cube Hostel, which is a hostel in one of the cubes. Stayokay Rotterdam Cube Hostel offers private rooms for up to 6 people, as well as mixed, male and female people dorms.
3. Explore the Markthal
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Rotterdam is definitely the iconic Markthal. This unique architectural structure serves as both an office building, housing and a marketplace.
With over 40 food vendors that sell all sorts of international food and drinks, it’s definitely one of the highlights for most tourists. Even if you decide not to buy food here, you can still walk through the Markthal and admire the colorful ceiling.
TIP: During the construction of the Markthal, many historical items were found in the ground of the site during the excavation. It’s possible to admire those items (for free!) at the escalators in the middle of the Markthal, and it’s called De Tijdtrap – which means the time stairs.
4. Rotterdam Central Station
Another perfect example of how unique the architecture is in Rotterdam is Rotterdam Central Station. This relatively new building, which opened up in 2014, has a unique triangular shape that points toward the sky.
Locals also call Rotterdam Central Station with the nickname ‘Kapsalon’, naming it after one of the local fast food dishes that comes in a aluminium box.
There’s a big chance that you’ll visit Rotterdam Central Station, as this station connects to many destinations in the Netherlands and international destinations as well. If you’re not planning on traveling to Rotterdam with the train, then I definitely still recommend a visit and check out the commute at this unique location.
5. The Bobbing Forest
The Bobbing Forest is based on the artwork In Search of Habitus by artist Jorge Bakker. This installation consists of water-filled tank and floating bobs with trees on scale. So, The Bobbing Forest in Rotterdam is actually a ‘translation’ of In Search of Habitus in real life.
The Bobbing Forest consists out of 20 former sea buoys and 20 trees that were donated by Tree Nursery Van den Berk. It’s quite interesting to learn more about the trees, such as how they are watered, how the trees survive and how they can stand upright.
It’s completely free to visit the Bobbing Forest, as it’s located in a public place!
6. The Recycled Park
The Recycled Park and the Bobbing Forest can be found close to each other, so it’s easy to visit them together.
The Recycled Park collects the plastic litter that comes the Nieuwe Maas to the North Sea. It’s a great initiative to stop, or at least minimise, the pollution of the North Sea.
The plastic litter that is collected is used to make building blocks that are used as floating platforms, creating a new green area in our city.
So not only does it look cool, the Recycled Park is also of great value to our city!
7. Walk along the Maasboulevard
It’s always a beautiful sight to witness the gorgeous skyline of Rotterdam from the Maasboulevard! It doesn’t matter how often you may have seen it, each time you’ll marvel at the impressive skyline of our city.
Take some time and stroll along the Maas. Sit down, take some photos and watch the boats that move across the water. And it doesn’t cost you a thing.
8. Walk around Oude Haven
If you’re going to explore some of the architecture nearby Blaak, such as the Cube Houses and the Markthal, be sure to also drop by The Old Port or ‘Oude Haven’. This is the first harbor in Rotterdam, and you can find historic buildings such as the Witte Huis.
Het Witte Huis or the White House – don’t confuse it with the White House in Washington, is a remarkable building. This building was once the highest building of Europe with its 43 meters. Nowadays, that’s kind of hard to imagine!
Especially on sunny days it’s a great place to have drinks on one of the terraces, or just walk around and enjoy this historic place.
9. Explore Delfshaven
Another historic area in Rotterdam is Delfshaven. In this historic part of Rotterdam you can imagine yourself back in time. The architecture contrasts with modern Rotterdam architecture.
During the sunset, Delfshaven turns into a lively painting. On a beautiful day, the blue sky and water change into a color palette of pink and orange. This makes it the ideal place for a romantic sunset walk.
Be sure to also read Fatima’s article about sunset spots in Rotterdam.
10. Walk around the luchtsingel
The Luchtsingel connects the center of Rotterdam with Rotterdam North. It’s a bright yellow bridge that is certainly very photogenic and around this bridge you can find cool wall art. Especially at the Hofbogen you’ll find cool wall art.
If you’re looking for nightlife, most of this can also be found at the Luchtsingel, namely at the Schiestraat with POING, Annabel and Biergarten.
11. Relax at the Kralingse Plas
Feel like escaping the busy city? Kralingse Plas is a great option. Here you can lay on the grass by the water and enjoy a picnic with friends. Kralingse Plas is surrounded by the Kralingse Bos. So if you feel like going for a walk, it’s an excellent place to do so.
If the weather is really good, you can even decide to go for a swim! Be sure to check zwemwater.nl to check if the water is safe to enter. Sometimes the quality of the water isn’t good enough, especially when it’s really hot.
12. Have a picknick in the Euromast Park
Another beautiful park in Rotterdam is Het Park, also known as the Euromast Park. Pack your own picknick basket, bring a blanket and relax in the beautiful Euromast Park. Of course, a picknick is always a great budget idea!
It’s a wonderful green park with lots of beautiful willow trees, lawns and waters. And of course with the famous Euromast as a backdrop!
13. Enjoy the view from Lührs Viewpoint
Our blogger Fatima actually wanted to keep the Lührs viewpoint a secret, but the view is too beautiful! Lührs is special, because you are on top of a 40-meter high hill and you won’t find those easily in Rotterdam. It is a bit of a climb before you reach the top.
You will be rewarded with a magnificent view of the Rotterdam skyline and, if the sky is clear, the skyline of The Hague! You escape the busy city and enjoy the nature, while the sun slowly hides behind the horizon.
14. Explore the street art of Rotterdam
For instance, at Westersingel we have the sculpture route with 17 works of the Sculpture International Rotterdam, at the Luchtsingel you can find a lot of mural paintings and at museumpark there is an open air museum with different artworks.
15. The Rotterdam Art Ride project
Another great spot to admire street art is under the metro line between stations Rijnhaven and Maashaven in the South of Rotterdam. The Rotterdam Art Ride (ROAR) is an art project where 18 pillars under the metro line of Rijnhaven are painted by an international group of artists from all over Europe.
The goal of this great art project is to make visual art accessible to a wide audience and to inspire residents on a daily basis.
Be sure to check out their website for more information about the project and its contributing artists!
16. Walk around Museumpark
There are a lot of museums that are worth a visit in Rotterdam. Around Museum Park, between Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Westersingel, the Westzeedijk and Erasmus MC, you will find many famous museums where you can visit amazing exhibitions.
If you don’t want to spend a penny on the admission fees of the museums, you can still walk around Museumpark, as it’s actually an open-air museum. Here you’ll find various art works outside.
Worth mentioning is also the Depot of Boijmans, which is currently still in construction, but already an amazing building to see!
Witte de Withstraat is also known as Rotterdam’s cultural street and together with Museum Park it’s the cultural heart of Rotterdam. This artistic street shouldn’t be skipped during your visit, and it’s filled with nice cafes, shops, art galleries and restaurants. And of course it is completely free to walk around and admire the street art.
There are also several accommodations on and around Witte de Withstraat, which means you’re in the middle of the cultural center of our city.
One of our favourite hostels on Witte de Withstraat is King Kong Hostel. The design of this hostel is amazing, and they offer three private rooms as well as dorms of 4, 6 and 8 beds.
18. Visit one of the free festivals or events in Rotterdam
We already mentioned Metropolis, which is an awesome free festival that is held once a year in Zuiderpark. But Rotterdam offers multiple free festivals and events throughout the year. North Sea Round Town, Eendracht festival and A Festival Downtown just to name a few.
Keep an eye out for free festivals and events on our Calendar.
19. Kabouter buttplug
Locals call this kind of weird statue Kabouter Buttplug, but the official name is actually Santa Claus by Paul McCarthy.
The statue is Santa Claus with a Christmas tree and is supposed to represent the consumption culture. But, as you can see, Santa Claus looks to be holding on to something else than a Christmas tree…
There has been a lot of discussion around Kabouter Buttplug, and it has been dragged around to various spots in the city because of its sexual image.
Finally, the statue has found its place at Eendrachtsplein and the streets wouldn’t be the same without Santa Claus.
20. Walk around the Koopgoot and Lijnbaan
We have a typical Dutch saying, which is ‘Kijken, kijken, niet kopen’, which means that you’re looking, but not buying. The Koopgoot and Lijnbaan are part of the shopping area in Rotterdam. But who says you actually have to buy anything?
There are no cars at both places, so it’s definitely a fun walk. Also, they are connected to each other, making it easy to combine.
21. Eiland van Brienenoord
If you’ve been to Rotterdam a few times already and feel like skipping the popular sights and see more of our city, be sure to explore more of the lesser known parts of Rotterdam. One of them is the Eiland van Brienenoord (Island of Brienenoord), located right below the Van Brienenoord Bridge.
As soon as you set foot on the island you discover a beautiful piece of nature where you can walk peacefully. You will not find many people on this island. It’s completely free to visit!
On the path you will find wooded areas, grass fields, small pools, open waters and a nature playground. In addition, there are 40 different bird species, plants and butterflies that live in the nature reserve. Perhaps the most surprising habitants are the Scottish Highlanders who roam around and graze the grass all year round.
Check out these five hidden spots in Rotterdam for four more hidden spots! Perfect if you want to escape from the crowds or you just want to see a side of Rotterdam that goes beyond modern architecture.
That were 21 free things you can do in Rotterdam! Be sure to check out our other blogposts for more inspiration for your visit to Rotterdam!