Planning on going to Rotterdam and want to go off the beaten track? In this article, I offer you an alternative way to visit this great and surprising city.
Let’s leave out the touristic places and discover some of the favourite places of the locals instead! I’ll even mention some hidden spots that not all Rotterdammers know about…
Enrich your trip in Rotterdam by visiting spots that most tourist somehow skip. From cool areas and green oases to local bars and restaurants. This is the best way to discover the local life and the authentic lifestyle of the city.
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Cool areas to visit in Rotterdam
1. Oude Haven
Oude Haven is one of the most beautiful places in Rotterdam. Do you love historical spots? Then be sure to stroll around this area, as it’s one of the places that still includes some of the historical buildings, such as the Witte Huis.
Het Witte Huis or the White House is a remarkable building in the Oude Haven. This building was once the highest building of Europe with its 43 meters. Nowadays, that’s kind of hard to imagine…
Oude Haven is also a great area for drinks and food. There are lots of great bars and restaurants!
TIP: Learn more about the history of Rotterdam in a playful manner with this fun exploration game! During this exciting game you take on the role of a spy that tries to safe Rotterdam of an apocalyptic bombing during the World War II.
2. Willemsbrug & Noordereiland
When searching the internet for spots to see in Rotterdam, one of the first things you’ll probably find is the Erasmus Bridge. However, there is another bridge that is just as impressive: the Willems bridge (Willemsbrug). This is a hotspot for photographers.
This bridge connects the city centre to the Noordereiland, an island in the Maas river and a lovely district of Rotterdam. I advise you to walk across the brigde and along the river for an amazing view of the city.
Little cliffhanger: later on in this article, I’ll talk about a beautiful green park that is located on Noordereiland.
Veerhaven is a lovely little harbour where you will find authentic Dutch architecture, which is a great contrast with the view of the modern buildings on the other side of the river.
Veerhaven is really appreciated by the locals for its atmosphere. Here you’ll discover nice cafes and restaurants when walking around. It’s also a good location to admire the old ships moored in the harbour.
Hillegersberg is an area in Rotterdam that is completely off the tourist track. It’s mostly known as a (little bit expensive) residential area, but it’s definitely worth a visit for leisure time as well.
You will find amazing old houses, and there are also beautiful walks to do, along the lake with a skyline of Rotterdam in the background. On sunny days, it’s wonderful to rent a boat on the lake and sail towards the city centre through canals.
Visitors sometimes forget about the historic part of the city. Despite the bombing of most of Rotterdam, some areas have been preserved and still reflect the Dutch spirit of the 17th century.
This is the case of Delfshaven, located in the western part of the city. Especially Historic Delfshaven is worth a visit, the oldest part of Rotterdam and a beautiful yacht marina. It was a very important part of our city, as it was the departure point from which the Pilgrim Fathers sailed for America.
Now it’s a beautiful historic spot in Rotterdam, where you can admire traditional houses and historic buildings.
Afrikaanderwijk in Rotterdam is an under appreciated area that offers more than most people know. For instance, since 2019 there is a lot of street art to admire here. These pieces were made by various (inter)national artists during the POW! WOW! In Rotterdam week in 2019 and 2020.
For example, you have the artwork above on the Korte Hillestraat, made by the Rotterdam artists Duo Telmo (Pieper) & Miel (Krutzmann) and the Australian Sam Bates, better known as Smug. The realistic artwork with a skeleton has the wonderful message: we are all the same inside.
But there’s more. In Afrikaanderwijk you can visit a big park, a swimming pool and every Wednesday and Saturday the Afrikaanderplein for the multicultural market with all kinds of produce.
Beautiful green spots in Rotterdam
7. Kralingse Bos
If you are looking for a nature break during your citytrip, you came into the right place as Rotterdam is incredibly well-balanced between city and nature, and offers various parks.
Kralingse Bos (the forest of Kralingen) is the biggest park of the city, composed of a forest, a lake, as well as a beach. If you come here during summer, you can find locals swimming or sailing.
8. Heemtuin in the Kralingse Bos
If you’re looking for a hidden beautiful green oasis, you should check out the beautiful Heemtuin. This botanical garden is tucked away in the middle of the Kralingse Bos. Some locals don’t even know that it’s there. You will find all kinds of plants, trees and shrubs.
Walk across the narrow pier through all the greenery and eventually you will arrive at the Kralingse Plas and you will be rewarded with a beautiful view of the skyline of Rotterdam.
Be sure to read Fatima’s article with more hidden spots in Rotterdam.
9. COURTYARD CITY HALL ROTTERDAM
The city hall is one of the few buildings in the centre of Rotterdam that is still standing after the bombing in the Second World War. It’s also a building that most people have only admired from the outside.
Walk in and you will see that the city hall is a large square building with an intimate inner garden in the middle. The historic architecture and appearance of the courtyard almost make you forget that you are in Rotterdam.
The fountain, statues and beautiful flowers such as roses and hydrangeas make the inner garden of Rotterdam City Hall an oasis of peace in the middle of the city.
10. Ons Park
I already mentioned the Noordereiland. On this island you can find a not so well-known park called “Ons Park” (which means Our Park). As you can see on the photo above, you have a beautiful view of the Willemsbrug from Ons Park on Noordereiland.
It is a small park and it is usually nice and quiet here, with just a few visitors going for a walk with their dog or a group doing a workout. It a great place to enjoy the view, the greenery and the bunnies that roam freely. A good time to visit is during the sunset.
11. Het Park
Right in the heart of the city, next to the Euromast tower, you will find the simply called but nonetheless extraordinary “Het Park”. Here you can escape the hustle and bustle of the busy city.
It is a very well known park in Rotterdam, but it’s usually very quiet. That makes it the excellent place for a walk or to organise a picnic (or a combination of the two).
12. Historische Tuin Schoonoord
If you go to Het Park, don’t miss the Historische Tuin (historical garden) Schoonoord, the charming garden right next to it.
Schoonoord has been designated as a protected national monument due to its unique location, historical elements and special plants. In the garden you can find a rich collection of flora and fauna. There are also benches, bridges, a lush pond and several old trees. Really worth a visit!
Find more beautiful gardens and parks in Rotterdam.
Cool Bars & Restaurants in Rotterdam
Biergarten is a very popular bar among Rotterdammers. Not far from Rotterdam Central Station, this is quite an unusual bar with great vibes.
It’s an open-air bar and has a great terrace, so it makes it a great place to chill out and enjoy a drink. Biergarten also organises cool DJ night events.
Schiestraat 18, 3013 BR Rotterdam
Located in the west part of the city, next to the dock, you can find Weelde. This place has such a great atmosphere. It’s a very versatile place, as there is a restaurant, a bar and it is also a great place to party. You will even find a skate pool.
On sunny days, you can enjoy their delicious food and drinks outside on one of their many terraces. During the summer, you can even sit in the Zandbar (sand bar, pictured above), a little beach with a bar.
This is definitely a hotspot, unknown to most tourists. You’re welcome 😉
Marconistraat 39, 3029 AG Rotterdam
Another location in Rotterdam West, close to Weelde, is Keilecafe. As it’s kind of a ‘permanent festival’, it makes it the perfect place for this summer.
It is an open air bar, regularly organizing small concerts, for all tastes. There are DJ nights but also reggae concerts and much more.
Vierhavensstraat 46, 3029 BG Rotterdam
16. Fenix Food factory
A bit more popular, but still a nice place I would like to mention is the Fenix Food Factory. Installed in an old warehouse, it has been converted into a food market and bars. You will find a cocktail bar, a wine bar and local beers, as well as dishes prepared with fresh local products.
TIP: For a little bit of fun, you can choose to travel there by watertaxi!
Nico Koomanskade 1025, 3072 LM Rotterdam
17. Dudok (in het Park)
In the heart of the city centre, a well known and appreciated bistrot, is Dudok. You can eat delicious meals at any time of the day. They are quite famous for their apple pie, I can definitely advise you to try it!
You will also find them in Het Park, in a beautiful building of the 18th century, surrounded by a French-style garden.
City centre: Meent 88, 3011 JP Rotterdam
In het Park: Baden Powelllaan 12, 3016 GJ Rotterdam
Raïnaraï can be found on the Middellandplein in Rotterdam-West. There are beautiful rugs and cushions on the sofas and because the terrace is surrounded by tropical trees it feels a bit like you are in an oasis. This makes it a wonderful place to have a drink or have an extensive dinner.
The nomadic dishes of Raïnaraï are made with organic, fresh ingredients and every day you can order something different. You can choose dishes from the display and compose your own menu. There are vegetarian, but also meat dishes. In addition, they serve delicious Algerian pizzas from the wood oven.
A lovely spot that not many people in Rotterdam know about! Check out more great hotspots in Rotterdam West.
1e Middellandstraat 134, 3021 BJ Rotterdam
19. Studio Unfolded
Photographer Sophia van den Hoek, known from Instagram account @un_fold_ed, has her own studio on the Nieuwe Binnenweg. It is a shop, coffee place, event location and creative agency. A super fun creative place with a great vibe and minimalistic style.
On a sunny day you can take a seat in their lovely garden (if you want with a parasol against the sun) and enjoy an (ice) coffee, chai latte or homemade iced tea. Delicious!
Nieuwe Binnenweg 305A, 3021 GH Rotterdam
20. De Maaskantine
A great terrace on the waterside? Then you should visit De Maaskantine! There is even a little sand beach where you can relax on a lounge chair.
The menu features dishes with Cajun/Creole influences. Think of dishes such as the Cajun twister fries, loaded fries, corn on the cob, and the O.G. vegan burger, to name a few.
Just having a drink at the Maaskantine is also possible of course. In collaboration with The Rumah, the cocktail menu is filled with their delicious mixes, such as the Soupe du Jour and I’m a Flamingo.
Plantagelaan 2, 3063 NG Rotterdam
Cool ways to explore Rotterdam
21. Take the watertaxi
We’re near the end of this article. I’ve decided to also include three cool ways to explore Rotterdam. For instance, there are a lot of fun ways to explore the Maas. You can go for a ride on the watertaxi. This is actually quite a touristy thing to do, but it just shouldn’t be missed when you’re in Rotterdam. You can book a ride up front on their website or order a watertaxi by phone.
It’s a nice way to see the city from the water and also an adventure, because the taxis can ride over the waves pretty quickly.
In addition to the practical function of the water taxi, you can also book it in combination with a tour (for example here!). On this walking tour you first get an extensive explanation from an architect guide before the tour with the water taxi starts.
Find more fun activities in and around Rotterdam.
22. Follow a street art route
Rotterdam’s art scene is quite a big deal. Art is constantly evolving here, making Rotterdam one of the most vibrant cities of the Netherlands in terms of street art!
You can find murals and sculptures all over the city. There’s even a real Picasso on the middle of the street (find it on the corner of the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen and Westersingel).
If you are into this, you can follow cool street art routes to discover the city and its beautiful murals at the same time. Click here to discover the coolest street art of Rotterdam.
23. Rent a floating hot tub
Yes it exists, it’s called the HotTug and this is only in Rotterdam! The HotTug is the world’s first floating wooden spa. You can rent the boat and navigate on the canals of Rotterdam.
This is offered by Vessel 11, a British Gastro-pub on a beautiful red ship, located in one of Rotterdam’s oldest ports. Also a great place to try.
Vessell11, Wijnhaven 101, 3011 WN Rotterdam
24. ENJOY A BEAUTIFUL CYCLING TOUR ON THE ISLAND OF IJSSELMOND
Exploring Rotterdam by bike is definitely the local and authentic way. From the heart of Rotterdam you can easily reach Island IJsselmonde, a surprisingly varied and undiscovered area.
Here you will find green oases with beautiful forests, landscaped gardens and historic farms. Beautiful cycling routes take you across the island via dikes, woods and river paths.
Does this sound like something you would love to do? ‘Discover IJsselmonde’ has listed the 5 most beautiful cycling routes for you.
These are great spots and activities in Rotterdam to fill your trip. That way, you can be assured that you will visit the coolest and authentic places of Rotterdam, while staying off the beaten track!
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