Best attractions in Rotterdam: Top 20

Rotterdam is an ancient Dutch city that has left its indelible mark on history. For centuries the city was doing fine as a major port, growing and prospering, until the events of World War II wiped out most of the buildings from the face of the earth. Over the years, the city rose from its knees, and what could still be restored, was rebuilt, and in place of the former ruins grew new super modern buildings. Therefore, the sights of Rotterdam is a contrast of ancient historical monuments and the most modern buildings. Advocates of high technology and lovers of the old are sure to find something to see in Rotterdam, because the city is famous for its fantastic architecture, avant-garde art and colorful festivals.

What to see in Rotterdam first and foremost

Cutting-edge technical constructions, the highest observation decks, spacious parks, restaurants with rich cuisine, medieval antiquities - this diversity is eye-opening, and time sometimes puts strict limits. So what can you do in Rotterdam in a day that you won’t regret? What to choose and where to go in Rotterdam if there is so much choice and only a week to spare? To this end, this article contains the top sights that leave a unique aftertaste from exploring the city.

1. Rotterdam city hall

Facades of the Rotterdam Town Hall T Houdijk

The structure, which has housed the city’s municipal authority for a century, survived the harsh ordeal of World War II and was substantially destroyed, but with the remnants of the structure it was eventually able to regain its former appearance. In the 90s the town hall building was declared a state monument, it is distinguished by its unusual decor with an abundance of images and sculptures. On the second floor of the Town Hall there is a hall for various lavish receptions and ceremonies - often even weddings are celebrated here.

2. Delfshaven

The old port district of Delfshaven in Rotterdam

This district is one of the best attractions in Rotterdam, because it still preserves the spirit of pre-war times - most of its buildings have survived the military bombing and by some miracle survived. Just by being here, you can imagine how looked like Rotterdam 200-300 years ago. In the antique shops you can buy valuable art, and in the cozy restaurants and pubs - relax and have lunch. Slowly strolling through the streets of Delphshaven, you can spend a very pleasant time - to visit the old brewery, touch the old times, visiting the deck of the ship Delft, or visiting the Church of the Pilgrim Fathers.

3. Boijmans - van Beuningen Museum

The courtyard with the entrance to the Museum Boijmans - van Beuningen © Antoine.01

The history of one of the largest museums in Rotterdam began in the middle of the 19th century, when the lawyer and collector Boymans bequeathed his art collection to Rotterdam. The museum itself was only founded in the early 19th century and opened its doors to visitors in 1935. Later, the museum’s exposition was complemented by the collection of another art lover - the entrepreneur Boehningen. It is these two collections that make up the main core of the museum’s exposition. Today the gallery contains a variety of art from the early Middle Ages to the present day.

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4. Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum and exhibition of restored ships moored near the waterfront Hanhil

Rotterdam, being one of the largest port cities in Europe, should by definition have a museum related to the sea. And indeed, you do not have to look very hard to find something to visit in Rotterdam to learn more about its maritime history. The Maritime Museum is the oldest museum in Rotterdam and one of the top five maritime museums in the world. It holds more than half a million valuable exhibits, including models of old ships, various designs, equipment, nautical atlases, maps, etc.

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5. St. Lawrence Church

St. Lawrence Church is Rotterdam's only medieval structure Frans Berkelaar

The church once belonged to a Protestant congregation, and it is the only structure in Rotterdam to have survived from the Middle Ages. The church originally bore the name of St. Elizabeth, the patron saint of the poor. During World War II, the temple building was substantially destroyed by two bombs, but managed to survive. Restored later, the temple became a cathedral and took the name of the city’s patron saint, St. Lawrence. Surprisingly non-standard approach to the use of the inner space of the shrine - for example, there is a cafe, exhibitions are held, and the flames of candles are replaced by numerous electric lights.

Be sure to watch this beautiful video about Rotterdam!

6. White House

The White House on the shore of the Old Harbor in Rotterdam S.J. de waard

One of the must-visits Rotterdam tour is the White House, the most beautiful building in the city, as if it had come from the pages of a fairy tale book. The structure was built at the very end of the 19th century and was planned to house offices. The instability of the swampy ground on which the White House was built forced its foundations to be built on piles, and some critics were certain that the palace, despite all its splendor, would not last on such a foundation for several years. But the remarkable Art Nouveau house endured all the hardships of the war, and by some miracle survived, surviving to this day in fine condition.

7. Montevideo Skyscraper

The Montevideo Skyscraper on the banks of the Maas River in Rotterdam M8scho

The next ranking position belongs to one of the tallest buildings in Rotterdam, the Montevideo skyscraper. It is a 140-meter high building on the banks of the Maas River, with many offices, retail and residential areas inside. The modernist skyscraper has a modern architecture and consists of several blocks combined in a single harmonious composition. The building’s logo, in the form of the letter “M” on the very roof of the skyscraper, simultaneously serves as a weather vane, reflecting the speed and direction of the wind. The excellent panorama of the building in the ensemble with the surrounding views of the city and the river makes Montevideo one of the symbolic and recognizable buildings of Rotterdam.

8. Hotel New York in Rotterdam

Hotel New York is the former headquarters of the Holland America Line Steamship Company G.Lanting

Although hotels in Rotterdam are generally cozy, high comfort, and have a wide range of services, there is still one hotel that deserves special attention. The New York is one of the most beautiful hotels not only in the city, but in the whole of Holland, it harmoniously combines antiquity and modernity. The location of the building on the bay and its exquisite style makes the hotel especially attractive. Wooden floors, high ceilings, big windows, wrought iron railings and spacious beds - all this complements the refined style of the antique interior. Complementing the impression and the convenience of the location of the building in the vicinity of many famous city museums.

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9. Pencil House

The Pencil House is a residential skyscraper of bizarre architecture in Rotterdam Raenmaen

Renowned Dutch architect Pete Blom has distinguished himself by bringing to life some of Rotterdam’s creative architectural projects, including the Pencil House, which was erected in the 1980s. This tall, elongated building with a hexagonal foundation and a pointed roof looks a lot like a sharpened pencil, hence its name. In close proximity to this house, a traditional cube-shaped house was erected, and local jokers managed to give it the name “eraser”.

10. Cube houses

Cube houses - a street of inverted and placed on one corner houses in Rotterdam Raul Ayres

Next door to the pencil house guides in Rotterdam are sure to pay attention to another architectural masterpiece by Pete Blom. These are cube houses, which have earned great popularity due to their very unusual design. As well as the “pencil”, cube houses were built in the 80s, but the idea for this project came to the architect’s mind long before its realization, in the 70s. Each cubic house is a cube tilted at a 45 degree angle and represents an abstract cubic tree. The entire house complex consists of 32 cubes arranged relative to each other in a 6-angle grid.

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11. Markthal Market

The entrance to the new indoor food market "Markthal" Exmpletree
Trading areas and colorfully decorated interior archways at Markthal market Paul Arps

It is both an indoor market and a residential building in the historic part of the city. The area where the market is located was once not very lively, so the municipality decided to create the conditions to attract people here. As a result, an unusually designed building was created, combining apartments, market and parking - a new symbol of Rotterdam that unites the entire district. The building’s exterior deserves special attention, thanks to the use of modern technology, such as a completely glass façade reinforced with a network of metal cables and an interior arch painted with images of fruit, vegetables, flowers, ears and butterflies.

12. The railway station building

New train station building in Rotterdam Spoorjan

This is where many trips to Rotterdam usually start - from the railway station. Rotterdam’s railway station has been a central transportation hub since 1847, but the building itself came later, by 1957. By the 2000s, the building was no longer able to meet the growing demands, and a new modern building was erected, which by 2013 was ready to serve the first passengers. It has a well-developed infrastructure, including stores, ATMs, cafes, pharmacies and other amenities. The architecture of the building is unusual in shape and the glass dome-roof allows maximum light into the interior.

13. Port of Rotterdam

Big port cranes and container ships in the port of Rotterdam

The largest port in the world in terms of cargo turnover is located precisely in Rotterdam. It was first mentioned back in the Middle Ages, when a transshipment point was founded there, and a little later the first harbors appeared. Today the port includes many harbors, each of which is numbered and has its own name. The port of Rotterdam has a high world significance, ships with ore and coal, oil and petroleum products arrive here. Each year, millions of tourists arrive on the shores of Rotterdam to see the sights of Rotterdam with their own eyes.

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14. Erasmus Bridge

The Erasmus Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge over the Maas River in the center of Rotterdam

Another landmark in the Netherlands, one of the world record holders, has distinguished itself by its length. It is the longest drawbridge in the world, the Erasmus Bridge. It has a very daring design, especially the curved pylon, symbolizing the rebuilding of the city after the war devastation. The construction is a little over 800 meters long and consists of several parts. The main part is a cable-stayed bridge held by strong cables. The second part is the pylon with an unusual shape, holding the cable-stayed section. And finally, the swinging part of the bridge - is designed to allow large ships to enter the port.

15. Euromast

View of the famous observation tower of Rotterdam and the floating Chinese restaurant on the Maas River

For a view of the beautiful city panoramas, guides in Rotterdam recommend a visit to the Euromast. It is a 185-meter mast tower, which was really designed to look like a ship’s mast. At a height of about a hundred meters there is a so-called “ship’s bridge”, which was originally the end of the mast. Later it was decided to “extend” the structure by adding a technical tower on top. On the main platform, in addition to viewing the magnificent panoramas, you can visit one of several working here: the main area is occupied by a luxurious restaurant, the level below is equipped with a more democratic cafe, and the level above there are even two upscale hotel rooms.

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Rotterdam sights: what else can I do in Rotterdam?

The main sights of Rotterdam briefly describe those places worth visiting first to get to know the Dutch land. In the continuation of the rating are other, no less interesting sights of Rotterdam, photos with names and descriptions of which convey the main features and flavor of these places.

16. Diergaarde Blijdorp Zoo

The inhabitants of the zoo "Diergaarde Blijdorp" in Rotterdam AgainErick

A trip to Rotterdam with children is not without a visit to the local zoo, which has its own botanical garden and oceanarium. Despite its considerable age - more than 150 years - the zoo today still looks spacious and well maintained, and on its territory you can find a lot of rare and endangered animals. The zoo’s inhabitants are divided into several zones dedicated to their habitats. The Dutch plants in the botanical park are fragrant with magnificent flowers. But perhaps the most colorful and impressive part of the zoo is its enormous oceanarium, where you can watch the life of large fish and the rarest sea creatures.

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17. The Arboretum Trompenburg Botanic Garden

Lovely corner of the Botanic Garden Arboretum Trompenburg in Rotterdam

According to reviews, many people associate Holland with blooming gardens and parks. True aesthetes will appreciate the beauty of a unique park area in the heart of Rotterdam. The history of the botanical garden begins a few centuries ago, when Admiral Martin Tromp gave this place its name. Later a merchant bought the plot, and in the middle of the 19th century the plot was sold to the Van Hoy Smith family, who founded the plant collection of the future garden. Throughout the park organized spectacular compositions of the most diverse plants, created a beautiful pond and canals, and getting from the bustling city center in the garden Arboretum Trompenburg, as if you get into another world - bright, blooming and fragrant.

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18. Oliphant Castle

The green park around Oliphunt Castle in Rotterdam Kasteelbeer

The next point of the review is devoted to a manor house that existed on the territory of the modern city in the 16th century. These lands belonged to a certain nobleman who previously lived in Delft and had a very successful ivory trade. In gratitude to the animals that gave him wealth, he named the castle on his new estate - Oliphant, which translates as “elephant”. Later the castle changed hands a number of times until it came into the possession of the town mayor. Today, inside the restored palace there is a conference hall, a restaurant, a banquet hall, and ceremonial and official events are often held here.

19. Castle Honningen

Castle Honningen in the Honningen Park in Rotterdam Ivory

The first mention of this ancient castle, which at that time belonged to the small town of Kralingen, dates back to the 13th century. Later this settlement became one of the districts of Rotterdam. Many shocks have survived this building - for example, in the 15th century, the castle was completely destroyed, and later rebuilt and repaired in its former glory. Then around the palace was created pond, landscaped the surrounding park. As a result of the events of the Dutch Revolution in the 16th century the castle was destroyed again, and the land, on which it was located, in the 19th century was passed to the city authorities. In time the place became a popular recreation area, and several luxurious mansions were built on the shore of the old pond.

20. Kinderdijk

Panoramic view of the windmills of Kinderdijk

The last item of advice is worth dedicating to the village of Kinderdijk in the southern province of the country, 15 kilometers from Rotterdam. After all, it is here that you will find an important historical site - 19 large windmills. The southern provinces, located in the lowlands, have had one big problem since time immemorial: constant flooding. To counterbalance the water element, windmills were built with a system of reservoirs that stored excess water during floods and, conversely, pumped it out in times of drought. Over time, with the advent of pumps, the need for mills disappeared, but to this day these structures remain a true national symbol of the country.

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The most modern, geometric and very distinctive city in the Netherlands will certainly draw you in with its originality. Against the background of ancient, small and quiet cities of the state Rotterdam looks like a giant of the front - life in the city boils even at night. Anyway, once in Rotterdam, no one will remain indifferent to its new cubic houses and old museums, the latest extravagant buildings and medieval facades - all interesting places to visit and see for yourself.

Read also about sights of Amsterdam and be inspired for further travels in the Netherlands.

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