Rotterdam is a surprising city. In fact, many travelers go there for a day and discover that they need to come back for more. The list of what to see in Rotterdam is long, and to choose what to do in just 24 hours can be an overwhelming task. To help you make the most of your one day in Rotterdam, we created a killer one-day itinerary that combines art, food, and fun.
So you can make the most of your one day in Rotterdam, our first recommendation is to arrive early. Getting there is easy. You can fly to Rotterdam-The Hague International Airport, or arrive in the city on a cruise ship, by train, or by bus. When traveling in the Netherlands, the easiest way to get to Rotterdam is by train. Traveling from London? Check out the Eurostar train — it’s fast, comfy, and if you buy the Eurostar ticket in advance it’s quite cheap, too.
Our guide of what to see in Rotterdam in one day will take you to top attractions, iconic buildings, and a throw-in few stops for food as well. If the weather is good you can follow our tips and explore the city on foot or by bicycle, or if you prefer you can jump on a tram. Planning to visit some museums and use public transportation? Before going out and about stop at Rotterdam Tourist Information Office at the Central Station and buy a Rotterdam Welcome Card. A Rotterdam day pass only costs €12 and gives you 25% discount to 50 attractions plus free access to public transportation for one day.
Now it’s time to download Rotterdam’s map to your phone and follow our tips for the best things to do in Rotterdam in one day.
What to see in Rotterdam in one day
1º – Rotterdam Central Station
Our Rotterdam one day itinerary must start at the Central Station. This is not only a transportation hub, it’s one of the coolest stations in Europe and it’ll set the artistic mood for your day in Rotterdam. Take some time to admire the beautiful architecture and even grab a coffee. With the station at your back walk to your left, following Weena Avenue. On the next roundabout turn left again, and you are about to explore one of the coolest spots in Rotterdam.
2º – Cross Luchtsingel pedestrian bridge
You’re gonna spot a yellow pedestrian bridge, climb the steps, and discover this new world. Luchtsingel is an urban project, a wooden pedestrian bridge that not only connects two sides of the city but also offers art, music, and good food. At both ends of the bridge you’re going to find nice restaurants and shops. At Schieblock, an old building at the end of Luchtsingel bridge, there is rooftop restaurant and a cool beer garden on the ground floor.
3º – Stop at Coolsingel St. for historical buildings and cool souvenirs
After exploring the Luchtsingel pedestrian bridge, go back to the roundabout and follow Coolsingel Street south. You are in the heart of Cool District and there you can find some of Rotterdam’s historical buildings like the City Hall, the former Post Office and the Timmerhuis, a beautifully renovated building that houses the Rotterdam Museum. For artistic and unique souvenirs, stop at the Rotterdam Tourism Office at Coolsingel Street and grab a special gift to take home. Everything there is made by Rotterdam designers.
On both sides of Coolsingel Street there are cafes, restaurants, and shopping malls. Try to find Oude Binnenweg Street for cute shops, then walk towards Westersingel Street. At the corner where the two streets connect, you’re going to see Rotterdam’s famous Santa Claus. Rotterdam is packed with street art and the Santa Claus statue is a controversial one. Also known as ‘Buttplug Gnome’ it sits at the entrance of Rotterdam’s shopping district.
4º – Relax by the canal and search for more cool buildings and street art
Westersingel Street has a beautiful canal, and if the sun is shining, sit and relax. You’re gonna see tons of locals doing the same. Stroll around the canal to find some cool buildings like the Calypso and the Pauluskerk (St. Paul’s Church), statues and art installations. When you are done, walk back to toward Coolsingel Street or take a tram/metro to Blaak Station.
5º – Discover the medieval side of Rotterdam
Rotterdam was heavily bombed during World War II, and only a few buildings in the city center survived that time. The St. Laurence Church is one of them, and it’s also the only example of Gothic architecture in the city. Our one day in Rotterdam itinerary must have a visit to the church, to admire the history and see the contrast between the old and modern Rotterdam.
6º – Market Hall for food, art and architecture wonders
A couple of meters from St. Laurence Church is the Market Hall, a must-see place in Rotterdam. The building is gigantic, there you can find food stalls, restaurants, and shops, and on the top floors modern apartments. Don’t forget to look up to the ceiling and admire the stunning work of art ‘Horny of Plenty’ by Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam. As you only have one day in Rotterdam, take time to try some local specialties like Dutch cheese and stroopwafels. Then go back to Blaak Square in front of the Market Hall for an architecture feast.
7º Admire the Cube Houses, The Pencil and White House
The yellow Cube Houses are an icon of Rotterdam architecture. You can walk around them, admire the innovative thinking and even visit one of the cubes. The houses were designed in the late 70’s by Piet Blom, the same architect that created The Pencil, a tall building sitting beside the Cube Houses that looks like a pencil pointing to the sky.
After visiting the Cube Houses, stop by one of the bars at Oudhaven (old port) and admire the stunning Witte Huis, or White House. This is the first skyscraper in Europe, and one of the few buildings that survived WWII. Built in 1898 the White House is a fine example of Art Nouveau. At the background you will see an impressive red bridge, that is Willemsbrug, the second version of it, as the first one was destroyed during the war.
8º – Explore the Maritime District
Facing the White House, walk towards your right to Leuvehaven. You will see some cool buildings, old boats turned into hotels, restaurants, and houses. Follow the canals to the Maritime Museum. If you have an interest in learning about Rotterdam’s connection with sea and trading, go for a visit. We loved it.
9º It’s time to meet the Swan
No doubt Erasmus Bridge is one of the most famous attractions in the city, and you can’t spend a day in Rotterdam without visiting it. Before crossing, take some time to walk around or even go on a boat tour to Rotterdam Port (the Spido Rotterdam Harbour Tour takes only 75 minutes). More about Rotterdam boat tours and water activities here.
If you still have energy cross the bridge on foot, otherwise take a tram from Leuvehaven toward Wilhelminaplein and enjoy the view. From Erasmus Bridge you can admire the Mass River and the Rotterdam skyline. The 800 meters long bridge is also called the Swan, due to its elegant shape.
10º Visit the modern Kop van Zuid area
On the other side of Erasmus Bridge you’ll find some impressive buildings like De Rotterdam designed by Rem Koolhaas, the new Luxor Theater, The Museum of Photography, a floating forest, and the charming Hotel New York, that once was the head office of Holland America Line. Just beside the Hotel New York there is a bridge connecting Kop van Zuid to Katendrecht. It’s time to cross it.
11º – Food, craft beer and pinball
By this time you are probably tired and hungry, so there’s nothing better than a food market filled up with local restaurants, Moroccan food, delicious coffee, and cold beer. After crossing the bridge you’ll see the Fenix Factory, a project that brought together food and art in a former warehouse which has one of the best views of Mass River. Grab a bite, enjoy the view, and have some fun at the Dutch Pinball Museum next door. The entrance gives you access to pinball machines from 1900 until now. You can admire and play with them.
In the same region is the famous SS Rotterdam, a steamship built in 1959, which after cruising many oceans was retired and opened to the public as a museum, restaurant, and hotel. To visit the SS Rotterdam you’ll need a couple of hours. You can choose to end your day in Rotterdam visiting the ship, or skip it and follow our suggestion of what to do in Rotterdam in one day. It’s your choice!
12º – Get a water taxi to Euromast
A water taxi ride is a must for anyone visiting Rotterdam. Doesn’t matter the weather conditions, these boat taxis are the coolest and fastest ways to get around Mass River and visit some of the best attractions in Rotterdam. From Fenix Factory get a water taxi to the pier close to Euromast to end your one day in Rotterdam with views and hopefully a beautiful sunset. Euromast is the tallest watchtower in the Netherlands, with 185 meters its revolving lift offers 360 views of the city.
13º Find your way to Witte de Withstraat Street
From Euromast you can take a taxi or a tram back to Cool District. Your day should end at Witte de Withstraat Street, the address of bars, restaurants, and galleries. There you will find a mix of locals and travelers, international cuisine, and top-notch drinks. Want to try something different and local? Order a Kapsalon, the best food to have after a few or many beers.
If you need to leave Rotterdam in the same day, from Witte de Withstraat you can take a taxi or a tram to Central Station. Do you want to spend the night in Rotterdam? If so, then do it right, choose one of the best hotels in the city like Inntel Hotels Rotterdam Center, Nhow Hotel, Rotterdam Marriott, Hilton Rotterdam, Hotel New York or CitizenM Rotterdam. Traveling to Rotterdam on a budget? Some of the coolest hostels in Rotterdam are Hostel Ani & Haakien, King Kong Hostel, and Hostel Room Rotterdam. Still in doubt? Choose the best hotel for your one day in Rotterdam on Booking.com.
Do you want to see more of Rotterdam? Go for it!. The city has many museum, parks, galleries, and cute neighborhoods to be explored. It will be hard to pack everything in one day in Rotterdam so you might have to rethink your schedule and stay a bit longer. For more travel tips and a comprehensive guide of what to see in Rotterdam read our post The Best of Rotterdam.
Enjoy your one day in Rotterdam! I’m sure you gonna fall in love with the city and plan your next visit soon. Now it’s time to pack your bags and get ready to explore Rotterdam in a day.
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