Discover the Netherlands’ best kept secret: Things to do in Rotterdam

It may be known as the Gateway to Europe, but Rotterdam’s magnetic charm makes it a stunning destination in its own right. If you’re used to passing through Amsterdam’s sister city, it’s time to stop and take in a place of remarkable contrasts, with stark modern architecture mixed in with quaint historic buildings on stunning riverscapes. World-class museums, fantastic family days out and diverse entertainment fuelled by the influx of artists from surrounding areas are just a few of the reasons to visit Rotterdam.

Erasmusbrug, Cube Houses and Rotterdam architecture

Cube Houses Rotterdam Netherlands

No other city wears its past in quite the same way as Rotterdam. After its historic centre flattened by World War II, the locals came together with a grand vision to start afresh by creating bolder, larger, more adventurous structures than had ever been seen before.

Today Rotterdam is home to some of the most stunning works of modern architecture in the world. The stunning glass enclosure of De Markthal indoor market hall, iconic steel feathers of the swan-like Erasmusbrug and mind-bending Kijk-Kubus Cube Houses are all breathtaking testaments to the city’s regeneration.

Boijmans Van Beuningen and other Rotterdam museums

If the stunning architecture has whetted your appetite for creative art, head to the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. First opening its doors in 1849, this art museum features an incredible collection of works from masters including Vincent Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Salvador Dali.

Also established in the 19th century, the Wereldmuseum houses ethnographic objects from all over the world as well as holding numerous temporary exhibitions. The more modern Kunsthal is a leading art museum that has exhibited the likes of Chuck Close and Andy Warhol.

Fun for the whole family at the Kids Marina and Rotterdam Zoo

Image by Sander van der Wel

Rotterdam is the ideal spot for a family break, as it’s right by the port for a quick and easy drive and brimming with brilliant things to do for all ages. The city itself is extremely family friendly, with plenty of open green spaces, Pannenkoekenboot boat trips complete with ball pits on the lower deck, and the ingenious Kids Marina, where your little tykes can sail their own mini electric boats down a replica Port of Rotterdam.

Be sure to take a trip to Rotterdam Zoo (or Diergaarde Blijdorp), one of the oldest in the Netherlands, and built in an expansive setting to the north of the city. You’ll cross from the arid habitats of African mammals to the emerald aquariums where sharks swim overhead, and the huge collection of animals from all over the world will capture the imaginations of both adults and children alike.

Relax with Rotterdam nightlife and entertainment

Image by Robert Hertel

Soak up the evening sun and enjoy the views with a local delicacy from one of the riverside restaurants – the tree-lined streets and backdrop of intricate façades make a slow amble the perfect way to end the night.

For a fun, casual night, Witte de Withkwartier is one of the most popular areas for friendly pubs, bars and restaurants spilling out onto the vibrant streets. Alternatively, take in a show at the Old Luxor Theatre, the oldest theatre in the Netherlands, which hosts everything from local comedians to cabaret or opera. A livelier night can also be had thanks to the student population of the Erasmus University, who frequent clubs like the famous house and techno spot Toffler, housed in an old metro tunnel, and pop-up raves in unused buildings.

If this has inspired your next break, take a look at our Adventure Planner to see where your next escape could take you.

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