Why a Two-Day Visit in Rotterdam is a good alternative to Amsterdam

“I like Rotterdam much better than Amsterdam which is too much like a postcard. It’s too cute for me. Rotterdam is more real, it’s got a stomach.” – Nan Goldin

This Rotterdam city travel guide will bring you to a good variety of locations in the city. It’s a unique guide because I handpicked the locations with the idea of combining a variety of the most enjoyable spots in Rotterdam. The itinerary of this Rotterdam travel guide is based on my own experiences and it combines off-the-beaten-path locations with more common ones. You’ll get to see where the local people hang out and where to find a good vegetarian, a breakfast and a seafood restaurant. Try to explore the city by bike and experience a good mix of old and modern in the unique harbor environment of Rotterdam.

This Rotterdam guide covers an itinerary for a one night stay and two full days of city adventure.

Rotterdam skyline - city travel guide

With over 600,000 citizens, Rotterdam is the second-largest city in the Netherlands after Amsterdam.

Day 1: Arrival, a rooftop garden, and charming little Delfshaven

Arriving in Rotterdam central station will bring you into the deep city center of Rotterdam. The central station is unique and modern and it’s is surrounded by a large square and big urban buildings. The central station is close to almost anywhere in the city center and it’s a good place to arrive as you will be near to a lot of must-see locations in the city. There are also quite a lot of good hotels nearby like the three-star design hotel ‘The James‘.

The Dakakker rooftop farm in Rotterdam

After check-in in your hotel, pack your day bag and go for a 10-minute walk until you reach Dakakker at Schiekade 189. Dakakker is a local community rooftop garden (the largest in Europe) with a café and a terrace. It’s located right on top of a tall building in Rotterdam. The café uses the rooftop grown vegetables and fruits for their tapas and short eats. They also serve a good bio prosecco and other refreshments.

Sunflowers on the rooftop garden of Dakakker in Rotterdam

Rooftop garden of Dakakker in Rotterdam

Flowers on the rooftop garden of Dakakker in Rotterdam

The Dakakker rooftop farm was created in 2012 and it’s one of the largest harvestable rooftop farms in Europe. Fruits, herbs, and vegetables grow at this rooftop garden and there is also a café that uses the products of the rooftop farm for their short eats. The roof is about 1000 m2 and there are plenty of tables and chairs to sit on.

Bike rental

Rotterdam is a delight to explore by bicycle. The bicycle paths in the city are of good quality and wide enough. That’s why many locals prefer to get around in Rotterdam by bike. If you want to go from one location in the city to another like a local, you’ll be happy to have a bicycle at your disposal. Walking would take you hours and public transport will also be slower and less flexible. You can rent a bike in a small shop below in the building of Dakakker. Renting a bike there for a full day will cost you €10 and the bicycles are of decent quality. With a rented bicycle, you can easily get around in the city center and suburbs of Rotterdam.

Charming little Delfshaven

In contrast to the urban heart of Rotterdam, Delfshaven brings out a very different facet of the city. The streets are much smaller in Delfshaven and the houses are much older. Delfshaven is a suburb area of Rotterdam, located close to the city center and it used to be the harbor area of Delft before Rotterdam expanded into a large city. It’s a peaceful escape out of the buzzing city center of Rotterdam and it’s a good location to walk around for a couple of hours. Best is to take a rented bicycle to get in Delfshaven and then to cruise along the small streets with the little houses and cafés.

Charming little Delfshaven - By Ton Nollens (Flickr)Charming little Delfshaven is an old harbor quarter of Rotterdam. Everything in Delfshaven is picturesque. – By Ton Nollens (Flickr)

A wonderful “no meat, no fish” restaurant in Delfshaven

On the Piet Heynsplein in Delfshaven there is a restaurant called ‘Bla Bla’ you will absolutely enjoy. They don’t serve meat, nor fish, so you could say it’s a vegetarian restaurant. But it’s much more than that. They serve several courses that don’t necessarily include replacers of meat, but rather good alternatives with vegetarian ingredients. You will have a splendid meal and I can very much recommend the place.

A vegetarian dinner in RotterdamThe vegetarian restaurant Bla Bla is a great “no meat, no fish” restaurant in Delfshaven, Rotterdam.

Day 2: a full day of Rotterdam’s hotspots

Waking up in a good hotel in the city center of Rotterdam is what you need because a good breakfast is a walking distance away and you’ll be close to all the locations you want to visit. When your looking for a good place for breakfast ‘Dudok‘ will please you as they serve good meals.

The Markthal

One of the most common must-see locations in Rotterdam is the Markthal: a central marketplace with small shops and a decent crowd. The building itself is impressive and the wall paintings inside even more. The market stalls inside however offer medium quality products for considerable prices. Visiting other parts in the city will probably provide you with better drinks and short eats so I recommend that you take look inside, walk around and then move on to other good locations in the city.

Markthal Rotterdam

Markthal Rotterdam

The inside wall paintings of the Markthal in Rotterdam.

A good seafood restaurant

For good seafood, ‘The Fish Market’ is a restaurant in Rotterdam you’ll enjoy. It’s located close to the Markthal in Rotterdam and there is a cozy terrace outside. The seafood in the restaurant is diverse and of good taste.

A seafood platter in Rotterdam“The fish market”, a seafood restaurant near the Markhal in Rotterdam, serves good plates of seafood.

Crossing the Erasmus bridge (or the other bridge next to it)

If you want to go from one part of Rotterdam to the other, you’ll need to cross a couple of bridges. The Erasmus bridge over the New Meuse river is the most iconic bridge, but the other bridges are interesting as well. Tip: you’ll have a good view on the Erasmus bridge when you take a route across the bridge next to it!

Rotterdam Erasmus bridge

The Erasmus bridge in Rotterdam, across the New Meuse.

The Hotel New York, SS Rotterdam and Fenix Food Factory

After you crossed the New Meuse river, you will get to another city part with iconic landmarks like ‘Hotel New York’. This hotel has a nice terrace and if you get the chance take a look inside because it’s a beautiful building. If you walk across the bridge, you’ll end up at the Fenix Food factory which is a local products and crafts market. It’s a good place where you’ll find good beers and other local specialties like cheese. Take your bike after this and ride to the SS Rotterdam, an old steam line ship that once cruises between Rotterdam and New York City in the US.

Hotel New York in Rotterdam Hotel Rotterdam used to be the main building of the Holland – America Line company. Series of old dutch steam line ships used to have a route between Rotterdam and New York. Nowadays the company only does cruises and the offices have moved to Seattle. The New York hotel got a new owner who transformed this beautiful building into a hotel.

Holland-America line ship SS Rotterdam

The SS Rotterdam is the 5th of a series of steamships that once were owned by the Holland America line company. Nowadays this huge ship is a four-star hotel and museum. She sailed from 1959 until her final retirement in September 2000.
The Fenix Food Factory The Fenix Food Factory is a good local market where you can get arts & craft beers, cheese platters, fresh baked bread and other good short eats.

The With de with street in Rotterdam

A visit to Rotterdam should always include a visit to the With de With street as it’s the main point in the city regarding culinary goodies and trendiness. The street isn’t that long but there a lot of shops and restaurants in it. From short eats over decent burgers to more exotic places, almost everything can be found in this street. To fulfill your Rotterdam visit with a good culinary experience you should definitely pay a visit to the With de With street.

With de With Street in RotterdamThe With de With street in Rotterdam is the main point in the city regarding culinary goodies and trendiness.

Where to stay?

Staying in the heart of Rotterdam is a most convenient option and probably the best hotel in the deep city center is the three-star design hotel ‘The James’. With 144 wonderful design rooms, ‘The James’ is unique with its stylish interiors and good quality service. The staff is friendly and you feel that good hospitality is one of the strengths of the hotel. You won’t find a pool inside, but there is a gym and an amazing lounge and restaurant area, all warmly decorated. The James hotel is a great place where you can renew, recover and refresh after a busy day in vibrant Rotterdam. The prices for a room start at €84 and the beds and the rest of the rooms are clean and very comfortable.

The James hotel, Rotterdam
Bathroom of a room in The James Hotel Rotterdam
Table in The James Hotel Rotterdam
Sofa in The James Hotel Rotterdam

How to get to Rotterdam?

Best way to reach Rotterdam is either by car or by train. There is a direct train from Amsterdam and one from Brussels that both stop at Rotterdam Central station. If you come from the Schiphol Amsterdam airport you can get a train from Amsterdam central station. From Brussels, you can take a direct train from Brussels central station. Getting to Rotterdam by car is also an option as there are plenty of highways close to Rotterdam.

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Rotterdam City Travel Guide
Rotterdam City Travel Guide

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