Hiking guide: one day in Rotterdam

Rotterdam is the center of progressive European architecture, the second-largest city in the Netherlands. It is very different from other Dutch settlements. If in Amsterdam, Leiden, and The Hague all the attention is occupied by numerous canals, palaces, and castles, then a walk through Rotterdam sends to the future. The city’s symbols – from fantasy cubic houses to the monumental Erasmus Bridge and ironic monuments – seem to call for a new way to look at Europe.

In 1940, the center of Rotterdam was almost destroyed by German fighters, and after the Second World War, the Dutch immediately began to rebuild. The opportunity to build a city anew gave rise to architectural experiments – houses and streets became the embodiment of functionalism, so popular in the middle of the XX century.

This guide will help you get acquainted with Rotterdam in just one day without missing the most important attractions, cozy corners, and popular places among locals.

How to get there?

Rotterdam can be reached by train, car or bus from European cities. A train is an ideal option: it will be difficult and expensive to park a car, and the bus ride is quite long, and he does not come to the city center.

All railways in the Netherlands are centralized. You can find out the schedule of trains from any city and buy tickets on the website of the ns.nl. From Amsterdam, the journey will take 40 minutes, trains run every 20-30 minutes during the day, once an hour – at night. From The Hague to Rotterdam can be reached both by train and by metro on a dedicated line, the cost of the trip will not differ. You will arrive at Rotterdam Central Station.

09:00 – Arrival, Weina and Stadhuis

The train arrives at The Central Station in Rotterdam. Walk down Weina Street to Hofplein Square, and you’ll walk between the slender rows of business centers. Here is the largest port in Europe, so many companies choose this city to accommodate their offices. When restoring Rotterdam, architects were inspired by New York, so the whole business district is a kind of curtsy to the great city of skyscrapers.

From the square, your route will go along Coolsingel Street – on the left, you will see Stadhuis, the town hall, and on the right – the shopping quarter. Stadhuis is one of the few places preserved in the center of Rotterdam after the bombing. It is noteworthy that it was built only at the beginning of the XX century – before that, the city government sat in a mansion on Hoogstraat Street for a long time. But the narrow alleys and size of the structure at some point became too unsuitable for the growing management of the city.

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10:00 – Flea Market and Markthall

After going around Stadhuis, turn left onto Meent Street and walk to Binnenrotte, which looks more like a huge square. If you arrive on Tuesday or Saturday, you will find the city’s most famous flea market. Vintage utensils, antique furniture, and décor items are sold here for pennies.

On the right side of the street stands a large building in the shape of a horseshoe – a complex of apartments and offices with a large city market Markthall, where you can buy delicacies or have a snack at the food court. The inside of the building, the market ceiling, is decorated with the largest printed graphics in the world. The work “Cornucopia” in the area corresponds to the size of two football fields. Interestingly, huge servers were needed to process such an image, which are usually used by the animation studio Pixar.

At the end of the square on the left, you will see an unusual building decorated with colorful pipes – this is the city library. You can play giant chess on the first floor, and immediately behind it is the famous complex of cubic houses.

Flea Market: Binnenrotte, Tuesday, Saturday, 07:00-14:00

11:00 – Cubic Houses

Cubic houses are one of the most striking symbols of Rotterdam. Surely, you have seen these unusual houses on the Internet more than once. Designed by Pete Blom in 1984, the buildings form the impossible Rutersvärd triangle. Each house has three floors – with the same beveled walls as you see outside the building. You can evaluate the convenience of living in cubic houses in several ways: visiting the museum, going on an excursion organized by the residents of the houses, or staying in an inexpensive hostel working in one of them.

Cubic houses: Overblaak 70, 10:00-18:00

12:00 – Oude Haven, Coffee and Scones

After the cubic houses, head to Oude Haven, a preserved piece of the old port hidden across the street. There are several good cafes and restaurants. In the summer, there are terraces from where you can admire the view of the port and the Williamsburg bridge. It also overlooks the White House, a 10-story Art Nouveau building, one of the Netherlands’ national treasures. This building is primarily remarkable due to its height – it was believed that the soft soil, washed out by seawater, will not withstand a 10-story structure, so for additional stability in the ground, fixed 1,000 beams that support the building to this day.

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13:00 – Erasmus Bridge

After refreshing, walk along the string of restaurants on the Oude Haven – you will come to the embankment of the Meyers River. It offers a view of the south of the city and the famous Erasmus Bridge, named after Erasmus of Rotterdam – one of the main thinkers of the Renaissance. Due to its unusual asymmetric shape, it was nicknamed the “swan bridge,” and the architectural object itself became a modern symbol of Rotterdam.

Go along the promenade towards the bridge, and when you reach it, turn right – you will come to the Kunsthall Art Museum, which is located in the museum park.

13:40 – Museum Park

Photo: Leonid Andronov /Shutterstock.com

Museumpark is a museum cluster and a park where several main exhibition areas of the city are concentrated at once. It is home to the Kunsthall Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Architecture, Design and Digital Culture, the Boijmans Van Beuningen Art Museum, and the Sonnenveld House.

Kunsthall hosts exhibitions of leading artists, where you can also get to a free workshop or an open lecture. If you are in Rotterdam one day, there is not enough time for all the sights, so we advise you to learn about the museum program in advance. Not interested in the exhibition? Just admire Kunsthall from the outside: its building is one of the icons of modernism.

Boijmans Van Beuningen has a rich collection of paintings by European artists. Although the museum is now closed for renovation, its exhibits are exhibited in various iconic buildings in Rotterdam, where they can be seen for free.

The Museum of Architecture, Design, and Digital Culture will appeal to those who care about how the modern world and new technologies affect other areas of our lives.

The most notable museum of the park is the house of Sonnenfeld, the famous functionalist architect. This four-story building was designed in the 30s of the last century, but thanks to the stunning stylization, its furnishings are relevant in our time. All furniture was specially coordinated in colors and designed to emphasize other interior items in the rooms, and the space of the house itself is divided as functionally as possible.

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The park designers thought about different visitors and leisure activities – in the summer in the Museumpark, you can relax on the grass in the shade, admiring the water and unusual sculptures. For lovers, a romantic “forest” zone with a charming pedestrian bridge is intended, and events are often held in the asphalted part of the park.

KUNSTHALL: Museumpark, Westzeedijk 341, Sat:10:00-17:00, Sun: 11:00-17:00, Monday — closed

Sonnenveld House: Jongkindstraat 12, 11:00-17:00, Sun-Sun

Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum, Museumpark 18: under renovation

Museum of Architecture, Design and Digital Culture, Museumpark 25: Sue-Wed, Fri-Sun: 11:00-17:00, Thu: 11:00-21:00

17:30 Witte De With Creative Cluster

Photo: trabantos/Shutterstock.com

From the Museumpark head to the Eendrachtsweg with its picturesque canal. Here, at the turn to Witte de Withstraat, you will see the popular coffee shop The 4 FLOORS, and if you turn right, do not miss the DEERHUNTER store with rare vintage things – it is owned by a charming red-haired hostess who herself finds unique products around the world.

On the street Witte de With in the evenings flocks all the creative youth. Here is the eponymous center of contemporary art, which regularly hosts thematic exhibitions and events. Thanks to this center, Witte de With has become a place of concentration for the city’s creative class: there are many galleries, fashionable cafes, and interesting shops.

Do not miss the opportunity to see the works of contemporary photographers, artists, and sculptors – in Witte de With, easily discover a new artist and turn your worldview upside down. On Fridays, “art evenings” are held in the center, and admission to the exposition becomes free. They are open until 9 p.m.

For example, you can have a snack in the area at the vegan Junk Food Bar. Have a couple of cocktails at the Spikizi bar, Warung Mini, dine on a traditional Surinamese dish – roti flatbreads with meat and vegetables.

Witte de With Center, Witte de Withstraat 50, 11:00-18:00 Tb-Sun, until 21:00 on Fridays

22:00 The Way Back

Head back to the central station on Eendrachtsweg. Under the light of evening lights reflected in the calm surface of the channel, your road will be charming and will take no more than 10 minutes.


You can leave Rotterdam for another city at any time, so if you want to stay longer, go to see the night cityscape from the Euromast observation deck. If not, straight to the Witte de With to have time to have a good ride.

Euromast, Parkhaven 20, 10:00-22:00 Mon-Sun.