September 24, 2021
Just because Rotterdam isn't the Dutch capital doesn't mean it can't be just as expensive to visit as Amsterdam. Luckily there are plenty of great and free things to do in Rotterdam as well as several things that are worth splashing out on.
See amazing architecture
Rotterdam is one of the most modern cities in the Netherlands because so much of the city was damaged by bombs in World War II. As the city was rebuilt, modern architecture became a prominent sight in the city. In the 1970's some of the city's most famous buildings was constructed: the Cube Houses.
These famous yellow houses, designed by architect Piet Blom, are all built at a 45 degree angle. You can walk amongst the different houses at no cost at all. For a small fee you can see the interior of one of the houses, or you can book a stay at Stayokay Rotterdam Cube Hostel.
Just a skip across the square from the Cube Houses lies the new Market Hall. Opened in 2014, this unique architectural structure serves has offices, homes and an indoor marketplace. With over 40 food vendors that sell all sorts of international food and drinks, it’s definitely one of the highlights for most tourists. And even if you don't buy a bite to eat, just looking up at the colourful ceiling is a reason to visit.
Like the Market Hall, Rotterdam Central Station was reopened in 2014 with a completely new building. It has a unique triangular shape that points up towards the sky. The well organised Dutch public transportation system makes it a great way to discover other destinations in the country.
The city's iconic Erasmus Bridge should also be on the must-see list of any architecture enthusiast. The Erasmus Bridge connects the Kop van Zuid with the centre of the city. This beautiful bridge, nicknamed the Swan due to its long mast that resembles the neck of a swan, is one of the locations for the annual National Fireworks displays at New Year's.
Right next to the Erasmus Bridge stands De Rotterdam building. At 162,000 square metres it is the largest building in the Netherlands and it looks different from every angle. The building is home to homes, offices, catering, a hotel and a parking garage. Because the building has so many functions, it can also be seen as a vertical city.
Check out local art
Several museums in Rotterdam are quickly gaining more international acclaim. Especially the museums located at Museumpark, such as De Kunsthal, de Museum Boijmans van Beuningen and Het Nieuwe Instituut, have also seen their visitor numbers and prices go up. Luckily the city is also home to some amazing art galleries which you can visit for free.
One of these art galleries is Showroom MAMA on the Witte de Withstraat, one of the hippest streets in Rotterdam where you can also shop, eat and drink. MAMA is a platform for visual culture and young talent – a gateway for young makers at the cutting edge of contemporary art and popular culture.
Another, bigger art centre can be found across the street and is called TENT. This three story art centre is the platform for contemporary art in the Rotterdam context. They offer exhibitions, new productions, educational projects, performances and events with artists from the city and elsewhere. Every Friday evening admission is free. Outside these hours entry won't set you back a lot either.
Delve into the historic harbours
Rotterdam has a long history as a port city and has several historic harbours, which at least in part survived the bombings of the war. The Old Port or 'Oude Haven' can be found near the Cube Houses and Market Hall. This was the first harbour in Rotterdam and is still home to historic buildings such as the Witte Huis, the first high-rise building in Europe. The harbour itself may date back all the way to 1350.
Another old harbour in the city centre is the Veerhaven. This one can be found closer to the Euromast, the highest tower in Rotterdam. Here historic sailing ships rocking gently on the water, surrounded by imposing town houses on classical avenues bring Rotterdam's rich shipping history to life.
Explore pre-war Delfshaven
This borough of Rotterdam, on the opposite side of the Euromast tower from the Veerhaven, was one of the few areas of the city that was spared during the war. Which means that here you can still feel the atmosphere of pre-war Rotterdam. The rich history of this area, the many bars and restaurants and the architecture, which contrasts with the rest of the city, make your visit worthwhile.
The borough is home to special places like the Pilgrim Fathers’ Church (Pelgrimvaderskerk), where in 1620, pilgrims gathered before crossing the ocean, heading for America. At the shipyard, volunteers are building De Delft, a replica of an 18th century warship. And make sure to enjoy a local beer from city brewery De Pelgrim when you visit Delfshaven.
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