Once a year, the port of Rotterdam opens its doors to the public to show them exactly what happens in the largest port in Europe. The harbour always plays a big role in Rotterdam but during the first weekend of September it takes centre stage. There are countless activities to enjoy as well as numerous ships to explore and performances by various artists in the evenings.

History of the World Port Days in Rotterdam

Before the Second World War there already were ‘Harbour Days’ for dignitaries and foreign guests. From 1978, the Wereldhavendagen, as the Port Days are known in Dutch, became an annual event open to the general public. The first event had a fleet show with more than 180 ships, including two which belonged to the Dutch royal family with several members of the family, including then Queen Juliana, present.

One year later, the general public was given access to the normally closed industrial sites of the port, such as refineries and container terminals, for the first time. Over time the event grew in to a multi-day event, which attracts close to half a million visitors every year and became the biggest maritime event in the Netherlands.

See and do at the World Port Days

During the World Port Days there are activities all over the city, from the city centre to the quays and the port itself. The city is fully decorated in maritime style, with shop windows displaying unique harbour professions and a photo exhibition at the Maritime Museum. Even the city’s Central Station pays attention to the World Port Days.

There is plenty to do on the city’s quays. You can visit several ships from Royal Navy guided by a crew member, including a Landing Platform Dock, Hydrografic Recording Vessel and a submarine. You can also visit the Port Authority, which makes sure the shipping in the port runs smoothly every day of the year.

Other operations in the port which you can visit and interact with on the quay include Boskalis, one of the biggest dredging and heavy lift companies in the world; Kenbri Fire Fighting, a supplier of fire fighting materials in all shapes and sizes; diving company C.O.W., where you can take a dip in a diving tank; the Inland Navigation Information Office, which can tell you all about inland shipping; and many many more.

The World Port Days’s excursion programme will give you a look behind the scenes at the companies in the port and take you of cruises through the port and city. You’ll be amazed to see how fast a ship is unloaded at the terminals of ECT Euromax, Hutchison Ports ECT Delta and APM Terminals. You can also choose between cruises around the port on different types of ships, from a classic three-masted sailing ship to an elderly tug boat, a Port of Rotterdam Authority catamaran and other modern ships.

You can also take an excursion and tours to further afield, where you’ll find more nature than you thought possible in a port. Such as to the Landtong Rozenburg, this island lies in the heart of the port area and is home to a beautiful nature reserve. You can also take a bike tour across the Maasvlakte, where you can see the 21 hectare Bird Valley as well as a natural dune landscape.

Many of the things you can do during the World Port Days in Rotterdam are only accessible during these few days of the year. This makes a visit to the World Port Days a unique opportunity to see sights you might otherwise never see. For the full programme visit the website of the World Port Days.