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Rotterdam: The Best Free Self Guided Walking & Bike Tour Through The City By A Dutch Local And Insider

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Delfshaven district in Rotterdam: old historic Middle Ages area of Rotterdam that survived WW2
Explore Rotterdam with this free and self-guided walking & bike tour. Find the hidden gems of Rotterdam with this city tour.

Rotterdam is one of The Netherlands most upcoming touristic cities. People have discovered Rotterdam and I’m happy about that. With this Rotterdam walking and/or bike tour, you will be able to explore Rotterdam and its secrets. Venture outside the touristic path and explore Rotterdam beyond the crowds. While you will find must-sees of Rotterdam in this Rotterdam city tour, such as the Erasmus bridge and the historic area of Delfshaven, you will also get to know the hidden parts of Rotterdam. Which includes street art in Rotterdam, statues, architecture and more in this tour.

Explore Rotterdam with this tour from a travel blog by a born and raised Dutch local. This will be one of the best free self-guided walking and cycling tours of Rotterdam. Whether you’re looking for an urban or city tour of Rotterdam, you will discover the best of both worlds. Discovering Rotterdam with an insiders guide to one of the best things to do and see in one day in Rotterdam.

Your ultimate free cycling and walking tour through Rotterdam: Explore the secrets of Rotterdam and find off the beaten path destinations in Holland & The Netherlands

We start the walking and cycling tour through Rotterdam the same, but after a while, we split up and somewhere at the end, we get the bike and walking routes in Rotterdam back together again.

You can easily spend days in Rotterdam as there are plenty of fun things to do in this Dutch city. In this self-guided walking or cycling, tour (depending on your preference, but walking takes a lot langer) through Rotterdam you will see the best of Rotterdam both popular and off the beaten path & secret places. From incredible monuments to the most beautiful streets. And from spectacular parks to Rotterdams most famous bridge.

If you’re planning on walking or cycling this tour through Rotterdam, then I would recommend you to take one day/ most of your day in Rotterdam in an account for this tour. Depending on whether you’re planning on cycling one of the best cycling routes of Rotterdam, or walk this free walking tour. The bike route in Rotterdam takes longer than the walking tour, so keep that in mind. However, the walking tour alone is already around 15 kilometres. The reason for that is the fact that we’re discovering several areas of Rotterdam, plus hidden gems. But remember, that when you’re exploring Rotterdam in one or two days that you won’t even notice the number of steps you’re taking as there’s so much to see and do in Rotterdam.

This way you can easily explore Rotterdam by foot and/or bike and you don’t have to rush. We start at the black dot and finish at the purple one (you can easily see the route for yourself on this map I made for the Rotterdam walking and/or cycling tour here). The red route shows the extra bike route to explore more of the secrets of Rotterdam. The black line is the free walking tour of Rotterdam.

The skyline of the Dutch port city of Rotterdam, with a view on the Meuse river and the Erasmus bridge in the middle.

Start Rotterdam free and self-guided walking & bike tour

We start the tour at Luchtpark Hofbogen where you will be able to discover some street art in Rotterdam, this is actually one of the more popular places in Rotterdam to visit, but it’s still worth it. From here you will discover Luchtsingel, which is also where you can find street art in Rotterdam.

Hofbogen, Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland, The Netherlands: One of Rotterdams most popular instagram and street art places that exists out of yellow painted floors and stairs

Then we will continue our tour through Rotterdam to a beautiful building, Centraal Postkantoor. This used to be a postal office and is currently a monument. It was designed by Gustav Cornelis Bremer and built in an art deco and eclectic style between 1915 and 1923.

Now we will walk via Westersingel 1Mauritsweg and Westersingel 37 to the Eendrachtsplein.

At Eendrachtsplein we will bring a visit to the famous Kabouter Buttplug, or Gnome Buttplug. Now, of course, the name of this piece of art wasn’t gnome buttplug at first. It has been lovingly chosen by the Rotterdammers (people from Rotterdam). You will discover soon enough why it’s named like this. The history behind the famous gnome of Rotterdam is even more interesting.

The actual name of the statue is Santa Claus and the buttplug is a Christmas tree. It was made by artist Paul McCarthy who wanted to discuss and discourage the superficial consumer culture. He got more and more annoyed by the Christmas advertisements from Coca Cola, which contributes to the consumer culture surrounding Santa Claus.

Want to learn more interesting and fun facts about Rotterdam? Click here!

Gnome buttplug on Eendrachtsplein, Rotterdam: Originally as protest art against the commercial value of santa claus.

Continue your trip through Rotterdam and go to Westersingel, then walk towards Jongkindstraat 12 where you can find Huis Sonneveld. This house is currently a museum and it is one of the best-kept houses in the style of functionalism. Then you will go to Museumpark 11, which is the current location of the Chabot Museum. Now you are going to the most popular street in Rotterdam: Witte de Withstraat. Here you can find many bars, galleries, cafes and restaurants.

From Witter de With we are making our way to and end up at the Alexander Nevskikerk. The Alexander Nevskikerk is a Russian Orthodox church in Rotterdam and the first traditional Russian Orthodox church building in The Netherlands. It was built between 2002 and 2004. After admiring this beautiful church building in Rotterdam we are continuing our self guided walking, or cycling, tour through Rotterdam with yet another church.

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Droogleever Fortuynplein, you will find a typical Norwegian sailor’s church. These churches were made to host and care for sailors, whether they were walking around the streets of Rotterdam drunk or were brave citizens. In 1888, the Norwegian sailor’s church was given their room in the middle of the old harbour area of Rotterdam. The number of visitors quickly rose, mainly because it was also opened for people of other nationalities and because one of the pastors walked through the harbour area (including the streets and bars) of Rotterdam at night to offer the sailors a safe place.

After a while, the church was moving in another building which they had to leave again in 1910. That’s when the current location comes into sight and the typical 17th-century Norwegian architecture that was finally initiated in 1914. This wooden church in Rotterdam is the biggest wooden building in The Netherlands.

Norwegian wooden sailor's church in Rotterdam. It's The netherlands biggest wooden building.

Now we make our way to the area of Delfshaven, which used to be a colony of the Dutch city of Delft. Walk to the Piet Heynsplein, then continue to the Voorstraat and end at the Pelgrimvaderskerk. This church was the church that the Founding Fathers had their last service before they headed to the United States and dates back to the 15th century.

Old buildings in the Delfshaven district of Rotterdam Old buildings and houses in the Delfshaven area of Rotterdam, The Netherlands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After admiring the church you will walk to Dakpark Rotterdam. This is the biggest rooftop park in Europe and is around one kilometre long, located at nine meters high and 85 meters wide. There are plenty of things to explore on the roof. Enjoy the view and say hi to the sheep! Continue your walk to Voorhaven and then you will discover one of the windmills of Rotterdam: Wind & Korenmolen de Distilleerketel. This windmill is still in use and grinds flour. It’s opened two days a week: Wednesday & Saturday (11:00 – 18:00).

A view on Delfshaven, its harbour, old houses and windmill. Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Then we go in the direction of the EuromastThis tower is the highest viewpoint tower that you can find in The Netherlands. Walk to het Heerenhuys and het Koetshuys that can be found in one of the biggest parks of Rotterdam: Het Park. After discovering the peaceful and relaxing part of Rotterdam you will go to Rivierstraat 1, which is a big warehouse that dates back to the end of the 19th century.

The euromast: best view point of Rotterdam seen from the park below.

Now walk to CalandstraatJavastraatWesterkade and Westerkade 1A where you will see an old office building. Then Veerhaven 14/15 is your next stop which used to be the headquarters of the old shipping company Van Uden. It’s currently a monument and built between 1909 and 1919.

First head to Van Vollenhovenstraat 62, which used to be an office building and was built in an expressionistic style in 1922. Continue to WesterstraatMaasstraat and after that, you will end up at the Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge). The nickname of the Erasmusbrug in Dutch is ‘De Zwaan’, or the swan, because of its beautiful shape. The bridge is 800 meters long and was built for 165 million euros.

Rotterdam Erasmusbridge and the Meuse river flowing below.

After admiring the most photographed piece of architecture of Rotterdam, you will go to Hotel New York. This used to be the headquarters of the Holland Amerika cruise line and is one of the most iconic buildings of Rotterdam. Near this famous building in Rotterdam, you can find one of the most interesting art installations of Rotterdam: The bobbing forest or ‘Dobberend Bos‘ in Dutch. The installation consists of a water-filled tank and floating bobs with trees on a scale. It’s supposed to raise questions on the relationship between the city dweller and nature.

Hotel New York: Holland Amerika cruise line previous headquarters and now one of Rotterdams most iconic buildings

Rotterdam art installation 'bobbin forest' in the meuse river. Floating trees to discuss the connection of humans and nature.

Cycling tour extension (red line)

From the bobbing forest, you will make your way to the SS Rotterdam, which was the most famous ship from the Holland Amerika cruise line. It is currently a hotel and can be visited.

SS rotterdam: The most iconic ship from the Holland Amerika line in dock

Now go to the small botanical garden or Botanische Tuin Afrikaanderwijk. During the winter season, the opening times are the following: 1st of November – 31st of March Monday- Friday 10:00 – 16:00 (if the weather is decent). 

After this small and not often visited botanical garden in Rotterdam we continue to bike to two villages that are located in the middle of the port of Rotterdam. The first village is Pernis

Pernis is a village between parts of the port of Rotterdam and has around 4785 inhabitants. Pernis was first named around the 13th century and has been a part of Rotterdam since 1934. Luckily, Pernis hasn’t lost the village atmosphere. In Pernis, you will discover a church at Ring 1 that dates back to the second half of the 15th century. You can’t enter the church, but it’s an interesting contrast to see the village of Pernis, and its old church, in the middle of the harbour of Rotterdam.

Now you will be cycling to the village of Heijplaat, which is also located between the industrial complexes of the Rotterdam harbour and it has 1.395 inhabitants. One of the companies that were involved in the shipping yard industry started building and maintaining ships in 1904. One of the ships was the ss Rotterdam. But because it was quite a remote area, employees were hard to come by.

So they built the idyllic village of Heijplaat, including churches, schools and shops. And the port continued to grow around the village. Nowadays, Heijplaat is a neighbourhood of Rotterdam. The river beach of Heijplaat is the only natural sandy beach in Rotterdam and a popular place to visit during summer.

One of the churches of Heijplaat, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Then you will be making your way to one of the parks of Rotterdam: Zuiderpark. After cycling through this park in Rotterdam you will be making your way to the Eiland Van Brienenoord

The island van Brienenoord is an island near Rotterdam in the outer bend of the Nieuwe Maas river. It was created at the beginning of the 19th century and covers 21 hectares. The name refers to Baron van Brienen who bought the island in 1847. in 1904, the island of Brienenoord became part of Rotterdam. Since June 2000, there are Scottish Highlanders that are grazing on the island to help the natural landscape in its development.

The island of van Brienenoord in Rotterdam: Trees and grass can be see and its one of Rotterdams most relaxing and calming places

When you have explored the island van Brienenoord, it’s time to cross the bridge back to Rotterdam. But not before we make a little detour, as that’s what we’re good at. You will cycle along a road that will have beautiful, old farmhouses on one side and the river on the other side. At Nesserdijk 368 you will find a farm that dates back to the 18th century.

Now we are making our way to Slotlaan 29. Here you can see an extravagant villa that was built in an eclectic style and dates back to 1880. The name of the villa is ‘Het oude slot’, this refers to the castle Honingen that was located near the location of this house in the 13th century.

Near the previous villa, you can find another beautiful eclectic and classicist house at Slotlaan 31, which was built around 1910.

After that, we make our way to one of the beautiful lakes of Rotterdam, where you will be able to see two windmills. At Plaszoom 324, you will find windmill De Ster (the star). Dating back to 1866, this windmill was built on the foundation of another windmill that burned down in 1865. In this windmill in Rotterdam, they still grind spices and produce snuff the way they used to.

At Plaszoom 356 you will discover windmill De Lelie (the lily) that dates back before 1770. The windmill was first named De Ezel (the donkey), the windmill got relocated to its current place in 1840. Just as at De Ster, this windmill also grinds spices and produces snuff.

De Ster and De Lelie open every second Saturday of the month from 10:00 to 16:00. There are also guided tours about the production of snuff and the grinding of spices. Also, the windmills are often open on Wednesdays (10: 00-16: 00) and Saturday (14: 00-16: 30). The Entrance is free, but it is highly appreciated to give a contribution to the maintenance of the mills.

Windmills De Ster & De Lelie at the edge of the Kralingse forest and lake in Rotterdam

The Kralingse Bos (forest) and Plas (lake) are one of my favourite areas of Rotterdam. But it is quite a bit out of the way of the centre of Rotterdam. But luckily we are in the neighbourhood already as we have just discovered the windmills that are located on the edge of this lake in Rotterdam. Cycle around a little bit until you’re ready to connect with the walking tour again. You will make your way via the Willemsbrug to the Koningshavenbrug ‘ De Hef’, from where you will follow the rest of the route of the self-guided and free walking tour in Rotterdam below.

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Kralingse Bos/ forest in Rotterdam: One of the must do's and sees in this Dutch city Kralingse lake and forest in Rotterdam: one of the best and top things to do in Rotterdam in one day or weekend

 

Final part of the free walking and cycling tour of Rotterdam

Only 13 stops left! Our next stop is train bridge Koningshavenbrug ‘De Hef’ and separates the Noordereiland from the neighbourhood of Feijenoord. The bridge sections date back to 1878. The middle part used to be a swing bridge, but after many accidents, it was turned into a lift. It was the first bridge of its kind in Western Europe and first used on the 31st of October 1927. The train bridge was used until 1993.

Train bridge in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, at night

After visiting this important monument in Rotterdam we will go to MaaskadeGlashavenWijnhaven and finally the Regentessebrug. This bridge in Rotterdam was named after Queen regent Emma and build in 1898. It is also named the ‘Vierleeuwenbrug’, or four lions bridge. The reason for that is the four lions that guard the bridge.

Now we are going to Geldersekade 1, where you can find the Witte Huis or White House. This building was the first skyscraper of Europe and is 43 meters high, which was quite extraordinary when it was built from 1897 – 1898.

The top of the Witte Huis in Rotterdam and its viewing platform: Europes first skyscraper in 1897 at 43 meters high.

Continue to discover the OudehavenHaringvliet until you reach the cube houses of Rotterdam. There are 38 cube houses, but only one cube house can be visited. Off we go to the Markthal, that is one of the most spectacular buildings of Rotterdam and there is great food to be found inside. Plus a free museum that you can visit in the parking garage of the Markthal about the history of Rotterdam.

3 of the 38 yellow cube houses in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The roof of the markthal of Rotterdam: colourful art in Rotterdam where you will see everything from butterflies to cherries.

After the Markthal you will go to the Schielandshuis. This building was made as a housing for the polder board in the 17th century. That church I told you about is coming right now. The Laurenskerk in Rotterdam is the only building of the Middle Ages in the city centre of Rotterdam that survived WW2. And you can visit the building and see the beautiful view of Rotterdam from the top of the Laurenschurch.

Laurenschurch of Rotterdam: The flat tower can be seen on the left side of the middle of the photo

Last, but not least, we will visit the Nieuwe Delftse Poort or New Delft City Gate. In 1811 Napoleon, the emperor visited Rotterdam and entered the city through one of the city gates of Rotterdam called the Delftsche Poort. Nowadays one of the highest buildings of The Netherlands is located on this exact location and it’s called, surprise surprise, the Delftse Poort.

Rotterdam used to have around ten city gates, but the Delftsche Poort was the last city gate standing until it was demolished by the German occupiers. Nowadays you can find a modern and steel version of the Delftsche Poort on the original location of the city gate. Around the gate, you will see some remains from ornaments that were saved from the old city gate.

See the full map and bike/walking route of Rotterdam here

Note: If you’re a bit shorter in time (or not a cycling enthousiast) but still want to bike a great cycling route in Rotterdam, skip Pernis, Van Brienenoord, the Kralingse Bos and its windmills, and from Heijplaat you can just go back to Koningshavenbrug ” De Hef ” to follow the rest of the route.

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Or skip Heijplaat as well and simply bike the entire Rotterdam walking tour, this way you will be able to get an insiders look in this modern Dutch city, while also getting the most out of your stay in Rotterdam.

The last option is to take the Waterbus from Heijplaat to Katendrecht. From Katendrecht you can continue your way to Koningshavenbrug ” De Hef ”, which saves you quite some cycling.

View on Rotterdam: high buildings, waterways and terraces.
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I hope that you will love this Rotterdam walking and bike tour. You will get the best of both worlds with either of these tours through Rotterdam. Especially since it’s an urban tour and city tour of Rotterdam in one. But again, if you’re not a great cyclist, or want to slow things down for a little, don’t be afraid to cut some stops of the route. Whatever suits you best, is the way to go. You’re the only one who knows your body, so listen when it tells you to take it easy, for instance.

I think this will be one of the best self-guided and free walking tours you could take in Rotterdam. Plus it involves some of the best cycling routes of Rotterdam. Don’t forget to rent a bike, because while I provide this self-guided bike tour in Rotterdam for you, I am not giving you a bike.

During this Rotterdam city tour you will see what things there are to do and see in Rotterdam in 24 hours and, if you’re going by bike, why biking in The Netherlands is such a great thing to do. Discover Rotterdam with this free walking and bike tour. Share this post!

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Manon

Founder of Visiting The Dutch Countryside at Visiting The Dutch Countryside
Hey there! My name is Manon and I'm the founder of Visiting The Dutch Countryside, a local travel blog about The Netherlands. I also wrote the article you just read. I'm a Dutch, born and raised, travel blogger. I decided that it's time that tourists explore The Netherlands beyond the crowds and not just Amsterdam. Have fun exploring The Netherlands!
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