Rotterdam is one of the biggest cities in The Netherlands and has plenty of places that you should explore and see. If you’re a budget traveller and visiting Rotterdam, then you will love this list with free things to do in Rotterdam. Whether you’re looking for cheap things to do in Rotterdam or have a higher budget, I can assure you that there are some interesting must do’s and sees in this article about Rotterdam.
Free things to do in Rotterdam: Discover what to do and see in 010 in one day
One of the main things I love about Rotterdam is that this city has endless areas to explore. With adding villages such as Heijplaat and Pernis and annexing towns such as Hilligersberg to the city of Rotterdam, it has become a Dutch city unlike any other. And it makes Rotterdam a great city to spend one day or even a weekend. In Rotterdam, more than 170 nationalities work, live and thrive together. Some of the best and most interesting museums of The Netherlands can be found in Rotterdam, as well as some of the best food.
In such a big city like Rotterdam, there are countless things to do, but not everything is suitable for everyone’s budget. Whether you’re looking for free things to do in Rotterdam or hidden gems in this port city in The Netherlands, you will find some of the best things to do in Rotterdam here. Add these activities to your Rotterdam itinerary and I can guarantee you will have a great time.
1. Visit the street markets of Rotterdam
Rotterdam is an industrial city with one of the biggest ports in the world. In the port of Rotterdam, a lot of goods enter The Netherlands. From fruits to vegetables. And from electronics to clothing. The imported goods used to be traded at the local Rotterdam markets and transported further upstream the Meuse river. Nowadays there are still street markets to be found in Rotterdam six days a week (except Monday). Many of the goods do not come from the harbour of Rotterdam anymore, but there’s still a lot of imported goods that you can buy here.
Budget tip Rotterdam: And if you’re on a very low budget, then keep in mind that I would recommend you to buy your food at these markets because the price is very low. Especially when you compare them to the regular Dutch prices. Also, towards the end of the market day, many traders will sell their fresh goods with an amazing discount. But you have to think smart and be lucky to get them.
The largest market in Rotterdam is located at Binnenrotte, near the train station of Rotterdam Blaak. Here you can find more than 250 stalls with fruits, fish, cheese, flowers, vintage goods, souvenirs, furniture and plenty of more. This Rotterdam market takes place every Tuesday and Saturday (is often very crowded on Saturday!) 08:00-17:30. During summer there’s also a Summer Sunday market in Rotterdam at Binnenrotte, though it’s a bit smaller than the regular market.
The second-largest street market in Rotterdam can be found at the Afrikaanderplein. This market has more than 200 stalls and is the third biggest market in The Netherlands. It takes place on Wednesday and Saturday from 08:00-17:30.
Besides street markets, there are also other markets to find in Rotterdam, such as lifestyle markets. One of the lifestyle markets in Rotterdam is called Swan Market. It is organized several times a year in Rotterdam but also takes place in other cities around The Netherlands, such as Delft and Utrecht. In Rotterdam, it usually takes place in locations like the Van Nelle factory building, Grotekerkplein and Museumpark. Here you can find fashion, vintage goods, accessories, art, jewellery, food, music and plenty of other things. Have a look at the next locations of Swan Market here.
2. Explore Christmas markets in Rotterdam
When you are visiting Rotterdam in November or December and are looking for things to do, visiting Christmas markets is a great idea. Rotterdam has plenty of good Christmas markets. In fact, a lot more than you might think, but not all of them are free to visit. The Christmas markets in Rotterdam that I listed below are free to visit. And I’m definitely not responsible in any way for all the cute Christmas gifts you’re going to buy.
- Norwegian Christmas market: This Christmas market in Rotterdam is amazing for buying special Norwegian products, such as sweaters, crafts, food, jewellery and plenty of more. The entry is free, but with your purchases, you will support the maintenance of the biggest wooden building in The Netherlands and isn’t supporting people something we all want to do for Christmas?
- Dates: first Thursday of November until the second Sunday of November (Thursday & Friday 10:00- 18:00, Saturday 10:00 – 17:00, Sunday 11:00-17:00) and the third Saturday (10:00 – 17:00) and Sunday of November (11:00-17:00).
- Address: Westzeedijk 300, 3016 AP Rotterdam
- Danish Christmas market: Yet another Christmas market where you will not be able to buy traditional Dutch gifts in Rotterdam. But you can enter this Christmas market in Rotterdam for free and have a look at all the tasty Danish foods, buy typical Danish present amongst plenty of other things. The proceeds go to the Danish sailor’s church in Rotterdam.
- Dates: From the third Friday of November until the third Sunday of November (Friday 10:00 – 19:00, Saturday 10:00 – 17:00, Sunday 10:00 – 16:00) and the fourth Saturday & Sunday (Saturday: 10:00-17:00, Sunday 10:00- 16:00) of November.
- Address: Coolhaven 1, 3015 GC Rotterdam
3. Find the hidden parks of Rotterdam
Rotterdam is a city that is filled with parks, although you might not initially think that as they are not the most popular attraction of Rotterdam. But there are many parks to explore and visit. I will tell you some of my favourite parks in Rotterdam below.
- Zuiderpark: The biggest city park of The Netherlands, and Rotterdam, with a size of 215 hectares or 430 football fields.
- Kralingse Bos: My absolute favourite park of Rotterdam thanks to its beautiful big lake and forest.
- Het Park: The most famous park in Rotterdam.
4. Party your way through Rotterdam with these free festivals
Rotterdam wouldn’t be a great city to visit if it wasn’t for the atmosphere. And what’s a better way than to get to know the vibe of Rotterdam than by taking advantage of the free festivals that you can find in Rotterdam? There is simply no better way. In 2010, Rotterdam even won the award for the best festival city of the year, and there is a damn good reason for that.
Best free festivals of Rotterdam
- Rotterdam Unlimited
- Metropolis Festival
- Rotterdam Bluegrass Festival
- Eendracht Festival
- Summer Carnival: One of the best things to do in The Netherlands in summer
- Food festival Trek
5. Get to know the historical part of Rotterdam: Delfshaven
Delfshaven is the only old district in Rotterdam that has survived the Second World War. Instead of hypermodern buildings, here you will discover the beautiful, old architecture of Rotterdam that dates back to the Middle Ages. Visit the windmill De Distilleerketel that is opened on Wednesday and Saturday from 11:00 – 18:00.
Or discover the old Pelgrimvaderskerk, or Pilgrim Father Church, in the middle of Delfshaven that is famous for the Pilgrim Fathers that attended their last church service here before they went to the USA. This church can be visited every other Friday and every Saturday from 12:00- 16:00.
6. Explore the architecture that Rotterdam is famous for
Rotterdam is a very interesting city when it comes to architecture. I would definitely recommend you to walk a self-guided architecture tour through Rotterdam. And I will list some of the most special buildings you have to see in Rotterdam below.
- Witte Huis: First skyscraper of Europe in 1897
- Hotel New York: Previous headquarter of the Holland-Amerika cruise line
- De Rotterdam: A building on the Kop van Zuid part of Rotterdam designed by Rem Koolhaas
- Erasmus bridge: The most iconic and famous piece of architecture of the city of Rotterdam
- Kubuswoningen: 38 cube houses in Rotterdam
7. Leave the busy city of Rotterdam behind and visit an island
One of the best places to visit in the city of Rotterdam is a peaceful island. This island is called Eiland van Brienenoord and can be found on the outskirts of Rotterdam. It’s a nature reserve that has several walking paths and there are even Scottish Highlanders grazing on the island to help the landscape in its development. Don’t try to pet them or feed them. They are wild cows, not your dogs.
This island in Rotterdam 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.
8. Sit and watch at the endless boats that are passing by
One of my favourite free things to do in Rotterdam has something to do with the big river that separates the city. On the river, the Meuse endless boats are passing by. And when the weather in Rotterdam is beautiful, I would recommend you to grab some food, or make a picnic, sit on the edge of one of the riversides and enjoy the various boats that are passing you.
Some of my favourite boat watching spots in Rotterdam are the Noordereiland, Erasmusbrug, Willemskade and Boompjeskade.
9. Learn about the roots of the port of Rotterdam
In Rotterdam, you can find the biggest museum harbour of The Netherlands and most of this harbour can be visited for free. At Leuvehaven 50 you can discover the roots of the port of Rotterdam right next to the Maritime Museum. Here you can see the history of the port of Rotterdam, all the way from the beginning until the 70s. And what is even more fun is that you can enter quite some of the ships that are docked there and discover what they look like inside.
10. Visit one of Rotterdams most famous buildings
You simply cannot leave Rotterdam without discovering the Markthal, or Market Hall. This is one of the must-visit places when you’re visiting Rotterdam. The Markthal is an indoor market hall in Rotterdam that houses more than 100 stalls where you can buy fresh vegetables, snacks or many other things.
Now, when you’re on a budget you might not want to spend anything and that is fine. If you decide to splurge a little, then the Markthal is a perfect place to do so. And if not, admiring the amazing architecture and incredible ceiling is entertaining enough.
11. Go back in time with the Rotterdam Discovery
A great free museum to visit in Rotterdam is the Rotterdam Discovery that can be found in one of the oldest remaining buildings of Rotterdam. The Rotterdam Discovery is one of the fun and unique things you can do in Rotterdam, simply because it takes you through the past, current time and future of Rotterdam. You are also able to discover some of the new buildings that are currently being built or designed. The entry of Rotterdam Discovery is on the entry part of the Rotterdam Tourist Information at the Coolsingel.
12. Let your creativity flow and get inspired at a special art night
Are you interested in finding local artists in Rotterdam? Or do you want to gain some inspiration for any of your future works? Then the art night, or kunstavond, in the Witte de With street will be perfect for you. Every Friday from 18:00 – 21:00 you can discover exhibitions, talk with artists, amongst plenty of other things. And I can guarantee you that if you’re a fan of art, that you will adore this night.
13. See special plants and trees in the botanical garden Afrikaanderbuurt
There are several botanical gardens that you can visit in Rotterdam, but most of them are not free. However, this wouldn’t be an article about free things to do in Rotterdam, if I wouldn’t be giving you a free botanical garden to visit in Rotterdam.
The botanical garden that you can visit is called Botanische Tuin Afrikaanderwijk. It was first established in 1923 and completely renovated in the 80s. The garden is a monument and is divided into plant families. You will be able to find around 850 different plant species and 40 different trees in this beautiful botanical garden in Rotterdam. It can be visited daily from April- October (10:00- 16:00) and from November until March this garden is opened on most working days (10:00- 16:00).
14. See inside the windmills of Rotterdam
There are several windmills that you can visit in Rotterdam, but two of my favourites can be found at the beautiful lake Kralingse Plas. At Plaszoom 324, you will find windmill De Ster (the star). This windmill dates back to 1866 and 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 to around 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. The windmills also open often 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.
15. Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Rotterdam
New Year’s Eve is one of the best events and celebrations to participate in when you are visiting Rotterdam. As Rotterdam is The Netherlands second biggest city, there are endless of celebrations during NYE in Rotterdam. But one of the things you cannot miss is the national fireworks in Rotterdam. They will be lit up from the Erasmus bridge as well as a boat in front of the bridge and will be shown on national television. Attending the fireworks is free, of course.
Have a look at my ‘Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Rotterdam’ article here to discover the best viewing locations of the national fireworks in Rotterdam, best NYE parties and the best places to stay in Rotterdam.
16. Visit a village between the harbours of Rotterdam
Several villages are located between the port of Rotterdam and two of those are Pernis and Heijplaat. These villages are part of Rotterdam nowadays. You can visit these villages by public transport (such as the waterbus), by bike and plenty of other ways. But the waterbus is the fastest way (plus you can take your bike on them). Why I recommend you to visit either one of these villages is because of its contrast. It’s very interesting to see people living between the industrial parts of the harbour and on the other side of the river, you can see parts of Rotterdam.
The village of Pernis is one of the villages 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 must see the 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.
Heijplaat has 1.395 inhabitants. This village was built for the employees of the shipping yard industry that started building and maintaining ships in the area. The area of Heijplaat was quite remote, thus employees were hard to come by. So one of the shipping companies built the idyllic village of Heijplaat, including churches, schools and shops. And the port continued to grow around the village.
17. Get to know the oldest district of Rotterdam: Hillegersberg
Hillegersberg is nowadays a part of the city of Rotterdam, but that wasn’t always the case. Hillegersberg used to be a separate village and when you visit this part of Rotterdam and the famous Hillegondakerk, you can see the old part of the village, that surrounds the church, very well. Hillegersberg was built on a small hill that was formed in the late ice age.
The oldest known writings of Hillegersberg date back to the year 993. On the hill of Hillegersberg, a castle and church were built. The castle was first named in 1269. In 1426, both the castle and church were destroyed by the army of Jacoba van Beieren. You can still find the ruins of this castle in Rotterdam next to the church of Hillegersberg. The current church of Hillegersberg: Hillegondakerk, dates back to around 1500 and it is a monument. In 1885, Hillegersberg had 2000 inhabitants and it grew to 7000 by 1904.
It’s very interesting to see how Hillegersberg has evolved during the time. There are many parks, lakes and other green areas in this neighbourhood, so there are plenty of things to do in Hillegersberg.
18. Explore Historical Garden Schoonoord
The Historische Tuin Schoonoord, or Historical Garden Schoonoord, is a beautiful garden that you can visit in Rotterdam. This quiet part of Rotterdam can be found next to one of the best parks of Rotterdam, called Het Park. It is opened daily from 08:30 – 16:30 and can be visited for free. But, one thing that you must remember is that this garden is a place of silence, so don’t be loud, nor start yelling inside this garden. Respect and admire the area and then you will love it. Visit the garden at Kievitslaan 8, Rotterdam.
19. See one of Rotterdams most special artworks
What I mainly like about Rotterdam is that its artists are not afraid to raise questions or think outside the box. Rotterdam is not like any other Dutch city and this artwork is a reminder of that. The ‘Dobberend Bos‘, or bobbing forest is one of the most interesting art installations in Rotterdam
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. And raising questions is something that it does for sure, as well as a very interesting sight to see.
20. Find street art in Rotterdam
There are many areas in Rotterdam where you can find street art, as the council of Rotterdam has admired street art for quite a while now. Luckily there are more and more places in Rotterdam where you will be able to find street art, one of those can be found further down in the article, but one place you have to visit in Rotterdam is the Luchtsingel.
This yellow bridge is one of Rotterdam’s highlights and a must-see when you visit Rotterdam for one day. Near the stairs, there is always a lot of street art to be found. The only downside of the spot is that this is one of the more popular places in Rotterdam to visit, but it’s still worth it.
21. Visit the best places in Rotterdam for bookworms
All my public library lovers, gather around! Leeszaal Rotterdam West is one of the best libraries in Rotterdam that you can visit. Read, write or even borrow, bring or take books (without applying for a library card or returning them yes!). Every week 1000 books are brought to Leeszaal and every week 700 books are taken home with people. You can find around 20.000 books in the Leeszaal, so I’m pretty sure that there’s something to find for everyone as there are books to find in several languages.
It’s opened Tuesday- Friday 10:00- 20:00 and Saturday 10:00- 18:00. Find your new, and free, book at Rijnhoutplein 3, 3014 TZ Rotterdam.
22. Visit Museum Rotterdam on a Saturday
You can visit Museum Rotterdam every first Saturday of the month for free. At Museum Rotterdam you will discover the tale of the mesmerizing city of Rotterdam through its time. You will discover several exhibits. One of the permanent exhibits tells the story of Rotterdam through a collection of objects that date back to centuries ago until the current time of age.
It’s a very interesting museum to visit in Rotterdam if you’re curious to discover the way Rotterdam has evolved through its time as well as how the city has changed and adapted. The building of Museum Rotterdam is designed by world-famous architect Rem Koolhaas.
23. Explore the museum library of the Maritime Museum
While the Maritime Museum itself isn’t free to visit, the library of the Maritime Museum is. This library houses the oldest and most complete collection of books in the maritime area in The Netherlands and exists since 1857. The library of the Maritime Museum of Rotterdam is always free to visit but only opens on Friday.
24. Explore Rotterdam in one day with a free, self-guided, walking or cycling tour
Rotterdam has many things to do and see when you visit the city for 24 hours. I have created the best self-guided (and free!) walking and/or cycling tour in Rotterdam. This your will take you through Rotterdam city centre and into the great neighbourhoods that you probably don’t know of.
We will visit interesting statues in Rotterdam, as well as explore the most beautiful monuments and streets. And, of course, hidden gems and the secrets of Rotterdam will be visited as well.
25. Find the city wall of Rotterdam
Most of Rotterdam has been bombed during the Second World War, but not everything was lost. There’s a small part (as in around a two meters small) of the city wall left in Rotterdam. It was found when they were constructing a railway tunnel. During the construction, they found parts of the old city wall of Rotterdam, as well as other objects.
These can be seen at the station of Rotterdam Blaak. When you enter Station Rotterdam Blaak from the Southern part, you will see two small display cabinets as well as the piece of the old city wall of Rotterdam.
26. Time travel through Rotterdam in this free museum
This free museum in Rotterdam is called ‘De Tijdtrap’ (or: the time stairs). This is a permanent exhibition about the archaeological artefacts that were found on the location of the Markthal before it was built. Together these objects tell the story of Rotterdam: From the beginning of Rotterdam until the current day of age.
This museum is created alongside the escalators of the parking garage of the Markthal. Whenever you go down another level, you’re going even further back in the history of Rotterdam. This Rotterdam museum is completely free to visit and opened 7 days a week.
27. Discover street art in Rotterdam in a free museum
The Rotterdam Street Art Museum has distributed and will continue to distribute, street art across the West-Kruiskade. While it’s not a regular and indoor museum in Rotterdam, it is an outdoor museum that has created one of the most beautiful street art museums in The Netherlands. There are works of art from the top street artists in the whole world located on the West-Kruiskade. Throughout this entire street, you will see the works of countless of artists that were brought here by the Rotterdam Street Art Museum.
Back in the days, the West-Kruiskade was one of Rotterdam’s most dangerous streets where drug trafficking was very frequent, as well as dealing and prostitution. Nowadays the West-Kruiskade is as safe as it can be, plus the multicultural West-Kruiskade is a great place to discover some great food from any of the 170 nationalities that reside in Rotterdam.
28. Explore Dakpark, or the roof park, in Rotterdam
The Dakpark in Rotterdam is with the length of one kilometre the biggest park on the roof in Europe. This park has gardens, fields of grass and even sheep roaming around. It’s an oasis in the middle of the city of Rotterdam and has a magical feeling. The park is managed by residents. It’s opened from April – September from 07:00 – 23:00 and from October until March 07:00 – 20:00. Walk in the Dakpark at Vierhavensstraat 79, 3029 BB Rotterdam.
29. Cycle along the river Rotterdam gets its name from
Did you know that Rotterdam gets its name from the river De Rotte? The inhabitants of a small town, that was located near this river, placed a dam in this river. And there you have it: Rotte(r)-dam. What is very interesting is that this river still exists, where many other rivers that cities are named after have been dammed completely or even drained.
The river De Rotte starts in Rotterdam at the Linker Rottekade, from there on I would cycle at least until you find a windmill called De Vier Winden. From there on you can decide whether you want to continue riding this beautiful cycle route in Rotterdam alongside the river De Rotte and if so, I would stop at the Rottemeren (this is another beautiful lake near Rotterdam) and after that turn around to head back to Rotterdam. Near the Rottemeren you can also find the Eendragtspolder, where you can find an area that has been created for rowing, other recreation, nature preservation and as water storage.
30. Find the most beautiful, free view of the city of Rotterdam
Rotterdam is big. For Dutch standards, it’s very big. Especially because of all its districts that it has annexed, such as Heijplaat, Pernis, Hillegersberg and Delfshaven. In the beautiful area of Hillegersberg, you can find a great view of the city of Rotterdam and its surroundings.
There’s a watchtower called Bergschenhoek in the forest and lake area of Hoge Bergse Bos. The Hoge Bergse Bos is a recreation area a 30-minute bike ride from Rotterdam Centraal train station.
31. Visit a statue called Gnome Buttplug in Rotterdam
Gnome Buttplug is one of Rotterdams must-visit statues, but not specifically because of its buttplug. Because the buttplug is supposed to be a Christmas tree and the gnome is Santa Claus. It was made by artist Paul McCarthy who wanted to discuss and discourage the superficial consumer culture.
He got more and more fed up by the Christmas advertisements from Coca Cola, that contributes to the consumer culture surrounding Santa Claus. So Paul created the statue to make fun of the commercials. The statue was first located in museum Boijmans en van Beuningen. As of today, you can visit the statue at Eendrachtsplein, 3012 LA Rotterdam.
32. Following the lights of Rotterdam
One of the things you have to do in Rotterdam in the evening or at night is to walk a route of LED lights. While this might not sound that special on its own, I can assure you that it is a pretty interesting experience. You can find two colours of LED lights on the floor in Rotterdam: Green and Red.
The red lights form a border through the city of Rotterdam. It refers to the edge of the burning city after the bombardments by the German airforce of the 14th of May 1940. 54 Heinkel bombers flew from the east and dropped 97.000-kilo high-explosive bombs all over Rotterdam. This bombardment is the reason why Rotterdam lost its Medieval centre, 80.000 people became homeless in 15 minutes and between 650 and 900 people were left dead.
But that wasn’t all. Spring was warm and dry that year and the gusts of wind were heavy. This was one of the reasons why the fire spread very fast and the fire brigades had a lot of trouble to control the fire. Another reason was the fact that most of the water pipes were destroyed as well, so the city of Rotterdam burned for days in a row. Since the 14th of May 2010, exactly 70 years after the bombardment, the edge of the burning city has been permanently marked with led lights.
You can follow the lights of the edge and walk one of the best walking routes of Rotterdam, but there are also clear maps of the route available at the tourist office of Rotterdam and bookshops throughout the city. The entire length of this historic WW2 walking route in Rotterdam is 12 kilometres. You are often able to see the contrast of the old and new buildings when you walk through streets in Rotterdam. It’s, in my opinion, one of the best things you can do in Rotterdam when you have 24 hours or a weekend.
The green lights can be found on the Noordereiland (Northern island). The reason why these lights are green is that these parts of Rotterdam have been destroyed by friendly fire (Dutch fire to be exact) to defend the city. On the other side of the bridges across the Meuse river in Rotterdam, Dutch marines were shooting on Germans that were located on the Noordereiland. You can see that the icons in the green lights miss the silhouette of a German bomber, which can be found in the red lights.
You can find a map of the edge of the burning city of Rotterdam and its light here. It is a website in Dutch, but you will be able to follow the lights anyway.
33.Walk along statues from famous artists such as Picasso
There’s a free sculpture route that you can walk in Rotterdam. Along the entire street of the Westersingel, you will see statues that belong to the Westersingel Sculpture Route in Rotterdam. This free walking art route will bring you to statues from artists such as Rodin, Mastroianni, Visser and even Picasso. In total 17 works in Rotterdam are made by famous sculptors that can be seen for free. Find all the sculptures and art pieces in Rotterdam here.
34. Relax at the only sandy beach in Rotterdam
The only sandy beach in Rotterdam is not that close to the city centre but can be easily visited by bike or public transport. But keep in mind, because this beach in Rotterdam is the only beach in the city, it will be crowded during the beautiful summer days when you’re looking for things to do in Rotterdam.
The beach can be found in the village of Heijplaat. Heijplaat is officially part of the city of Rotterdam and can easily be visited by waterbus, or if it’s a beautiful day, by bike. Heijplaat is located between the harbours of Rotterdam, which gives the beach combined with the port a very interesting contrast.
35. Walk the Erasmus Bridge
Another iconic piece of architecture in Rotterdam is the Erasmus bridge, which cannot miss on any city tour through Rotterdam. Did you know that the locals call this bridge in Rotterdam ‘De Zwaan’, or the Swan? They started using the name because of its elegant shape. More interesting facts about Rotterdam can be found here.
When you walk on the Erasmusbrug in Rotterdam you will notice that the bridge is big, but the shape is a bit more difficult to divine from this close. However, walk on both sides of the river towards the Erasmusbrug and it gains you a completely different perspective.
36. Discover and visit the SS Rotterdam
You can visit one of the icons of Rotterdam for free, well partly. You can enter the SS Rotterdam for free and visit the restaurants, the bar and the terrace (that offers a great view). If you want to explore more of the ship, you can do so with a guided tour that starts anywhere between 10:00 and 16:00.
The SS Rotterdam sailed for 41 years and is, besides an icon of Rotterdam, the flagship of the Holland Amerika cruise line. It was launched in 1953 by, at the time, Queen Juliana and stopped in 2000.
37. Visit one of the food halls in Rotterdam
Food is always the answer. Although this might not be the best place to go to if you have an endless stomach like me. If, however, you’re able to resist the temptation and can walk through a food hall in Rotterdam with no problems of caving in, then I would recommend you to visit these places. Even if it’s to suck up the atmosphere and to see what food there is to offer.
There are two food halls in Rotterdam: Fenix Food Factory and Foodhallen.
Fenix Food Factory is moving from its current location but stays in the area of Katendrecht. Luckily it only moves to Fenixloods I, which is next to its current location at Fenixloods II. Fenix Food Factory is one of the highlights of Rotterdam for any visitor. The old warehouses are a perfect location, combine this with a very cool interior, nice people, great food and you will have a magical combination.
Foodhallen Rotterdam is located in a building that used to be a storage for tea and nuts from the former colonies, after that, nothing happened with this building. Until Foodhallen Rotterdam decided to shine here and rightfully so. Walk from food stall to food stall, drool over the food and resist the temptation. Or not. Your call.
38. Find the only city gate in Rotterdam
Rotterdam is an old city, although you wouldn’t think that when you’re walking through this city in the province of Zuid-Holland. You are probably aware of the bombings on Rotterdam and the Second World War. Rotterdam used to have around ten city gates, but by the beginning of the Second World War, only one city gate was left. By the end of the war, no city gate was left anymore.
To remember the last city gate of Rotterdam there’s a red steel construction, that includes some artefacts that were saved from the last city gate, at Haagseveer 7, 3011 AW Rotterdam.
39. Go to the World Harbour Days in Rotterdam
One of the best things you can do in Rotterdam is to visit the event called World Harbour Days, or Wereldhavendagen. This festival in Rotterdam takes place every year and you will be able to discover the biggest harbour in Europe (and one of the biggest in the world) like you never could imagine. There are dozens of activities for the visitors, think of demonstrations, tours, boat races, helicopter shows and plenty of other things.
Tip: The Maritime Museum in Rotterdam is often free to visit during the World Harbour Days of Rotterdam
40. Find the only courtyard you can visit in Rotterdam
You can find a beautiful courtyard in Rotterdam at the city hall. The city hall of Rotterdam is one of the most beautiful and oldest surviving buildings in Rotterdam. The small garden in the city hall is a relaxing place where you can enjoy sculptures, rose gardens and admire the calm area. While the gardens can be visited year-round, they are closed during the weekend and only opened when the city hall is opened. Find the city hall at Coolsingel 40.
41. Readers: There’s another great library to visit in Rotterdam
The Central Library in Rotterdam is a beautiful library in The Netherlands. It’s located in the Laurenskwartier district, meaning it’s located in the Rotterdam city centre. It is currently housed in a very modern building that is often compared to Centre Pompidou in Paris. Now, that means that this is one of the must-visit places in Rotterdam, especially if you’re visiting Rotterdam for its architecture and cool buildings. This library in Rotterdam is one of the biggest libraries of The Netherlands and has a total surface area of 24,000 square metres.
Tip: Go to the top floor of the library for a beautiful, and free, view of the famous Markthal in Rotterdam.
You can find this library at Hoogstraat 110, 3011 PV Rotterdam.
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I hope that you found this article useful. Whether you were looking for free, unique or cheap things to do in Rotterdam, I gave you all the options I could think of to make your travels in Rotterdam as budget-friendly as possible. And there’s something for everyone here. If you’re a backpacker and are visiting Rotterdam on a budget, this is for you. But also if you’re a visitor in Rotterdam and need to have some budget and free options. All in all, I hope I helped to make your trip in Rotterdam even better with this article. Share this post!
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