The Netherlands

The Best of Rotterdam in One Day

During a recent weekend trip to The Netherlands, my first priority was to see the flower fields. Second to that, I was keen to explore more of the country. On past trips, I’ve spent most of my time in and around Amsterdam.

This trip, after cycling through the Dutch countryside, I headed to Rotterdam for a day before finishing the trip with another day in Amsterdam.

So short on time, I knew I had to prioritise what I wanted to see and do in Rotterdam. Ultimately, I didn’t end up making it to everything I wanted to see because the weather was so beautiful, we ended up lounging in parks and hanging at beer gardens much more than I’d planned- but no complaints!

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Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands, and home to one of the world’s largest seaports.

Most of the city centre was bombed during World War II, so Rotterdam is known more for its industrial side and architectural uniqueness than Dutch quaintness like Amsterdam.

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How to Spend One Day in Rotterdam

Post flower fields, I arrived in Rotterdam mid-afternoon and headed straight for my hotel, citizenM. Normally not one for hotels, a branch like citizenM was more affordable than Airbnbs in Amsterdam. And, being so short on time in Rotterdam, I wanted to stay somewhere central with an easy option for luggage storage.

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citizenM has a perfect location in Rotterdam, post dropping off my bags, I headed next door to check out the Cube Houses. Dutch architect Piet Blom designed each cube to be tilted at a 55-degree angle and perched atop a hexagonally-shaped base. So cool to imagine what life is like inside these bright yellow houses.

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Next up, a visit to Rotterdam’s Market Hall (Markthal), a beautiful food hall with tons of veg, food stalls and cafes. I’d eaten a salad on the train, so I only had a stroopwafel here but it was nonetheless delicious.

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From taking an early am flight, at this point, I was ready for an espresso pick-me-up and headed to NINE BAR. Great espresso.

Two nearby shops to check-out for cute homewares: Home Stock and Depot.

Ready for happy hour, we headed to Rotterdam’s North District to one of the area’s new bars- Rose Rogue. Talk about my kind of place- pink velour, brass details, bouquets of flowers, golden hour and good cocktails. Doesn’t take much to make me happy.

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Next: We headed back south and stopped at one of the hopping beer gardens we passed, Loos, for a pint before our next cocktail stop- Dr. Rotterdam.

Dr. Rotterdam: One of the best speakeasies I’ve ever been to. An unmarked door, no photos allowed and truly ace drinks. We’d planned on going for one drink but ended up staying for over three hours, that good.

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Not quite ready to call it a night, we headed to one of Rotterdam’s main streets to Stirr for another round of drinks and finally, Supermercado for a nightcap and tacos. This part of Rotterdam really comes alive at night- lots of bars, outdoor eateries and places to grab a quick snack fix.

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Then, back to citizenM to crash in a king size bed that stretched wall to wall. Heaven.

The next morning, we woke and headed straight Delfshaven for a morning walk. Delfshaven is the only part of Rotterdam that wasn’t destroyed in WWII. Well preserved, you’ll feel strong Amsterdam vibes, but be pleased to see not even a tenth of the tourists you’ll find in the Jordaan.

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And, for a bit of travel trivia: The Pilgrims sailed from Delfshaven when they set out for America. They changed ships in England, but their journey originally stated in The Netherlands. Really enjoyed wandering these cobblestone streets, such a stark contrast to the rest of Rotterdam, which is modern with buildings in all different shapes and sizes.

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Soon enough, it was time for breakfast. Café de Oude Sluis was a great choice for coffee- it overlooks the canal in Delfshaven, but we headed to Coffeelicious for real brunch. Some of the best pancakes I think I’ve ever had- thick, fluffy and topped with plenty of fresh berries.

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Ready to wander for a bit more, we made our way back to central Rotterdam, stopping at Lilth on the way for more coffee. Looked like a hopping place for brunch as well.

Rounding out our trip, we walked up the main canal towards Central Station- loved the green park with tram lines running through it.

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As a final stop before boarding the train to Amsterdam, we checked out the Old Harbor next to our hotel. It’s the city’s oldest harbour and home to a mix of old and new. We decided to have a pint at Stockholm, a bar with lots of outdoor seating overlooking the shipyard.

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Before we knew it, it was time to head north. Even though we didn’t have much time in Rotterdam, it was a great day exploring a new part of The Netherlands.

Have you ever been to Rotterdam? Which Dutch city is your favorite to visit?

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