Rotterdam Must See Attractions. My Tips for Travellers
When many people think of must see places to visit in Netherlands they tend to think of Amsterdam and The Hague. In my view, Rotterdam is a must see city too – especially if you are interested in anything maritime.
I first went to Rotterdam about 25 years ago when I was working for Unilever. They have a head office in Rotterdam and one in London. I remember being unimpressed by the city at the time seeing it as just a big, industrial city. More recently I visited on cruises on the Queen Victoria and the Queen Mary 2 and attended the TBU Travel Bloggers Unite conference in the city. Each time I managed to explore more and more of the city – coming to appreciate it.
Some of my observations about Rotterdam:
- Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands and the second busiest port in the world. Until 2004 it was the biggest port until being overtaken by Shanghai. The port has shipbuilding, cargo and a cruise industry. The century old Holland America line has it roots here.
- Rotterdam was badly damaged during the Second World War. A lot of it was destroyed by the Luftwaffe because it was such an important industrial and shipbuilding town. A lot of people were killed, made homeless and it was pretty much flattened. A lot of it was rebuilt between the ‘50s and the ‘70s but without much flair and style.
- When you first visit Rotterdam you don’t get a sense of a beautiful city. However, in more recent times, various architects have started to make the city a much more beautiful city. There’s lots of developments introducing modern, stylized and interesting architecture to transform the look of the city.
- It has a youthful population and is diverse culturally and ethnically which makes it feel increasingly more vibrant.
- In addition to being the base for many shipping companies, large multi-nationals like Unilever and Mittal Steel have large bases here.
- The Dutch people speak beautiful English. It’s immaculate. In fact, it’s almost embarrassing even as an English speaker, just how well the Dutch people speak English.
My Tips for Travellers on Rotterdam Must See Attractions:
Being such an important industrial and port centre, getting to Rotterdam is relatively simple and easy. It’s well served by air and trains. You can also get there on cruise ships. Ships dock centrally right by the Erasmus Bridge and you can walk into town.
Buy the Rotterdam Welcome Card which costs about 17 euros. It allows unlimited use of pubic transport, which is very efficient mix of metro, buses and trams. You also get lots of ideas and discounts off entry to most attractions.
Things to Do
The tours are run by Spido and depart from just under the Erasmus Bridge. They run various cruises and tours around the port. The Harbour Tour is definitely the worth doing. It is around 75 minutes long and takes you all through this massive and busy port.
Rotterdam is actually about 30 kilometers inland from the North Sea. There are five oil refineries around the port, huge dry docks and massive container terminals. You also get to see great views of the city from the river.
On the port tour you sail around the SS Rotterdam. The SS Rotterdam was the flagship of the Holland America line. It used to ferry people across the Atlantic in the glory days of the Atlantic in the 1950s. It is a very beautiful ship that is now a permanently moored hotel and a tourist attraction. The 500 cabins have been reduced down to about 200 to make them more comfortable and more in line with what people are looking for today. You can also go on a tour, visit the bridge and see what life was like during its glamourous days of sailing.
Hotel New York
Hotel New York is the hotel where people would stay when they arrived or before they departed on the SS Rotterdam and other glamorous ships. It’s been renovated and is stunning. There’s a beautiful café to sit outside and watch the world and boats go by.
You will pass it on the Harbour Tour, it is where they tell the story of 18th Century Wooden Dutch ship, the Delft, which is being reconstructed. The museum displays various crafts, exhibits, and holds lectures about how they’re rebuilding the Delft. It’s quite fascinating!
This is based in the heart of Rotterdam. It focuses on a couple of different areas and you can actually watch the video tour that I’ve done of the Maritime Museum to see more:
The main exhibit areas focus on (1) Mainport which is a massive 3-D representation of the harbor surrounded by massive screens which play videos of the history of Rotterdam and the harbor. (2) Model ships. They have a huge collection of ship models from luxury yachts through to old sailing ships. (3) Maritime art with paintings, drawings, sculptures and cruise line posters. (4) Old navigation books and globes and (5) Exhibition focused upon the cruise industry. You walk into this one area where it talks about some famous ships. Then you walk on a corridor.
This is a tall telecommunications tower with spectacular views. You can eat there, stay there and even abseil down it.
Really good fun! It is how the world would look if it was shrunk down! They take the mini world though a full day in 24 minutes. It goes from dawn into dusk, you see the city waking up, coming to life,trains chugging around, lorries and ships moving about.
You can listen to my podcast about Rotterdam, which is sponsored by DK Eyewitness Travel Guides: