35 Fun and Free Places to visit in Rotterdam
Looking for free things to do in Rotterdam?
You’ll be pleased to know that there are plenty of free places to visit in Rotterdam without even spending a single cent. If you’re trying to travel on a budget or you’re new to living in Rotterdam and cash is tight, then hopefully this will help to get you out of the house and exploring this amazing city.
So, without further ado, here are 35 free places to visit in Rotterdam.
ALSO, check this out:
1. Walk Along the Erasmus Bridge
The Erasmus bridge in Rotterdam is iconic. This bridge, also known as ‘the swan’ because of its swan-like appearance, breaches the gap between the north and the south of Rotterdam. It’s the perfect place to walk or cycle across if you want amazing Rotterdam views and you want to watch the cruise ships coming into the harbour. It looks even nicer lit up at night too.
2. Hop Onboard the SS Rotterdam
The SS Rotterdam was the first cruise ship to sail from the city and it’s kept all of its original features, only it’s now transformed into a museum, hotel and restaurant. It’s permanently docked there, so if you want to go in and look around for free, you can.
3. Marvel at the Markthal
Rotterdam’s market hall is one-of-a-kind and is one of the newest additions to the city. Don’t forget your wide-angled camera lens, as the ceiling of the markthal is stunning. Afterwards, browse around the different food stalls and see what Rotterdam has to offer.
4. Check Out Central Station
There are plenty of free places to visit in Rotterdam and bizzarly, this is one of my favourites. Rotterdam central station is in no way a conventional train station. It’s another product of amazing dutch architecture and innovation, with funky designs, big screens and dramatic effects. You must go and see it, even if you aren’t looking to catch a train.
5. Celebrate King’s Day (The Biggest Event of the Year)
Rotterdam comes alive on King’s Day (one of the biggest days in the Dutch calendar). They’ll be free street parties, events and all sorts going on. So if you happen to in Rotterdam on the 27th April, then be sure to join in.
6. Witness a Bobbing Forest
When you think of a nice forest walk, this is probably not what you had in mind. Rotterdam has its own floating forest. If you head to the Karendrecht district you’ll find lots of trees attached to buoys floating around in the water. Weird, but cool.
7. Look up at Rotterdam’s Town Hall
Rotterdam’s town hall is a work of art. Its traditional Dutch architecture makes it a very prominent building in the center of the city, so it’s well worth a visit to see it.
8. Swim and Sunbathe in Kralingse Bos
Kralingse Bos is (in my opinion) the most beautiful park in Rotterdam. It’s out of hustle and bustle of the city, it’s huge and there are lots of things to do. Its large lake makes it suitable for watersports and swimming, along with a sandy area to sunbathe in and plenty of space to go for a walk or have a picnic.
9. Check Out Rotterdam’s Many Statues… Even the Strange Ones
Rotterdam has so many statues located all over the city – many of which are war memorials. However, there’s one statue, in particular, that isn’t expected. The designer Paul McCarthy designed a statue depicting Santa holding a Christmas tree… but it certainly doesn’t look like that. Check it out for yourself and see what you think.
10. Visit One of Rotterdam’s Beautiful Parks
Although Rotterdam is full of high-rise buildings, there still is a fair bit of green space to go around. Some of the most popular Rotterdam parks are Kralingse Bos, Zuiderpark, and Het Park. They are an absolute must-see if you’re in Rotterdam.
11. Take a Swim Outside on a Cruise Ship
I’m referring to the SS Rotterdam again, as outside on their deck they have a small swimming pool, surrounded by tables and a bar. The perfect place to sit, chill, and cool down on a hot summer day in Rotterdam.
12. Check Out the Beautiful Hotel New York
Hotel New York was once the home of the Holland America Line (cruise ships). Since then, it has transformed into a luxury hotel. Hotel New York also has a bar and restaurant and in the summer it’s hard to get a table there because of how nice the area is in the sunshine.
13. Be Amazed at ‘De Rotterdam’ and Other Iconic Skyscrapers
Rotterdam is known for its jaw-dropping architecture and one of these starts with ‘De Rotterdam.’ The Rotterdam is one of the main skyscrapers on the south side of the city, depicting sort of skewed building blocks. It’s so unique and looks so impressive glowing above the Erasmus bridge. Check out Rotterdam’s architecture. It’s free and it won’t disappoint.
14. Discover Rotterdam’s Street Art
As you wander around the centre of Rotterdam you’ll come across a wide range of really awesome street art. Be sure to download the app ‘Rewriters Rotterdam’ to have a street art route map and have a wander around.
15. Watch Sinterklaas Arrive in Rotterdam
Sinterklaas arrives in Rotterdam (and other Dutch cities) every November. Sinterklaas is a huge deal in the Dutch festive period and during this time, children line the streets to welcome Sinkerklaas pull into Rotterdam on his boat from Spain. He will then ride through the streets on his white horse greeting the crowds.
16. Cycle Through the Maastunnel
If you’re interested in a bike ride through the city, don’t forget to check out the south side via the Maastunnel. The Maastunnel is a 1,373m tunnel running under the river between the south and the north of Rotterdam and you can walk, bike and drive through it.
17. Take a Look Inside Sint Dominicuskerk
Sint Dominicuskerk is a national monument in Rotterdam. It managed to survive WW2 when the city was heavily bombed and this is why it’s one of the most prominent churches in Rotterdam. Take a look inside (it’s located right next to the Markthal).
18. Check out the Flags of Every Single Country
Rotterdam has the flag of every single country sitting along the riverside. If you take the reasonably long walk down, you’ll be able to walk alongside them all. It’s a great game to see how many flags you know (I’m beyond shocking apparently).
19. Take a Stroll Around China Town
Even Rotterdam has its very own China Town. It’s not as obvious as other cities, but there is a whole area with great Chinese supermarkets and restaurants. If you’re hungry, don’t take a walk down there or it won’t be free. 😉
20. Experience the ‘old’ Rotterdam at Delftshaven
Delftshaven is a snapshot into what Rotterdam would have looked like before the war. The area is much more traditional and it’s really interesting to see how different this area looks. So if you’re looking for the charm of a traditional Dutch area, with old buildings, canals and a windmill, then take a stroll around there.
21. Witness the First High Rise Building in Europe and Explore Oude Harbour
The Witte Huis, found in the Oude Harbour, was the first high rise building in Europe. It’s an impressive building, in an equally as beautiful area. Walk all around there and take your camera because it’s really picturesque down there.
22. Visit a Windmill
Coming to Rotterdam but still dying to see some windmills? Don’t fret – Rotterdam has windmills dotted around in random parts of the city. The ones I always see is the one in Delftshaven and also next to Zuiderpark. You can also head to the outskirts and Schiedam to see more of them.
23. Wander Along the Luchtsingel Bridge
The Luchtsingel bridge is something you’ll find all over Instagram because of its quirky look. It’s a 390m bright yellow pedestrian bridge that breaches the gap between the north of the city and the centre. Take your camera!
24. Take a Stroll Around Rotterdam’s Harbourside
If you want to give yourself a mini-tour of some of the highlights of Rotterdam, then take a walk around Rotterdam’s harbourside. Here you’ll be able to see the cruise terminal, Erasmus bridge, Hotel New York, the SS Rotterdam, Fenix Food Factory, and the floating forest. Just follow the path all the way along (on the south side of the river).
25. Go to World Harbour Day
World Habour Days is an annual event in Rotterdam that celebrates its rich trading history. There’s plenty to do, from workshops, displays, tours and even fireworks, it’s the perfect day out. (This event takes place in September every year).
26. Join a Free Walking Tour Around the City
There are a few free walking tours to be had around Rotterdam, so if you’re looking for a local perspective and insider knowledge, then be sure to join these walking tours. It’s a great way to start off your trip in Rotterdam.
27. See the Nieuwe Delftse Poort
The Nieuwe Delftse Poort gives the impression of a three-dimensional graphic design and looks really impressive up close. This amazing sculpture in Rotterdam is a symbolism that Rotterdam is still ever-changing and it’s worth a visit.
28. Explore the Katendrecht District
Katendrecht faced a huge regenification and now it has been transformed into a once unloved area, to one of the trendiest places in town. With food halls, hotels and bars, it’s the place to go to have a wander and a drink if you have a few euros spare.
29. Check Out Van Nelle
The former Van Nelle factory in Rotterdam is seen as an industrial monument in the city. In 2014, Van Nelle became an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. It used to be the former Van Nelle factory and is a unique piece of architecture. It’s now been converted into quirky and modern office spaces.
30. See the Delta Works
If you’re a bit of a science or climate nerd, then it may be worth reading up on the Delta Works and taking a look for yourself. As much of the Netherlands is below sea level, Dutch innovation is very impressive when it comes to water management. You can witness this with a walk to the Delta Works.
31. Head to Skatepark Westblaak With Your Skateboard
If you love to skate, then head to Skatepark Westblaak. It’s located in the middle of the road (not towards oncoming traffic, don’t worry!), so it’s pretty unique. The perfect place to unwind.
32. Take a Walk Through the Walk of Fame
The Walk of Fame is a walking route showcasing concrete tiles with handprints of Dutch celebrities and other celebrities worldwide. If you want to fit it then head to Metroplein (the walk goes from Zuidplein to Ahoy).
33. Watch the Fireworks on the Bridge on NYE
Rotterdam has an NYE bonanza on the Erasmus bridge. It’s free to attend and you can stand all along the harbourside and watch the spectacular fireworks on the bridge with music and lights.
34. Walk Around the Business District
If you come out of Rotterdam central station from the main entrance and turn left, this is the business district. Filled with mirrored and quirky skyscrapers, it’s THE place to be. Take a wander around and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city.
35. Witness the Coolest Cube Houses
When you think of free things to do in Rotterdam, this is definitely up there with the tourists. The cube houses in Rotterdam have become a huge attraction due to their uniqueness. If you think they look cool on the outside, wait until you go inside. For a small fee, you can have a look inside one of the cube houses or if you want to keep it completely free, you can walk around them.