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There’s plenty of reasons to spend a weekend in Rotterdam, the fun and funky little sister to Amsterdam. After a recent short trip across to discover the city, these are just some of our top 7 reasons you should have a weekend city break to Rotterdam.
If you’re looking for a European city break with a twist, Rotterdam should be on your list of quick-stop holiday options. With culture, cute coffee stops, fantastic food halls and a nice blend of history and modern architecture, Rotterdam is an edgier, arguably more interesting stop than Amsterdam.
Plus, it’s definitely less crowded than the overrun party capital of the Netherlands! If you haven’t considered Rotterdam as a city break trip, let me convince you with these 7 reasons to spend a weekend in Rotterdam.
#1 It’s Accessible!
Let’s start with the basics, Rotterdam is stupidly simple to get to. Not only do they have their own airport serviced by British Airways, Transavia and Vueling, but its a quick 30-minute train from Amsterdam airport direct to the city center of Rotterdam.
That’s basically the equivalent of taking the Heathrow Express train from London Heathrow airport to Piccadilly Station! The Netherlands is so adorably small you can hop cities in the same amount of time. Cool, eh?
So instead of battling the crowds in Amsterdam, you can very easily book a cheap flight from Vienna or your nearest European airport, and land in Amsterdam to connect straight through. Tickets for the train connection can be purchased while you wait for you luggage to arrive, and the train station signs and directions come in English, so getting aboard the right train connection is a cinch.
I managed to make it straight from my flight landing at Amsterdam airport, onto a direct connection to Rotterdam central in under 45 minutes. It is super easy.
If you’re more of a train-journey person (which I definitely am) there are direct Eurostar trains from London to Rotterdam daily, which only takes 3 hours. From Vienna trains are trickier, taking about 13 hours with multiple changes so I’d recommend a flight (as long as you offset your carbon emissions here).
Either way you approach it, Rotterdam is easy to get to for a weekend city break, with affordable flight and journey options.
#2 The Architecture
Having been to Amsterdam plenty of times (remember that time I was a European tour guide for a few years?) I was ready for the skinny houses and picturesque canals typical of this region, and was not disappointed on arrival in Rotterdam.
What I wasn’t aware of in Rotterdam was all the post modern architecture and beautiful design elements of the city. Each day I explored had a new surprise – the iconic cube houses, the Maritime warehouses converted to hotels, the Erasmus bridge and a load of hybrid architectural styles on the city streets.
I’m more of a history nerd than an architectural one – and Rotterdam is a treasure trove for history hunters, but the architecture is the clue to the historical stories here. Most of the city was flattened in WWII bombing raids, as it is a major port town, meaning very few areas have their original Dutch style architecture from the golden age of the city.
However, in rebuilding the place from the rubble of the war, Rotterdam has gone on to define its own style and energy, with creative pops of colour and melding of old and new influences across their town. Its a fantastic grungey, modern spacious feel to walk or bike across the city.
If you have the time, I’d also recommend this walking tour of the cities architecture to get an in-depth locals guide to the architecture. Click here to check the pricing.
#3 – Foodie Scene
You can eat so well in this city. Like any other historical port town, Rotterdam flourished under the influence of its melting pot of cultures and cuisines coming together over the centuries, with ships arriving from far-flung ports, bringing flavours and dishes from across the world.
These days, that translates to a great spread of restaurants, markets and melding cultural influences – so you can get delicious Dutch classics like Bitterballen, excellent Asian fusion cuisine and the markets are a treasure trove of different treats from around the world.
The most famous example of this is the Markthal, blending innovative architecture and an array of food options to keep you drooling.
The curved horseshoe-arch building is actually a block of flats and offices that look down on the market space. I would have no hope of staying healthy living here because the food, wine and cheese options are endless and far too tempting to be looking down upon on the daily!
I popped into Markthal for a burger and wine lunch date with my friends Jess and Shawn from A Wanderlust for Life, but you could easily snack away an afternoon hopping from market stand hall to restaurant here, all the while enjoying the views across the expansive courtyards of Markthal.
While Markthal is the famous food market, my favourite was actually a grungier, more ramshackle food hall in the Katendrecht district.
Fenix Food Factory is a must see in Rotterdam, and one of the best foodie hotspots to enjoy to really get a feel for the heart of the city. It had all my kind of hipster-honeytrap lures – locally made craft beers, local farmers cheese and produce, rustic or second-hand furniture for perching on and waterside views to sit beside with a beer in hand as the sun sets.
I managed to make it here three times in the 3 days I was in town, that’s how much fun it was! Also managed to share a killer spread of fries, cheeses and bitterballen with a bunch of friends for a reasonable price here.
You might be lucky like us and trip across a food festival while you’re there too!
For our fix of Asian food, a group of blogger friends tripped across Oriental Express, which sounds generic AF, but was rammed with local families and recommended to us as one of the best quality in town, by an extremely friendly tram conductor. The fact that I have no photos or record of what was eaten there, despite being surrounded by 6 bloggers tells me the food was excellent!
#4 – Coffee & Brunch Spots
You didn’t think I’d leave you hanging with no brunch recommendations did you?
The Dutch do cute coffee shops extraordinarily well and can be relied upon for strong brews, excellent sweet treats and cool-vibes ambiance. Here were just a few of the places I tried and loved, but there were enough options to justify a trip back for a weekend city break soon!
Nine Bar espresso: An adorable, easygoing coffee shop on a side street just a hop and skip across from the Markthal square. This was a lovely start to my day as there were locals riding bikes to get into work, the sun lightly shining down upon the street and a picture perfect flat white to get the day going right.
Posse Rotterdam: This place felt like home – a pure Melbourne style bar, restaurant, art space and gallery in a warehouse and I loved every second of it. Was very grateful for the Rotterdam tourism board for sending me on a scavenger hunt to find this place as it was bang on my kind of vibe. Cosy couches, rickety chairs, striking artwork and a bar/coffee shop with small snacks and interesting people with good music crooning in the background.
This place was sprawling across a huge amount of space and filled with knick-knacks and second-hand furniture, objects and decor which were all available to purchase, or you could just nestle into a corner and enjoy. I loved every second here!
Lot & Daan: A bright, light delight of a coffee shop right beside the Citizen M hotel where I stayed. I only popped in for a coffee on my way to go exploring but their food selection – especially the pancakes – looked very tempting.
Daily Rotterdam: This cafe was right beside the conference venue for the Traverse bloggers conference that I was attending, so perfect for early morning healthy brunch and superb coffee. What I loved about the setup here was the service and healthy food options.
I could get my healthy yogurt, granola and fruit mix in relaxed quiet, alongside a very well made flat white and enjoy a quiet start to the day before the fun of attending the Traverse bloggers conference. If you are staying in this area can definitely recommend as the opening hours a great if you want to be up early and exploring – plus there were a wide array of locals dropping in, so you know it’s a good spot!
# 5 – Fabulous Accommodation options
Whether you want to splurge, stay local in a B&B or go budget in some crazy-awesome hostels, Rotterdam has an array of top-notch selections to choose from.
For my weekend break in the city, I wanted something boutiquey and comfortable with an ideal location to make the most of my city break in Rotterdam. Because I was travelling solo for the first time in a while and booked well in advance, I also treated myself to a hotel that I’d had on my must-visit list for quite a while.
CitizenM was the perfect choice for a solo weekend stay, because it was just so fun! I always worry when booking a single room that you’ll end up in a windowless prison room in the basement feeling sad or like one of the staff members shoved into a tiny cubicle room (just me?). But my delight of a room at CitizenM was nothing like that!
It was spacious, funky, the bed was huge and the interior decor light and bright. The room settings could be controlled by an ipad in your room, and although I spent loads of time exploring and socialising as part of the Traverse bloggers conference, I have to admit I really really enjoyed the wide screen TV in the room. I finally managed to watch the movie Dunkirk on the big beautiful screen while sprawled in bed eating snacks from the bar downstairs, and reader, it was heaven to have that room to myself to enjoy that!
I loved my stay because the location was right across the road from the Markthal and a bunch of shopping and coffee shops, plus I could walk super easily into the heart of town. If I was feeling lazy, or it was raining the tram was right on my doorstop. Definitely recommend the CitizenM hotel if you are looking for a boutique hotel stay in Rotterdam.
If you want something a bit more budget friendly but still funky, the Student Hotel Rotterdam is a giant new hostel in a similar area. We had the opening night party for the bloggers conference hosted here and it was one of the coolest, largest and more interesting hostels I’ve seen a while. They even have an upstairs ‘penthouse’ room that you can book out entirely and get rooftop views across the city. The regular room types were also spacious and comfy, while the bar and restaurant area were perfect for meeting people.
You can check the prices for different rooms at the Student Hotel Rotterdam by clicking here.
#6 – Shopping
Ok you guys know I’m not exactly a fashion blogger (lol can you imagine?), but I love visiting the Netherlands and shopping there because they have exactly my kind of rock ‘n roll style brands and the look is a bit more edgy than what you find in Vienna.
So again, even though I was in town for a blogging conference, I was also in town for some me-time, so luckily the hotel was close by the shopping district around Meent. Particularly the street ‘Panneekoestraat’ had a treasure trove of my kind of stores, with indie designers and lots of floaty tops, skinny leg black jeans and unique brands.
Normally if I’m travelling, clothes shopping is one of the easiest ways to bring home a small souvenir that you actually use again. It’s always a cute little memory whenever you wear your new shirt or shoes of ‘oh yeah, that time I went shopping in the Netherlands’.
Of course, I always try to make sure I’m only buying something that will last in my wardrobe and I’ll get multiple wears out of (what’s the point in buying a shitty H&M €5 t-shirt if it disintegrates 3 washes later?) so supporting these local brands and businesses is a great way to keep my travel and shopping habits sustainable, aaaaaannnd enjoy an afternoon trying on beautiful things I can’t afford.
Whether you buy something or not, the shopping in Rotterdam is fantastic, from the regular high street stores to the independent boutiques, it was great fun strolling the high street for inspiration.
#7 – Things to Do
If you’re a planner on your weekend getaways, there are plenty of things to fill your time on a city break in Rotterdam. The city has a decent selection of museums, walking tours and activities to keep you busy and some will even get you better views across the city.
One of the most popular activities is a visit to the Euromast, a panoramic 185-meter high tower built in the 1960’s to give visitors a view over the rebuilt city of Rotterdam. There are two restaurants in the tower and if you’re an adrenalin fiend you can zipline or abseil down the side of it. Or if you are a sane person like me, you can simply enjoy panoramic views from the top. It is only €10 to get up to the viewing point and gives you a great perspective over the city.
There are also a lot of interesting districts to discover in the city, like historic Delfshaven that has some of the few remaining pre-WWII buildings, or the funky Katendrecht district by the portside where smaller stores and hangout spots are popping up. I loved strolling this area for the diversity and peek into local life, beyond the city centre.
From a cultural side, Rotterdam has some fantastic art exhibits and museums to discover. In fact, for some artworks, you don’t have to get to a gallery, you will trip across them as you wander the city. Installations like the floating forest or some of the many street art pieces of the city are in easily accessible locations for everyone to enjoy. The tourism board has even put together a self-guided street art walk of the city to make sure you catch all the best pieces! You can check it out by clicking here.
What I enjoyed doing most in Rotterdam was simply strolling, camera in hand, all around the different districts to enjoy the architecture, the artworks and notice the way locals were enjoying the city. Creative spots like the Luchtsingel bridge or Cube houses make the city fun to roam, because you never quite know what surprise will be around the next corner.
My friend Michelle has also put together a mega-list of 21 things to do in the city which will definitely keep you from getting bored!
Overall, Rotterdam was so much more than I expected. It had incredible architecture, friendly people, so many good food options and like most cities in the Netherlands, was very bike friendly and easy to get around. For whatever reason, I had underestimated just how interesting it could be for a weekend getaway, and to be honest, I’d love to go back with Stefan and explore some more, because I’m sure there are things I missed!
Considering how easy it is to get to, and how affordable to stay compared to other European cities, I’d definitely reccommend Rotterdam as your next weekend city break destination. Have you thought to visit before? Let me know in the comments if you’re interested to know more!