What to Do in Rotterdam

What to do in Rotterdam City Guide Cruise Port Northern Europe Cruise

Hey Owlets,

I think I might have found a new favourite cruise ship port - something to finally over take Lisbon! Ever since Amsterdam introduced a tax on cruise ship passengers cruise lines have been looking for nearby alternatives - enter Rotterdam. Just over an hour from Amsterdam it's the perfect port for cruise lines to offer something for everyone - there's plenty of excursions offering to show you around the famous city, but for those who don't want to spend two hours on a coach then Rotterdam is an incredible city itself, full of history, unique architecture and plenty of attractions to visit during your stay. When I visited I actually ran out of time because there was so much to do so here's my list of everything you need to see while you're in the city, whether you're there for a day on a cruise ship or you've booked a weekend away.

What to do in Rotterdam City Guide Cruise Port Northern Europe Cruise Euromast

See the Best View in the City

Euromast is Rotterdam's tallest building at 185m high (just over 600ft). The observation tower was built to 112m high in the sixties, but modern buildings quickly overtook the tower so they added an extra section to make it the 185m that it stands at today. It also now houses Rotterdam's highest hotel suites which, should you have money to burn, are available to book for €420 per night - just make sure you shut the curtains in  the morning as the floor to ceiling windows look out on to the observation deck!

The outside area is the original 60s building at 112 metres high - should you be able to stomach this you can get into another lift that takes you into a closed-in platforms that rises to 185m. I'll save you finding out for yourself - if you get motion sick DO NOT go up to the top. I really struggle with it and as soon as we started moving I realised that I'd made a terrible mistake - once it got to the top the spinning was fine but I couldn't cope with it spinning and getting higher at the same time so I had to shut my eyes.

As tourist traps go this is a pretty good one-  you do have to queue for quite a while but once you're in you can stay there for as long as you like and go up and down the tower as much as you'd like too (although if you're like me then once will probably be enough for a lifetime) - for just over €10 I'd really recommend it.

See what it's like to go to the top here

What to do in Rotterdam City Guide Cruise Port Northern Europe Cruise Cube Houses

Explore the Weirdest Houses in Rotterdam

Rotterdam is known for its incredible architecture, but these have to be my favourite buildings of all. If you spend any amount of time scrolling through travel content on Instagram then you've probably seen Rotterdam's Cube Houses so many times that you're sick of them - if not then you've most likely never heard of them, as they seem to only be known on Instagram. Being something that spends way too much time on the platform visiting these houses were at the top of my list.

The cube houses were built in the 70s and are still inhabited today. The architect wanted to create a village within a city and maximise outside space - the houses are supposed to look like trees, with each house being a treetop, and the structures they're perched on the trunk.

These buildings are still lived in today and are primarily private houses. However, so many people came to visit the unique buildings that one of the residents decided to open their home so tourists could see what they were like on the inside - I couldn't find the price online but from memory it was €2 or €3 to enter which I think is well worth it. If visiting the cube houses isn't enough you can also stay in them, as one of them has been converted into a hostel.

See inside the houses here

What to do in Rotterdam City Guide Cruise Port Northern Europe Cruise Market Hall

Stop for a Snack at the Markethall

The Markethall is just opposite the cube houses and is home to just about every food you can think of it's actually a mixed use building and has offices and luxury accommodation inside, but the heart of the building is a huge market with different food outlets as well as your typical market fruit and veg stalls.

As well as being full of just about every food imaginable, it's also an Instagrammer's paradise with a beautiful mural across the entire ceiling. If you're a foodie who loves taking photos then this is definitely the place for you. Entrance is free like any other market - just wander in and find whatever food takes your fancy.  I didn't know this until I got there but french fries are a big thing in the Netherlands, so make sure you try some while you're there!

What to do in Rotterdam City Guide Cruise Port Northern Europe Cruise Water Taxi SS Rotterdam Cruise Ship Hotel

Hold on Tight Aboard a Water Taxi

When arriving in Rotterdam the water taxi was just a way to get around the city - we only went on it because Dad wanted to a closer look at SS Rotterdam. Having been on it, however, the water taxi has become one of those things that you just have to do while you're there, and it's one of those things that most tourists either don't know about or just haven't bothered with as there were no queues and only one other person on board was a tourist. In principle a water taxi sounds fairly unremarkable, but they drive like they're competing in Formula 1 on water and something about bouncing across the water and watching your travel companion get absolutely soaked because you chose your seat carefully is one of the most fun experiences you can have in Rotterdam. From memory it was about €10 each for a round trip of the harbour.

What to do in Rotterdam City Guide Cruise Port Northern Europe Cruise Water Taxi SS Rotterdam Cruise Ship Hotel

Go Behind the Scenes on SS Rotterdam

If you've been following The Owlet for a while you'll know I'm obsessed with cruise ships and anything maritime in general, so you might have noticed that my recommendations tend to be a little "boaty" but I can't help myself. The SS Rotterdam was an ocean liner built and launched in Rotterdam and sailed from 1959. I'm not entirely sure what she gained such a cult following but she did, and when she was retired in the year 2000 she was permanently moored in Rotterdam Harbour and turned into a hotel. To this day you can stay on board in a range of cabins, but there's plenty to do if you're just visiting for the day too.

On board the ship is both a grill restaurant and a fine dining option, so if you want to stop for lunch with a view you have plenty of choice. One of the most unique offerings of this ship is that, despite turning her into a hotel, they've kept everything that made her a ship as it originally was. Every day they offer tours of both below decks in the crew areas and engine rooms and of the ship facilities, showing you what life would've been like on board when she was still sailing. If you're not a ship-nerd like me then you probably wouldn't be that interested, but this is definitely on the to-do list when I'm next in the city.

What to do in Rotterdam City Guide Cruise Port Northern Europe Cruise Hotel New York Holland America Line Headquarters

Step Back in Time at Hotel New York

My final suggestion is yet another ship-nerd recommendation, but this one would be an amazing experience even if you're not as "boaty" as me. Rotterdam was the original home of the Holland America Line and the building that's now Hotel New York was their headquarters. The cruise line was founded in 1873 and their operations remained in Rotterdam until 1989 when they were bought out and the building was converted to a waterfront hotel. I can't lie, I only popped in to use the bathroom, but when I walked through the door my jaw dropped. The restaurant has been created in a 1920s style and the attention to detail is incredible, with even the staff uniforms being accurate to the time period. When you walk inside it's like you step back in time, being greeted by the incredible architecture, closely followed by a waiter in the stereotypical waistcoat and flat-cap. Even if you're not interested in ships, it's just one of those places you need to visit because no pictures can do it justice.

What to do in Rotterdam City Guide Cruise Port Northern Europe Cruise P&O Azura

Hopefully this gives you a few ideas if you're looking for somewhere a little less touristy to visit, or if you've got an upcoming port call in the city. The Netherlands are full of hidden gems but honestly Rotterdam is one of my favourite cities I've ever visited and these suggestions only just scratch the surface. Rotterdam has a huge maritime history, but it's also an incredible place to see unique architecture, a foodie's paradise and the perfect home for an Instagram addict. Whatever you're interested in you can guarantee that Rotterdam will have it somewhere in the city.

Love and Feathers, 
 The Owlet 💜 
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