The Dutch city of Rotterdam has become increasingly popular with tourists from all over the world. Not just suddenly, it has been a gradual process for the last decade or so. Back in the 1990s I lived in Rotterdam for two years, studying Japanese (really!). In those days the city was nothing compared to what it is right now. It has been the iconic buildings, the stunning architecture, thrilling events and art hat has put Rotterdam firmly in the Top 3 of most popular cities to visit in the Netherlands. Meantime we have been back to the city many times and I felt the time was right to share the city’s best places to eat and drink!
Me and my family started traveling to Rotterdam (as a tourist) around 2010, when the city already had made huge progress with its modern transformation process. I fell in love with the city again and at a certain time I got connected to the city’s promotional team. We went back with our kids multiple times to visit big events like City Racing and the impressive World Port Days. We have always been a big fan of the city and you can enjoy multiple stories right here on this blog.
Rotterdam: city in transformation
The city changes continuously, for the good. Old parts are being restored where start-ups, niche restaurants and cocktail bars are giving a boost to the neighborhood. Having so many bars and restaurants to choose from I decided to compile a short list for you. These are places where you can have a drink or a bite to eat for various reasons: either the food is simply fantastic or the place has stunning panoramic views on the city. This list does includes a few (new) places where I haven’t had the opportunity to try the food myself, but locals told me this is the best new thing in town. I always trust local resident’s opinions, don’t you?
Without further ado, here is my list of great places to eat and drink in Rotterdam (for various reasons):
Fenix Food Factory: artisanal food hub
Small-scale food hub located in the Fenixloods, a former warehouse, at the Katendrecht peninsula. Here you can enjoy artisanal food and (local) products. They call the Fenix Food Factory a culinary hotbed where fresh and authentic forms the basis for a good time with great food. I loved the outdoor terrace offering great views of some of the high-rise buildings next to Hotel New York (see below).
Hotel New York: Grand Dame
Hotel New York has a long history being the former headquarters of the Holland-America Line (HAL), owner of a direct steam service to America.
The HAL headquarters was built between 1901-1917. Closed in 1970, put for sale and abandoned until early 1990s when Dutch investors believed in the place and decided to create a hotel with a large cafe-restaurant: Hotel New York! Hotel New York is a landmark for the city of Rotterdam. Although surrounded meantime by immense towers with modern architecture, it still stands strong. The character of the hotel easily beats the ones of the giant buildings around her. It’s a great place to go for a drink, lunch or dinner. The views of the city are fabulous, especially when night falls.
Posse: off the beaten track
Right next door to the Fenix Food Factory, Posse is a totally different experience. Posse is not only a restaurant. It’s a shop, gallery, artlab and espresso bar at the same time. Someone reviewed Posse as “delightfully strange and off the beaten track”. I couldn’t have said it better. Check their website as it’s not open for public every day.
Ayla: Hip mediterranean
Ayla opened in 2016 and is highly recommended for lunch and dinner. Interior design is beautiful and the food wonderful. Would definitely go back her during an upcoming visit to Rotterdam.
Markthal: iconic architecture
The Markthal has become one of the highlights of Rotterdam. And yes, it’s a lovely place to hang around and gaze at the dozens of food stalls. All around are bars and restaurants where can enjoy the herds of tourists or look up and enjoy the spectacular, multi-colored ceiling. One of a kind!
The Suicide club: rooftop cocktail bar
Forget about the name. This is the only rooftop cocktail bar in town and has great views of the ultra-modern central station area (and much more of the city).
Aloha: repurposed swimming pool
This building used to be the country’s first tropical swimming pool (Tropicana). It went bankrupt, was abandoned and deteriorated completely. But 2013 marked its resurrection when entrepreneurs started transforming the building into a bar and restaurant: Aloha. More will be added soon, but it’s a surprising place with a unique view on the river Maas.
Industriegebouw: the latest hotspot in town
The Industriegebouw (Industrial Building) was built right after the war in 1949. It became an iconic and monumental building, although in 2015 it was completely abandoned. Rotterdam entrepreneurs bought the building and started to accommodate design shops, architecture firms, and restaurants. Old Scuola is one of the best pizza restaurants in town. Alfredo’s Taqueria offers traditional Mexican kitch with a modern twist. The most surprising part to me is By Jarmusch, a real American (all-day) breakfast diner with your typical refill of coffee and ‘eggs-any-way-you-like’. Early 2018 the highly anticipated new restaurant Héroine will open its doors as well, making the Industriegebouw one of the latest hotspots in town.
ss Rotterdam: cruise ship dining
The ss Rotterdam is the largest passenger ship ever built in the Netherlands: 228 meters long, 28 meters wide and 61 meters in height. It was inaugurated by Dutch Queen Juliana in 1958. Until 1971 it ran scheduled services to New York City, but turned more towards cruises when air traffic became more popular.
Today you have the opportunity to visit the ship and take a tour (or just enjoy lunch or diner). If you want you can stay overnight in one of the 254 rooms; this maritime icon has been transformed into a 4star hotel ever since it returned to Rotterdam. And the views from the back of the ship are stunning!
Euromast: dinner high up in the sky
The highest point in Rotterdam, with lots of fun activities! The Euromast was built in 1960 and is the highest observatory tower in the Netherlands. You can go up (by elevator) for some beautiful panorama views of the city and the port of Rotterdam. A panorama lift (it’s actually a cabin that turns slowly to the top) called the Euroscope, brings you up to 185 meters.
The views are spectacular, certainly at night! You can have dinner in the Euromast restaurant and watch the night fall over the city. You can go up the Euroscope in between the courses of your dinner. The personnel will indicate when is the best time to go up (so you don’t have to wait very long).
Op het dak: garden on the roof
We actually found this place by accident! You can imagine our surprise when we were offered the opportunity to sit in the rooftop garden, enjoy a drink with, again, great urban views. Op het Dak is a real treat where at the same time you can visit the yellow Luchtsingel (elevated wooden walkway). This is urban innovation at its finest.
Nhow hotel bar: one hell of a view
Last but not least. We have been staying at the Nhow hotel a couple of times and every time I am amazed by the views of the Erasmus bridge. Go up to the hotel bar, buy yourself a gin tonic and sit outside (if weather allows). The bridge is a beautiful sight, day and night.
Bonus: FG Okonomiyaki
In December 2017 Michelin-starred chef François Geurds opened a Japanese street food bar called FG Okonomiyaki. Their speciality is a Japanese-style pancake, based on seaweed stock and stuffed with vegetables, meat or fish. I remember from my stay in Japan that this pancake is delicious! Next time in Rotterdam I will pay FG Okonomiyaki a visit.
Rotterdam best places to eat and drink
Hope you like the list! Feel free to add any more places in the comment section.
Text and photography by: Emiel van den Boomen