Rotterdam is our favorite city in the Netherlands. Might not come as a surprise that we took our kids for a weekend get-away 4 or 5 times already. Last night when I started writing this post I asked our kids why they like to be in Rotterdam. The impressive cruise ships sailing out of the port was our son’s no. 1 reason.
Totally different answer from our daughter: she enjoys the international atmosphere (“it’s just a very cool place“) and the sheer amount of fun activities. Well, enough for even more visits to Rotterdam in the future if you would ask me…
Amsterdam is magical with all its picturesque canals and idyllic row houses. Rotterdam is not like that. Rotterdam is different. This city is challenging itself to keep on innovating: creating spectacular events, building contemporary architectural landmarks, offering great food from all over the world, and more…
Is it suitable for families to visit the largest city in the Netherlands? Is there enough to see and do? Of course! Let’s use this post to highlight some places that you can visit with your kids as well (far from complete, but a great way to start).
Table of Contents
One year ago we spent a weekend in the impressive SS Rotterdam – a Trans-Atlantic liner transformed recently into a restaurant/bar/hotel. At that time we took this picture from our hotel room when we saw something remarkable: a floating bus! It was the famous Splash Bus. Our kids waved to the people inside the bus…a bit jealous as you can imagine.Reverse situation one year later: now we were inside the bus and our kids waved to people on board the ship! It might look a silly thing to do but the Splash Bus has quickly become one of the most popular attractions in Rotterdam. The video shows you what they call ‘The Big Splash‘!
Thanks to my daughter for filming this with her phone (our kids could sit in the front like some VIPs! Me jealous..)
View from the Splash Bus
The Rotterdam zoo attracts 1.4 million visitors a year…wow. It’s one of the oldest zoos in the Netherlands, opened in 1857! There is a lot to see for kids, but the latest attractions are popular: the fully covered Oceanium (opened in 2001) and the Amazonica with its hundreds of hypnotic butterflies. Amazonica was opened in 2013 and offers 2.500sqm of Amazone rainforest (including the humidity and temperatures!).
It never gets bored around the river Maas, the river that splits the metropolis in two. Cruise ships, speedboats, watertaxis, the spectacular Erasmus bridge and the stunning architecture of new skyscrapers on the South bank. This is the area that we love the most!
The highest point in Rotterdam, with lots of fun activities! The Euromast was built in 1960 and originally measured 100 meters in altitude. In 1970 a new tower was placed on top, raising the Euromast to 185 meters. It’s the highest observatory tower in the Netherlands.
You can go up (by elevator) for some beautiful panorama views of the city and the port. 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 might consider having 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).
Spectacular views at night!
If you dare to you can go down the Euromast in a more spectacular way: abseilen or via a zipline!! And if you don’t want to go down you can stay in one of the two suites at a height of more than 100 meters.
Hotel New York
If you like the river and are interested in the marine history of Rotterdam, the boutique 72-room hotel New York is a must. In another post I have written an extensive review of Hotel New York. The hotel is surrounded by water and the views on the city are amazing. The hotel is full of marine artifacts has a very good restaurant open for visitors all day long.
History of Rotterdam
World War II left a terrible scar on the city of Rotterdam. Being severely bombed, the war left the city in total devastation. A couple of spots were not hit and they are a must to visit. These places still show how Rotterdam used to be. Go to Delfshaven, Oudehaven or Veerhaven and enjoy historic Rotterdam!
Historic Delfshaven is a picturesque area of Rotterdam with lots of shipyards and warehouses. It’s a real nostalgic and intimate place, completely different from other parts in the city. Waterways and canals will make you love this area.
Another popular place is the Oudehaven. It has bars and restaurants for a great night out. Near Oudehaven you will also find the famous Cube houses built in the 1970s and designed by architect Piet Blom. Blom wanted to create a village within a large city. According to him one house was a tree and the whole complex a forest. There is one ‘Show Cube’ open for visitors; great for your kids.
Visit a real cruise ship
I forgot to mention something about the SS Rotterdam. You don’t have to stay in this remarkable hotel to go and visit the ship. There are daily tours that cover the bow, the bridge and even the engine room. The ship itself is a real impressive sight (especially if you arrive by watertaxi!).
Of course Rotterdam also has a big choice of museums. One we really like is the Wereldmuseum (WorldMuseum) which is showing art and cultural artifacts from countries all over the world. We enjoyed the exhibition from Chinese arts where the kids could also play with lights and sounds… Enough to see and do in this cool city, trust me!
We were invited by Rotterdam Partners to visit the city. If you intend to visit, consider buying the Rotterdam Welcome Card (RWC). It offers discounts of 25% and more at 50 attractions, museums, restaurants and places of entertainment in Rotterdam and 1, 2 or 3 days of unlimited travel with RET metro, tram and bus. You can order the RWC already ahead of your visit.
Keep an eye on the Rotterdam travel website to see what is going on.