Rotterdam is the second-largest municipality in the Netherlands, and in so many ways it’s the exact opposite of Amsterdam, which is the largest. Where Amsterdam is old and historic, Rotterdam is new, modern and oftentimes, a little quirky.
It was the perfect stopover between Ghent and Amsterdam, and one we’d definitely recommend to anyone interested in design or architecture.
Getting between Belgium and the Netherlands really couldn’t be easier as there are many options: bus, train, car, bike… As we were departing from Ghent, we opted for the train, which required a transfer in Antwerp.
The first leg of the journey was quite simple and straight forward (except for the whole getting off at the right station thing, which you can read about here). We simply hoped on the intercity train from Ghent, and less than an hour later we were in Antwerp.
From Antwerp to Rotterdam, via train, there are two options: the high-speed Thalys train, which will get you there in just over 30 minutes, or the slower intercity train, which will take an hour and 10 minutes. If you’re organised and can book your tickets well in advance, the price difference between the two is almost negligible; in that case, it makes sense to opt for the Thalys.
We weren’t so organised and only booked our tickets the day before, so the Thalys train wasn’t exactly in our budget. We chose the Intercity Train (two tickets set us back €71 for the ENTIRE journey, Ghent-Antwerp-Rotterdam) and it wasn’t half bad. Yes, it took a little bit extra time, but we barely noticed. The train was comfortable, quiet and we whizzed through the countryside, arriving in Rotterdam before we knew it.
What to See
The Markthal is a massive building located in the Blaak district of Rotterdam. Home to various restaurants and stalls selling local delicacies, Markthal is definitely something to put on your Rotterdam itinerary, whether it’s for a bite to eat or just to take a look at the incredible painted ceiling.
It’s hard to miss the Cube Houses. Just opposite the Markthal are the controversial cube houses – yellow and grey cubes piled on top of each other in a haphazard, topsy-turvy way. I’m not going to lie to you, the cubes are odd and a bit confusing, but when you’re anywhere near them, it’s hard to look away.
Oude Haven (Old Harbour)
Oude Haven is located near the Blaak Metro Station, just behind the Cube Houses. This area is home to many bars and restaurants. It’s a great place to grab a bit and people watch as the sun sets.
City hall is one of the oldest buildings in the city and one of the few to survive the 1940 bombing raids. It’s beautiful architectural style and design details cause it stand out amongst the avant-garde, art nouveau architecture that can be found throughout the city.
The Willemsbrug Bridge is a pretty run-of-the-mill standard bridge, but at nighttime, it is one of the best places to see the city. Walk out to the middle just as the sun is setting and prepare yourself for a pretty spectacular view of Rotterdam.
What to Eat/Drink
Bagels and Beans is a delicious café that specialises in, you guessed it, bagels and coffee. While they’re menu offers a variety of speciality bagels sandwiches, we decided to keep it simple and ordered toasted bagels with speciality homemade cream cheeses (I went for the sundried tomato and I was not disappointed). At €3, it was totally worth it!
We popped into Scharrels & Schuim to escape the rain one night and it turned out to be the happiest of accidents. This restaurant bar specialises in craft beer, gin and chicken, and trust me when I say it does all three of those things extremely well! As we waited out the rain, we sipped on our beers, snacked on a platter of chicken in various styles (fried, roasted, and homemade bites) and shared a chicken, avocado and mango salad. It was amazing; the chicken was cooked to perfection. Plus, the portions were huge! It’s a meal we’ve talked about A LOT since, and if we were ever again in the area we wouldn’t hesitate to go back again and again.
After spending the day in Amsterdam, we were a bit tired so we didn’t venture too far for dinner. We wandered through Oude Haven and settled on Popocatepetl, a Mexican restaurant, for dinner. Not really the most logical choice of food when in the Netherlands, but it was delicious. The enchiladas were exactly what we needed to cap off a long day of exploring, and our waitress was incredibly kind and even shared the above mentioned Willemsbrug Bridge tip.
Hollandse Nieuwe Haring
There was a bit of a theme to our time in the Netherlands, we ate a lot of herring. The first of which we sampled was the traditional Hollandse Nieuwe Haring in the Markthall. Unlike other herring sandwiches we’ve had, this one was served with onions and a sweet pickle which added a nice compliment to the lightly pickled fish. Now, I’m not sure I would recommend an entire meal of Hollandse Nieuwe Haring, but as a snack, it was pretty great.
Where to Stay
For our time in Rotterdam, we chose to stay at the Ibis Rotterdam City Centre located just outside the Cool District. Although the hotel was a bit of a hike from the train station (approx. 30-minute walk) it was close to the Markthal, Oude Haven as well as the Blaak Metro Station. There were plenty of pubs, restaurants and cafes in close proximity, and every few blocks we’d stumble across one of Rotterdam’s infamous architectural gems, like the Cube Houses.
While the hotel itself was nothing fancy, it was perfect for our stay; the room was new, clean, bright and cosy, and offered all the amenities we could have hoped for.
The hotel featured a bar, lounge and snack machine, none of which we used, but the selection looked decent as did the prices.
The hotel staff was beyond helpful, providing us with maps, directions and even umbrellas when we insisted on venturing out in a downpour. They were even gracious enough to print off our boarding passes when the printer in the business centre refused to work.
Overall, we really enjoyed our stay and would definitely recommend it.
Read other posts from this series:
- In Bruges
- Petite Adventures’ Guide to Bruges
- Surviving the Rain and Exploring Ghent
- Petite Adventures’ Guide to Ghent
- Top Ten Reasons to Take a Canal Tour in Bruges & Ghent
- Rain in Rotterdam
- A Day in Amsterdam
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