Rotterdam was a surprisingly family friendly city with loads to do for children. A very strange and wonderful #7 on this list complimented the typical attractions like zoos, playgrounds and food. Just wait until you read all about it.
Blijdorp is widely recognised as one of the most beautiful zoos in Europe, with plenty to see and do. Blijdorp is home to giraffes, gorillas, polar bears and more, all of which have their own unique habitat.
Highlights for us were the award-winning walk-through butterfly garden, Amazonica, and the Oceanium which was surprisingly very large.
It was easy to find a playground in Rotterdam, unlike the elusive playgrounds of Amsterdam.
Right outside our hotel was a rather large playground complete with flying fox, climbing frames and all sorts of fun for tiny tots. It was a convenient way to keep the kids entertained while waiting for the bus.
A little further down the road was an old, large boat that had been placed on land and converted into a climbing playground for kids as well.
There’s no better way to see Rotterdam then from its waterways. This boat is sure to make an impression as you sail the water for 75 minutes eating as many pancakes as you can possible fit in.
The buffet offers a range of toppings from savoury to sweet, but you’ll find it hard to try them all since the pancakes are so filling. Tip: cut the pancakes in half and try different toppings on each half.
But what else can make an all you can eat pancake cruise more fun? Kids won’t be preoccupied eating for long and so the crew open up the lower deck of the boat which is filled with colourful plastic balls. A ball pit on a boat? Genius!
4) ss Rotterdam
In the third Katendrechtse Hoofd sits the ss Rotterdam, the city’s most authentic hotel. This hotel was originally built in the 1950’s and cruised as the flagship of Holland-America between 1959 and 2000.
While we stayed on this ship we were provided with a guided tour behind the scenes. The kids loved visiting the helm to try their hand at steering the ship and checking out the Captain’s quarters.
Highlights for us were visiting the theatre and indoor pools. We have a whole post dedicated to our time on the ss Rotterdam.
Thinking back to our very first fun-filled “duck” tour in Seattle, I realised there were few better ways to see a city of water than on an amphibious bus. In 60 minutes we were driven through the city of Rotterdam before taking the climatic ‘splash’ dive into the Maas River and cruised around.
Our tour came complete with bottles of water and presents for the kids. Of course the best present was watching their bus drive into the river.
The tour guide was an inspirational fellow who had turned his life around and was currently working in the hopes of visiting Thailand at the end of the year. We really enjoyed our chats to him.
Most of the tour was guided by TV footage and audio, which I found hard to concentrate on when I just wanted to look outside. I would have much preferred a live commentary. But the unique river cruise in a bus was a memorable highlight.
Ok, I’ll admit it. The idea of a maritime museum did not inspire me as a fun and interesting place to visit with kids, but we decided to head there anywhere. And I was surprised… pleasantly surprised.
The top floor offered a large, well-designed interactive kids area, which our kids unanimously agreed was loads of fun.
They were provided with little pencils and an exercise sheet to help them track down missing animals around the place. Outside were hands-on exhibits which taught the kids more about the world of shipping, like being a crane operator or working on a ship, while inside they could work the rigging or just have fun on the slide. The kids spent quite a bit of time there before finally we had to pry them off.
For adults a walk through the sex exhibit can be a giggle or if you’ve never been cruising they even have a cruise liner exhibit where you can see authentic styled rooms and a variety of facts on cruises. As someone who has taken 4 cruises already I enjoyed the history and finding out more about cruise styles of the early 20th century compared to now. The most interesting facts being around the cost of cruising in the early days. It was phenomenal, no wonder it was considered to be an upper-class holiday.
I’m not quite sure how to categorise this place – it’s unlike any other theme park we’ve been to, if I can call it that. It’s a mega playground meshed with a fair, combined with a zoo and waterpark. There aren’t any “big ticket” theme park rides but the kids were occupied every minute we were there.
From screeching around on four wheels through traffic to rolling down a giant green hill, splashing in a boat or flying through the air there was so much to do. There’s also a water park, petting zoo and an indoor playground with comfortable beanbag cushions for the parents to just relax and chill.
The kids were able to use their imaginations, their muscles, their creativity, their voices and their hearts. The rides encouraged them to be independent; it didn’t feel like they were wrapped in cotton wool. There was no corporate or consumerist vibe to the park. It was just pure, child-like fun.
We visited on a Sunday afternoon so it was busy yet it didn’t feel crowded. There were very few queues compared to big theme parks.
A quick tram ride from the centre of Rotterdam made it really easy to find and the perfect way to spend the day. In fact, you would probably need more than just 1 day to try all the attractions. I would go as far as saying it would be one of the favourite theme parks our kids have been to, and in my mind, a good enough reason alone to visit Rotterdam.
We barely scratched the surface during our 3 nights in Rotterdam. While getting around wasn’t as easy as we would have liked, the attractions for families were well worth the little bit of effort. I would love to return perhaps with a car or a bicycle to see more of this family friendly city. Oh, and spend another fabulous day at Plaswijck Park.