Rotterdam may be the lesser-known international metropolis in the Netherlands, next to the infamous Amsterdam, but cruise-goers should be fairly acquainted with this city since it holds the largest seaport in Europe. And it’s been aptly nicknamed the ‘Gateway to Europe’.
On top of its illustrious world-class port, Rotterdam is also home to modern architecture, cutting edge design and thriving creativity. In 2010 it won the IFEA World Festival and Event City Award, and has been taking colossal strides towards sustainability with over 140,000 square metres of green rooftops. Rotterdam is well on its way to being a key destination for tourists in the Netherlands.
Rotterdam was barely an hour train ride from Amsterdam and very easy to get to. A family ticket for 2 adults and 2 kids cost roughly €37 (AUD$52).
The only problem we encountered was the ticket machines did not accept our international credit card, which meant we had to go to a service desk to use cash. The queue for this desk was extremely long and we waited well over 30 minutes, so keep plenty of time up your sleeve when purchasing tickets.
We left from Centraal station in Amsterdam and it was a direct route to Centraal Rotterdam.
Getting Around (And How To Save Money)
Rotterdam is a sprawling city without the same intricate transport system of Amsterdam. It reminded us a little of Perth, Australia. While we stayed outside the city centre, we did find getting into and out from the centre a little harder compared to our stay in Amsterdam.
The trains run fairly regularly and punctually, buses a little less regularly. Thankfully the Rotterdam Card provided the easy way to get around with unlimited access to public transport (in addition to other benefits and discounts). We used Google Maps to plan our public transport journeys which made things easier.
The canals and harbours of Rotterdam deliver the fastest possible way to get around compared to any bus or train. One evening we decided to utilise a water taxi from a restaurant back to our hotel, the ss Rotterdam.
It was extremely fast, loads of fun and took us less than 5 minutes compared to a one-hour public transport journey. The cost wasn’t cheap at €20, but after a late dinner that evening it was well worth getting our tired family home so quickly. Those water taxi drivers are a bit insane but very skilled, and while thrilling, we felt safe the whole time. If you split a taxi with more people or have a larger group, they are even better value.
Where To Stay
Considering we were in the largest port in Europe where better to stay then a cruise ship?
Located near the cruise port at the third Katendrechtse Hoofd permanently sits the ss Rotterdam, the city’s most authentic hotel. This hotel was originally the Holland-America flagship in a previous life and cruised the high seas between 1959 and 2000.
Check out our ss Rotterdam post for an inside look at our room, the original segregated class decks, staircases and a peek at the Captain’s room.
What To Do
There are plenty of water activities to keep you busy in Rotterdam, whether it’s splashing around in the pool on the ss Rotterdam, taking a Splashtour around the city or a pancake boat cruise.
Inside the city you can find a modern zoo, numerous museums and endless shopping opportunities.
Outside of the city are beautiful parks and the stunningly scenic Dutch countryside. Plaswijckpark was our kids favourite attraction in Rotterdam and it’s easy to see why.
Check out our post on what to do in Rotterdam for more details.
What To Eat
Similarly to Amsterdam you can find all the traditional delicious Dutch foods but we also enjoyed an all you can eat pancake boat cruise and even had some delicious Chinese food on a floating restaurant.
Our breakfast on the ss Rotterdam was delightful too, I might add.
Rotterdam is a young and vibrant city. The skyline is constantly changing with the new additions and inspired architecture. It is often thought as a place to do business, but I’d suggest that you bring your family along and stay a bit longer to discover the hidden gems like Plaswijckpark. Then you can get down to the really important business of having fun!