48 Hours in Rotterdam: Itinerary for a Magical 2 Days in Rotterdam, the Netherlands

History Fangirl is turning seven years old in 2022! To make sure all travel guides are up to date, some posts are getting overhauled, which means you may come across posts that are under construction. Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure page for more details.

Do you only have two days in Rotterdam, Nederlands? Well, even with a short amount of time, you can see so much in this fabulous Dutch city!

Whether you’re coming for a Rotterdam weekend getaway or as part of a longer trip around the Netherlands, you can use this Rotterdam itinerary to plan the perfect two-day visit to Rotterdam.

The Netherlands - Rotterdam - Erasmus Bridge

To make things simple, here’s what you need to know to check out the most iconic places in Rotterdam in two days, including a visit to one of the 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Netherlands and one of the most famous Dutch attractions – Kinderdijk

If you are short of time and have only one day in Rotterdam, then you can skip the afternoon activities, for example, and do the tour to Kinderdijk instead.

As a bonus, check out these important Rotterdam travel tips like where to stay and what to eat.

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48 Hours in Rotterdam Itinerary for a Magical 2 Days in Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Good to Know: this guide to what to do in Rotterdam in two days comes to us from Daniela Koleva, author of the authoritative Netherlands travel blog, Exploring the Netherlands, an online travel resource that helps you plan and organize the trip yourself.

This post has been edited by Stephanie Craig (the girl in the sidebar). I have added tips from my own trips to the Netherlands as well as things that it is important for travelers (especially those coming from the US) to know.

In this Article:

My Favorite Travel Booking Sites for 2022

These are my favorite companies that I use on my own travels.

Find cheap flights with CheapOair.

Find the best deals on hotels & vacation rentals on Booking.com.

For road trips and ground transportation, rent a car through Discover Cars.

Find the best city tours, day tours, bus tours, & skip-the-line tickets on GetYourGuide and Viator.

Find information and cruise reviews on Cruise Critic.

For packing and travel essentials order via Amazon.

For travel guidebooks to have with you during your trip, I always pick one or two from Rick Steves and Lonely Planet.

Get reliable travel insurance through World Nomads.

Store your luggage safely with Radical Storage.

Book an affordable family or romantic photography session on your trip through Flytographer (Use the code HISTORYFANGIRL for 10% off your first photoshoot).

Where to Stay in Rotterdam

The choice of places to stay in Rotterdam is overwhelming. There are hotels and accommodations for each budget and taste.

The Netherlands - Rotterdam - View of New York Hotel

You can stay in the emblematic Hotel New York, which is housed in the former headquarters of the Holland America Line.

Famous for skyline views and iconic Art Nouveau architecture, it’s right out of a Wes Anderson dreamscape.

Book your room at the Hotel New York

The Netherlands - Rotterdam - Itinerary - Marriott Hotel Rotterdam
Photo by Daniela Koleva and reused with permission.

Another great option is the comfortable Rotterdam Marriott Hotel, which is located in the Millenium Tower near the Centraal Station (Rotterdam’s main train station).

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The location is wonderful, but guests also love the beautiful views and comfortable-yet-elegant rooms.

Book your room at the Rotterdam Marriott Hotel

If you are traveling on a budget, there are several great hostels to choose from: 

Hostel Ani&Haakien is close to the train station and is very cozy. There’s a shared garden, kitchen, and terrace. Be aware that this hostel books up quickly.

Book your room at the hostel Ani&Haakien 

The Netherlands - Rotterdam - Cube Houses

If you want something special, Stayokay Hostel Rotterdam is located in one of Rotterdam’s iconic yellow cube houses across from the Blaak Metro Station.

Book your room at the Stayokay Hostel Rotterdam

An Introduction to Rotterdam

Rotterdam is the other face of the Netherlands, far from the iconic images of clogs, tulips, and windmills. 

Rather, Rotterdam is a thriving modern city with the architecture to prove it.

It is also not the place where you will find the traditional Dutch canals and stepped-gable houses. 

The Netherlands - Rotterdam - Cube Houses

Instead, there are high-rises, avant-garde buildings, and lots of street art. 

You can’t visit the Netherlands, without spending at least one day in Rotterdam!

Rotterdam is the perfect destination for a day trip if you are visiting Amsterdam or staying in the country. 

You can tailor this 2-day Rotterdam itinerary into just one day if you will not be staying overnight.

Why Rotterdam is Different

Although Rotterdam is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, with city rights from 1340, you won’t find in Rotterdam the typical Dutch architecture as seen in Amsterdam, Delft, or Leiden, for example. 

The destruction and suffering that the Netherlands experienced during World War II is sometimes not understood by outside countries.

The Netherlands - Rotterdam - San Lorenzo Church

During WWII, Rotterdam suffered a heavy bombing campaign that destroyed the city center. 

There are only a few old buildings that survived the day after 14 May 1940, among them are the St. Lawrence Church (Sint-Laurenskerk), the City Hall on the Coolsingel, and the White House (Het Wittehuis).

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10 Stunning UNESCO World Heritage Cities For Your Bucket List

Instead of restoring Rotterdam to its pre-war appearance (the way that Dresden did, for example), the city council decided to take on adventure and allow for modern and unique architecture to be constructed.

The Netherlands - Rotterdam - Nieuwe Maas River

Rotterdam became a playground for the architects who wanted to look forward into the second half of the twentieth century and beyond.

Thus, there were born buildings like the famous Cube Houses, the Pencil building, the Rotterdam Centraal Station, the Market Hall, the Boijmans Van Beuningen Depot, and a whole row of skyscrapers, winning Rotterdam the nickname – Manhattan on the Meuse.

While these started as modern and futuristic, they have become historic buildings in their own right as most are now fifty to seventy-five years old.

One thing is without a doubt – Rotterdam is one of the most beautiful places in the Netherlands and is worth visiting.

How to get to Rotterdam

As the second-largest city in the country, Rotterdam is easily accessible by public transport from anywhere in the Netherlands. 

Once you are in Rotterdam, getting around is easy. Rotterdam Central Station is within walking distance of many of the city’s most important sites.

Taking the Train to Rotterdam

The Netherlands - Rotterdam - Rotterdam Centraal Station

If you are staying in Amsterdam, it takes about 40 minutes to an hour to go by train from the Central Station in Amsterdam to Rotterdam.

You can reach Rotterdam from Utrecht in under an hour by train.

London, Paris, and Brussels are also well connected with Rotterdam. 

With the high-speed train Thalys, you are in Rotterdam from Paris just in 2 hours and 40 minutes and from Brussels in an hour and 10 minutes

The trip between London and Rotterdam with the Eurostar is only 3 and a half hours.

Flying to Rotterdam

The Netherlands - Rotterdam - Rotterdam The Hague Airport

Rotterdam has its own airport – Rotterdam The Hague Airport, where you can fly to with several budget airlines from all over Europe. 

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From the airport, you can take public transportation to your accommodations or you can arrange a private transfer before you arrive.

Book a Rotterdam Airport private transfer

If you fly to Schiphol International Airport near Amsterdam, it takes about 25 minutes by train to get from the airport to Rotterdam. 

If you would prefer to go from Amsterdam to Rotterdam by car instead of the train, you can arrange your private transfer ahead of time.

Book an Amsterdam to Rotterdam private transfer 

The other low-cost airport in the country – the Eindhoven International Airport, is only an hour and 40 minutes by train.

5 Dishes to Eat in Rotterdam

The Netherlands - Rotterdam - Kapsalon

During your weekend in Rotterdam, make sure to taste these five Dutch dishes! 

While Kapsalon is the only dish from Rotterdam, travelers should try as many Dutch dishes as possible if Rotterdam is your only stop in the Netherlands.

Kapsalon: a local dish of french fries covered in gyro meat and melted gouda cheese. Think of it as a Dutch version of loaded fries.

PannenkoekenDutch pancakes are more like crepes than flapjacks. You can eat these yummy treats with sweet or savory toppings.

Stroopwafels: Unlike Belgian waffles, Dutch stroopwafels are two thin waffles with caramel in the middle eaten like cookies.

Appletaart: If you love a good Dutch Apple Pie when you’re not in the Netherlands, then you’ll flip when you try the real thing.

Oliebol: delicious fried balls or “oil spheres” referred to often as Dutch doughnuts, though they look more like donut holes.

The Perfect 2 Days in Rotterdam Itinerary

This two-day Rotterdam itinerary includes the most famous attractions in Rotterdam and is suitable for first-time visitors who want to discover this cosmopolitan city.

See below for an in-depth overview of the different landmarks you’ll see during your time. 

Rotterdam Itinerary Day 1

Here we go!

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Morning: Start the day by discovering the city! 

You can choose to do this on your own or join one of the many Rotterdam walking tours in the city. 

A good idea could be to take a walking tour of Rotterdam that ends at the Market Hall, as this is the perfect stop for a lunch break!

Book the Rotterdam: 2-Hour Guided Walking Tour for your trip.

Pro Tip: Select the morning option if you are arriving the night before and starting your first day in the morning. Otherwise, there are afternoon options if you will be arriving in the morning and want to hit the ground running.

Lunch: Select from Two of the Best Lunch Spots in Rotterdam

There seems to be an infinite number of places in Rotterdam where you can have lunch, but there are two of them that are pretty unique and emblematic of the city.

The Netherlands - Rotterdam - Itinerary - Fenix Food Factory
Photo by Daniela Koleva and reused with permission.

You can choose between the Market Hall and the Fenix Food Factory. 

Both places offer an amazing choice of culinary temptations. 

If the weather is nice, I would recommend the Fenix Food Factory, as you can sit outside and enjoy the nice vibe in Katendrecht.

Afternoon: Take in Rotterdam’s Water & City Views

For the afternoon I highly recommend a boat tour in the harbor. 

After all, Rotterdam has one of the biggest harbors in the world. 

The Netherlands - Rotterdam - Itinerary - Old Harbor with the White House
Photo by Daniela Koleva and reused with permission.

After the tour, you can climb the Euromast for an amazing view of the city and the harbor.

You can also have some refreshments there, which is a perfect opportunity after so much sightseeing in Rotterdam.

Book your Rotterdam: 90-Minute Harbor Cruise and Euromast Entry Ticket

Dinner: See the Cosmopolitan Side of Rotterdam

For dinner stop at one of the many restaurants on Witte de With Street (Witte de Withstraat). 

The Netherlands - Rotterdam - Itinerary - Witte de Whit Street
Photo by Daniela Koleva and reused with permission.

The vibe of the city, which is a melting pot of cultures and nationalities, can be best felt on this street.

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There are restaurants, cafes, art galleries, and more to see here.

Evening: Get a Taste of Rotterdam Nightlife

Popular neighborhoods for going out in the evening are the Old Harbor neighborhood or you can stay on Witte de With Street.

Rotterdam Itinerary Day 2

The 2nd day of this two-day itinerary is dedicated to the most iconic Dutch landmark – Kinderdijk, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Kinderdijk is located some 15 km to the east of Rotterdam. 

The best way to get from Rotterdam to Kinderdijk is via waterbus. 

In the summer there’s a direct line between the two places. 

During the rest of the year, you will need to change in Ridderkerk and get the ferry Driehoeksveer to Kinderdijk.

The Netherlands - Rotterdam - Kinderdijk

If you want a hassle-free experience, the best way to visit Kinderdijk is with an organized tour.

There are a few different organized tour options. 

You can go on a bike tour of Kinderdijk, a photography tour, or a private customizable group tour.

Good to Know: You can spend your full day here. If you end up with more time in Rotterdam, you can eat dinner at whichever dinner location you did not select on day one. 

If you want to do more sightseeing, see below for ideas of more things to do in Rotterdam.

What to See in Rotterdam in Two Days

Here is an overview of the best things that you can experience in Rotterdam if you are visiting only for two days.

Rotterdam Centraal Train Station

The main train station of Rotterdam – Rotterdam Centraal Station, is a real eye-catcher right in the city center (city centre).

The new building was officially opened in 2014 and quickly became a beloved landmark and a famous Instagram spot in the city. 

Wood, stainless steel, and glass are the main materials used for the construction of this futuristic building. 

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Rotterdam Centraal is not only pleasing to the eye, but it also serves as a solar farm that generates electricity sufficient for one hundred households – as about a third of the roof is covered with glass solar panels!

From the old train station, which was demolished in 2008, there remain today only the letters that spell ‘Rotterdam Centraal’ and the clock on the façade, and two modernistic sculptures the so-called ‘Speculaasjes’ (nicknamed after the famous Dutch gingerbread biscuits).

Cube Houses

Rotterdam is famous for its yellow cube houses balancing on one vertex tilted at a 45-degree angle. 

The cube houses were designed in the 1980s by architect Piet Blom. 

They are a great example of Structuralism, which is a school of modern architecture that was quite popular in the Netherlands during this era.

Piet Blom also designed the so-called Pencil (De Potlood), an apartment complex located just next to the Cube houses.

The Netherlands - Rotterdam - Itinerary - Cube Houses and Pencil Building Rotterdam
Photo by Daniela Koleva and reused with permission.

If you are curious as to what it is to live in one of those cubes, you can have a look at one of them. 

The Kijk-kubus is a private house, which is open for visits and functions as a museum.

Alternatively, you can book a stay at the Stayokay Hostel Rotterdam, which is located inside one of the Cube Houses!

Old Harbor

Although they call it the Old Harbor (De Oudehaven) and the first dock was laid there in 1350, the Old Harbor is not the oldest in the city. 

The first harbor in Rotterdam was a simple dock and they called it The Dock (De Steyger). 

It’s located in the heart of today’s city center and was first mentioned in documents in 1334.

Today, the Old Harbor neighborhood is popular for its numerous cafes, restaurants, and nightclubs.  

The White House

On one side of the Old Harbor, you can find the first skyscraper in Europe – the so-called White House (Het Witte Huis). 

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With its 43 m, it was the tallest office building in Europe when it was finished in 1898. 

The Jugendstil building is heavily influenced by the eclectic architecture of New York of the time. 

It was only in 1931 when The White House had to surrender its title as Europe’s tallest skyscraper to the Boerentoren in Antwerp (Belgium), which won with its 87.5 m.

Erasmus Bridge

Another iconic structure in Rotterdam is the Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug), or the Swan, as they call it with affection. 

The bridge that connects the north and the south part of the city is named after one of the greatest figures of European Humanism – Desiderius Erasmus (1466 – 1536). 

The bridge, completed in 1996, is perhaps the most photographed landmark in Rotterdam. It’s a combination of a cable-stayed bridge and a drawbridge.

St. Lawrence Church

The most unique thing about the St. Lawrence Church (Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk, Sint-Laurenskerk, or Grote Kerk) is that it’s the only medieval building that survived the bombing of the city in May 1940.

St Lawrence Church Rotterdam
Photo by Daniela Koleva and reused with permission.

The first church to stand in this place was built in 1350 and the church tower was erected in 1449. 

From April till March on Wednesdays and Saturdays, you can climb the church tower for a lovely view of the city.

In front of the church, you can see the statue of Desiderius Erasmus, which was placed there in 1622.

Market Hall

The Market Hall (Markthal) opened in 2014 and quickly became one of the most famous attractions in Rotterdam. 

The building in the form of a horseshoe is an apartment complex with a food hall on the inside. 

The Netherlands - Rotterdam - Itinerary - Market Hall Rotterdam
Photo by Daniela Koleva and reused with permission.

The vaulted structure serves as a canvas for the gigantic artwork ‘The Horn of Plenty by Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam, which looks stunning, especially in the evening. 

The Market Hall has been nicknamed the Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam.

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There are tours of the Market Hall with a guide but you can visit it on your own. 

It’s also the perfect place to grab lunch at one of the numerous stands and eateries inside.

Rotterdam Harbor Cruise

Once the harbor in Rotterdam started with a single dock in the early 14th century to become Europe’s largest port today with a total area of 12.686 ha and cargo throughput of almost 440 million metric tons in 2020. 

Because of the significance of the port, they call Rotterdam the Gateway to Europe. Until 2004 the Port of Rotterdam was the largest in the world.

You can see the harbor of Rotterdam with a harbor cruise, which is a must-do for any first-time visitor of the city.

Book your Rotterdam: 90-Minute Harbor Cruise and Euromast Entry Ticket

Euromast

This Rotterdam itinerary won’t be complete without one of the most popular things to do in Rotterdam – climbing the Euromast for a stunning view of the city and the harbor. 

The observation deck of the tower is sitting at 100 on a so-called crow’s nest – a lookout point on a ship’s mast. 

The Netherlands - Rotterdam - Itinerary - Erasmus Bridge
Photo by Daniela Koleva and reused with permission.

Euromast was built in 1960 for the first Floriade, a flower and garden exhibition which takes place once every 10 years.

 Originally one hundred meters tall, in 1970 Euromast grew by 85 m and got a Space Tower – the Euroscope, which travels up and down and rotates around the mast.

In the crow’s nest, there’s a restaurant which is open for lunch and dinner.

Kinderdijk

Kinderdijk is perhaps the most iconic landmark in the Netherlands. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Kinderdijk is a network of nineteen windmills that work together to pump out the water from the older. 

Most of the windmills were built between 1738 and 1740 and were part of a large water-management system that was used to reclaim land from the water.

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Today three Kinderdijk windmills are open for visits. 

The Nederwaard Museum Mill tells the story of Kinderdijk and you can see how the mill is functioning. 

The Blokweer Museum Mill is the oldest mill in Kinderdijk, built in 1610, but it shows how life was in the 1950s. 

During this period, all mills were serving also as homes for the millers and their families. 

The third mill that you can visit is the Overwaard Windmill No. 4. When it was built in 1739, it was the first mill in the world that could scoop water in two directions.

The best way to visit Kinderdijk from Rotterdam is with an organized tour.

You can go on a bike tour of Kinderdijk, a photography tour, or a private customizable group tour.

What to Do if You Only Have One Day in Rotterdam?

If you are trying to decide how many days in Rotterdam should you spend during your trip to the Netherlands, I hope we’ve convinced you that 48 hours in Rotterdam is barely enough to scratch the surface!

However, if you only have 24 hours in Rotterdam, here’s how to make it work!

The Netherlands - Rotterdam - Itinerary - Euromast Rotterdam
Photo by Daniela Koleva and reused with permission.

Option 1: Morning Walking Tour + Kinderdijk Tour (Only do this option if you can get a guided tour in the afternoon).

Option 2: Follow Day 1 Exactly and Skip Kinderdijk

What to Do if You Have 3 Days in Rotterdam?

There’s still more to see in Rotterdam if you want to add an extra day and enjoy a long weekend in Rotterdam.

Here are some ideas to add to your itinerary:

A trip to the Rotterdam Zoo (Diergaarde Blijdorp) (great for those traveling to Rotterdam with kids)

Plan a day trip to the Keukenhof Garden and flower fields if you are visiting from March through Mid-May.

Go on a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour

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48 Hours in Amsterdam: Itinerary for What to See in Amsterdam in Two Days

Visi the Maritime Museum

Check out some of the museums in so-called Museumpark. The park is famous for being home to a wide selection of some of the best museums in the city: 

The Netherlands Architecture Institute, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (masterpieces from Dutch Masters), The Chabot Museum, The Kunsthal (Modern Art Musuem), Huis Sonneveld, and the Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam.

Explore Delfshaven,  the only place in Rotterdam where you will see stepped-gable houses. Worth visiting for the atmosphere and architecture, but it has historical significance for Americans visiting the Netherlands since it’s where the Pilgrims left to settle in Massachusetts.

Take a Meuse River Cruise

Visit the Op het Dak (‘On the Roof’) in the Schieblock and then walk around the yellow Luchtsingel.

Go abseiling (rapelling) from the Euromast.

5 Things to Pack for Your Trip to the Netherlands

2012 Stephanie was Super Happy in Amsterdam
Super Happy in Amsterdam

You know to bring sunscreen and sunglasses, but here are five items you do not want to forget!

First, get a guidebook like the Lonely Planet The Netherlands or Rick Steves Amsterdam & the Netherlands (or both).

It’s not easy to find traditional guidebooks once you land.

Second, make sure to bring your cell phone. You will want to stay connected during your trip, plus it will serve as a navigation system and a go-to camera. 

I use an iPhone 12 Pro these days, but I have also used Samsung phones in the past.

Third, grab a camera. While it’s great to have a cell phone with you for quick pics, if you want to do more serious photography or take more videos, I find it nice to travel with a separate dedicated camera as well.

If I will be wrestling with my toddler on the trip, I’ll grab my Sony ZV-1, which is a powerful compact camera with great video capabilities as well. 

If it’s just me, I’ll take my Nikon (though if you’re buying a new camera I have my eye on this Sony).

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Fourth, bring a backup charging bank for your phone. 

Even though my new phone has an awesome battery life, I would not want to be out on a boat or a tour for the day and end up with a dead phone. 

It’s a safety issue as well as an inconvenience.

Finally, bring a great day bag so you can carry what you need with you (like your camera, snacks, water, sunscreen, cash, etc). 

My current favorite is the Pacsafe Citysafe, which is especially great for tourist destinations because it has many anti-theft features designed to deter pickpockets plus RFID technology to keep your credit card digits safe. 

It also transitions to a night bag more easily and won’t embarrass you if you go to dinner directly after sightseeing all day.

Before You Leave for the Netherlands – Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!

Make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road.

I use World Nomads for my long trips to Europe, and I happily recommend them.

It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be hanging out in cities (like Amsterdam and Rotterdam…ahem) where tourists can be the victims of pickpockets.

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I have been a paying customer of World Nomads as far back as 2016, and I happily recommend them.  

If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.

Get a Travel Insurance quote for your trip.

Pin this Guide to How to Visit Rotterdam in Two Days for Your Dutch Adventures!

48 Hours in Rotterdam Itinerary for a Magical 2 Days in Rotterdam, the Netherlands

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