Between its new age skyscrapers and booming port, Rotterdam is a seaside city with sights to see. In just three days, you can take to the water in Europe’s largest harbor, stare up at the cutting edge architecture and soak in the history that led to Rotterdam’s post-World War II reinvention.
Day 1: On the Waterfront
Start your exploration of Rotterdam with a harbor tour to see the swan-shaped pylons of the Erasmus Bridge, the bravura architecture of the ever-changing skyline and the wharves and cargo ships in Europe’s biggest port.
Take the elevator up to the Brasserie in the Euromast observation tower for lunch at 314 feet (96 meters), and then spend the afternoon learning about the city’s seafaring past at the Maritiem Museum Rotterdam, nestled among the vessels at anchor in Leuvenhaven. Have a cocktail at the Art Nouveau Hotel New York, located in the former headquarters of the Holland America Line, which shipped millions of emigrants out to the United States in the late 19th century. Round off the evening with sushi at the dockside ONO Japanese restaurant while admiring the night-time illuminations on the Erasmus Bridge.
Day 2: Ancient and Modern
Take a walking tour of Rotterdam to see its bravura new architecture and discover its pre-World War II roots. Explore Piet Blom’s bizarre Cube Houses and get transported back several centuries for lunch in tiny Delfshaven, a classic Dutch district crammed with gabled houses and warehouses that escaped the bombing raids of World War II. Pop into the 15th-century Oude Kerk, dedicated to the memory of the Pilgrim Fathers who left from Delfshaven for Massachusetts in 1620.
Admire one of Europe’s best collections of artwork at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen or explore the retail possibilities of the Lijnbaan shopping quarter. By night, supper can be found only a short walk away in Witt de Withkwartie, an on-trend neighborhood packed with colorful international cafés and restaurants.
Day 3: Museums and Windmills
Take a ferry across the River Maas from Willemsplein to the steamship SS Rotterdam, which was once the glamorous flagship of the Holland America Line. It’s been thoroughly dusted down and is now open for tours of the engine room, bow and bridge.
Back across the Maas, catch the multicultural treasures housed in the Wereldmuseum, each collected from around the world in the 17th century. Grab a snack of bitterballen from a café nearby, and then take the 35-minute Waterbus Line 20 trip out to the UNESCO-listed windmills and polders of Kinderdijk. Once back in Rotterdam for the evening, head to the buzzing warehouses of Westelijk Handelsterrein for dinner and late-night clubbing.